“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today’s guest is the curate of a record label that’s indisputably purveying something that’s sonically special. Dan of Dog Tunnel Records first came to my attention with his collaborations with an absolute hero of these pages, lysergic laureate and unrelenting lyricist, the charismatic broadcaster and bandleader of Band of Holy Joy, Johny Brown, and a release called “Slurred Words” which showcased Brown’s Northeastern trustworthy timbre and Geordie gravitas perfectly. What made the record even more noteworthy was its lovingly applied analogue production on a 75 year old valve driven, studio quality RCA 70C lathe that Dan poetically describes as “a bit like a really great old vintage car”.
Dan much like his kindred spirit Johny also has a way with words describing a brand new volume 2 of “Slurred Words” thus: “With a true analogue signal path, recorded and mixed to open reel, and mastered to 12” disc by Dog Tunnel, Slurred Words 2 has the feel of an artefact from a more coherent past.” Artefact seems so apt, and yet the content of this latest recording is so on the nose, undeniably 2020 from pandemic paranoia to IP insurgency, via county lines drug gangs to the shard like splintering of society to us versus them. Replete with droning harmoniums and testy tape loops, the inherent claustrophobia is transcended by a true underrated but portentous voice of our times.
Dog Tunnel is a label and labour of love, and given the erudite and intrinsic nature of its nexus Dan, I felt it only right to ask him to write a few more words about Dog Tunnel’s raison d’etre, what attracted him to Johny Brown’s unique brilliance and what “Slurred Words, Volume 2: Detrimental Connotations” has to offer, not to mention a Holy Joy infused “song for ewe” that’s bang on the money. Welcome to Velvet Sheep, Dan of Dog Tunnel Records!
“Dog Tunnel is a micro-label based in SE1 dedicated to an all-encompassing old-style analogue recording approach as a sort of antidote to the fragmentary and intangible digital future we all seem to be drifting towards. We’re very keen on sound art, experimental music, and spoken word / poetry, but not adverse to a great rock band, whatever floats our boat and seems to us to sit with our style, particularly music from our SE1 locale and the South London music scene.
We record and mix music and make our own cassette tapes and 12” discs in-house direct from the master tapes, with the records cut on a valve-driven RCA lathe from the rock n’ roll-era. We’ve been asked to pick a ‘Song for Ewe’ and we feel there is nowhere else to turn in dark times than the unstoppable Band of Holy Joy: literary bohemians whose brand of indie rock has long been mixed with theatrical traditions and an ascendant Romantic spirit.”
“For Holy Joy there was always something about that earnestness that was yearning to say something that mattered. And in this song we really hear it; we get the deadpan of an autopsy report, but Johny Brown has spent years practising how to convey emotional weight with his voice, and in singing this dry and formal report he forces us to feel that this is a real case, a real person: a man who was objectified by the police, treated as an inconvenience or an irrelevance, and he was pushed, and he fell, and he died. It was part of a casual culture of police violence that has long needed to be challenged, and that’s what this song does. It’s a personal song, and it’s a political song, and its powerful and rhythmically driving and it means something. And I think to that extent it’s something of a pinnacle of what Holy Joy were about all these years. It’s also, sonically, the Band at some of their most exciting, really sparse and experimental. A great bit of work.”
Band of Holy Joy: There Was a Fall / The Fall
“The music Johny has recorded with us as a spoken word performer is very much building on these ideas. The first Slurred Words was a bit more of a confessional and a personal statement, but even so it was one of the best things we’ve put out on the label, but this new work is just something else, and Johny just goes all out and takes on not only 2020 and the pandemic, but he goes for the core of what have turned out to be some of the big themes of the 21st Century; the splintering of consensus, and the explosion of new extremist politics, and amidst some great dreamlike imagery relating to the pandemic, he expresses a sort of rage against callousness, which is really something has been typical of his writing throughout his career with Holy Joy.”
Slurred Words, Volume 2: Detrimental Connotations is out on Dog Tunnel Records on 25 November with an edition of 50 records, but also digital formats and cassette too all mastered analogue from the master tapes…
More words from Johny Brown available at his new site here:
Here’s wot i wrote about the first “Slurred Words” record by Johny Brown on Dog Tunnel Records:
THANKS VERY MUCH DAN!