No More Sitting on the Fence
Oh come on, there was always going to be a nasty Fence-related pun in an article like this, wasn’t there. Always. ‘The king is dead, long live the king’ is one I fortunately managed to avoid, though, as is ‘end of an era’, although for all it’s a cliché the latter is pretty apposite this morning.
Fence Records have announced that the label is to cease to exist as of this coming weekend, with the showcase at Green Man being the last ever show to take place under the Fence name. On the face of it, that sounds like a bit of a disaster for persons sharing my particular musical inclinations, but in actual fact it looks like pretty good news when you delve beneath the surface even just a little. As anyone with an internet connection has probably read by now, it may be the end of Fence, but it is not the end of the project itself. As much as label head Johnny Lynch was loath to use the term in the announcement, in most ways it is basically just a re-branding, with himself and the bands on the roster continuing their existing work under a new name.
And here’s where I think this is good news. The reason this was necessary is because Johnny Lynch, who ran the label, and Kenny Anderson, who as King Creosote founded it, were drifting apart quite significantly in terms of where they wanted Fence to go. They are both people I would consider friends, so I never really delved very deeply into it, because it seemed like a personal issue which was none of my business, but as the Fence announcement states, it led to Kenny leaving Fence at the end of last year to do his own thing.
I think the parting was a difficult one, although as I said, I never made any real attempt to get into the details because it seemed intrusive. But I can see how it would have been hard. Without Kenny there simply would be no Fence Records, but without Johnny it would never be the label it is today, so I can see how both would feel pretty intense feelings of ownership and how both would have entirely legitimate grounds to think of it as their baby. So given their decision to go their separate professional ways I think that even though Johnny is taking the bulk of what we (outside of the East Neuk of Fife) think of as ‘Fence’ these days with him, there is still so much of Kenny in the heart and soul of the thing that simply drawing a line under it all and starting a new venture makes perfect sense.
Traditions can be great things, but they can be a bit of a millstone as well, frankly. If Johnny was to simply carry on running Fence by himself then he’d be lumped with a bunch of history and tradition – much of which is absolutely great, and from which I have many, many incredible (and some rather hazy) memories – which might prove as much of a hindrance as a help. Given that I am inclined to ascribe the label’s more recent innovations to Johnny, such as the postcard singles, Away Game and stuff like that, I think that it’s best if he has an entirely free hand to try new ideas, when they come up. Home Game, for example, was a magnificent thing, but if it becomes more labour than love then perhaps Johnny is better off without that feeling of obligation hanging round his neck. It’s not like he’s short of other good ideas to replace it, as we’ve seen recently.
Put more simply, if he is to run an enterprise entirely by himself then he is probably better off starting with a blank sheet of paper, gazing out of his window on Eigg with a wee glass of whisky (fuck him and his awesome life) and figuring out exactly what it is he wants to do from now on. Is he a band? A promoter? A label? Home Game and Away Game are some of the best events I have ever attended. This year The Pictish Trail, eagleowl and Monoganon will have released some of my favourite albums of 2013. So there is a huge amount of great stuff to work with, and a lot of goodwill within the music community, and what could sound like sad news actually sounds to me like a hugely promising beginning. I doubt much will change on the surface, so most fans won’t be too discomfited, but in terms of giving the engine of one of the flagships of Scottish music a good spring clean, an oil change, and turning it loose to see where it goes next, this whole business quietly feels like something really exciting.
So good luck to both Johnny and Kenny in their new adventures, and thanks to them and everyone else who helped them make Fence Records something truly special.
And finally, here’s one of our first ever Toad Sessions, recorded in early 2009 with The Pictish Trail.fence records, king creosote, pictish trail