“We believe in the timeless appeal of music. Eschewing trends and opting to champion the great and exciting, the new and idiosyncratic. We join the dots between inspiring electronic legends and cutting edge emerging talent.”
So goes the tag line on the Huntleys + Palmers Soundcloud and while most PR-oriented statements are grating and only tenuously true, the H+P universe is truly divergent, a thriving constellation of releases and club nights that draw from a staggeringly eclectic range of the electronic-music world. Over the past nine or so years, Andrew Thomson, head of the label and promotions entity, has crafted H+P into one of the premiere outfits in the left field end of the dance music realm, splitting time between Glasgow and London and building a community around his and Auntie Flo’s Highlife parties. 2011 was the year the label started in earnest and in the five years since, H+P has released everything from a split Auntie Flo & DJ Sdunkero single to Mehmet Aslan’s still important Mechanical Turk EP and on to SOPHIE’s first official release. It takes a true music obsessive to expressively document such a range, but Thomson’s work comes across at effortless and by bringing everyone from Actress to Matias Aguayo to Charanjit Singh out to Highlife, the label’s work is even further solidified.
We’ve been talking with Thomson about doing an Astral Plane mix since late 2014 and when he sent through the volume we’ve gone with, we couldn’t be more excited. Comprised of Thomson’s (as Huntleys + Palmers) opening set for SOPHIE on the enigmatic producer’s Glasgow tour date in January, the set shows off H+P at it most playful, considered best, matching everything from sultry “Lollipop” covers to old trance and plenty of sneaky label material. We also exchanged emails with Thomson to get a better sense of his inspirations when he started H+P as a label, his desire to get involved with music supervision for soundtracks and where he generates the most digital trash. A split Alejandro Paz and Carisma single is all we’ve received from H+P so far this year, but according to Thomson we can expect new music from CAIN and Lena Willikens and a host of on-point parties is more or less a given. No track list for this one at the moment so you’ll have to dig!
Hey, pretty good thanks! I started answering these in my bed at home in Glasgow, but realised it would take a bit more time so finished them when I got up.
In the early years of the label, you were releasing music from a huge range of artists. DJ Sdunkero, SOPHIE, Mehmet Aslan, etc. What labels did you look to for inspiration at that point?
As a music fanboy, there’s loads of labels I admire and inspire, but I began to realise that what makes this one unique, is that it’s mine and is driven by my own taste and instinct. This can perhaps be confusing to punters and journalists in the short term – releasing an Auntie Flo album, followed by a weird Swedish folk synthesiser record – but I do believe that each record is accessible in its own right and if you are into one of the releases, the chances of you liking some of the others are high. Only last week, someone splurged out on most of the back catalogue through Bandcamp and that’s something I anticipate happening even more as time goes on.
Going back to the early days.. With hindsight, I can see that the output varies on what I’ve been listening to or uncovering over a period of time. Sdunkero is a good example as when the label and our Highlife parties first started, I was listening to a lot of kwaito and the early Comeme records. Alejandro Paz’s ‘Callerjero‘ record was actually his take on a Kwaito track too. Mehmet came further down the line, but we met at a point when I was discovering a lot of Turkish and Middle Eastern music and he was experimenting in samples from his Turkish roots.
The label seems to have a really good sense of what means to be global-local in the age of the internet. Your nights in Glasgow and London obviously form the local backbone, but you’ve released music artists from a truly international array of artists and invited even more to play your nights and craft mixes for your in house series. Was that an intentional facet of the label? And how do you continue to foster that environment with the label, night, etc.?
I’ve been putting on parties for the better part of a decade now and from the outset I had the belief that there was no point in booking someone to play in such a rich scene as Glasgow’s unless they could offer something different. So there was a reactionary element at play early on which was fuelled by my personal discoveries. The more new artists I came across, the more I wanted to book and as a result, I ended up inviting many artists and DJ’s to play in Glasgow or the UK for the first time.
This approach has continued to serve me well with the label, as with the parties, I didn’t see the necessity of starting a label to release music by a bunch of recognised artists who are attached to some existing hype – far better to do something fresh. It’s a longer path for sure, but a far more rewarding one – many of the label’s artists have went on to release on bigger label’s since their debut on H+P and that’s a big source of pride for me.
As time goes on, a network has began to grow around the label and parties through hook ups via friends, artists on the label, previous guests and good old fashioned random encounters. Also the more I travel for gigs, the more folk I meet and so on..
Do you feel like your own style as a DJ accurately reflects the label? Or do you try and divide the two entities in any way?
Yes and no. I find it difficult to play a straight set of one style all night and like to go in different directions, so from that point of view there’s a lot in common with the label.
That being said, there are times where I could play for hours and hardly play any label material, it depends on the gig really. I did make a conscious effort over the past year to put out more mixes and I think that’s opened up my personal taste and has maybe helped frame the label’s output better to those who might have overlooked otherwise.
Tell us a little about the mix. It’s a recording of an opening set you did before a SOPHIE set, yes? Feels like there are a lot of jams from the early 2010s. That Jimmy Edgar remix of Portishead’s “Machinegun” was especially exciting to hear in the middle!
Yeah, I was really chuffed to be asked to warm up for SOPHIE in Glasgow at the start of the year. Having watched his ascendance from close quarters I felt well suited to play and spent quite a bit of time preparing and making some edits in advance – looking out the suitably strange, melodic, and above all FUN!
There’s music from Air Max ’97, Andy Stott, James Holden, Honey Soundsystem’s excellent Generators series, old trance records, some label stuff and a few curveballs which would lose their impact if I included the full tracklist just now – I’ll post in due course though.
What are you most excited about for the remainder of 2016?
More of the same really – releasing some great music, hosting / playing some fun parties. In the next few months there will be some new music from CAIN, Lena Willikens and a bunch of debut projects.
What medium that you haven’t worked in yet would you like to/plan on working in?
Film. I would like to get involved with music supervision for soundtracks, although it’s not something I’m in a hurry to make happen. One day!
Where do you generate the most trash, either physically or digitally?
Eh, physically – my kitchen. Digitally – between my phone, deleting old podcasts and daft photo’s I’ve been sharing with my pals – and my laptop. I need to get a new external hard drive actually as I’m beginning to run out of room and it’s got to the point where I can’t get rid of anything else.