Label Focus: Two Hands Music
Not content with maintaining a popular blog (Satellite For Entropy), as well as contributing distinctive critique for your very own [sic] magazine, Angie Mack is rightfully proud of her latest endeavour – the boutique label Two Hands Music . Understandably, we wanted to find out more.
RG: First, a little background to you and the label, please. How did it all come about?
AM: For me, it’s the end result of a chain of events instigated about 18 months ago, when I came across an independently released album purely by chance. I liked it so much that on a whim decided to contact the artist ( Invisible Elephant ), just to send my compliments. At that stage I was just writing sporadically and informally about music on my blog, and not anything I would have considered a proper review. After a few emails back and forth, I decided to try my hand at one as a way to hopefully help spread the word wherever I could. Our efforts together turned out to be fairly successful, so when the new album ( Anomie Or Swimming In A Black Sea ) was ready it was a perfect opportunity to work together and get it out there, in a way that didn’t have to compromise any artistic vision.
RG: Why did you take the plunge, crossing the void from consumer to contributor?
AM: I see it as a natural extension of everything I’ve been doing for the last 18 months. Once I started to see some of the effect my writing had, primarily in terms of bringing great music to the attention of others, it became one of the main factors in deciding to develop my blog as well as start writing for [sic]. I wanted to help good music get heard, but in a way that was more than just an enthusiastic “ hey, listen to this “. I tend to connect to music on a fairly personal level, so when I write about it, I really just hope that I’m able to inspire others to connect to it by showing people how I did. To extend that with Two Hands, it’s really just another way of saying ‘I really believe in this, and think it’s worth some attention’. For Rob ( Robert Blue , my partner in the label), I think it was having the opportunity to release the music the way it was envisaged from the start. To release the album independently meant a ton more work, but it also meant not having to rely on anyone else to do a lot of it, or being out of control of some of the things that were really important to us, like the physical packaging.
RG: What’s the significance of the label name?
AM: When we were first discussing the possibility of launching a label, we wanted the name to be representative of the fact that it was a collaborative effort, and Two Hands references that, but in more ways than just us as the label owners. It also refers to the participation and involvement with music on behalf of the listeners/consumers. Great music is made all over the world every day, and so much of it goes unheard. It’s a bit like that age-old philosophical question, what’s the sound of one hand clapping? Two Hands is acknowledgement of the fact that the music is there, but even if it has all the energy in the world behind it, it’s not going to make an impact or resonate unless someone else out there is willing to meet it – to look for and listen to it.
So many people I come across don’t listen to anything except commercial radio stations that have been playing the same music for 20 years, but then complain music isn’t what it used to be when they hear some top 40 pop release. Unique and independent music relies on those rare few who actively seek out something amazing and then tell someone else that they found it. We could put out 100 great releases, but no matter how brilliant we think the music is, or how hard we work to try and get it noticed or heard, we know we’d fail miserably if there weren’t at least a few awesome people contributing to our efforts at little-to-no benefit to themselves – that includes everyone, from those who write reviews to the people who buy the albums, or simply recommend it to someone else.
RG: Anomie Or Swimming In A Black Sea by Invisible Elephant is your first release. You’ve not scrimped, giving it a physical, if limited “handmade hardback-bound book edition” release. Why did you choose this route, and how important is the product to you?
AM: Rob and I both have a preference for physical media when it comes to the music we buy, and I suppose putting something out there that’s tangible helps to legitimise and solidify what we’re doing. I kinda like the possibility that years down the track, someone somewhere will come across the CD and remember the music in a way you just can’t achieve with digital media. I certainly won’t forget the day I received the finished product, because I opened it right outside the post office and elephant confetti was suddenly flying everywhere! People can transfer files from drive to drive, but there’s no sentimentality about it, it’s pure function, but they’ll often treat their physical libraries as precious, even though something like the catalogue card we included serves no specific function, at least not in a utilitarian sense.
I’ve always had a fondness for artwork and packaging that is just as much an experience as the music it contains where you don’t just get something to hold, but something to indulge in and to heighten the music itself. Rob did a great job on designing packaging that is just as layered and textured as Invisible Elephant’s music. And again, to give it packaging that has just as much thought and craft in it (which doesn’t necessarily mean elaborate or expensive) shows that we think it’s worth the investment – on our behalf, and on behalf of everyone who buys it.
RG: What’s next for Two Hands Music? Any news on a next release and when?
AM: We’ve received a few enquiries, though we’re concentrating on Anomie to start with as we’re aware we have a bit to learn yet. We’re definitely open to receiving demos and so forth, but any choice we make about future releases needs to be balanced between the interests of the label, any current projects, and the best interests of the artist sending in their work. I think it’s brilliant that we’ve received some interest from other artists while we’re still so young, especially ones who are already fairly well established – you envisage having to nicely word replies like, ‘ dear lord, why did you send us this awful stuff ?’, but I certainly didn’t expect to have to go ‘ aren’t you a little bit out of our league? ‘
RG: Finally, as you know, [sic] is always on the lookout for a decent recommendation, who’s on the tip of your tongue at the moment, and any chance of working with them?
AM: We both could make a “wish list” a mile long in terms of artists we’d love to work with, some likely well beyond the bounds of reality (at least in its current state!) I’d say Grouper would be at the top of Rob’s list, whose work I haven’t yet explored to any great extent. One of my recent favourites is Lost Again On Waking by Glacis , just simply beautiful work. Euan ( McMeekan , writer/performer behind Glacis) is someone I have a lot of respect for, as well as take inspiration from – for his work on his own blog, his label Mini50 and his music, so it would be a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with him at some point. Other than that, the main desire is really just to find music we love, and think other people will love too.
~[sic] would like to take this opportunity to thank Angie for taking the time to suffer our clumsy questioning, as well as for being an all-round good egg.~
~Anomie Or Swimming In A Black Sea is out now and, at the time of publishing, for the very modest price of £4/5 on Two Hands Music.~
~For more from Angie, please see her blog:~ Satellite For Entropy