WNCL Recordings have been champions of the underground for a decade
For 10 years WNCL Recordings has been a purveyor of the finest dancefloor fuel. The label is run by Bob Bhamra, aka West Norwood Cassette Library, and guided loosely by his taste for rough and funky tracks in the dance and the community of ‘librarians’ – artists for whom Bhamra’s excitement is always palpable.
The current crop includes the likes of LMajor, Ténèbre, Mani Festo and Denham Audio, names you’re more likely to read in tracklists posted online than you are in the pages of magazines, each bringing an individual flair to the label’s favoured ‘bass and bleeps’. The latter contributed to a recent run of ‘Tool Kits’ – 10” records containing 12 two-minute tools or loops – a concept that speaks volumes about Bhamra’s attention to presentation.
With the label two shows deep into a crackaud.io residency, we caught up with West Norwood Cassette Library himself for a further glimpse into the make-up of the blog-turned-label.
Firstly, thanks for being involved. We’re big fans of the label and the first show is great. Can you start by telling us about your half of the first mix?
Thank you! It’s a Cassette Librarians-Only mix going from 0 to 170bpm in 45 minutes and ghost-hosted by the inimitable Professor Stanley Unwin. In the spirit of a soundclash, I wanted to pack the mix with VIP’s, unreleased cuts, forthcoming releases and dusted down specials from the Library archives. Of course, my opponent, LMajor wasn’t about to share any of his battle weapons so, in order to represent him in the mix, I had to create one of my own (hence The LMajorpella.)
Can you tell us about how the label started, and what it’s about?
The label was a knock on from the blog which in itself was a knock on from me opening up to all sorts of possibilities again in the wake of dubstep. In 2010 the label was about me having complete control of putting out my own records on my own label. In 2020, the label is about something else entirely, I’m sure. I’ll probably have a better idea of what that is when I look back on it in 2030.
What does West Norwood and the south of the capital mean to the label musically?
It would be nice to think that this is a local label for local people and that “bass and bleeps from SE27” was an actual mission statement but the truth is that the artist base is a lot more far-reaching than that. It’s taken me 10 years to finally sign someone else that actually lives in West Norwood. Mani Festo resides on just the right side of the Tulse Hill border.
There’s a healthy homage to hardcore in the label’s output, and I know you’re are a big fan of that era. What is it from that time and aesthetic that attracts you? How do you try and contribute to that legacy with WNCL?
Yes, the hardcore aesthetic is in the DNA, always has been, pure and simple. The label has always been equally informed by a whole bunch of other sounds that I’m into as well. Given the current climate of every Johnny-come-lately and their nan slapping a lazy amen break over everything, it pays to keep the quality bar as high as possible when dealing with anything breaks related.
The hardcore influence is probably at it’s most explicit in the recent and forthcoming releases because, well, who could resist putting out fantastic work by the likes of LMajor, Denham Audio, Mani Festo and Skin Teeth – the cream of the real underground right now. The next 10″ in the Library Tool Kit series is by hardcore legend and breakbeat scientist extraordinaire Justice. I would have needed my head testing to have passed that by.
But there are plenty of artists on the label that swerve that whole sound entirely, whether it’s the early incarnations of Karenn and Girls of the Internet to straight-up house music from James Duncan and legends Ultramarine or curveballs from the likes of C.E.O and Ekoplekz. I hope to keep things that way too!
"Reaching the 10-year landmark allowed me a moment to consider knocking it all on the head and have a good looking 10 year old corpse"
You play and make music as WNCL yourself, how do the two entities, you as a DJ/Producer and the label, feed into each other, and where is the line drawn between the two, if any?
Producing my own tunes for my own label becomes increasingly harder with each new signing. Putting yourself up against a rock solid roster of exceptional talent is a lot to live up to. Add that fear to my standard procrastination and it can become impossible to finish anything.
DJ-wise, I’m always safe in the knowledge that I have a rich back catalogue of music from the crew to draw from, although given that I have about one gig every two years, my thoughts on DJ-ing are probably neither here nor there!
What do you look for in an artist or in a track that you sign to the label?
What do you hope to achieve with the label in the long-term? Is there a vision for the future?
Reaching the 10-year landmark has given me a moment to look back and see how the label has reflected my tastes over a decade. It also allowed me an, albeit fleeting, moment to consider knocking it all on the head and have a good looking 10-year-old corpse. But Ténèbre sent over his usual next level madness and took care of that little melodrama for me. I’ve never had a vision, long term or otherwise having always been an “I wonder what the next EP’s going to be” kind of guy.
L-R: CEO, LMajor, West Norwood Cassette Library, Stavrogin
I know you cut some dubs especially for the show. What is it about it that draws you back given the expense?
I still haven’t had the time or inclination to learn how to mix with anything other than a pair of trusty 1210s and a bag of records. Yes, it could be seen as an unnecessary expense but if a track isn’t available and it’s exceptionally good and I’ve got enough pocket money left over, then I cut dub.
What can we expect from the rest of the residency?
I have absolutely no idea – there are two more soundclashes featuring four more Cassette Librarians to come. They all have an open brief so your guess is as good as mine. Given the diverse nature of the producers and their output, I can guarantee with some confidence that there won’t be a dull moment.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Be more Weatherall.