Second Language Music

Location: London Est: 2009

Potted History: “When I was 14 or so, I was obsessed with the first Some Bizzare label compilation album,” says Second Language founder Glen Johnson. “It included early tracks by The The, Depeche Mode, Blancmange, Soft Cell, B-Movie and lots of lesser-known – though no less fascinating – groups. I assumed it would be great fun to do something similar. The problem was, I was still at school and had no idea how to run a label.

“Cut to 2009, and I’d been the label manager of Rough Trade Records for almost 10 years. So, courtesy of Geoff Travis, I’d gotten an education. Along with friends, journalist/musician David Sheppard and Martin Jensen of The Home Current, we set up Second Language – named after a track by Disco Inferno – to release music by ourselves and our friends. These days, I run it alone but the modus operandi hasn’t changed.”

Mission Statement: “In 2009, there seemed to be a lot of people around us who were making great music but, because their music was ‘left-field’, there was no record label interest. We wanted to give those artists a platform, however small. The first release on Second Language, ‘Tombola’, under my Textile Ranch moniker, funded the second release and the second release funded the third. Before we knew it, we were putting out five or six records a year, mostly in hand-assembled packaging.”

Key Artists & Releases: “‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ by Colleen was undoubtedly our biggest release,” says Johnson. “I’ve been a huge fan of Cécile Schott’s music from the beginning, so releasing something by her was not only a personal triumph but a coup for the label. I stand by pretty much everything Second Language has put out, though I sometimes have to pinch myself that I was involved with Oliver Cherer’s ‘I Feel Nothing Most Days’ and Mark Fry’s ‘I Lived In Trees’, in particular – records that, even if I wasn’t associated with them, I’d consider classics.”

Future Plans: “I’d be lying if I said running a label is a lot of fun,” he admits. “Brexit has really fucked small businesses like ours. Second Language always referred to itself as a ‘European label’ but post-Brexit, we’ve seen a huge drop-off in orders from the EU because people are being hit with higher mailing costs, and they just can’t afford them. We’ve gone from releasing records in the low hundreds to releasing records in the thousands to releasing records in the low hundreds again, though not by choice.”

Any Other Business? “On the plus side, I’m proud of what we’ve achieved as a label in these past 13 years, both in terms of the quality of the music but also the design and packaging. We’ve always strived to do something different. We’ve survived by sheer bloody-mindedness, despite the odds. We release less records than we used to, but we spend more time making them.”

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