Vince Clarke’s VeryRecords – a very different sort of label
By Andy Jones | October 25, 2022
Vince Clarke’s VeryRecords is his bespoke label for releasing top-quality electronic music – but, as he reveals to Classic Pop, it’s also a great way for him to get out and meet new people. if you’re lucky enough to be signed to the label, you will very probably end up making music with the boss himself. Very, then, is not your typical record label… By Andy Jones
In 2016, the track Better Have A Drink To Think, a collaboration between Vince Clarke and Orbital’s Paul Hartnoll, marked the launch of VeryRecords, a label set up by Vince himself.
VeryRecords is a little different from your average music release platform. First of all, it focusses on releasing ‘very fine electronic music’… perhaps no surprise given Clarke’s track record.
But then there’s also the fact that Vince wants to work with all of the artists on Very’s roster – that is, write and produce with them – as well as distribute the resulting music.
So where did the idea come from, and who have been the lucky signings so far?
Well, it turns out that not only was the Hartnoll/Clarke track the first release on the label, but that particular project also served as the springboard for the entire project to get off the ground.
“After doing the techno record that I did with Martin Gore [the album Ssss as VCMG in 2012], I just got interested in that music – as that was my first exposure to it – and I started writing tracks in that vein,” Vince explains.
“Then, while I was on tour [with Erasure], I met Paul from Orbital when we were playing in Brighton, as my keyboard tech is a friend of his.
“I played him some of these new ideas and he was up for collaborating and maybe putting out a record, so we did some tracks. We worked in his studio and also swapped ideas over the internet – the ‘new normal’ [smiles] – and then I just thought it would be interesting to release it ourselves.
“Another friend of mine who lives in Brooklyn had just started a download-only label,” he continues, “and I thought ‘Maybe I can do that with the project I’m doing with Paul,’ so that’s what kicked off VeryRecords.
“Also, I didn’t really know much about the music industry or the music business side of things, so I wanted to find out about how it works, the mechanics. I wanted to find out about ‘PR’ – whatever the heck that is – and all that kind of stuff, you know?
“So it was really set up to release that record, but I also wanted to learn something new.”
Vince and Paul recorded the album 2Square, the download-only debut album for VeryRecords, but for the label’s second release, Buchla And Singing by the duo Reed & Caroline, Vince decided to release it on CD.
“A friend of a friend told me that Reed [Hays] had done these songs that he’d recorded for his child when he was younger,” Vince recalls.
“I thought it was kind of cool and that maybe it could be the first ‘proper’ release on the label, so I met Reed, and since then we’ve become really good friends. We now actually do a radio show together every fortnight.”
By this time Vince had already decided that VeryRecords would be a label specifically for releasing good quality electronic music, which he is quick to explain.
“It’s not that I’m not interested in other music, but I know a little bit about electronic music I guess,” he laughs, “so it was a good starting point.”
After the out-and-out pop of some of Reed & Caroline’s music, Clarke’s next act was the more left-field Alka, whose debut album on Very has some outstanding electronic moments among some more challenging passages.
- Read more: Top 40 Vince Clarke tracks
“Alka actually sent the label some tracks, some demos that he’d done and also some previous recordings that he’d made,” says Vince. “I’m into electronic music that is a bit soundtrack-y, and that’s exactly what Alka was doing.
“I thought it could be an interesting release, so we worked on the record [The Colour Of Terrible Crystal] together and that became the next release. Since then we have made another album [Regarding The Auguries] which came out in October.”
Very is clearly a bespoke label, with no rush to release mountains of material, and that just leaves one more signing to discuss: one by the name of Brook, who Vince discovered… well, closer to home.
“Well, it’s always your mates, you know,” laughs Vince. “Brook is my keyboard tech. He’s always been doing music and he and I share a lot of interest in the same kind of music and he started writing songs for himself. He started dating someone called Beth who was a songwriter in her own right and they started doing stuff together.
“She came from a more traditional rock’n’roll type background and she was playing in bands every weekend in their local town. Anyway they sent demos of songs that they’d done and I thought it was again something different for the label.”
- Read more: Vince Clarke’s side projects
By this stage of the interview, it’s clear that Vince is totally passionate about Very and the acts signed to it, and with his own musical background it’s perhaps no surprise to learn that he is involved with all of the releases on a collaborative level.
“To be honest,” he explains, “if I wasn’t involved then I wouldn’t be interested in doing it. It’s not really a traditional label/artist thing – it’s more about collaborations. I just happen to be the person that’s going to release the record, but I wouldn’t want to just release a record.
“It would have to be people that I had some kind of artistic relationship with; that’s the kind of artists or bands that we keep a lookout for.”
And getting involved more with the artists on his label has also enabled Vince to leave the relative safety of his own world.
“The good thing about doing this and being involved is that I actually get to meet people – there are personal relationships that I have with all the people I have released. I realised that I had been working in my own studio for years and years and I’ve just got no friends [smiles].
“My social life is zilch [laughs]. So to actually meet new people, visit new places and hear new music, it’s been great, you know? And I’ve been fortunate to find very like-minded people, people who are into the same kind of things that I’m into.”
The art of exposure
Vince is not just involved musically and personally, but also right down to the administration side too. “I do that, but very badly,” he grins.
“It’s manageable and quite a lot of work, but I don’t mind that. I do have another guy who helps with the production, making the CDs and stuff, and maybe helping with some of the artwork. Most of the time, though, like with both Brook and Alka, they are very much into designing their own CD covers.
“I remember when Depeche Mode started, that was also one of my dreams. I mean, getting played on the radio was amazing, but having the opportunity to actually be involved in what’s going to be on your record sleeve… that was something else, you know?”
Having had so much success in his own career and then witnessed the whole music scene shift away from physical sales, is Vince careful to manage the expectations of the artists he signs?
“I don’t think people have those expectations these days,” he considers. “The people I’ve worked with so far certainly don’t have them.
“They aren’t looking to become stars, although maybe they’d like that… but at the end of the day they’re just people who want to get their music heard, and I’m interested in getting their music out to the world.
“It sounds very grandiose but it’s about exposure, and the people I’ve worked with are just happy to share their music.”
But with so many more people making music nowadays, is it harder to stand out than it was when he was first signed?
“Absolutely. I think it’s harder, but at the same time if you’re a musician just starting off, you don’t necessarily have to be signed to Warner Brothers,” he points out.
“Back then you were really relying on the record company to spend some money, get some promotion, maybe take an ad out in NME or something, and it really depended on that.
“Nowadays, if you want to get your music out there, then there are ways and means of doing it. You may not have this massive promotional budget and all the rest of it, but if you play live [it helps], and there is Bandcamp and all those kind of cool formats.
“I’m a fan of the internet and I’m a fan of downloads – dare I say it, I’m a fan of Spotify. You are actually exposing your music to a wider audience than you could have ever done back then.”
As for future plans for the label, Vince is realistic. “If something interesting comes along, we may go ahead and release it or work with the artist. I don’t have this grand plan of suddenly becoming EMI.”
And ‘something interesting’ could quite easily come along because, unlike with some labels, Vince is keen to hear demos, opening the floodgate on the VeryRecords website to accept them.
“I like listening to people, the ideas that people have. I like music. I must like it, anyway, because I’ve been doing it for so long!”
For more information go to veryrecords.com, and check out The Synthesizer Show With Vince & Reed on Maker Park Radio
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