In Conversation: Justin Watson on Isolation & Rejection

How did the Isolation & Rejection idea come to you, particularly as you’d shut F&F the year before? 

F&F was officially in hibernation in November 2019, following the release of Ekoplekz’s last album. It was a great way to end things, at least for now I thought, and I had no intentions of doing anything with the label for a while at least (perhaps never) – running F&F was great fun and I got to work with some incredible artists, but I needed a break and wanted to forget about it for a while (I wrote a short piece for Electronic Sound which goes into some of the reasons). 

Christmas that year was glorious – the kids even got presents instead of more vinyl in the basement. 

Then just when I thought I was out… etc. 

I&R started with a throwaway comment on Twitter (where all throwaway comments go to die), as lockdown and the challenges being faced (for individuals, families, charities, the NHS but also the creative sector) inspired a flurry of activity from artists and labels, which was wonderful to see – this included a whole bunch of projects and compilations all raising funds for great local and national causes*. 

I wondered, in the aftermath of the first batch of new compilations out of lockdown, what happens to all those rejected tracks? The project grew from there, eventually turning into a place where tracks rejected or abandoned in any way could find a home. 

The basic idea also touched on something I’ve always found weird about running a label, which is the bit about deciding if something is any good or not, or if it ‘fits’. It might just be me, but that always felt weird and even a little unhealthy (not doing it in isolation helped, like the collaboration with Joe Stannard for The Outer Church). People running record labels don’t know any better than anyone else, obviously – often they are just weird, evil narcissists using the record label business to expand their empires of misery, discarding artistic dreams with abandon and a belly laugh (joke). 

Anyway… 

Doing something open and inclusive seemed like a good idea, and timely. I then stupidly expanded on the idea online, chatted to Rob Spencer (from Gated Canal Community) about it and we then jointly stumbled into this huge (and joyous) project. 

*As an aside, some of favourites were Bechdel Volume OneFrom PerpetuityTouch: IsolationHer IndoorsHelp Musicians Compilation… 

Were you surprised at the level of interest? 

We have 105 artists involved, with more tracks being submitted after the deadline (which were, unfortunately, rejected – the compilation of those tracks will no doubt appear at some point). 

Rob and I were pretty surprised by the response – I was thinking a nice little project, maybe 20-25 artists, would be lovely and help me cope with the insanity of lockdown (and shielding for me personally – 6 months in one room is not a good idea). 

Nothing I’ve heard thus far sounds like it should have been rejected. Did you get any stories explaining why something had been overlooked? 

We got loads of great stories – some weird, some funny, and some quite upsetting.  

We’ve put together a few of the stories and shared them on the GCC website here and here – and will be putting up more soon. 

There are some consistent themes – it seems rejection is a shared experience of many artists. 

How did The Brick come into the equation? Were you aware of their work before? 

Rob is from Wigan (go Cherry and Whites) and suggested they would be a good charity to raise money for. 

We were keen to make sure that any money raised went locally, and went directly to a charity dealing with not only the impact of COVID-19 but many of the inequality and injustices that have unfortunately become a part of society right now. 

The Brick felt like a good home for the project – they do amazing work, and are also lovely people. 

Are you sure you can’t be convinced to do a Volume 6? Or a second lockdown series? 

As mentioned above, we had some submissions after the closing date, and I really wanted to do a bonus 6th volume, but already it was feeling like a huge undertaking and I wanted to make sure it didn’t all fall apart. 

Fingers crossed it hasn’t – I hope that the artists feel like we did it justice. 

We have got another project in the works though – another one launched on twitter with very little consideration to any of the implications (and this one comes with some added trickiness…). 

Isolation & Rejection Vol. 5 and all preceding volumes can be found at fandf.bandcamp.com

Interview: Mat Smith 

(c) 2020 Further. 

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