…And a Bit of Weird Musical Taste: Discovering Trunk Records
by anna battista
It was 1959. It was 1959 when Italian director Arturo Blasetti shot the movie Europa di Notte, a sort of journey through European night clubs, looking for the most fantastic, the most grotesque and the most titillating things around the continent. Europa di Notte soon became a sort of cult movie and was later considered the very first Italian sexy film. From then on, a series of pseudo erotic movies dubbed "mondo-movies" such as Mondo di Notte (1960), directed by Luigi Vanzi, and Mondo Caldo di Notte (1963), directed by Renzo Russo, (both similar to Blasetti's film) started being released. Times changed, years passed, freedom arrived and together with freedom also new aspirations and new directors. One of them, Joe D'Amato (real name Aristide Massaccesi), who started his career in the '70s, became a cult figure himself after shooting the erotically famous Emmanuelle films and later Decameron X, an erotic version of Boccaccio's Decameron. Now, think what would happen if somebody were so nostalgic as to release Emmanuelle posters or compile collections of very 'sexy' sounds and voices or directly re-released soundtracks of sexy cult movies? Well, the answer is one and only, Trunk Records would be born.
Funded in 1995, Trunk Records is one of the most exciting record labels around at the moment. "I most definitely reckon myself a collector and a specialist," Jonathan Benton-Hughes, also known as Jonny Trunk, the man behind Trunk Records, confesses. "An obsessive collector and, as a result, I have become a specialist." Jonny must have been really obsessed since, among the other things, he discovered and then released under the title The Super Sound of Bosworth (two volumes - followed by The Battle of Bosworth, a collection of re-mixes featuring among the other bands Mount Vernon Arts Lab playing live in nuclear bunkers. "Drew Mulholland from Mount Vernon Arts Lab got in touch with me the day the LP hit the shops", Jonny remembers, "He is Scottish and crazy. He has a parrot…"), part of The Bosworth Archive, the oldest music library around.
The archive is described by Jonny as a crazy experiment, a collector's item and an indispensable collection of sounds for DJs. "I found the Bosworth Library archive in London," he remembers, "I am a nosy person, and they had the kind of music I wanted to hear that wasn't available anywhere else. I asked if I could release the jazz, that's how Trunk Records really started. The name comes from a stupid conversation with good friends. At present it's really just me working for it. I have a friend who helps with the website and a weirdo who finishes artwork when it needs to be done. Before starting Trunk Records I was writing adverts for arseholes…"
The man who claims the most rewarding thing for Trunk Records since it was started is that he's "still going - which is rewarding every single day," feels the most important element to the success of running a label is "being frugal and cunning," and perhaps we would add, also being a vinyl junkie. The proof is that Trunk is the only record label which dared releasing some incredible stuff, from the experimental composer Basil Kirchin's Quantum (this is the first EVER release of Kirchin's scary jazz) to the soundtrack for British late '60s horror Psychomania, from the soundtrack for the movie Kes to The Clangers, the TV series created by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin, to the Deep Throat soundtrack (for which Jonny reassures us he had no problems with FBI)… from The Wicker Man to Resurrection: The Amplified Bible Of Heavenly Grooves, a Christian jazz collection, to Mary Millington Talks Dirty, a collection of spoken word by actress, hardcore porn star and '70s sex symbol Mary Millington.
"It wasn't difficult to get the copyright of Mary Millington's stuff, well, not if you know the right people…" Jonny explains. "I managed to track Basil Kirchin down and I begged he send me everything he had, which he did. Psychomania is a ridiculous movie, and I'm a fan of it. It's a superb soundtrack, though for me Kes remains my favourite John Cameron score. Its fragility upsets me and will always do so. For what regards Resurrection, well, there were several tracks I wanted to include in it and in the end I didn't. Religious weird shit is quite a rich vein of music. Still turning up new stuff all the time."
For The Clangers, Trunk's most successful release to date, and other albums, Jonny had to remaster various recordings. "The Clangers took the longest: 24 tapes, with bits and pieces of music all over the place and out of sequence. First I had to find all the fragments and then dub them onto another source. I had to then match more than 150 cues with 26 episodes and then compile them. A logistic nightmare…"
Among the incredibly original Trunk Records releases that we must mention is Dirty Fan Male, a collection of crazy fan letters to models. There are actually also plans for a release of Starsky and Hutch fan mail. "The dirty fan letters came from when I was working in mail order porn," Jonny remembers, "The letters came in and I would deal with them. I just couldn't help keeping them instead of filing them. Incidentally, Drive Red Five from Italy did a remix of 'Dear Sexy Charmaine'. I'm not sure yet about when and if the 'Starsky and Hutch' fan mail record will ever be released." Dirty Fan Male was recently followed by Flexisex, a sort of collage of '70s pornographic flexidiscs. "Between friends and myself we had amassed several of theses original flexidiscs given out with mid-70s mags," Jonny explains, "it just made sense to put them all together."
Talking about Trunk 'sexy' records makes us think again about Italian 'sexy' movies: often Italian '70s pornography wasn't even real pornography, it was just a sequence of titillating images. Bet if you're wondering if Jonny somewhere found rare pornographic stuff from Italy…"If you consider the music by Stelvio Cipriani to the late '60s movie Femina Ridens, directed by Piero Schivazappa, then yes I did, though mainly on record. I have a lot of Italian porn on vinyl. I also use to sell UK porn posters and I sold quite a lot of Joe D'Amato's. Emmanuelle in America was one of my favourite posters of all time. I'm a D'Amato fan, because I'm a fan of anyone controversial and sleazy. I also have a lot of the soundtracks from his movies, though it's actually quite hard to get his films in the UK."
Since we mentioned particular Italian records or films, it sounds apt to also remember one of the most famous Italian composers, Ennio Morricone, who in his career also wrote the scores for erotic movies such as Metti una sera a cena (1969), directed by Giuseppe Patroni Griffi. "I have been obsessed with Italian scores for years," Jonny states, "I have about 100 Morricone LPs. It's difficult to choose a favourite Morricone score but today I listened to A Fistful Of Dynamite. I also love Malamondo, Vergogna Schifosi, Love Circle…but I could carry on!"
Jonny loves music but also movies: he doesn't have a favourite movie of all time, but names among the others, A Street Car Named Desire, and recommends us to see The Hill and in our spare time to listen to the band The Bill Posters Will Be Band.
Trunk hasn't only re-released old and rare stuff, it has also published stuff by newcomers such as the London-based band Transcargo, though Jonny hopes he will get more newcomers on his label. "I get sent a lot of stuff which I love listening too, but I am generally more confident of old music. But when the right recording comes through the post I pounce." And talking about feeling confident on re-releases of old music, Trunk recently re-scored the Banzai! TV show for the American market. "The company that makes the show needed to re-score the whole series just using library music…" Jonny explains, "…but not good library music, really bad library music. It was a hard and hilarious music search. I found some very, very bad library songs."
Among the other things, Trunk Records also had its own online show on Resonance FM which was quite successful, as Jonny explains: "The show has been running for a year and a half and it's still going strong. Just tune in!!!!"
Jonny recently released his own 7" on Trunk, "Dead Soon/Dead Mouse Blues." The A-side is a dramatic and sexy track, while the B-side is a recording Jonny made of a mousetrap in his kitchen. "The record was released in my bedroom and I have an album planned now. I just finished a track about an hour ago called 'Funny Farm'. Apart from my own album I have many releases up my sleeve and they will all appear eventually. As for plans for the future, I just want to keep improving, getting better and sell more and more records. I love it."
Indeed there's another thing Jonny seems to love a lot apart from managing his label, rare vinyl and groovy records, it's simply Trunk Records in itself. "The best thing ever said about Trunk Records was…well, I was at a gig in London last year and a bloke came up to me and said 'I love you'. He was talking about my record company. Trunk Records is entertaining with tits and a bit of weird musical taste thrown in." And if Jonny Trunk says so, you can bet it.