As Bosh Recordings reach their 100th digital release, iDJ gets the label's life story from main man Ian 'Toka' Carney
Our Label Of The Month for April is Bosh Recordings, the Blackpool-based deep and tech-house label headed up by Ian 'Toka' Carney, who are about to put out their 100th digital release in May.
The 'digital' part of that sentence is important, because this is actually the second time around for Bosh. The label formed during the first tech-house boom of the mid-90s as, effectively, a sister label to that other Blackpool house bastion, Mark Bell's Shaboom Records. That original incarnation put out 38 vinyl singles and EPs, before folding in 2005 – a victim, like so many other vinyl labels, of the downloading and streaming revolution.
But you can't keep a good label down for long, and as Ian explains below, since relaunching digitally they've been going from strength to strength – which means that when the big 1-0-0, namely PaperMaché Tiger's Nu Phuture EP, drops on 21 May, they've got plenty to celebrate.
Born in the 90s, struggling in the “dance music depression” years of the late 00s and now back in the game but doing things very differently these days… it has to said, there's a lot in the Bosh Recordings story that we here at iDJ Towers can very much relate to! But we're not here to talk about us, we're here to talk about them.
So let's do that…
When was the label set up, and why?
“The label was set up in Coventry in 1998. We'd been putting on cool underground parties under the Bosh name since ‘93 and I had started learning the art of production around this time. I was good friends with Mark Bell at Shaboom who lived in my home town, Blackpool. I always visited him when I was in town and hung out at his Safe studio during some amazing sessions with people like Marshall Jefferson, Sneak and Doc Martin, where I learned a lot and witnessed alchemy.
“So with Mark’s help, I got the first couple of Toka releases together and we decided it would be a good idea for me to start a new label, as an outlet for this stuff and some of the more techy stuff he was producing. Those tracks were later released over five EPs under his Artilect moniker. Then I was lucky to get a grant from the National Lottery, which paid for vinyl pressing on the first couple of releases, and we were in business!”
Describe the label's music policy…
“The music policy has always been fairly broad, attempting to encapsulate the range of sound you would hear at Bosh parties, from deep house to driving techno, and almost always built around a heavy groove. I've pushed the boundaries on occasion, dipping into electro/breaks styles, but generally it’s all about that seductive 4/4 groove. I find a lot of newer labels have a very defined sound which they hardly stray from... it’s kind of formulaic. Which is okay if that’s your thing, but I like to be surprised sometimes.”
How many people are employed by/involved in running the label?
“It’s now pretty much a solo effort: I do everything, from A&R to distribution, PR and promotion. But there’s a few friends who help out where they can, and one of our artists, Yana Paisley, produces the artwork.”
Congrats on reaching your 100th release… that must feel like a bit of a milestone?
“Reaching our 100th digital release is a huge milestone, and I feel a great sense of achievement as I look back on the body of work we have curated. From releasing tracks by established artists who I admire, to giving new talent a break... artists including Spettro, Jason Hodges and Pete Dafeet all had their first releases on Bosh and went on to have great careers.
“This ethos has continued through the digital years, too. For example, Yana Paisley was mentored to blossom into an amazing artist and now has releases on many other great labels too. It’s very rewarding to play a part in the growth of an artist.”
Release #100 comes from PaperMache Tiger, who featured in iDJ themselves not so long since. How did you hook up with them originally?
“I know Michael Wilson from my years in Coventry. He was half of the dynamic duo Parks & Wilson, then residents at The Eclipse, where I was working at the time. Michael also often came to our legendary Bosh parties at The West Indian Centre, so we have some history and it’s really cool to hook up with him again after all these years. Dylan is just a great fun guy and an awesome producer who I met in cyberspace and I’m delighted that he’s become a regular feature on the label, as I was already a fan of his work.”
You closed down operations in the mid-00s, only to return later on, so tell us a bit about that… what was going on for you during the non-Bosh years?
“Yeah, we notched up 38 vinyl releases before the big crash in 2005. There was then a gap of five years during which I got married and had a daughter, and was feeling a bit butt-hurt with the collapse of the vinyl industry, so I kind of distanced myself from the scene.
“When I finally came to launch the digital label, the whole landscape had changed... all my contacts were gone and it was like starting from scratch trying to re-establish the brand. Luckily my friends were very encouraging and supportive, ensuring I got back on track.”
As far as I'm aware, events aren't a big part of what you do… while a lot of previous LOTM interviewees have waxed lyrical about the benefits of having that extra revenue stream, has NOT having an events-based business model been a blessing this past 12 months?
“Well, as mentioned earlier, Bosh actually started as an event and the label came a bit later! The parties are now legendary as a crucial element of Coventry’s nightlife for a number of years. We had guests such as Terry Francis, DiY, Eddie Richards, Pure Science and Chris Simmonds. Our sound system was rocking and we went all-out with the production.
“Sadly, when I moved back to Blackpool it became impractical to continue doing parties in Coventry and I haven’t done much since in that department. I tried a couple of events in Blackpool, but without strong local support it was like starting from scratch, and at that time I wasn’t really prepared to start trying to build a night from the ground up again. But never say never.
“I suppose I’m fortunate that events weren’t my main revenue stream in light of the pandemic, as I probably would have lost a lot of money (again). The other side of that is that the label has to be self-sufficient, which is pretty tough in this market.”
The only other Blackpool-based house label I can think of was Shaboom Records. Are there any others I should be aware of?
“Shaboom and Bosh are the main labels to have come out of Blackpool, I think – although there were a couple of more obscure techno labels whose names escape me.”
I notice several names on your Discography that are closely associated with the Paper Recordings camp – is that just a general 'deep house thing' or is there a more direct link?
“The Paper connection comes through Ben Davis, who was partners in both Shaboom and Paper. Ben was half of the duo Del-5 with fellow Shaboom partner and Hacienda resident Dick Johnson, and they had a release on Bosh called Bung. Ben also had a release, Chugnuts, under his Flash Atkins moniker.”
And speaking of deep house… we seem to have moved beyond the years when the term was being widely misapplied to shit dance-pop and 'tropical house' records, which is good! But as of 2021, the 'deep house' pages on download sites seem full of a lot of stuff that to me would be better filed under 'experimental', 'electronica' or 'leftfield' – thoughts?
“I really struggle with the whole sub-genre thing, to be honest. I think everyone has their own interpretations of what defines these genres, so it’s already problematic. Deep house for me is defined by labels such as Naked Music, Prescription, Guidance etc, and yeah, a lot of the stuff which is now labelled 'deep house' has little in common with that sound.
“In the last couple of years, it became fashionable to bash tech-house, but to me what was being pushed under that tag was a one-dimensional, banal version of tech-house. Tech-house is a genre which goes back to the mid 90’s and it spans a wide range of material which straddles the blurred boundaries of house and techno … simple.
“It always unnerves me to have to pigeonhole releases in this way as I’m never sure if I’m getting it quite right based on other people's perceptions. I'm not really interested in what’s fashionable because fashion changes and I’m happy to stick to my guns and not pander to whatever is supposedly ‘cool’ this season.”
When I first heard the name Bosh Recordings, I actually assumed it was gonna be a hard house label! I can't be the first person to say that, surely?
“We had already been doing the Bosh parties for a few years when a CD, I think mixed by Eddie Halliwell, appeared on the cover of one of the big dance mags with BOSH in big letters, and as far as I know that’s when the word “bosh” came to signify some kind of cheesy hardbag genre. Yeah, I was horrified, but what to do ? Unfortunate, and I suppose there is still that connotation. I heard it stands for Banging Old School House, but that wouldn’t seem appropriate either.”
Finally, any personal highlights from the label's history?
“My personal highlight was when Andrew Weatherall played my track Tomkat – our first release – at his Haywire residency in Coventry. I'd been working on production for the shows and got to hang out with Andrew quite a lot, so as soon as we got the white labels, I handed him a copy. At the next party, he told me he really liked it and I was bowled over when he played it in his set later that night.”
Words: Russell Deeks
Bosh's 100th digital release, the Nu Phuture EP by PaperMache Tiger, is out on 21 May (Traxsource) / 31 May (general release)