Lost Map’s Johnny Lynch on life after Fence

Johnny Lynch, aka The Pictish Trail, is the man behind Lost Map Records. Picture: Contributed
Johnny Lynch, aka The Pictish Trail, is the man behind Lost Map Records. Picture: Contributed
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I’VE always been interested in maps,” says Johnny Lynch, head of Scotland’s most exciting new record label, Lost Map, and until recently one of the men responsible for Fence, its most sorely missed.

“Whenever anyone used to come to Fence events they’d be given a wee map showing them where to go. I like that, having little secret spaces at events and putting things on in weird places, these are things we’re planning for the next year. It’s about a sense of discovery in music, and I wanted to engage with that again. So much in music is laid out before you on a plate, but I feel you appreciate it more when you discover it yourself.”

The new name encapsulates all these things and it is also an adequate reflection of where Lynch finds himself right now. Physically, he’s on on the fringes of the map, having moved from Fence’s not-exactly metropolitan base of Anstruther to set up home on the Isle of Eigg with his partner, Sarah, three years ago; and mentally he’s only just regaining direction following the sad and seemingly acrimonious public split at the heart of Fence between himself and the label’s founder, Kenny ‘King Creosote’ Anderson.

Lost Map is his swiftly-convened vehicle for all seven acts signed to Fence at the end, including songwriter John B McKenna’s group project Monoganon, long-standing signees and label staff Kid Canaveral, and Lynch’s own Pictish Trail alias. Monoganon release their delayed album, Family, as the label’s debut later this month and a bunch of low-key, Pictish Trail-headlined showcases have been occurring around Scotland this week, with the final one in Dundee tomorrow.

It’s been a swift raising of the Lost Map flag over the summer, but it’s nothing Lynch isn’t used to. “We were always flying by the seat of our pants with Fence,” he laughs, noting the reference to a King Creosote song (I’ll Fly By the Seat of My Pants). “But that’s always been the way, nothing’s ever been too calculated. Comparing what it is now and what Fence was, it isn’t too different – it’s the same bands, the same spirit, the same ethos. It’s just under a different name because it has to be.”

It “has to be”, he says, for the simple reason that lawyers are involved. For anyone who’s followed and loved the label started by Anderson and named after his former St Andrews record shop, its semi-public, Lennon and McCartneyish end over 2013 has been a sad spectacle. Things came to a head in August with Lynch’s sober statement that Fence was over, which was followed a couple of days later by Anderson’s more pointed confirmation that he’d left in November 2012 “having become increasingly uncomfortable with Fence Records’ direction.”

Now, perhaps preoccupied with any legal untangling still to work itself out, the pair are looking towards the future and keen to leave behind a recent past which is still raw. When contacted by e-mail, Anderson would only say he’d prefer not to discuss an “incredibly stressful period”, while Lynch would rather not talk about it on the record.

Yet, strangely in such circumstances, there’s a sense of renewed purpose and positivity from both of them. Anderson is full of plans, mentioning his events with the Anstruther Improvements Association at the Dreel Halls, shows on Hogmanay and New Year’s Day in Edinburgh (the former somewhere on Hanover Street, the latter at the City Art Centre), his new BOER imprint “that ‘flips’ between KC collaborations (vinyl only) and home-recorded CD albums that I donate to a worthy cause” and plans for Fence Records post dust-settling, including his Greetings From Hamilton, Canada album alongside Paul Savage, “this summer’s excruciatingly candid Mull album,” Three On This Island, and possibly releases from Jo Foster, HMS Ginafore and Future Pilot AKA. He describes himself as “buoyant; extremely positive and far less fearful of imminent train crashes; inspired and as reluctant as ever. Let the songs go, let the rest of it look after itself.”

Lynch also has a busy schedule, first with the release of Monoganon’s album and its November launch in Glasgow’s CCA where it was recorded, then with Kid Canaveral’s traditional Christmas Baubles all-day event, this time moved to Portobello and featuring Edwyn Collins and the newly-reformed De Rosa. At the moment his events are city-based, but he has grand (if unconfirmed) plans to head off the beaten track again, not least with a developing residency and recording programme on Eigg and the return of the island’s bi-annual Awaygame festival, albeit under a different name.

Sadly, both agree that Anstruther’s Homegame festival is no more. “I never felt that Fence was entirely defined by Fife,” says Lynch. “It was lovely to bring people up to the towns there and for a lot of people they’ll always associate Anstruther with Homegame. But there are tons of special places around the UK.”

One suspects Anderson might beg to differ, but then maybe this way both stand the best chance of finding exactly what they need.

“At the end of the day, it’s just a record label, isn’t it?” says Lynch. “It’s just about releasing music, and trying to do it in new and interesting ways. But if people have enjoyed Fence over the last ten years, they’ll enjoy what’s to come with Lost Map.”

• Upcoming Lost Map gigs include The Pictish Trail and friends playing Non Zero’s, Dundee, 20 October; Monoganon’s Family Gathering, CCA, Glasgow, 9 November; and Kid Canaveral’s Xmas Baubles IV, Portobello Town Hall, 14 December. Monoganon’s album Family is released on 28 October, www.lostmap.com