doing it for yourselves:
the asking for trouble diary of a record

Pop's always been disposable but now it's so throwaway that even the traditional delivery medium has been dispensed with. No more plastic packaged in plastic, the only option soon will be to suck singles off the superhighway and store them in the house hard drive. The step after that's already started as well, disposing with everything except the hook and the chorus, you can pay twice the money to download half the tune to your mobile and then chuck it in favour of next week's tinny sample before you've even had time to tire of its inane repetivity. Like a sonic emetic, songs are into, through and out of the system before you've had time to savour or extract anything from them. Junk music served and consumed at the speed of the fast food generation.

It's a sad future. Which is where you come in. I am your Kitchener. Your country needs you. Set up a record label and put out some music you believe in on a format that listeners can hold, fondle, obsess over and form an attachment to. Don't let the man commoditise the tunes any more than he's already done. But you don't know how? You're in luck. Marceline at Asking For Trouble ( didn't know how either, but it didn't stop her. And it didn't stop her writing a diary which she's kindly edited and extended for us here. Her record is a 4-way split box set featuring Uter, Sunnyvale Noise Sub-element, A Roman Scandal and Denim and Diamonds. We said this about it:

Four bands on four sides of this debut release from Asking For Trouble. Denim and Diamonds work the hyper Devo angle with the attention span of with the attention span of Devo angle with the attention span of where was I? Tinny and rapid and squeaky and helium and robotic and great. They split a disc with Uter whose Where Is The Lid? kicks off like the intro to pretty much anything from the Jesus and Mary Chain's Automatic album (drum machine and bass atmosphere) before developing into, well, more or less the same. Across the way, A Roman Scandal's Mock The Gods sounds like something The Mission would've enjoyed fed through an aquarium filter, a shortwave transmission in a storm and a bicycle wheel in need of grease. It's no surprise to find they share members with Denim and Diamonds. Finally, Sunnyvale Noise Sub-element suffer an involuntary priapism amongst the fractured and angular shreds of guitar treble cut with film samples.

The discs come in a box with inserts from each band, a mini zine (which explains why there'll probably never be another release on the label) and a mystery gift. (Mine's a street map of Osaka.)

We need records like this or our ears will shrivel up - a scientific fact - as we evolve to listen to trivial snatches of nothing that come out of nowhere with no meaning that are worthy of no attention. So, choose your bands, read Marceline's messages and release the records!

making a record

I never had any intention of starting a record label as I've always had plenty other ways to throw my money away but there comes a point when you find some bands and you can't believe no-one else is releasing their music and that's where it all starts. Once I had my ideas I set about making it happen. So here's how I made a record.


This was obviously the main sticking point. Without money you can't release a record and without lots of money you can't afford to release the kind of extra-special record I was planning on releasing. The obvious solution was a loan, since I was now in full time employment and, as long as I worked everything out sensibly, I'd be able to pay most of it back after release. I got my loan from Cahoot and ended up with around £1000. Sadly the record ended up costing nearer £1350 which meant abusing my overdraft and credit card a "little".


No-one really told me anything about MCPS beforehand - they collect royalties on the manufacture of every record containing a track registered with them -but when I was filling out the pressing plant forms they asked for the proof of licensing which you can only get from the MCPS. If any of your bands are registered with the MCPS then you have to pay them for the privilege of releasing their music. Otherwise it's just a bit of paper to prove you aren't releasing copyrighted material, really. You can download the forms from and they're fairly easy to fill in once you get all the details of the song titles, length etc. from the bands and after you've paid any monies owed the MCPS send you a license to print money, er I mean manufacture records.


I'm still not quite understanding mastering but it seems to be generally making sure all the sound levels are correct so that none of the songs break your stereo or jump around too much between tracks. I got mine done by Kenny from Eska for £75 and he really did make the tracks sound amazing! I can really hear the difference.


I knew I wanted exciting packaging since I will likely only ever make this one record and thus it has to be the greatest record ever released. Initially I was thinking along the lines of some kind of plastic sleeve with interchangeable covers but someone suggested reel tape boxes. This immediately appealed as it gave us the opportunity to fill the box with extra bits and pieces and Sunnyvale soon came up with their plan to collect found objects to go in the boxes. I eventually placed an order with Sound & Video Services [] which duly arrived the next day packed into two ENORMOUS boxes giving me some idea of exactly how much space 330 records will take up in my house if I don't sell them.


I decided to get the records pressed at GZ in the Czech Republic since they came highly recommended and seem to be the cheapest, friendliest and most informational, in that their website is actually really helpful. I had a look at a few UK companies but their websites were all appalling and gave me no idea about what to do. GZ's website [], on the other hand, has stacks of PDFs with all the technical details and forms and even a price quote generator to give you a vague idea of how much things will cost.

The forms I found generally easy enough to fill out although it's not really worth doing them until you're pretty much ready to send everything off since you need so much of the detail from the masters.

Once I had all the masters, artwork and forms I posted everything off to GZ. Because of my two 7"s with the same catalogue number concept I had to carefully label everything to make sure it was absolutely clear what I wanted.

GZ emailed me immediately on receipt and then a week later with my final invoice although they had upped my order to 350 due to their +/- 10% thing. (They only guarantee the number of records will be within 10% of the number you ask for.) So I now had a significantly more expensive bill than expected. Or budgeted for. Be warned about this - records seem to follow the fanzine rule of taking three times as long and costing twice as much as initially expected.

A week after the money cleared they sent me my test pressings which was possibly the most exciting part of the whole process as I was finally able to play some actual vinyl records I had caused to be manufactured. Once I okayed them it was another 2 or 3 weeks before 5 boxes of vinyl records turned up all with their lovely labels looking very professional and very real. By this point our spare room was overflowing with boxes of boxes, records, inserts and Sunnyvale things.


This part was exceptionally easy thanks to having about twelve designers and artists associated with the record including myself! Generally I would jot down some basic ideas and then Simon Minter would do them properly for me. Initially I was going to stamp all the record labels but then I decided this would be way too much work and just got them done at GZ. They provide full technical details on how to put your artwork together so this was very little trouble at all. For the inserts we put together a design brief and each band organised the design of their insert with fantastic results.


Everyone I asked in Glasgow recommended Clydeside Press to me as being cheap and reliable so I ended up not bothering to send out quotes to a number of companies as intended. Simon did me a proper print specification which got me an exceptionally cheap quote so it was then just a matter of kicking the bands to get the artwork completed and in the right format. Clydeside Press did a wonderful job but their slightly carefree business methods and 9-5 opening times caused me a bunch of problems with running out of work early to pick stuff up. However, I forgave them and got them to photocopy up the free Troublezine as well since they really are very cheap.

launch night

In retrospect this wasn't organized too well. It's very difficult to work out a release date as things always take longer than you expect and so many unexpected things happen. It was good to have a deadline as otherwise I would probably still not have the record out. However, it did mean that things got a bit rushed during the last couple of weeks with me having to organize the promotion of a gig while also rushing about finishing the packaging, zine and photocopying and putting piles of records together ready for sale, resulting in a few short cuts and some scaling down of ideas. The end result was that the record was not perfect in every way and the gig was underpromoted and a little empty but that's what first records are for, to learn.

promotion and sales

I never had any intention of doing any serious promotion or distribution mainly because I figured the short run, exciting packaging concept and a Trail of Dead connection would sell them all without much trouble. A trip to the post office to send the US bands their 10 copies soon raised another issue, that they postage for a box set is astronomical and thus made most non-local shop deals unworkable. I did send 10 copies to Rough Trade in London since they asked but I probably lost about £4 on each £6 box sold due to postage costs and the shop cut. Things worked out better with the local shops - I let them put the price up to £6 and in return I get back around £5 on each box. We sell a few copies here and there at Uter and Sunnyvale gigs where we can have a stall but the majority of our sales have been through the internet. A few simple Paypal buttons means anyone anywhere can buy the record easily and you even get the added bonus of knowing who all your customers are and being able to email them.

I also sent out copies to various magazines, fanzines, websites and radio stations and learned that knowing who to address a package to really makes a difference. It doesn't matter how exciting your record is - if it's not addressed to a specific person who you know will be interested then it stands a good chance of not being noticed. I rationed the full boxed copies to people I definitely knew would be excited about the record (whether or not they liked it) and sent the unboxed records or promo CDs on vinyl look CDRs to the others. I also wrote up a press sheet with information on all the band and what we were trying to do which helped in some situations. I may have been too clever though as one magazine completely misunderstood the concept and reviewed it as a fanzine only mentioning the records in passing without any description of the music!

the finished product

Overall, I'm very happy with my first release and there's not much I would have done differently. The most important thing I learned was that if you love the songs and the bands and try and do something exciting then you soon forget the traumas and the financial ruin and start thinking about maybe, just maybe, doing another one…

This article is based on entries I made to a weblog throughout the process. See



: reviews : interviews : live : features : shop : search: contact