Backatcha Records: Label Identity

From the beginning, design has been directly connected to music for me and pretty much every other designer I’ve met. I started amateurly designing in 1998 by making flyers for the parties of friends, painting and printing logos and letters on the clothes I was dancing in at said parties and of course stealing ideas from the album cover art of the records I was living through. Without realising it at the time, these same youthful obsessions were shared globally by many in my pre-internet generation. Later, as post-internet adults, a shared nostalgia and faith in the music and the culture of hip hop has become a universal point of contact with strangers around the world who quickly become close friends. I count Aidan Leacy as one of them, and I thank him and Sean P for bringing me in on the incredibly rewarding journey that is Backatcha Records.

Backatcha: The People Behind The Music 

Aidan and I spent a week on the East Coast of the US interviewing some of the artists and producers behind BK releases, and here is the short documentary film that resulted. I’ll be forever grateful for how warmly we were received, and, of course, Greg Henderson is the man!     

Backatcha: The analog process

When starting Backatcha Records, we decided to give each of the labels for our vinyl releases the same attention to detail that we gave to the discs of plastic onto which these discs of paper would be stuck. Considering that we re-release a lot of older material, we could have simply scanned the original labels and reprinted them, slapping our logo somewhere. But as a designer, I found it much more interesting to try to recreate the original design aesthetic of these labels from scratch, working our name in as subtly as possible, if at all, so that anyone who was familiar with the originals would be like, "Oh wow. Look what they did there." The artwork from the 70s and 80s was often created by the band members or producers themselves, mixing their homemade art and logos with backgrounds and fonts chosen from whatever the presses literally had in-house. These were the days of paste-up design, before digital layout was even possible. If an original label has hand-painted elements, then I recreate the original aesthetic by painting them myself for the BK re-release, as with Dõlette Mcdonald, Christine Lewin / Tricia Dean and Aka Shaic. If someone in the band drew their logo with a felt tip marker, then I do the same, as with Ice Band. Sometimes I simply re-drew logos exactly as they were and other times I introduced our own little additions, in-jokes and middle-fingers-up to the haters and culture vultures. Other times I create completely original art that I think suites the artists, their music and the time and place it was made, as with Jady Kurrent / Ja'Net Dubois and Theatre West. It was fun to see some of these new designs fool bootleggers so well that they used our art, assuming it was the original. Other fun things we have done to go the extra mile have been using uncoated paper, grouping releases with original sleeve art, using spot colors / metallic inks and even adding original illustrations by Theodore Richards. When Aidan reaches out to artists in the first place in the hopes of putting out their work, it always starts from a longstanding love for the material. When those artists finally get the physical BK release back from us, I hope they smile.
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