At the tail end of last week, the last vinyl masterwork from Paul Murphy’s Claremont 56 label began appearing in record stores. A sumptuous, brilliantly produced box set boasting five slabs of wax (or six if you bag one of the limited-edition options), housed in bespoke sleeves and accompanied by a slick inner sheet, Claremont 56: 10 Years is a brilliant celebration of the imprint’s first decade.
Musically, it’s packed full of previously unheard treats, from brand new remixes of vintage C56 tracks by Ron Trent, Jexopolis, Bjorne Torske, Daniele Baldelli & Marco Dionigi, Emperor Machine and Larry Heard, to tasty original productions by Statues, Paqua and the mighty Holgar Czukay. It’s a perfect summation of the label’s longstanding ethos: beautiful music, presented with love.
I first came across Paul Murphy via one of his singles as Mudd for DJ Spun’s Rong Music label. I was at IDJ Magazine at the time, and when Paul’s debut solo album, Claremont 56, landed on my desk on the autumn of 2006 (or thereabouts), I took the opportunity to interview him. A few weeks later, I received an email from Paul explaining that he was going to launch a new label, also called Claremont 56. I fell in love with the imprint’s first release, “Villa Stavros” by Paul and keyboard whizz Kevin Pollard, and played it to death during my DJ sets.
Soon after, Paul put me in touch with a good friend of his who was moving to Bristol. He thought we’d get on and said friend didn’t know many people in his new home city. That friend was introduced to me as “Legendary Tone”. I remember asking why he was called that; “because he’s a total legend,” was Paul’s matter-of-fact reply. I can now confirm that Tone is indeed a legend; within weeks of meeting him I invited him to become a resident DJ at the best before: party I was running at the time. A decade on, we still DJ together regularly and I count the Legendary one as one of my best buddies.
During 2007, while Paul was still establishing Claremont 56, he came over to Bristol to play at a best before: event at a tiny boozer in central Bristol called The Bank Tavern. He played a brilliant set and the mad landlord allowed us a lock-in. We finished at something like four in the morning, with Paul manning the decks for much of that time. It was a brilliant night.
For the last few years, I’ve been helping Paul out by writing bits and pieces for the label (and his other joint ventures, Leng and Spacetalk), mostly press releases and info sheets, but occasionally bios and label marketing copy. In hindsight, it’s amazing he even asked me to get involved again after my first attempt at writing a one-sheet for him back in 2007. It was for the Smith & Mudd album Blue River and made little sense. It was based around an imagined (but surprisingly detailed) story about someone stumbling out of a club in Ibiza at six in the morning. Paul declined to use it (quite correctly, in hindsight) and it was a fair few years before he asked me to get involved again. I must have done a good job, because I continue to provide words for the label to this day.
In fact, those who open the 10th anniversary box set are greeted by a foreword by yours truly, explaining the label’s history and ethos. I was delighted to be asked to do this, not only because I now class Paul as a friend, but also because I genuinely believe that Claremont 56 is a label worth celebrating. Whether you dig the music or not – and I do – you can’t fail to be impressed by the care and attention Paul gives to each and every release. I firmly believe this is why the label has such a dedicated fan base: people have bought into his admirable ethos and attention to detail.