Laurent Orseau and his girlfriend Eloise Steclebout are both well known figures in independent rock circles in their native France.

The two, who live in Paris, worked until recently for the French webzine POPnews ( www.popnews.com ), Pennyblackmusic's Fanzine of the Month for this month) and also were involved in compiling together its first CD, 'POPvolume#1', a fifteen track compilation of exclusive and rare tracks that featured bands such as The Apartments, Brian, The Dakota Suite, Edith Frost, Vera Clouzot and The Willard Grant Conspiracy. They are also web designers, responsible amongst others for creating and maintaining the websites for The Willard Grant Conspiracy and French folk singer Johan Asherton. Orseau is as well a black and white rock photographer, and his photographs have appeared on various CDs, including, as well as 'POPvolume#1", the American Music Club tribute 'Come On Beautiful'.

At the end of last year, Orseau and Steclebout left POPnews to concentrate on developing their own label, hinah (always spelt with two small h's). hinah is non profit-making and it will feature in its catalogue specially packaged very limited editions live albums and recordings by some of Orseau and Steclebout's favourite acts. hinah's first release came out on February 26th and is a recording of a show, played in Lille in September, by the electric folk quintet Vera Clouzot. The two Parisians also hope to release CDs by The Willard Grant Conspiracy, Magic 12, Doug Hoekstra, M. Ward, and The Empty House Cooperative over the forthcoming months.

As well as the label, Orseau and Steclebout have opened up their own hinah website ( www.hinah.com ), which published in both French and English features band links, play lists, links, photos and both book and record reviews.

In an exclusive interview, their first for hinah, Orseau and Steclebout spoke on-line to Pennyblackmusic about their hopes and plans for their new label.



PB : Why did you decide to call your new label hinah ?

LO &ES : It wasn't really something deliberate. One day, Laurent noticed that the initials of one of his favourite Willard Grant Conspiracy songs, 'House Is Not A Home' sounded like a female first name and besides, we liked the two hs : there's a symmetry to it, especially when the final h is reversed. We've heard since then that 'A House Is Not A Home' is also the name of a song by Burt Bacharach. We'd like the name, however, to stand on its own. We love The Willard Grant Conspiracy, their songs and their mentality, but the name of our label isn't just a tribute to the band. While it happened like that, when we talk about Hinah, we don't think about the song anymore.

PB : When did you first decide to set up hinah ?


LO &ES : It goes back to when we wrote for the French webzine Popnews. We wrote reviews about bands we discovered and loved but we felt that it wasn't enough to encourage people to listen to them. Hence the idea of creating a label to release records... We guess that's often how labels appear : for instance, a friend of ours, Pascal Bérest, who has been running his own webzine called magnétophone for a long time, is about to create his own label too.

PB : You were both involved in putting together the POPvolume #1 compilationfor POP news last year. Was this the first ever CD you have released or do you have other previous experience in this field ?

LO &ES : It was our first experience. It wasn't the easiest way to start releasing CDs : we didn't know anything about how to do it, there were several persons working at it at the same time, many different bands and a considerable budget to manage. But it was a great experience to realise that getting in touch with bands on the internet was reasonably easy, and we're very proud to have gathered previously unreleased tracks from bands such as The Dakota Suite, Willard Grant Conspiracy, Idaho, Edith Frost, Paloma and Vera Clouzot. As the POPvolume#1 compilation was pretty successful, it made us feel confident and now we can only assume that hinah is going to be easier to manage.

PB : Each hinah CD will be quite unusually packaged and designed. Can you explain how you intend to package and design each album ?


LO &ES : We're pretty fetishist when it comes to albums. In our minds, the packaging is part of the whole object and can be as important as the musical content. As for hinah, we have three aims : keeping the price as low as possible to incite people to discover the artists, creating unusual, pretty packaging, and designing simple, easy-to-make objects because everything is home-made. We know that a plain CD-R is rather ugly, so we wanted to dress it in beautiful clothes. We found out CD cases called TRIMpak in the US and we thought that they were just perfect, and what's more we've never seen those in Europe (incidentally, if someone knows where we can find more of those in France or elsewhere in Europe, we'd be very interested to know !). In a nutshell, the CD-R will come in a colour TRIMpak CD case, together with a sheet of granular, rootsy paper, to make up for the groovy tones of the CD case. Everything will be wrapped up in a thick plastic sleeve.

PB : Laurent, you are a very talented black and white photographer. Your photos have appeared on the covers of albums such as The Willard Grant Conspiracy's 'Mojave, the American Music Club 'Come on Beautiful' compilation and of course 'Popvolume #1'. Yet there are going to be no photos on the sleeves of any of the Hinah albums. Why have you decided to do this ? Is it an attempt to "break" with the past and to do something completely different, or is there another reason ?

LO & ES :At first, we intended to include one photo with each CD. But on second thoughts, it turned out impossible for several reasons: printing them would have taken too long, it would have been expensive and we didn't want to oblige the bands to choose a picture of Laurent's. Besides, what we want to put to the fore is the band, not Laurent's pictures.

We're not, however, breaking entirely with the past. On our website, there's a photo section with many concert photos of our favourite bands.

PB : Each Hinah CD is going to be a recording of a live show. Why have you decided to do this ? A lot of live shows appear on bootlegs. What do you think that Hinah will be able to offer which the bootleggers perhaps can't ?

LO &ES : Releasing live recordings is more a necessity than a real choice. Each album will be sold at cost price and neither the bands nor us will get any money out of it. As a consequence, we can't expect the bands to spend money on a recording studio. But it's not the only reason why we've decided on live recordings : a live recording is also a kind of a snapshot of a band at a given time, so it's a good way to have an idea of what a band sounds like. For those who already know the band, it's an object for fans ; for those who don't know the band yet, it's a means to discover it.

As for the difference from a bootleg, it's an official recording that's approved of by the band. It doesn't mean that the band just allows us to release a live recording, but that it participates actively in the project.

If we look at our first release, Vera Clouzot recorded three shows in a row and eventually selected eight songs within their best performance. What's more, we hope that the packaging makes it more attractive than a vulgar bootleg in a jewel case with handwritten titles

PB : Do you ever see Hinah releasing a studio album ?


LO &ES : Of course. For instance, we're likely to release demo recordings of Magic 12. There's no restriction. A hinah release can be a live recording as well as a studio recording. There can be four or twelve tracks, and so forth. Our aim is just to release music that we love, in the hope of enabling other people to discover it.

PB : The first Hinah CD is going to be a recording of a Vera Clouzot show. You're responsible for designing their website, along with The Willard Grant Conspiracy and also the French folk songwriter Johan Asherton's home pages. Who are the Vera Clouzot, and how did you first get to know them ?


LO &ES : Actually, we only host Vera Clouzot's website, and their webmaster is Franck Jankowski. He's a friend of ours and he's also the secretary of our association.

Vera Clouzot is a band from Lille, Northern France. They began as a three-piece band (vocals, guitars and cello) influenced by American folk bands such as The Red House Painters, Smog, and The American Music Club. They released two self-produced albums in English, and then an album in French, with a more personal sound, in 2000 (on French label Spirit of Jungle). They're now a quintet, with a jazz drummer and a bass player.

As for how we got to know Vera Clouzot, it's a long story... It goes back to Eloïse's childhood, when she attended the same school as Richard Huyghe, who years later became Vera Clouzot's guitarist. In a way, she grew up with the band and discovered many folk bands thanks to them. They're very good friends of ours, and we love their music and especially what they sound like during their concerts. Long before we created hinah, we'd already asked them when they'd release a live recording, and eventually we've ended up releasing it ourselves.

PB : When will this album come out ? Where was it recorded ?


LO &ES : The album will come out on February 26th. It was recorded on September 30th, 2000, at le Biplan in Lille. It was the third of a series of three shows that they did in late September in Paris and Lille, to celebrate the release of their third album 'Kachina'. It was also their first shows with their drummer Peter Orins as an official member of the band, and with special guest Mr Pher on the trumpet.

PB : . What else will appear in the hinah catalogue ? How often do you hope to release new Hinah CDs ?

LO &ES : We already know that our second release will be a live recording from Doug Hoekstra, a songwriter from Nashville, TN. Then we''ve been in touch with Magic 12, Greg Weeks, Empty House Cooperative (the experimental project of Willard Grant Conspiracy's violonist David Michael Curry), M. Ward, The White Papers... and of course, we hope to release something from WGC ! We have absolutely no idea as to what the frequency of our releases will be . It will depend largely on how much time we can spare to hinah. But we hope that we'll be able to release albums by all the mentioned bands before the end of the year.

PB : Each album is going to very limited. How many copies will you be making of each one ?

LO & ES :We're thinking of 50 copies each at the moment. We'll make the CDs to order, so if we get extra orders we'll try and make more.

PB : hinah is a non-profit making association. Why have you decided to make it this ?

LO&ES :Given that we're not going to make any profits and that we'll only release very limited quantities, we only needed a simple structure. Luckily, in France, we have the concept of non-profit making associations, which are very easy to create and manage. It enables us to exist as an official organization.

PB : . How do you divide up the hinah workload between you ? Who does which jobs?

LO & ES : We do most of the jobs together -getting in touch with the bands, running the website, designing the packaging, burning the CDs... But apart from that, Laurent writes most of the reviews and takes pictures, while Eloïse translates the texts into English with the kind help of our American friend Eric Bensel.

PB : If a band is interested in sending you a tape or a demo, can it do this ? How should it get in touch ?


LO &ES : Of course, if a band looks at our website (especially the background','playlist' and 'links' sections) and feels that we'd like its music, it's quite welcome to get in touch with us. Our address is :

hinah
172 rue d'Alésia
75014 Paris
France
e-mail : hinah@hinah.com

PB : You're both really busy people. hinah will obviously take up a lot of your time. You've left Popnews to work on it. Which of your other musical activities (writing, website design, photography etc) will you be dropping and which ones will you be carrying on with ?

LO & ES : It's true that it takes much of our time after our "real" jobs... But we do it out of passion and as long as we can afford to do it, we'll try to go on with all of these activities. We didn't want to add 'records' after 'hinah' because we want hinah to be more than "just" a label: we still feel like writing reviews about the bands we discover, even if these reviews are now shorter. Similarly, Laurent can hardly think of giving up photography.

We have, however, for the first time had to refuse to design a website for a friend of ours, because we didn't have enough time. We've already almost stopped going to the cinema altogether and reading books... but we've discovered independent comics such as those published by l'Association.

PB : Thank you









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