Type Records are special. It’s kind of their thing. Delicate, sculptural pieces of noise pressed onto beautifully packaged vinyl runs of 500-1000, from the silky industrial pulses of Rene Hell, to Altar Eagle’s extraordinary, hazy skyscrapers on recent album ‘Mechanical Garden’. Despite only starting up in 2002, they’re already on release ‘TYPE079’. Things move quickly.
Impressive considering Type is largely the project of one person. John Twells began the label in Birmingham alongside designer Stefan Lewandowski. “We ran a local club night in Birmingham called Default, and with me being a musician and Stef being a designer we decided that it would be pretty interesting to start a label with some of the music we had around us”. Eventually Stefan left, and John relocated to America. “Now I run the label on my own from my home/studio in Massachusetts, and have a team of helpful folk in the UK who help me out with distribution and manufacturing”.
It’s developed into a deeply personal set up. An auteurist approach to running a label, whereby every aspect of the process is in some way marked by John’s own creative vision. “I wanted the label to reflect my musical interests, whatever genre that might breach into… I think the reason we initially called it Type is because we didn’t want to get pigeonholed early on by having a name that sounded too specific. We didn’t want to get typecast! One thing I’ve found crucial is to surprise people. I never want to be totally sure what I’m going to get from a piece of music”.
The aesthetic side of the label is also highly important. Just glance over the releases section of their website. It’s stark, striking album art all the way down the page. “There’s a very strong visual side. I’m an ex-art school kid, so I’ve always had that side of releasing music in mind and it’s never really left me. The artwork is usually a collaborative process between me and the artist, we both come up with ideas and then it’s usually up to me to come up with a way of putting those into practice somehow. I have a handful of illustrators and photographers I like to turn to, and we have a great layout designer, Radu Prepeleac, so there’s a good team who can usually realize whatever vision we come up with. I think it’s always been important to have a strong visual image – take Blue Note (iconic jazz label) for example. They made a decision to have a ‘house style’ and you could always tell a Blue Note record a mile off, which I’m sure impacted on their appeal and longevity”.
As for finding artists, Type’s approach is endearingly removed from the now common practice of randomly stumbling across a band over the internet. “Most of the bands I release these days I hear at shows, get tapes or CDs from friends or simply hear on a record and shoot them a mail. I used to deal with a lot of unsolicited demos and that was a really good way to lose focus and/or your mind”. So how does one know when gold has been struck? “That’s the most simple part of running a label for me. If I hear something I like and I think we’re in a good position to get it out to the right heads, then I release it.”