WORDS: Alex Caslano
‘Do It Yourself’ is an ethos which is prevalent throughout electronic music and particularly noticeable in Glasgow, whether it’s bedroom producing, promoting a club night or in the case of local label, Handpicked, showcasing some of Scotland’s most promising undiscovered talent.
“Handpicked started as a platform to document and give more exposure to a selection of Scottish producers that I thought were pushing the boundaries” Tuner, the man behind the label, tells us. “We release music on cassette, with a focus on beats which revolve around a hip hop groove, but the label isn’t really tied down to one unique style of music. On the forthcoming compilation we kick things off with an electronic waltz, and run through everything from golden era instrumentals to future funk bangers.”
Having released their first tape in 2013, Handpicked has introduced us to many of our favourite local artists, including Inkke, Bessa and Arm Watches Fingers, supporting a burgeoning scene which has attracted the attention of global media. “I think it’s important to stay actively involved in the scene locally” affirms Tuner, “it’s good to have props and support from those further afield, but having a community here at home is definitely something we strive for.” On the latest release, ‘Cassette Tape 005’, we again find ourselves transfixed by a series of head-nodding instrumentals, with a desire to investigate the producers behind them. It’s that sense of discovering real talent and exposing it which makes Handpicked so essential.
Listen to previews of Cassette Tape 005 below and read our full interview with Handpicked head-honcho, Tuner, in which we talk more about the Handpicked ethos and what we can expect from the latest release:
SynthGlasgow: For those who might be new to the concept of Handpicked and what you promote, can you tell us a little about how it all started and the inspiration behind the release series?
Tuner: Handpicked started as a platform to document and give more exposure to a selection of Scottish producers that I thought were pushing the boundaries; we release music on cassette, with a focus on beats which revolve around a hip hop groove, but the label isn’t really tied down to one unique style of music. On the forthcoming compilation we kick things off with an electronic waltz, and run through everything from golden era instrumentals to future funk bangers, with a little bit of experimentation along the way. By looking at the project as a whole we aim to draw a connection between the tracks, allowing them to sit comfortably together within the same environment.
SG: There are 24 artists contributing to 'Cassette Tape 005', with many (but not all) hailing from Glasgow. How do you discover fresh talent and what makes an artist right for Handpicked?
Tuner: When the label started it was 100% contributions from Scottish producers; since then we’ve enlisted a few heads from across the waters, through reaching out on Soundcloud, artists contacting us or even through recommendation. It’s hard to define what we look for in new artists, but I think the main point is that it can’t sound too generic - I think everyone involved in this release has their own sound pinned down.
SG: Much of the music on 005 is quite chilled and soulful; would you say the sound of 005 represents a large cross-section of Scotland’s bedroom producers? Any new producers you’d like to highlight?
Tuner: I think it’s important to stay actively involved in the local scene - it’s good to have props and support from those further afield, but having a community here at home is definitely something we strive for. On our latest tape we’ve got all the usual suspects contributing, but we’ve pushed the boat out a bit and reeled in some new music from cats like Merlin Nova, Wuh Oh and Kayak, who are all bringing a real fresh element to the table.
SG: There are a few names on there that have been with you from the start; do you feel these artists have developed over the five releases? And do you think they get enough recognition from other sources?
Tuner: Definitely, I think Bessa has come a long way in developing his own style; Konchis and Scatabrainz are quite well seasoned producers already but continue to excel over time. Arm Watches Fingers is another producer that’s come on a mile - the track of his on Handpicked 005 was one I heard him play at Music In The Dark at The Art School. Hearing it on their high-spec soundsystem was a real eye-opener into how much detail is actually in his music, and I think others will be quick to catch on to this as well.
SG: The artwork on Handpicked tapes has always been exceptional and 005 boasts another stunning design. What was the concept behind this release?
Tuner: We work the artwork the same way as musical contributions really, leaving creative control up to the designer. We always ask artists who we have a lot of confidence in and will fit the Handpicked aesthetic. This time round the artist in question was Marianne Wilson; we contacted her with quite an open brief - a blend between organic and digital qualities, and she came back to us with the optical illusion design that's featured on the front of the tape.
SG: You’re hosting a release party at Nice N Sleazy this weekend with some of the Handpicked crew; who can we expect to find behind the decks and how does the format of the night take shape?
Tuner: The Sleazy’s party is going to be real informal; it’s one of the best venues in the city for just getting together with your mates and having a drink, and I think that’s exactly what we need for the launch. We’ll be running it as a back to back all night, with a whole host of the crew invited to play an anthem or two - no pressure! We’ll also be selling tapes and providing the soundtrack to an independent market down at The Flying Duck before the event, so it’ll be an early start. Behind the decks you can expect to see Bessa, Cheeky Forty, Sultan, Rabisu, myself, a bottle of rum and a box of tapes - feel free to jump up and enquire about the latter!