2019 marks a landmark 25 years at the coalface of rave for Paper Recordings, one of the world’s most treasured independent record labels. The label is celebrating by releasing ‘Best of’ compilations curated by two of its most influential artists; Crazy P and Flash Atkins

25 Years Of Paper - Part 1 & 2

Interview with Paper Recordings

Hi Guys, Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. Running a successful record label for quarter of a century is no mean feat.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves, where you hail from, and what you were doing 25 years ago before you decided to start a label?

Pete: We both moved to Manchester from Sheffield in 1990, having been in an indie band together and decided to move closer to the dance beat.

Ben: I was working for James (the band) doing the merchandise but an ecstasy experience at The Cities in the Park Festival in Manchester’s changed everything. From there, guitars were out and machines were in.

What sort of music did you listen to back then?

PJ: It was a mixture of indie, Spacemen 3, US house and weird shit.

BD: It was the trippier end of indie and not much black music. Once rave and house hit it was a matter of digging in to see where it had all come from. It was an exciting time to be in Manchester as baggy hit and all sorts of genres started to blend, in what was the last great youth movement.

What was the catalyst that inspired you to start a label?

PJ : We started the label with Miles Hollway and Elliot Eastwick who did their first production with Si Brad and were looking for a home for it. I was working at Hard Times in West Yorkshire at the time and one of our residents (along with Miles and Elliot) was Dave Piccioni who ran Azuli Records / Distribution; he gave us a P&D deal and Paper was launched. There wasn’t really at catalyst, it just seemed like the natural thing to do at the time.

BD: We were all involved in clubs and music at the time with enough spare time to do something. It was also a good excuse to get an office to hang out, collect Panini cards and take the piss out of each other.

So, did you have a goal in mind when you first started off or did you want to just put out great music?

PJ : The goal was always to put out the music we liked to hear and dance to in clubs and the fact that Miles and Elliot DJ-ed at the Hacienda and Hard Times was the icing on the cake. We could place TPs directly into the hands of tastemaker DJs – S-Man, Todd Terry, Masters at Work…

BD: A lot of people had the same idea as labels like DIY, 20:20 Vision, Nuphonic and Classic all popped up around the same time.

What was the inspiration behind the name paper?

PJ : It came from a night out when we got pissed with the aim of thinking of a name, not sure what happened exactly, it might have been a pot collector who came up with it but the general theme was that the label would become a blank canvas just like a piece of paper!

BD: I’ve got the original list which will be going up on the Manchester Music Archive soon as part of a retrospective . It could have been Blue Candy, Citizen, Drumkatt, Bhang or Federa amongst others. I think we made the right choice!

So, has it always been smooth sailing at Paper or did you come into any particularly difficult times that made you think that you wanted to pack it all in?

PJ : Not at all. We reached a moment of clarity when we hit 100 releases, we all had other professional scratches that needed itching. Miles got into IT, Elliot became a well-known radio DJ, I trained to be a teacher and Ben began developing his recording artist alias Flash Atkins. We did keep the label ticking over and we are now going to hit 300 releases in the 2020’s.

BD: We managed to get in to a load of debt without realizing it and that got a bit hairy. We managed to work it off and out of that came the second, digital period of the label which continues to this day. There were a fallow few years in between but we couldn’t quite knock it on the head and before we knew it, it was full time again.

To still be putting out music after 25 years is amazing, what would you credit to your success with paper? Playing the long game? Constantly looking for the next big thing? Knowing your fans? Shrewd business practices?

PJ : Our not so shrewd business practice nearly burnt the label in the early noughties but the long game has definitely suited our genre and lives; it makes me happy to think of the number of people in over 80 countries that have streamed our music.

BD: I think doing it with heart and soul hopefully shines through. Nothing has ever been done for a quick buck and we’ve stayed true to ourselves. We’ve tried to foster a family atmosphere for the label artists. We see it as a small cottage industry. Nothing makes me happier than packing up and sending out hand-stamped 12”s with a postcard saying hello and thanks.

So, this new release celebrating 25 years must be pretty special, can you tell us how you went about selecting the artists for the compilation?

BD: Crazy P did the first 100 releases and I have done from there up to present day. I guess it’s the tracks that have stayed in my digital DJ box the longest. As always with these things, the tough bit is chopping it down and in the name of fairness I’ve kept it to one track per artist.

Do you have any favourite tracks or highlights from the album?

BD: That’s like asking me to choose between my children (which would actually be easy because I’ve only got one)! However, personally I was blown away by The Emperor Machine’s remix of my Flash Atkins track, Summer of Love. It’s the perfect set starter as its got a long intro then once it hits, it’s heads down and you’re off. Cosmo recently posted it as one of her favourite tracks to play at The Loft parties so that’s a bucket list moment for me.

Can you tell us a little about the free track that you are offering on the takeover page?

BD: Daco is massively talented and the artist who has been with us from the beginning when we re-launched. This is an earlier version of Make A Change featuring Vaceo which I actually prefer to the one that came out. He’s a tinkerer so we’ll often sign something off and keep sending me new versions. A few have been lost down the back of the sofa this way!

What plans do you have for the immediate future any gigs or things of interest coming up?

Ben: On September 14 there’s a Paper Disco Boat Party in the afternoon which sold out in about an hour. Afterwards, its the official birthday at YES, Manchester with Bjørn Torske, Miles Hollway and Flash Atkins B2B De Fantastiske To. Its going to be super special with a lot of old faces. Archive will be going up on the Manchester Music Archive as previously mentioned and we are putting on a PAPER25 in Oslo Camping, Norway, our second home, at the end of September with Chris Massey (who runs Paper Disco) and some of our Nordic friends. We’ve got lots of stuff coming on Paper Wave, our left-of-centre sister label including album projects from Stubb and Simon White’s Popsneon, who was part of Neon Heights back in the day. Its kind of 90s electronic indie with some Balearic thrown in and is absolutely brilliant. There are Flash Atkins collaborations with 2 Billion Beats’ Tom Lonsborough and Mental Overdrive and EPs from the usual suspects. Paper Disco is going to be busy too with the Trash The Wax compilations plus EPs from Lakeshouse, James Rod and a load of others. We have also started working on a new Paper Vision film so once the birthday stuff is done we’ll be working hard to get that off the ground.

And over the longer term, can we expect another 25 years of Paper Recordings?

PJ: Yes, of course, we still be here shuffling our Zimmer’s onto the floor.

BD: Funnily enough I was thinking about this last night, I never would have dreamed we would have made it this far so who knows? I’d rather be making and releasing music than be on the golf course, that’s for sure.

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