ColumnsPaul Stokes

Guest Column – Save The Date! How FatCat's 130701 label accidentally created a (new) classic

ColumnsPaul Stokes
Guest Column – Save The Date! How FatCat's 130701 label accidentally created a (new) classic

fatcatrecordsFifteen years ago Fat Cat Records' Dave Howell launched the label’s experimental arm 130701, releasing initial recordings from Max Richter and Johann Johannson. To celebrate the anniversary 130701 are releasing a compilation of exclusive, unheard tracks. In a guest column for Q, Howell discusses an indie label first got involved with composers.

Call it what you will, the ground-level re-wiring of piano / orchestral-based music has surely been one of the biggest growth areas in recent music. With Nils Frahm and A Winged Victory selling out the Royal Albert Hall, Max Richter appearing all over prime-time BBC, and the genre ubiquitous on film, TV and advertising, it’s seeping everywhere. Yet 15 years ago there was little indication of such a rise.

On 13th July 2001 (13/07/01), FatCat’s imprint 130701 was established, purely as an outlet for the debut album of Set Fire To Flames, a 13-piece offshoot of Godspeed! You Black Emperor, which happened to include strings and brass. We had no other releases cued up, no grand plan. Certainly no inkling 130701 would come to define itself as it did. Ring-fenced from the scatter-shot flood of FatCat, we didn’t go chasing stuff, didn’t need a regular stream of releases to keep ourselves afloat. We set the quality control bar high and, through a mixture of luck and good judgement, things slowly fell into place.

By 2004 we’d added pianist-composers Sylvain Chauveau and Max Richter, and a label identity began to cohere around a visual aesthetic of monochrome photography, and the notion of a music rooted in classical instrumentation (piano, strings, brass, etc) yet exploring territory outside of its traditional context - engaging with electronic and digital technologies; meshing with non-classical instrumentation, sounds and approaches. None of us here had any knowledge of classical music beyond odd scraps of minimalism and avant-garde. We didn’t know what to call what we were doing and, with a nod to ‘post-rock’, went with ‘post-classical’ as a way of staking out some general idea of the territory. 130701 was the first label to clearly orient itself around this idea.

Up to that point there’d been a handful of artists working in isolation, a few sympathetic promoters, press and radio outlets. Within a few years, a number of new labels entered the fray – Type, Bedroom Community, Miasmah, Erased Tapes, and Sonic Pieces all joined the party between 2005–2008. Artists like Goldmund, Peter Broderick, Library Tapes, Jacaszek, Greg Haines, Olafur Arnalds emerged with increasing regularity.

In 2005, Hauschka’s adventurous prepared piano joined our roster. After years rotating between releases by him and Max, Johann Johannson and Dustin O'Halloran signed in 2011. For several years, we had a brilliant run of releases. The sync side was booming. In May 2012, we ran a showcase tour through sold-out venues across Europe. For the first time 130701 felt like a proper, fully-engaged label with a flawless roster. You could sense the momentum.

Just two weeks later the wrecking ball hit. FatCat became locked in a legal dispute. Unable to release or account to our artists, we lost Max, Hauschka, Dustin and Johann. The wave broke without us.

After three years inactivity, we started to re-grow the label from scratch last year, signing Dmitry Evgrafov, Emile Levienaise-Farrouch, Resina and Ian William Craig. In a radically changed landscape from the one we set out from, there are far more opportunities and outlets, far more competition. With the 15 year milestone approaching, I’m excited about our future and hugely proud of the catalogue we’ve curated. Those are some tough acts to follow, and the challenge now, in a somewhat swamped and often derivative scene, is to maintain that level of quality and integrity, to keep unearthing those vital acts who will keep refreshing and reorienting the label through original angles and approaches. Dave Howell

For more head to 130701.com