IN CONVERSATION: Alex Knight, founder of FatCat Records

IN CONVERSATION: Alex Knight, founder of FatCat Records

Alex Knight is one of the founders of FatCat records, he ran a record shop in London in the 80s that morphed into a label that all these years later is still going strong. Covering not just dance music but a wide breadth of different musical styles.

Recently they released a new FatCat compilation. A collection of demos, curated by the label, who have deemed them some of the finest submissions they’ve received over the last few years. FatCat have a long tradition of supporting new artists and treating demos with an open mind. This new collection of songs, the first in a trilogy of such releases, is demonstrable to the eclectic taste the label have always possessed.

One of the founding partners of the label, Alex Knight says. “FatCat has a rich history of signing Artists from Demo recordings, this includes renowned artists such as Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad,Animal Collective and Max Richter as well as current signings C Duncan, Samana, Resina and Shida Shahabi. We receive a wonderful array of demo’s and the compilation is a great way to highlight just how good this material is!”

FatCat have always been a label that comfortably straddle the line between guitar music and electronica. For this release, the focus is on the sort of DIY guitar sound of which Paws and TRAAMS fans might enjoy. Away from the FatCat roster, fans of Yuck, Cloud Nothings, Drenge and Girl Band will also find plenty in which to immerse themselves. The next two compilations will focus on other genres that make up the FatCat musical tradition.

We caught up with Alex Knight to delve a little deeper into the history of one of our favourite labels FatCat.
When did FatCat start?

FatCat began as a small independent record store in Crawley, Sussex, a “New Town” situated South of London and opened its doors in the fall of 1989.

What was the original idea behind the label?

The Original concept behind the label was to create a space where we could release whatever we liked irrespective of genre or style. It was deliberate move away from the confines of the store where we were renowned for Electronic music, House and Techno.

I read that you originally ran a dance record shop in London the late 80s, what was that like and what records remind you of that time?

The store was based in Covent Garden, very central, and at that time Covent Garden was full of small independent and creative businesses. It was certainly a really exciting time to be running a store, London was full of great club nights and events and there was an energy and can-do attitude which permeated the whole scene. There are a number of Artists and labels whose music reminds me of that period, Derrick May, Carl Craig, Robert Hood and Jeff Mills all feature as do artists such as Black Dog, B12, Stasis, Aphex Twin and labels such as Basic Channel, Djax-Up-Beats, Rephlex, Warp, amongst countless others.

What is it you look for in demo submissions?

We’re looking for something that stands out from the masses, something that grabs your attention, maintains it, and has you immediately hitting the ‘play again’ button. It’s a difficult
thing to quantify, but we are very drawn to artists who defy easy categorisation, who blur boundaries between genres and who are unafraid to be unique.

You’ve released a lot of Scottish artists, what was it that drew you to the likes of Frightened rabbit, Twilight sad et al?

I’ve always had very close ties to Scotland and its music scene, firstly its electronic music scene and club scene and latterly its live music scene. Both The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit were actually signed from Demos that they had submitted to the label, both arrived within a matter of days of each other and we actually introduced the two bands to each other. Both of the demos had energy, presence, a carefree attitude and a spark
of magic that made you want to hear more.

What was the most exciting demo you ever received?

Oooh that’s a tricky one to answer, we must have received literally thousands over the years, but Frightened Rabbit’s hand written, hand packaged ones definitely stand out.

Can you tell us about the compilation series and some of the acts involved?

FatCat have always championed those artists who send us their demo, we just can’t sign everything we like so we have had a Soundcloud page for a number of years whereby we post the highlights from the demos we receive. It’s been a great tool for those artists too, some of whom have come to the attention of the wider industry, be it another independent label, a publisher a booking agent or similar. The compilation is the first in a series and offers those exceptional demos an opportunity to hit a much wider audience including retail, press and radio.

There doesn’t seem to be a Fat Cat sound so to speak? Is it more based on your tastes than preconceived genres?

FatCat has always been about personal taste, those that work here are first and foremost music fans whose opinions are valued. You have to be excited about the music you release and we never wanted to be tied to a particular sound or genre.

Which songs would you pick out as your favourite from Fat Cat’s back catalogue?

Another really subjective question and if you asked me on a different day you’d get three wildly different answers.. but for today I’ll go with

Welcome – “All Set”
Blood On The Wall – “Mary Susan”

Dustin O Halloran – “We Move Lightly”

What’s the most exciting gig you’ve witnessed by a Fat Cat artist?

There have been so many amazing shows over the years but one that sticks out is the first ever Animal Collective tour and their London show. Avey Tare and Panda Bear played on two
acoustically, two guitars and vocals and it was unlike anything I’d ever heard, truly mesmerising, breath-taking, you realised very quickly that these were a very special talent indeed.

I read that the next compilation will encompass some of the more well-known Fat Cat names, what will the third installment be ?

The next two instalments will actually look at two very different genres.. One compilation will focus on electronic compositions and the other primarily within the realms of post-classical, two areas that FatCat have been very active in over the years.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.