Tuesday, 21 October 2014

INTERVIEW: Johnny Lynch - Lost Map: One Year On

For someone with his fingers in so many creative pies, Johnny Lynch; a.k.a The Pictish Trail, a.k.a. head honcho at Lost Map Records; is one laid back man.  It's over a year since Lynch, along with the active members of the 'Fence Collective' splintered from the Fife based label of over 15 years, and struck out on their own trail.  It's for this reason that I'm chatting with Lynch; him holed up in Stirling following a show at the Marcobert Arts Centre, me in a cosy yet glitchy radio studio on Glasgow's Southside.

"It was really good yeah" opines Johnny as I ask him how the previous night's antics had gone down.  "The crowd was lovely and the set went down really well.  And it was a beautiful venue as well"  The gig was part of Stirling's Fringe and was a Lost Map showcase, where The Pictish Trail and members of the label played stripped down acoustic sets.  Was that gig then designed specifically to mark one year of Lost Map as a label?

"No not really" answers Johnny.  "It's strange because we announced the new label at the Green Man Festival last year (August 14th 2013), and I found myself down there again this year, so that was kind of fitting.  We are planning however to mark the year with a new feature on our website, as well as some new music and a video from our Howlin' Fling festival."  I'm also assured that Johnny, and fellow label organisers Kate Canaveral and Malcolm Jack, are making plans for Lost Map's second year.

In some ways Lost Map is a continuation of what Fence Records was in its latter years.  Lost Map's roster includes Kid Canaveral, eagleowl, Monoganon, Seamus Fogarty, Rozi Plain, and of course The Pictish Trail.  The label also continues the tradition of hosting its own secluded festivals and gigs, as well as a love for unusual releases.  Where Johnny has looked to differentiate from Fence is the latter's perceived tendency to veer towards singer-songwriters. 

"I mean I've no problem with singer-songwriters, it's what I do myself.  But I felt that by signing Tuff Love, we were really staking a claim that Lost Map isn't purely for bearded songwriters."

Tuff Love, the fuzzy three-piece championed by the likes of Ally McCrae and Jen Long, were the first 'new' act to Lost Map, who hadn't been associated with Fence before.  Lost Map approached the band and offered to work with them, essentially pushing the band and their music out to the wider public, a plan which has seen debut EP Junk  released earlier this year as well as numerous gigs across the UK.

Other notable releases seen on Lost Map this year have been a re-release of eagleowl's album This Silent YearF A M I L Y  by Monoganon; which had been planned for release on Fence; and the debut album from indie-folk prodigies Randolph's Leap.  I ask how Lost Map came to release Clumsy Knot,  an album which has been eagerly awaited by local music fans for some time now.

"Well I had been in talks with Randolph's Leap for a while about putting out an album.  We released Hermit  on Fence, and I just think that Adam [Ross - lead singer of RL] is a really special songwriter.  It just pours out of him and he's a really exciting guy to be involved with."

Another new act to be signed to the Lost Map roster are Insect Heroes, whose album Apocalypso  was released earlier this month.  Having known George Thomas, the man behind Insect Heroes, for a number of years. Johnny felt that Lost Map could give Apocalypso  the release it deserved.  "When I first heard the album [Apocalypso  was self released in 2013] I thought 'Oh my God, this is amazing!'  It's pop music that is really fun, and George was doing it all himself, which I know can be really daunting and exhausting.  So when we signed the band to the label, I felt that re-releasing the album on vinyl was a good introduction to their music.  Plus it's kind of an endorsement to have your music released on vinyl.  I mean there's still an audience who want a tangible product.  As an artist having your album out on vinyl is a good expression of your music.  It pays the artist respect I think."

The label have also continued Fence's love of the physical product, with all releases thus far being granted a vinyl release, plus a continuation of the Postcard singles, as well as the elusive Lost Cat Cassettes. 

"They are secret cassettes, which are not listed on our website" enthuses Johnny.  "We've done three Lost Cat's [with eagleowl & Woodpigeon, Monoganon, and Monogan and WeGoda] and they are great because there's a sense of discovery with them.  We don't list them on the site and they are only available in actual record shops, meaning they are harder to get.  There's maybe a sense of achievement if you find one, which I think is important for the appreciation of music.  Not that it's incredibly difficult to find them mind you!"  Each Lost Cat tape contains exclusive tracks from Lost Map artists, and, highlighting Johnny's sense of fun and word play, the artwork is a genuine lost cat poster. 

"Yeah we just took some posters off the street to use as art work" laughs Johnny.  "Actually I've secretly been kidnapping cats, just so their owners will put up posters which we can then steal!  What happened to the cats?  Oh we used them as food at the Howlin' Fling.  It's the secret life of a record label boss; kidnapping and killing cats!

As we talk, and uncontrollably laugh, it's clear why Johnny Lynch is able to run Lost Map as a close knit family rather than an ‘at distance’ label.  Johnny exudes confidence and warmth, laughing throughout our chat, and giving out the sense that he genuinely loves the music and artists he's so closely involved with.  I ask him if that sense of community is an important ethos to the label.

"One of the things I've tried to do is to be as involved with the music as much as each artist wants me to be.  I will make suggestions and changes, but I've already got 100% belief in all the releases already."  I ask if Johnny had a sense of where he wanted the label to go when he started to which he verbally shrugs his shoulders.  "There were no set plans; however I wanted to work with people that I like, and with music that I like.  I'm chuffed with how it's gone, and it's largely due to trusting my gut."

That sense of community seeps beyond the label collective and into the fans as well, with events such as Howlin' Fling on the label's spiritual home of the Isle of Eigg developing a sense of togetherness and showcasing all the label's wares at the same time.  It's an ethos which Johnny is keen to pass onto the bands, and has seen Randolph's Leap host their inaugural I Can't Dance ToThis Music event, while Kid Canaveral's Baubles now rolls into its fifth year.  Elsewhere eagleowl host a night branded Irregular Owl Movements, further showcasing the lack of taking things too seriously at Lost Map.

"It brings fans together" states Johnny.  "Ideally I'd like all our artists to curate their own events and build things outside of just their recorded music, whether that's live or online.  Each act will express themselves differently, but I feel it gives the artists a lot more involvement" 

Unwittingly that may have been an insight into why Fence fell apart, however it's clear that with Lost Map, despite professing otherwise, there's a clear plan ahead for Johnny and the team.  Build each act up, encourage them to take on board other duties, and in a way help them learn the way that Johnny himself learned at Fence.  It's certainly worked for him, as this year's reissue of Secret Soundz Vol 1 & 2  on Moshi Moshi Records shows.  It's important to remember that whilst running a label, Lynch is still a writing, performing and touring artist in his own right, and the "seal of approval" from Moshi gave him a self-admitted confidence boost.

"I was chuffed when they took the record on board, and it's also interesting to see how they do things, which is completely different from Lost Map."  Is there another Pictish Trail album in the works I ask?  "I'm currently working on the next record.  I've got lots of ideas, and Moshi are very supportive.”

So what lies ahead for Lost Map?  Well as you'll guess of course there's things under wraps that can't yet be disclosed, but Johnny confirms there's a few records lined up for 2015, and that the plan remains to work with the artists on the roster already.  More of the same seemingly, although don't write out anything just yet.

"If an amazing record comes our way, then yeah we'll look at it.  But if not, we'll stick with what we have, getting our artists more involved and hopefully a lot more aware of their surroundings too."

- Neil Wilson
For more about Lost Map, and to buy any of their releases check out lostmap.com

Lost Map celebrated its first year anniversary on 14th August 2014, and has released material from Randolph's Leap, Monoganon, eagleowl, Insect Heroes, Tuff Love, Seamus Fogarty and Kid Canaveral.  To celebrate the label have unveiled Clumps, a new section on their website which promises a mix of podcasts, photos, gossip and other stuff.  Clumps kicks off with Lost Map label sampler, and a short film; by The Forest Of Black; about the legendary Howlin' Fling festival.

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