Paper Recordings has been home to Deep House and Disco related grooves since the mid 1990s. The label was set up by Ben Davis, Pete Jenkinson, Elliot Eastwick and Miles Hollway in Manchester.  I grew up on the outskirts of Manchester and Paper was a local inspiration. They were part of a secret world of underground music, record shops, DJing and nightlife that I was beginning to discover as a teenager. The clubs would come later, but my way in was the records.

Whilst my friends were listening to Indie and Brit Pop, I was immersing myself in the world of Deep House. This label was as important to me in my teens as bands like Oasis, Blur and Radiohead were to my peers. Alongside the likes of Nuphonic, Toko, 20:20 Vision and Glasgow Underground, Paper spearheaded a British Deep House movement christened by some members of the music press as ‘Brit Nu House’. Record label identity was very important to selling records at the time and Paper stood out. At a time when many labels used generic designs for their record sleeves and centers based on their logo, Paper made the effort to be distinctive and do something different for every release. They even put seemingly random words or phrases on the record centers that was either an effort to look arty or it was part of some mad philosophical puzzle. This attention to design was in part homage to the work of a previous Manchester institution, Factory Records.   

Paper has released a huge number of records over years. There have been lots of killer releases and also lots that passed me by. To celebrate 25 years of releasing music, the label has released a two part digital compilation. Part 1 has been selected by Crazy P and features mostly music from the first 100 releases. Part 2 is by label co-owner Flash Atkins and it focuses on more recently released material. You can check them out and purchases them here. As Paper has been such an important label to me, here are my own personal highlights from the Paper Recordings back catalogue and my own playlist.

My introduction to the label was Cine City’s Are You Sure Joe? This was released on a 10” in 1996. I bought it from Double 4 Records in Stockport on the recommendation of local DJ Herbie Saccani who ran the dance music department of the shop. I was floored by the Deep House groove of the A Side and the cool breaks meets film sample exotica of the B Side, Plants, Animals and H20. This was the only record ever made by ‘Cine City’.  Cine City was named after a cinema in the Manchester suburb of Withington. The people responsible for Are You Sure Joe? were Elliot Eastwick, Milles Hollway and Si Brad. This trio made many of the best home grown records on Paper, as Salt City Orchestra, Paper Music and Wastepaper. Si Brad played a vital role in much of the magical Deep House coming out of the North of England during this era, as an engineer and a member of acts on labels like Toko and Pagan, as well as Paper.   

 In 1998, I picked up Eddie Flashin’ Fowlkes Bob James lifting Soul Train and Problem Kids’ monstrous Our Summer Suite. When I listened to Soul Train I instantly recognised the Bob James sample. I had previously heard it in Adam F’s D&B smasher, Circles. I was impressed how both Fowlkes and Adam F used the same part of Westchester Lady in completely different ways. Soul Train was a completely different beast from Circles, but wonderful in its own way. It was backed by a couple of excellent remixes from Rae & Christian and Elliot Eastwick. When I started writing about music, I was influenced by Elliot’s laugh out loud record reviews for magazines like Jockey Slut and Muzik. I’m not sure how Elliot got away with reviewing records on his own label, but I remember him writing about how much of a belter Our Summer Suite was and almost letting slip who the Problem Kids had sampled on it (“the biggest disco band in the world”). A year later I picked up some back catalogue Paper releases from Herbie Saccani’s Quadrastate Records in Stockport. These were represses of early releases and included Waste Paper’s stunning Origami and Dirty Jesus’ ever so cool Don’t Fuck With My Shit. Both still sound stunning today and are good examples of just how exciting that mid to late 1990s Deep House sound was.

1999 was the year that Paper launched Repap. This was the label’s outlet for weirder and more leftfield stuff. At the time, this was the type of quirky music that could be played in the second rooms of clubs, whilst DJs played House in the main room. Some of the Repap records like The Music Man’s Homemade sounded a bit too weird on their original release, but make much more sense today. That said, I’m still not a big fan of 0898 Dave. Håkan Lidbo’s exotica album released as Bobby Trafalgar seems a bit clichéd, but I’m sure that was how it was intended to be, with tongue placed firmly in cheek!  

I met local DJ and Repap recording artist Jason Boardman in Quadrastate Records. He would come to the shop regularly to buy new records and drop off unwanted promos. As a young wannabe music journalist I quizzed Jason with probably quite annoying questions about DJing, promos and Truant, his musical outfit with Ben Ashdown. I distinctly remember Jason letting me listen to the pre-master of Truant’s Change Yo Mind on Minidisc before it was released, presumably at some point in 1999 or 2000. It sounded amazing then and still does two decades later. The slouching beats, lilting guitars and smooth trumpet lines work incredibly well together on a track that oozes Balearic charm, despite being created on the outskirts of Manchester.                 

The 50th release on Paper was a big deal. It was a cover of Linda Clifford’s Runaway Love, put together by Reset, aka Elliot Eastwick, Miles Hollway and Merlin, with vocals from Alison David. Due to my narrow taste and living in an era when music wasn’t available at the touch of a button on the internet, I’d never even heard the original. The angular House version by Reset seemed pretty cool, especially as it was backed by a slower ‘Reset In The Soul’ version. All in all, I think Reset did a pretty good cover job. A month later, the Robodisco compilation was released on the short-lived Paper Cuts sub label. I was too young to attend any of Paper’s Robodisco club nights in Manchester, but this didn’t matter as the music on the compilation is incredible. It was released as a snapshot of what Elliot Eastwick and Milles Hollway were playing at the club, but stands up as a historical document as to what was happening in Deep House at the time. It features classics such as Daniel Wang’s giddy Like Some Dream I Can’t Stop Dreaming, Annie’s chic Greatest Hit and Terrence Parker’s hypnotic Your Love

A few years later I managed to get myself on Paper’s PR list for and wrote about the likes of Crazy P’s excellent The Wicked Is Music album and DJ Tvyks & Håkan Lidbo’s overlooked Norr/Vychod 12”. This Crazy P album featured the slouching low slung grooves of You Started Something with rousing vocals from Danielle Moore. This track was big in Manchester, even inspiring local DJ Lee Fletcher to name his club night after the record. Less can be said of the DJ Tvyks & Håkan Lidbo 12”. I don’t remember seeing or hearing much about it at the time or since then. Norr/Vychod is a beautiful record with live bass grooving and smooth keys. This was Czech producer Tvyks’ only appearance on the label, whereas Lidbo was a regular contributor. I belatedly discovered the incredible Daniel Wang and Brennan Green “Vas Deferens” Mix of Crazy P’s Keep On via the fantastic Gerd Janson compiled Computer Incarnations For World Peace Volume II. This came out on Sonar Kollektiv in 2008, although the track was released on a 12” on Paper in 2002.  

It was nice to see Paper 100 come out as a two part 12” that included a number of classics that I already owned. I’ve enjoyed some of the music that Paper has put out since number 100, but my favourites were released before then. Looking closer at the back catalogue, the majority of them were released in the 1990s. That said, I was happy to pick up the split 7” soundtrack sampler for the Northern Lights documentary on Nordic disco in 2017. This record features Lindstrøm’s powerful Closing Shot from 2016 and Erot’s ace Song For Annie from 1999. The documentary is well worth watching for anyone interested in the evolution of the Norwegian Disco sound and the important roles played by the likes of Erot and Bjørn Torske.

Thanks to Paper for all of the fine music that they have put out over the years. You can check out My Paper Highlights Playlist on YouTube.  

Read expletive undeleted’s excellent oral history of Paper Recordings HERE. Check out the 25 Year of Paper Recordings artifacts on MDMA.