Location: Catford, London
Potted History: “Happy Robots was started in 2008 by myself and Alice Hubley, who I met while I was in folktronica band Saloon,” explains label boss Adam Cresswell. “The main reason to start a label was to put out an album we’d made together as Arthur & Martha. As a control freak, I thought I could do a better job than any other label.” It didn’t quite work out like that, with Cresswell describing Arthur & Martha as “a cursed project” (a tale for another time, no doubt). Time and people drifted, the label languished and Cresswell was ready to retire from music. “So I decided to revive the label and release an album I’d been tinkering with, as a full stop,” he says. That album was Rodney Cromwell’s ‘Age Of Anxiety’. “Weirdly people liked it, Electronic Sound had it in their album of the year list, and then Morgane Lhote, formerly of Stereolab, asked me if I wanted to put her next single out on Happy Robots and I got sucked back in… which isn’t to say I don’t love doing it.”
Mission Statement: “To get great music, mostly made by geeks who like dicking around on old synths, heard,” says Cresswell, directly.
Key artists & releases: Alice Hubble (nee Hubley), Tiny Magnetic Pets, Hologram Teen, Rodney Cromwell, Arthur & Martha, Sinosa, Pattern Language and Roman Angelos. Mood Taeg are the most recent act to join the family.
“With literally hundreds of the emails you send out being unanswered, I’m massively grateful for any coverage,” says Cresswell. “Every review, feature or blog post feels like an achievement, but getting Sinosa’s ‘If U Must Dance’ single and then Alice Hubble’s ‘Goddess’ playlisted by Steve Lamacq on 6 Music felt like a massive triumph. Nothing beats having people saying ‘I heard your record in the hairdressers’.”
Future Plans: “There was never a plan, just a series of happy accidents,” says Cresswell. “This sounds pretty worthy, but I’d like to make the label more environmentally friendly while not losing loads more money. One real dilemma is that if you want to get your records in the shops you have to press 500 CDs. The attitude being you only have to sell 150 CDs to make your money back, but that inevitably builds waste into your business model.
“For a label our size, it’s incredibly hard to sell 500 of anything. So the first step in making the industry more sustainable is for pressing plants to give the option of smaller runs. The ironic thing is I would press more records then! I have found a pressing plant that claims to do be more sustainable though so I will be using them for my next few vinyl releases.”
If anyone asked you for advice about setting up a label, what would you tell them? “They should ask themselves what ‘added value’ they bring to the artists. It takes 10 minutes to set up on Bandcamp and start selling homemade cassettes. I pretend to be all lo-fi punk rock and in it for the music, but deep down of course I crave world domination, who doesn’t?”
The lessons learned so far? “My wife would probably say if you are considering starting a label when you have a five-month-old baby, think very hard about it first.”
For more, visit happyrobots.co.uk