In those hazy pre-Discogs, pre-YouTube algorithm days Lovefingers‘ daily fingertrack was an essential resource for the internet music hound to get their ears around the good stuff. And, despite the record digging arms race escalating exponentially in the intervening years, the original 1000 song “mix” still stands the test of time. A freewheeling, contextless musical train of thought preserved in aspic since 2009. Now 10 years down the line ESP Institute has unveiled the first volume of reissued fingertracks. Lovefingers (Andrew Hogge) took the time to answer a few questions on WhatsApp about this reissue, his label and DJ career…
PH. If this compilation was a sandwich, what sort of sandwich would it be?
AH. Oh I like where this is going!
PH. That’s real music journalism.
AH. Hahaha. Are you familiar with the Elvis sandwich?
PH. Is it something to do with peanut butter? And frying?
AH. Yes, peanut butter, bacon and banana… fried.
PH. So, that? I think it feels more wholesome than that. Was having a listen yesterday and it’s got some really beautiful stuff on it.
AH. Trying to give a cheeky question a cheeky answer, and I know the obvious thing regarding Fingertracks would be something involving things that don’t mix, or odds that attract, etc. But, it’s not as trashy as that, you’re right
PH. It flows tho. Very nicely.
AH. Thanks. That’s something I always tried to do with the lovefingers.org. There had to be a thread, and even though it’s usually some personal abstract thread that only I hear, it still connects things for the listener on the other end.
“There had to be a thread, and even though it’s usually some personal abstract thread that only I hear, it still connects things for the listener on the other end”
PH. Ok, serious questions. When did you decide to do this? Was it always on the cards?
AH. A few years ago I had the idea. I did have a reissue label planned to start at the same time as ESP Institute, but it didn’t feel important enough to me, so focused on solely new music, but, over the last 10 years I keep coming back to those 999 tracks and find there is still a meaningful and personal vibe. It was my hope that maybe (even tho lots of the Fingertracks have since been included other people’s releases) that the connectivity would still make it feel special. Also, my wife Heidi had so much enthusiasm for the idea, which definitely motivated me to get off the ass!
PH. Yeah, cos this is the first time ESP has touched on the reissue thing, right? I know you spoke about it before but never went there. I suppose in the intervening few years that became quite a, ummm, saturated market.
AH. More or less yeah. The 2nd ESP release was a mixed compilation, and there has been Warp Factor 9 which is a 90s release with a re-rub by Tornado Wallace, and a forthcoming similar release with Koehler. Its definitely a saturated scene, but I feel some people do it really well, really put their hand into contextualising things in a new way, rather than just being a verbatim reissue.
PH. Yes, I love Stroom for that.
AH. Yes, perfect example. Also Music From Memory and Seance Center. John Gomez’s Brazilian comps are great as well.
PH. I think it’s a brave move being committed to new music (in the main).
AH. It’s definitely more financially brave lol.
PH. Yes, Paul (Apiento) always says it’s an unfair playing field. It’s quite hard for new artists to compete with the past 40 odd years of recorded music.
AH. There is nostalgia and a pre-proven worth to old music, and I think people get a sense of validation with reissues. But new music is also saturated and homogenous in a lot of ways, especially with everyone accessing similar tools, so it takes real imagination to break though the mundane.
PH. Yeah, I mean the reissue label is the new re-edit label (speaking as someone who’s had / has both!)
AH. I also did an edits label of course, Blackdisco (that Soft Rocks 12″ is how we met), but that too became saturated ad nauseam, like everything does.
PH. It’s very tough I think. New artists have to make an impact immediately. Like new records else they just drop off the radar. I feel very nostalgic about the days when a record would grow and develop over time. Like sleeper hits. You don’t seem to get that so much anymore.
AH. Everything is definitely harder in the digital realm I’d say, for those that came up before it was the norm, but now its imperative to shift your communication and distribution if you’re to survive. Music is not so much physically sitting there on a shelf, waiting to be picked up, now it has the entire history of all music ever created on this planet to contend with, easily accessible.
PH. How much on an eye do you have on sales when you sign a release?
AH. I don’t include “sales potential” in my A&R criteria.
“I don’t include “sales potential” in my A&R criteria”
PH. Haha, good answer.
AH. I just go with what I love, and if it’s close but not “there” yet, I work with the artist until it sits right in my gut.
PH. So if you believe it in, that’s enough?
AH. Yes. Going for the “sure thing” is so boring, that’s how you arrive in the current state of dance music, or “business techno” as the twitters coined it. Don’t get me wrong, I do like zombie music.
PH. You say about working with the artist. Obviously it’s dependent, but do you sometimes listen to a record and think, “Okay, this is where the artist is now. There are things I think could be ‘better’ but I’m going to accept this as their stage of development,” put it out and let them grow. Or do you work to get it to its fullest potential?
AH. Both really, there are artists that (if they’re open to it) I’ll give lots of production/arrangement guidance — it doesn’t work in every scenario and nor do many artists require it, there’s no ego at play – they’re just banging out demos at such a prolific rate that it leaves the final development open to suggestion. I love that, it’s not stepping on anyone’s toes but collaborating to get to the finish line. Most the time it’s just in shaping the breadth of work into a release, trimming fat, filling holes.
Conversely, I’m not usually interested in scenarios where I’m approached with a “complete” release, artwork and all. I appreciate the holistic intent but its just not the ESP Institute process.
PH. Yeah, I think that young artists have that finished article in mind sometimes. Maybe that’s the pressure of having to hit hard first. I think people are more weary of making mistakes these days.
AH. Lots of artists just need to survive, and they have to spread their work across lots of labels, which is totally understandable, and I’m less fussy about that now as I used to be, but I still cherish the relationships where we can grow together.
PH. Ok, to the comp.
AH. The sandwich.
PH. It must’ve been a job of work whittling those initial Fingertracks down?
AH. I started with a shit-ton of tracks, but there were definitely some personal classics that needed to be included at the start of the series and for it to feel like a good cross-section and representation of lovefingers.org. Some of them are almost iconic at this point, Lifetones, Nuno Canavarro, but they were so essential to the Fingertracks world.
PH. Like how many was the first long list?
AH. 50 or 60.
PH. And for this first part (cos it’s ongoing right?) was there anything you really really wanted but couldn’t get?
AH. Yes, there were at least 20 tracks or so that have been either too difficult to license or impossible (so far) to locate rights holders. There are a few in particular that I’m holding on to for vol 2, I can’t name them of course, one of them has been challenging due to the record label exploding in a war. That type of thing.
PH. Christ. So whittling it down further – and I know there’s a freeform thing to Fingertracks – what was the statement of intent you wanted for the first part? Giving people an overview, or is it like part 1 of the “mix”?
AH. Yes basically. Vol 1 is not leading with the ‘earlier’ tracks from lovefingers.org, but it’s more a grab-bag focused on the overall sentiment or vibe, although, there is no disco proper on there on this volume.
PH. Is the disco to come?
AH. Yes for sure, I will probably veer into some themed territory over the next few volumes.
PH. How many volumes do you see?
AH. 10, bank permitting, hahaha.
AH. I’d love to do 1 annually but, just like with the ESP Institute, I’m not going force anything to fit a schedule. There are tracks that I insist on being included, so if they take longer than a year, so be it.
PH. You’d end up well old at the end.
AH. Oh man, I ‘will’ be old, didn’t think of that! Next topic.
I have this conversation with Harvey occasionally; now we (DJs) are at a point where “digging” is much easier, and things are instantly available, and its really great but it also means that a DJ can no longer be defined by their repertoire (nor should they have been). It’s all about about ‘how’ you do it. That old chestnut; give 2 DJs the same records and they will both tell different stories. I think it’s the human quality that communicates that energy, and that is why I think Fingertacks stuck with a lot of people. Many of those songs are easily available, now, then, etc… but they were not selected by an algorithm, it’s very human, and messy, and its endearing because it doesn’t always make sense.
“I think it’s the human quality that communicates that energy”
PH. Yeah, and I was going to ask this, but kinda felt it went against what you said up there. But did you feel you had to bust out some big guns – rarity wise?
AH. Let’s be real, rarities excite people, some people, so of course those will be in the mix. I’m not trying to be a Time Life reissue service here, but still, the $1000 records sandwiched between the $1 records, the ‘value’ of the music is not monetary to me, it doesn’t matter. The vibe trumps the hustle.
PH. Are you doing any DJ gigs specifically in support of the comp? I know a long time ago you were thinking about doing the whole thing live in a gallery setting.
AH. Yes, that’s true, I will definetely try to realize that idea. It will take 4 days straight to play every Fingertrack, but not my first time at the sleepless rodeo, haha. I’ve got some nice chill things coming up though, one in particular in LA late this Summer with these lovely guys Third Place. It’s a day-into-night long haul set, all trippy stuff in a beautiful natural location, really looking forward to that one.
PH. And DJ-wise, I get the impression you’re in a good place. People “get” your breadth. Y’know you’re not going to rock up at the club and play birdsong.
AH. Yeah it’s a good balance now. I always just do what’s appropriate (in my mind) and I love to play everywhere, all sizes and time slots, I don’t want to get stuck in a rut with any one expectation, that’s an easy route to complacency for me. Long hauls are always fun, I get to go from 0 to 100 and hit lots of my personal sweet spots, I’m always especially thankful for those opportunities.
PH. Yeah, I mean it’s easy to be dismissive of “selector culture,” but it’s 100% given DJs (who previously wouldn’t have got near a big room) a bit of a crack of the whip.
AH. Yes, absolutely true. I don’t feel that the “selector” business has much to do with my big room bookings as most those promoters aren’t really familiar with lovefingers.org, and I’ve been in the trenches for quite a while now. I sometimes feel like I’m cheating on myself, but finding a balance between loads of styles and genres is what keeps things interesting.
PH. Okay, so what’s next for ESP?
AH. So much this year! Ripperton’s 2nd album just dropped and its gorgeous, Juan Ramos has his LP “Changing Hands” out at the end of the month, there is this wicked modular dub album from TCB, new EPs from Benedikt Frey and Nadia D’Alo respectively, insanity from a new act called Lemmie Ash (this is up your strasse), a 2nd 12″ from Koehler, and there is an album I produced for multi-instrumentalist Raymond Richards (he played pedal steel in my old band, and for post-Slowdive Mojave 3, as well as on my remix of Project Club’s ‘El Mar y La Luna’) and that is purely blissed-out ambient country music. The end of this year will round out 10 years of ESP Institute and will land at catalogue #100, so 2020 will be more of a label-focused year with less releases and more community-driven events.
PH. Is that Juan’s hip hop LP?
AH. It’s not really hip hop per-se but we’ve been internally referring to it as that. It’s really fucked up in the best possible way. There is also another EP from him in Fall which includes a certain elusive big room monster that we’ve been teasing for a couple years now.
PH. Okay, one last question, do you still have the same thirst for discovery that you did when you were running lovefingers.org? Or do you more scratch the itch now with the label, curating the releases, sifting demos etc?
AH. Nah, I have a serious fucking record habit, same as it ever was, constantly buying so much new and old music.
“I have a serious fucking record habit, same as it ever was, constantly buying so much new and old music”
PH. And finally 3 new / old / new to you things that currently in the listening pile / iTunes / whatever?
1) Tom Of England – Sex Monk Blues
2) James Booth – Space Echo Track
3) Euraf Yard Sound Große Systim – Cannibals Dub
‘Fingertracks: Vol 1’ is out on 21st June on ESP Institute