Label Watch: Emotional Rescue

With the labels Emotional Rescue and Emotional Response, (and three or four others), the hardworking Briton Stuart Leath is on the lookout for the subtle Vinyl records, old and new, forgotten and undiscovered. Sometimes to the point of self-abandonment. Now he is celebrating his 10th anniversary.

In recent years, the reissue community has produced an abundance of idols and icons. One thing that they all share is that they are collectors and diggers, hard workers with the charm and methods of Columbo, astute observers of the scene. Their finger always on the pulse of time.

Potting wheels and John Peel

One of the most prolific among them is Englishman Stuart Leath – known to some simply as »Chuggy«. His childhood awakening: while his mother was busy making ceramics, Stuart, born in 1970, would listen to the radio. In particular John Peel and his Monday night sessions on BBC Radio One. He played music that was brand new and special, cool and ground-breaking. Soon he started buying his own records.

By the time dance music came onto the scene, he was in the thick of the Summer of Love in 1988. His own ambitions started to take a back seat for the time being. Now it was all about celebrating the excitement of the music. It would take him almost a decade before he started his own party series in London’s Chinatown at the end of the 90s and become a professional DJ.

Emotional high 2

Fast forward: the noughties are behind us, the first decade of the new millennium ahead. Stuart puts together a plan. Crazy, but doable: why not launch a record label out of nothing? Or better still, why not two? As an ardent record collector, not only had he established contact with many a great artist who, with their organic, semi-retro, exotic creations, he was ready to release at any moment.

He also had a stack of old records that needed reissuing. »Digger gold«, completely beyond his means, even if you still get them. While he had been immersed in dance and house in the late 80s, his emotional roots reached further back: to those evenings in front of the radio listening to John Peel. So he started an emotional rescue Operation. And the name was obvious, of course: Emotional Rescue. And then Emotional Response as a twin label for the new music he wanted to release.

Failure as opportunity

Now you can already guess that as well as a soulful side, you need a hard-nosed side to you to boot in the music business. He was quick to note that this is a fast-moving business: »There’s a whole load of records I’ve tried to re-release and failed and later they come on other labels.«

»I have always approached each year as though it’s their last and so I cannot think they’ll be going in ten more years, noooo.«

Stuart Leath

An example, anyone? Eight years ago he tried to release »For A Reason« by Lifetones (Charles Bullen) – for him an exceptional post-punk dub record. Finally, after months of research, he found the musician’s address, wrote a letter with a stamped-addressed envelope and even put it in the post box himself. A day later, the envelope was back in his letterbox: inside his own missive and nothing else. »A very charming way of saying no.« But it is precisely this kind of hard work that drives the business, creating a deep connection with the musicians and the end result.

Piles of favourite records

This makes it hard for him to narrow down which record is his favourite: »Well, the Woo series of LPs or the Jorge Reyes album are often sighted, but really each one has a notable place in my mind. A time and space given to all. The Konduko series started as just a series of three 12”s and has just continued to be a main stay when never intended.« »I personally really love the two Furniture EPs«, he continues; »also Dunkelziffer, Suns Of Arqa, Jaki Whitren, Mouth, Jah Wobble, Vox Populi!, Glen Adams, Michael Stearns, Luis Delgado and Luis Paniagua, Man Jumping, Sugar Minott – it’s a long list«

A list that reflects his varied and wide-ranging interest in music. This interest, meanwhile, is effervescent, which is why it didn’t stop at the first two labels, but bore further fruit: [Emotional] Especial and Emotional Relish are also there. Also Mysticisms (specialising in house) and Sacred Summits, which he runs together with his friend Lindsay Todd from Firecracker.

Taking stock ten years later

Never in a month of Sundays did Stuart Leath ever think his labels would ever celebrate their tenth anniversary – which is why this year’s anniversary feels like a real highlight. He still has a few records he’s been working on for ages. A record with Brenda Ray, for example, who he contacted back in 2011.

Whether he wants to go on like this forever? »I have always approached each year as though it’s their last and so I cannot think they’ll be going in ten more years, noooo he tells us. Then he bids us farewell and heads off on a well-deserved anniversary holiday. Let’s see if he doesn’t eventually change his mind – it’s certainly to be hoped.