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Some of the most interesting electronic music to have been released over the last ten years or so has been overseen by Jonny Trunk, proprietor of Trunk Records. Curiously though most of these releases are not the product of young bedroom visionaries hunched over the latest computer equipment, but rather they have been rediscoveries of lost gems made by eccentrics using what would now be considered rudimentary equipment. From Basil Kirchin’s soundtracks to imaginary films, to the pioneering music concrete of one-time Spitfire pilot Desmond Leslie, Trunk Records acts as a powerful reminder to all that less can often be more. As a new piece of salvage work, The BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s music for 70s TV show The Tomorrow People, approaches its release date, Jonny Trunk spoke to Stuart Aitken about his appreciation of good old fashioned British naivety and his love of the eccentric underdog.

When did you first become exposed to the music of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop?
Probably as a child, dancing around the school hall with my plimsoles on. Radiophonic made all these amazing records for music and mime you know.

What appeals to you about it?
There is a British naivety to it all. They were exploring uncharted musical lands. That has endless appeal, which is why their music has a growing influence.

There is a famous story about Delia Derbyshire remaining uncredited for the work she did with Ron Grainer on Dr Who. All the Radiophonic Workshop artists were largely anonymous during their time. Is there something about this that appeals to you?
The story goes that Ron asked her if she wanted to share in the Dr Who theme royalties and she said no, which is admirable and at the same time really very stupid. This is a trait I have often seen in myself. So there is something here that appeals to me.

There are some fantastic stories about Delia Derbyshire. The one about her entrancing Luciano Berio, and how her favourite sound was a “tatty green BBC lampshade”. What is your favourite story?
The fact that Delia and Brian Hodgson were moonlighting under pseudonyms is a mighty fine story. Have you ever moonlighted under a different name? Exactly.

There are always amazing stories attached to your discoveries and releases. The bizarre tale of Desmond Leslie, one time Spitfire pilot, owner of the Castle that Paul McCartney was married in and music concrete pioneer, is a great example. What is more important for you – the story or the music?
Well both have to come hand in hand. To me there is no point in putting out good music in a competitive marketplace when there is no story or no “thing” of interest. It has always been an unwritten part of Trunk lore. However I cannot have shit story and good music, or shit music and a good story, Both have to balance I reckon.

If there is a common theme that links your releases, it would seem to be the celebration of the eccentric underdog. Is this something that you are aware of?
The only common theme is me and my daft taste. However, I am fully aware that for me to be able to put a record out, I have to be able to license it and not pay heavily for that privilege. These days major labels own most things, vast catalogues, artists work etc etc. So, the only way I can survive is by unearthing the work that is NOT owned by major labels, and this is invariably work by the underdog. And the eccentric underdog too. And that’s how I like it. It’s a bit like a musical twilight zone.

You describe Basil Kirchin as “possibly the UK’s most important composer that no one has heard of”. This seems to sum up a lot of what Trunk is about. Would you agree?
Yes, totally. For me this is what it is all about…I love an underdog.

A lot of the electronic music you release was created on what would now be described as rudimentary equipment. What lessons do you think this holds for modern day musicians who have easy access to far superior equipment?
I remember making some music in an absurdly stocked contemporary studio. Loads of modern synths, gadgets, soft studio bits blah blah blah. Thousand of quid worth of kit. With all these things around you, it is easy to lose sight of the simplicity that is always at the heart of good music. So never forget that less is very often more.

I recently interviewed a Warp artist called Chris Clark who explained that he had been listening to Basil Kirchin. Does this surprise you?
Not at all. This is why I issued his music, so modern musicians could hear what can be made. Basil will influence people for years to come. Lots of contemporary artists love Basil. I never sell many records but they always seem to fall into good hands.

You used to have a secure job in advertising. Looking back at setting up Trunk, what really pushed you over the edge and made you realise you had to start the label?
The fact that I could not do what I really wanted pushed me too far. And now I only ever do what I want, which I value far more than money.

What’s next in the Trunk pipeline?
More inspiring and interesting music (that no one has heard of) for me and maybe you too.

Can you give us your top five albums which showcase the work of the Radiophonic Workshop?
No. Find them yourself.

The Tomorrow People is out now. Jonny Trunk’s OST radio show is broadcast on Resonance FM 104.4 every Saturday from 4.30 to 6.30pm.

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