In December of 2006, a close friend and I talked about the shows that we had just seen, and performed, at the Bellingham Electronic Arts Festival. Somewhere in the heavy snow-filled woods overlooking the bay, I decided it would be good to finally work on a long held dream: namely, to start my own record label.
Over the next two years I worked on ideas for the label regarding design, packaging, music direction, and all a label can entail. I initially decided to invite some of my friends and connections through my own releases to help guide the musical side of things. The ideas that came in helped to form the foundations for Nomadic Kids Republic. With my good friend Davi Liu, over the next year we made designs and aimed to release cross-genre works in beautiful CD-R packages with unique, stark images.
In June 2008, after watching a superb show by Library Tapes hosted by some friends - the CMFLG crew, I decided to separate the music so the labels were more focused on specific directions. Namely, Home Normal would focus on 'organic minimalism', whilst NKR would focus on 'electronic maximalism'.
Over the next 6 months, I listened almost solely to submissions from offthesky, Konntinent, Celer, Library Tapes, and a few other artists to help direct the label. By December, after spending hours looking through my old friend Jeremy Bible's photography, I realised the best direction would be for the label to release CD's in very minimal packaging, with the focus being on brilliant photographers. Within 24 hours of this decision Jeremy was on board to work on the design, with Resting Bell label boss, my dear friend and creative rock, Christian Roth, to run the website.
Within less than a week, we had the website and packaging designed exactly as it would stay for the next year, as well as a set schedule for the year ahead. I had decided by this point to invite some of my musical heroes, just to see if they would agree. One of my long time favourite artists, Warren Defever, agreed to release his wonderful Mountain Ocean Sun project, 'Peace Conference' with Home Normal. Warren was (and is) the man behind the His Name Is Alive (4AD) group and his agreement to being involved so freely completely changed how I viewed the label direction. I soon realised the label would be able to put out work by artists both well known and unknown, alongside each other.
My old college friend and collaborator, Ben Jones, was invited to join the label as a co-curator / manager, in that same December. We both decided that the label needed to be 'organic' but not limited to strictly minimal works, as I had originally planned. Instead, we decided that even largely electronic work could have an organic feel to it, and so we decided to bring on board some friends who were more known for their electronic works, The Boats, as well as a new artist, Christopher Hipgrave, both being quintessential examples of 'organic electronic' music.
A few years before all this, I had lived opposite the Smallfish Records store in Old Street, London. After getting to know the owner, Mike, I ended up getting recommendations from him, as well as CDs from his own label including artists such as Isnaj Dui, bvdub, Celer, and Chronovalve. The work had stayed with me all this time, and it was around January (in a very busy month), that we decided to keep a strong tie with Smallfish, who have been one of the biggest influences on Home Normal. I also finally decided to bring on board two of the artists from the Bellingham Electronic Arts Festival; Greg Davis and Chihei Hatakeyama, both of whom had also long been on my radar musically (Greg's 'Arbor' on Carpark, is still one of my favourite records to date).
Our first release finally came out on March 20th of 2009. The re-issue of the Library Tapes tour CD, 'Sketches' was swiftly followed by the sell-out release by Celer, 'Engaged Touches'. Both were met with critical acclaim and quickly put us on the map. However, it was something which stunned both Ben and myself, as whilst we had worked hard to get the records out, we weren't expecting the demand that came our way.
Over the next 2 years, we worked our socks off to fulfil demand, and released works by the above mentioned artists. As the label grew, the workload eventually proved too much for Ben who fired himself (yes, really) from the label to take time out. Certain artist demands, orders, attitudes all round, and mostly the tide had swept much of the personal enjoyment away frankly. I felt a strong obligation to carry on, running for almost 3 years (in total) on basically no sleep as the label grew and grew. By this point, Home Normal was a highly regarded label, with incredible support and love in Japan in particular. From Boomkat to the Wire, to as far as local papers in South Africa and Brazil, Home Normal was widely recognised as a leading light in the ambient-electronic scene.
In March of 2011, Japan was hit by the Tohuku earthquake. Despite living a good distance from the epicentre, in my country home in north Saitama, our house was badly damaged, with my studio being almost totalled, and our Home Normal collection crushed as shelving was left strewn around the house and office. In the aftermath of the earthquake, my wife and I decided to donate all of the money we had planned for our wedding celebration (which was due in May of that year), and our time, to helping organisations in the affected area of Fukushima. After replacing the damaged collection, I decided to slow the label right down so we could help in parts of Japan that needed physical help that we could provide. Whilst I did consider closing the label due to events at the time, Jonathan Lees from Hibernate and friends gathered around and supported us in an unbelievable way. By helping to support the work my wife and I were doing in Fukushima, as well as the constant messages of love and support, we were inspired to carry on stronger than ever before. The last of the Ben Jones-agreed releases (Marihiko Hara's 'Credo') came out, again, to great acclaim, and for the next year and a bit, Home Normal carried on as normal, with its diverse, beautiful works.
However, by the end of summer 2012, I was basically shattered. I didn't like the way I was running on empty and the demands that I had put on myself, and I hated the fact that yet again I was working to fund the label whilst my wonderful wife had to have another holiday cancelled. I disliked the way many distributors behaved, and wanted to bring the label back to its very personable roots, and I wanted to do this with Ben again. So the decision was made to completely slow down and to only release when we were absolutely ready rather than being rushed into it from all sides. We told stores who weren't about the music to 'jog on', and brought the label back to our old friends and ties. As a result, the label is now back to its small, but friendly roots, after quite the journey.
Thank you at whichever part of the journey you have joined us on, Ian x