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Forever Heavenly

Heavenly Recordings celebrates 18 years of its existence with performances at the Southbank Centre.

“I called it Heavenly because everything felt that way back then, there was so music and enthusiasm around,” recalls Jeff Barrett about the iconic record label he founded back in 1990. From then on the Heavenly bird mascot (originally carved on an eraser) has graced releases from the glamorous shimmery dance pop of Saint Etienne to the first records by the hitherto unknown Manic Street Preachers. Heavenly has grown to encompass many major moments in British pop history and taken its place alongside other institutions like Factory and Creation. Heavenly celebrates its 18th birthday with a massive bash down the Southbank from 12-14th September with rare performances from its stellar roster including Beth Orton, Edwyn Collins, Nada Surf and Doves. Dazed Digital spoke to Jeff and two of its acts on the eve of the festivities.
Dazed Digital: How did you get started in the business?
Jeff Barrett: My first job was working for Creation. I was their first employee and I did anything and everything. That was back in August 1985. I had moved up from Plymouth. I used to put on bands there, very early Creation bands. Through that I became mates with Alan McGee. Within two months of working for Creation, I was sent on tour with the Jesus and the Mary Chain as their tour manager. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but I got to see the greatest band on stage every night. Of course I was never allowed to be tour manager again.
DD: What made you go and start Heavenly?
JB: Alan was very driven, fucking loud, motivated and full of self belief. That rubbed off on me. I was making it up as I went along because that was the culture where you could. It was like back to the days of punk rock where anyone could do it. That coincided with the acid house scene. I became friends with Andrew Weatherall and I was asked by a distribution company based in Bristol if I would run their in-house label. And through that I began Heavenly. It was a good name because it sums up everything that I love about life. It was also a good pop name and I loved Motown and 60s girl group music.
DD: Do you agree that Heavenly is a quintessentially British record label?
JB: Is it though? I’ve put out records by The Magic Numbers and The Rockingbirds which have a bit of Americana in them. It certainly was at the start, because Britain at that time was the best place to be.
DD: Why did you start the Heavenly Social? (legendary boozer in Angel)
JB: We had nothing else to do. Robin Turner instigated it. He was 10 years younger than me and was just tasting things for the 1st time. As for me, I had been clubbing since I was 15! I thought clubs at the time were a bit rubbish. I didn’t want to do a club. I said let’s make it more of a social, do it on a Sunday, with no other expectations other than we play fucking brilliant music. It worked!
DD: What was the best night out you had?
JB: It was pretty early on. We did a Heavenly night out in Paris at La Cigalle with the Manic Street Preachers, East Village, Flowered Up and Saint Etienne. It was just a real feeling of family. We had a really brilliant time. You could join the dots from that time to the weekend we have coming up in September. It’s a nice feeling because some of the groups playing there are no longer signed to Heavenly. We have never fallen out with people and we still have got that relationship with our acts.
DD: With the advent of Myspace and Radiohead and Bloc Party releasing records for free on the internet, what is the future for indie record labels?
JB: I learnt about music through record shops. I love the communal aspect of that. Things have changed and the romance has gone. What I liked about The Magic Numbers is that they had no website or Myspace, the only way people could hear about them was through their gigs. That’s the last time that that will ever happen. The problem with Myspace is that there’s too much average music becoming available. I don’t think it’s creatively healthy.
DD: You’re celebrating Heavenly’s 18th birthday with a weekend-long party on the Southbank. How are you going to DD: celebrate the 30th?
JF: I’ll probably be doing it over dinner with friends. Maybe Martin Kelly’s (his partner at Heavenly) sons and my son will be doing it. But will I be sitting here in the office? – fuck that, I’m off to go fishing.

Dot Allison

Scottish chanteuse, Dot Allison has stepped out of the ashes of her seminal post-rave band, One Dove to chart new musical territory with achingly beautiful melodies and lovelorn lyrics. She plays from her classic first solo album, ‘Afterglow’ at the Weekender.
How are you feeling about playing at the Heavenly reunion?
Looking forward to it. And quite nostalgic about that time.

What does Heavenly mean to you?
To me it means people who really love integral music, the fans, the artists and the label.

Tell us a secret about Jeff Barrett.
I keep secrets secret!

What's the best night out you've had?
I think singing lead vocals with Massive Attack headlining Verter festival in Belgium. I had to sing to about 80 000 faces.

What's next for you?
Mixing my new album at Paul Weller's Black Barn studio where he has kindly let me mix.. That session will commence the day after the Heavenly gig. I co-produce with Rob Ellis and it features some very special guests.

Saint Etienne

Saint Etienne need no introduction. The definitive Heavenly Band, they introduced a nascent dance pop sound through some of the finest pop records of the last few decades. With a swoon from Sarah Cracknell and a shake of her sequined boa, their music has the power to “be whatever you wanted them to be and take you wherever you wanted to go.”
How are you feeling about playing at the Heavenly reunion?
It’s very exciting really. It sold out really quickly and there seems to be a buzz about it. It’ll be interesting to see a bunch of people we haven’t seen in a while.

What does Heavenly mean to you?
We’ve not always been on Heavenly but it’s our spiritual home. The Heavenly Social was a big part of our lives. It sounds corny but it’s like family.

Tell us a secret about Jeff Barrett.
He’s massively into fly fishing!

What's the best night out you've had?
The first Sunday Social was amazing. The Chemical Brothers were playing. There was just a lot of like-minded people. I lived so close by I had to go every week!

What's next for you?
We’ve got a career-spanning compilation with new single, ‘Burnt Out Car’ coming out at the end of September. We’ll also be touring next year.