we care a lot
(October 2003)

Laurence at Kitchen Records (kitchensounds@aol.com) asked me to write a few words about our record label, RoKit, for the zine he gave away at the Kitchen Records night over at Stoke’s Talbot Hotel. I did. This is it. (Jim)

Mute records keep STUMM; Matador records shout OLE.

It’s that magical moment of realisation. You’re reading the sleeve notes or flipping the record over and the catalogue number catches your eye. You’ve read it a hundred times before, but this time for some reason you see the link. This moment is the one where you know that the people who made the record you’re holding go the extra mile, think about every detail, really do care. 

We started a record label, me and Laurence. RoKit: Robots; Kitchen. Ro Kit. RoKit. To Be A Robot was our first release. It was a 7” single and to be honest I can’t recall exactly how it came about.

I remember Laurence had bought a few issues of Robots.. and modestly sent a copy of his fledgling Kitchen Records’ debut disc for review without telling me it was him. It contained four chansons d’amour recorded as if they were coming out of a bakelite radio on your granny’s ancient sideboard. Unusually, the subject of The Fabulous Nobody’s affection was not an unattainable lady, but the city and city life. I loved it for its sadness, for its beauty and for its out of time timelessness. In keeping with the sound, Laurence spurned modern methods of communication and would only consent to being interviewed by post, so we didn’t speak for a long time.

But the letters flowed. Somewhere along the line the idea for a free single was conceived and agreed on and we launched RoKit to put it out with issue #9 of Robots.. The bands on the record were Pale Boy, 22 Metre Band, The Fabulous Nobody, By Coastal Café and The Groove Criminals. They were brilliant. The songs were brilliant. The record was brilliant.

The sleeve was a nightmare. Silver foil seemed like the obvious choice, for a record with a robotic title. Have you ever tried to cut 350 7” squares out of several rolls of silver foil? Nightmare. Have you ever tried to cut even a single straight line through a piece of silver foil? Nightmare. Of course, once we’d cut the things, we had to slide them into the sleeves. Nightmare. Once it’s got a bit wrinkled, silver foil doesn’t slide anywhere, let alone into a tight-fit poly bag. Nightmare. Me and Donna Donnelly spent hours at our kitchen table fiddling with the damn things. Nightmare. The end result, with a black robot on an acetate sheet in front of the silver foil was great. But then I made the mistake of keeping all the bits of off-cut foil to use in the kitchen. Nightmare.

Laurence has done all the sleeves since that one.

But we weren’t thinking about another release then. Not until Jack from Enraptured records got in touch with the idea of doing something. We weren’t sure what, but we didn’t want to put the price of the zine up to pay for it, and we wanted everyone to get something out of it. I tried various ideas out on Nigel at Pickled Egg. He was encouraging and we hammered out the formula we’ve used on all the CD compilations so far.

On Robots #10 we got five labels – Enraptured, Pickled Egg, Burning Emptiness, Intellectos and Kitchen – to put up the money to press 1000 CDs at the cheapest rate we could find. For their money they could put 14 minutes of music on the CD and they got 100 finished CDs to use as promos or giveaways or samplers or whatever. The other 500 CDs were given away with the zine. The CD was called 16k 48k 128k GO! (and I’ve still got a handful left if you want one.) The labels got their music straight to the ears of people who wanted to listen to it; the readers got music they wanted to listen to for free and Robots.. got to pass the music on with our love. Everyone’s a winner, baby, that’s no lie.

The first one worked so well that we’ve done it twice more. With Robots.. #11 we had Elsie and Jack, Eeriephone, Catchpenny, Static Caravan and Beatsforsale on 10P 1 PLAY and #12 comes with Bush, 1945 a collection of tracks from Victory Garden, Minimism, Miniature, Bearos and Antenna. All of the labels so far, and the ones we’re talking to for #13, love their music and they want you to love it as much as they do.

And as much as we do. Our catalogue numbers all start with HERBIE. We really do care, y’see.

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