Although the UK is home to the world’s first dedicated Electro-swing club, most of the earliest tunes came out of Europe. This is now beginning to change, with the launch of a new Birmingham-based label called Ragtime Records - stated aim: to make electro-swing "you can really get down to". One of the men behind this is Richard Shawcross, aka C@ in the H@.
I met him on a drizzly Tuesday evening in November, at my flat in Shepherd’s Bush. [I was working 13 hour days in December and have only just got around to posting this!] Having visited his sister in Highgate, he was driving back to Birmingham to prepare for the label’s launch party that weekend, but stopped off to chat to me.
|Richard takes to the decks at the Ragtime |
Records launch party.
Taken from Ragtime Records Facebook page
We chatted on about dubstep for a while, before I remembered that we were meant to be talking about the new label, which launched on Saturday 24th November. He and Tom Hyland (guitarist in Birmingham electro-swing band Electric Swing Circus) have started the label in response to what they see as a gap in the market: “There aren’t a lot of British electro-swing labels. It’s a growing scene and the UK needs to be represented. We had the first two EPs ready [‘Gangsta Swing’ by the C@ in the H@ and ‘Penniless Optimist’ by Electric Swing Circus] and were going to release them on a different label, but they were taking so long that we worried about how seriously they were going to promote them, so we decided to do it ourselves.”
He told me that for both himself and Tom it is a labour of love rather than a money-making scheme, and points out that even if money were the object, it would be very hard to turn a profit. Will they, then, be putting on some live shows and club nights? “Well, Tom is planning a festival for May next year [See the post about Swingamajig], where I am sure the label will be represented, and I was actually talking to someone today about doing a London night in the new year. It would be good to get the label’s name out known in some other cities too. But even then the money isn’t better in gigs; it is just that the money in sales and production has gone down!” Richard is quick to play down any suggestion that they are mounting a challenge to the established UK electro-swing label Freshly Squeezed, or their popular ‘White Mink’ events. “Those guys have done fantastic work - I just think there is room for another label.”
So far as future releases go, he tells me that there will be more music from C@ in the H@ and an album from the Electric Swing Circus. Although they are looking to take on UK-based artists, there is also a project in the pipeline with French swing-house producer Vassili Gemini. “There are some established people I would love to get involved in the label, people like DJ Switch [3x world champion DMC DJ and collaborator with Richard on their dubstep/turntablism project ‘Brotherhood of Filth’]. It was actually him who introduced me to electro-swing. I don’t want to limit the label to one style of electro-swing, but I think scratching can add so much to a live show.”
Talking about other potential signings he is a cautious, perhaps not wanting to count his chickens. “There are some guys out there who just need a little more time to hone their production skills a bit more. I’d love to help them out and will where I can, but it is really something that artists need to experiment with and learn for themselves.” He is in favour of letting them find their own sound rather than steering them in one direction or another. “That’s something I liked about the Gangsta Swing EP of mine – it was original, no one else had really made anything like it.”