Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

Rocket Girl: Vinita Joshi’s Favourite Albums

Ghetto blasting synth punk in Rugby. Lending pyjamas to Mogwai. Writing to Nick Drake’s sister. Finding psychology theory in music. Pranked by Robin Guthrie. Rocket Girl Records label head Vinita Joshi takes Will McCartney through the 13 records that have shaped her life

Photo courtesy of Vinita Joshi

Behind the opaque portcullis that guards the inner organs of the music industry lies a wealth of challenges and imbalances. Whether it’s adjusting to the exponentially digitising jaws of music consumption, manoeuvring through a male-favouring system or facing barriers as an ethnic minority, success in music is easier for some than others.

Despite swimming against all three of these tides, Vinita Joshi, founder of Rocket Girl Records, has managed to single-handedly sustain one of London’s most unique independent record labels for a quarter of a century. Birthed in her bedroom in the quiet town of Rugby, the imprint was no more than a passion project for Joshi, whose unique lust for guitar music, dreampop, shoegaze and indie saw her go on to rub shoulders with the likes of Television Personalities, Spacemen 3, Low and Cocteau Twins.

Calling me from a secluded garden shed in India, Vinita reflects on a difficult, fluxing youth. “I was a bit of a misfit when I was younger. I didn’t like school. There were only two or three Indian kids there. It was a really white, English environment.” She ponders over how her teenage years grew increasingly introverted. “I became painfully shy. I don’t know what happened. I felt like I was so shy that when I walked into a room my energy would change it.”

Alternative music became a source of solace for Joshi, who couldn’t settle for the dulcet tones of mainstream broadcasting. “I was always turning the dial, looking for something interesting. I didn’t want to listen to daytime radio. I remember Radio Caroline played some really good stuff. Some people were into books or poetry because it expressed how they’re feeling. For me, it was the music. It was really comforting. Music became my saviour really. It really did save me.”

The celestial impact of music doesn’t stop with the listener, claims Joshi, who believes that some of the richest sounds often emerge from artists whose minds occupy some of the darkest places. “I do think people have a need to express themselves. A lot of these musicians that are hurting have no other way. They really have got so much to say. When you suffer, it needs some kind of relief. You can’t experience happiness if you haven’t experienced sadness. Some people are too thick skinned. Others just can’t protect themselves. Creativity is one of the ways for them to heal.”

As our conversation continues, it becomes evident that the disorienting days of Vinita Joshi’s youth are long behind her. The Rocket Girl chief went on to land Manic Street Preachers their first gig, work closely with Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins, spend days in studios and backstreet bars with Low and string together a school of heavyweights including A.R. Kane, Bowery Electric, Mogwai and Piano Magic onto a single side of wax. As she recounts the years gone by, it’s as if she’s talking back to her younger self. “I would probably say to that Vinita: ‘It’s going to be alright’.”

What emerges as Joshi’s enchanting life story unravels is that selflessness is her currency. She recalls letting countless musicians sleep on the sofa of her London flat, inviting friends and colleagues to live in her record room when they needed a roof, facilitating publishing deals for free and myriad other instances of generosity. Even whilst she stays in India to focus on yoga, Joshi is finding time to offer her hand. “I’m currently helping a doctor here with scientific Pranayama [a breathing technique originating from yogic practises] . She’s healing people all over the world.” This is not help for the sake of it – as Joshi talks about it all, it’s clear that she is sincerely, deeply interested in lifting up those around her.

As you sift through the 25-year-long wingspan of the Rocket Girl discography, you can hear Vinita Joshi’s open-hearted attitude to life in the music. It’s material that you will not hear anywhere else. It’s the coalescence of a roster that lived free of red tape and restriction. It’s the sound of a pioneer who was willing to take a chance on people.

To begin reading Vinita Joshi’s Baker’s Dozen, click the image of her below.

First Record

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