Independent labels

Why the hell would anyone want to start a label? Why would they want to spend their every waking hour wondering whether Spangle Sparklytrousers fanzine was into their latest three chord thrash wonderteens? or whether the boss will notice them running off another 10000 flyers on the photocopier? or if the NME will slag them off in an even vaguely amusing way this week? or if they can squeeze another box of unsold records ("ahead of their time, mate") into the *ahem* back catalogue stored under their bed? Can they go without food three days this week to get a bit more studio time for their latest proteges? Will hiring the Camden Falcon on the same Monday night as the UEFA cup final turn out to be a financial disaster? Can they stomach another trip to the post office to send this record to another 20 journos who'll claim it's shit now but love it in 3 years when the band's huge on Sony?

All will be revealed as we speak to the people behind labels ranging from the might of Beggar's Banquet, through the credibility of Che, the anti-music biz of Org and the fledgling tape-only labels Crash the Luau and Best Kept Secret. The same four questions were put to everybody:

[1] why did you decide to set up a label?
[2] what release have you been most pleased with?
[3] what's your dream release (any band, any song)?
[4] tip for anyone starting their own label (don't just say "don't")?

If you run a label and want to answer the questions yourself, feel free to email your answers to me cos this feature is intended to grow over time.


A-B, C-D, E-F, G-H, I-K, L-N, O-Q, R-Se, Sf-Sz and T-Z

Chris, Candle PO Box 202, Fitzroy VIC 3065 Australia

1. I was managing a band called The Simpletons and they didn't have a label so the band and I decided to do it ourselves.

2. Pleased with so many but I guess 'Matter' by The Simpletons as it was the first full length CD released.

3. darren hanlon yet to released

4. only work with bands you personally like and are easy to work with

Claire and Richard, Catmobile

1. C: i began to notice *how* records were released as well as why. e.g. presentation, little things that make one record more VFM than the next. when you know other people will like the music you're keen on, something about being able to put it out for them to hear is very satisfying. when richard said he wanted to do a label too, we seemed to have the same reasons so it made sense to have two brains working on the ideas instead of one.

R: yeah, we both really wanted to do a label, but it can seem like quite a daunting task to take on on your own. we've both got similar musical tastes and there seem to be loads of great bands around who aren't getting stuff released...

2. we're still in the process of arranging the first four or five, so we don't have anything solid just yet. i think all the records will be great, i'm especially looking forward to putting out the italian electro and kiss offs songs.

3. C: i think we're already pretty much doing what i would love to do. we have a member of my favourite band ever on one of the first records, what more could you ask?!

R: all the bands we've got for the singles club are fantastic...apart from them i'd love to put out something by the rondelles - quite a new band but already one of my all-time favourites and definitely deserving of a lot more attention over here. oh, and i would love to see a release for the divine david's handbag house anthems "bingo (your number's up)" and "mardi gras (time to die)"!

4. C: be organised; don't complicate things by having too many people trying to arrange each other. when plans get changed you need a central person with a good memory to keep up.

R: i think originality is important to quite an extent. we're trying to do new things with presentation and packaging, but also with the kinds of bands we release stuff by. there seems to be a glut of underground-type labels around at the moment who are happy to just put out stuff by relatively established bands. by all means, 'name' bands are important to shift units, but it's also worth taking a few risks by featuring new or non-u.k. bands too.

Paul, Certificate 18 PO BOX 4029, London SW15 2XR

1. Because there was a lot of good music knocking around Ipswich while i was working in the record shops so just thought it was about time they were released!

2. Hidden Rooms vol II. As a whol;e album i think it is a complete journey into the cert18 d&b sound!

3. off the top of my head an album that would blow me away as much as "psychocandy"by Jesus and the Mary Chain

4. Do it for the love of your music!

Marc, Chameleon 254 Thorne Street Los Angeles, CA 90042 USA

1. I set up my label for two reasons. One, it's easier to control the product. I can create the music I want with minimal interference. Plus, there's something to be said about making a project happen, from conception to distribution, all by yourself. Second, the profit margin is quite larger when you do it yourself. You can create from your own studio and even produce the CDs on your computer to start. Minimal overhead.

2. Marc Wright's Overhead is the most recent release and the one I'm most pleased with. It's Marc's most fully produced and realized album. He is a pianist, a la early Elton John and Tori Amos, so an independent release is a good way to display all of his talents. It's just great music that sounds better than anything I've heard on the radio right now.

3. My dream release would be Please, Please Me by the Beatles. Need I say more? It would have been great to be there in the beginning.

4. Keep the initial costs low. Make sure your artists get lots of exposure. Play lots of shows. Remember, there is lots of free media out there on the net, newspapers, and in weekly fanzines, (especially L.A.), so take advantage. Finally, believe in the product and your goals.

Chris, Che PO Box 653, London, E18 2NX

1. because no one else was putting out music by the bands we liked, which at that time were Disco Inferno and Tindersticks etc.

2. put it this way, never been not pleased with any release. liked the one with dweeb on one side and mogwai on the other---2 bands who hate each other. that was fun.

3. all saints covering the stooges "loose" with james brown`s backing band

4. do! it`s fun. need more of them. if you want bad advice, ask us. we`ve been going for 8 years now!

[1] why did you decide to set up a label?
[2] what release have you been most pleased with?
[3] what's your dream release (any band, any song)?
[4] tip for anyone starting their own label (don't just say "don't")?

Jan, Chute Records PO Box 211, Dundee, DD1 9PH

1. It is, and always will be in some form, a vehicle for releasing our own music and when we can afford it, other people's.

2. Each and every one, when the final pressing in its sleeve appears a rush of joy runs through our veins.

3. Spare Snare vs. Beck version of "Steve Threw Up." it may happen!

4. Don't pay the electricity bill for a few months, and do a single. don't ask advice or look for favours. make your own mistakes and give favours.

Daniel, Clairecords

1. The same reason most others ever start up a label - for the love of the music.

2. Well, I don't like to play favorites, and we definitely are proud of each release we have done. I'm most pleased with the sales of the Ecstasy of St. Theresa reissue we did last summer - that has been our best seller. but we are really pleased, musically, with all of our releases!

3. The next My Bloody Valentine album, of course! We also have many dream re-issues that are now OOP or impossible to find, which may come to fruition someday if we ever find the right people - Mock, Lavendar Faction, Secret Shine, and more EoST are dream re-issues of ours...

4. Just remember that you're in it for fun. You get out of it what you put in to it...sometimes! Just stick with it and don't give up!

Martin, Cooking Vinyl S 10 Allied Way, London, W3 ORQ

1. Nobody would put out a demo of a band I believed in!

2. Jackie Leven-The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death

3. Caetano Veloso or REM

4. Required in equal parts: vision, determination, suffering for your art, accountancy

Brian, Crash the Luau PO Box 1651, Pearl City, Hawaii 96782

1. To further indulge my masochistic needs for self-abuse and sleep deprivation. To release records by my own band, Tone Deaf Teens. To release records from our friends' bands that we really like. To show the world that Hawaiian music is not just "Hawaiian music", but "Music from Hawaii" (official company motto inscribed on the bathroom wall).

2. We're kinda biased towards our own record, of course, but we're very proud of all 3 releases that we've put out since last year.

3. Anything that will make enough money to let us put out another record (none of our releases have done that so far, which is why we stopped at 3). Or actually, a CD version of the original Raging F?!khell recordings.

4. Do it because you absolutely love music, not because you want to make a lot of money--there are MUCH easier ways to do that.

Michael, Cleverlegs c/o Agency Services Mail Holding, 13 Biddulph Street, Leicester, LE2 1BH

1. To release some Lazarus Clamp records to be quite honest. If you want to reach new ears then clearly you've got to make recordings that people can get hold of. We got tired of 'falling between two stools' with respect to other people's labels - our musical identity must provoke some kind of disastrous category error - and so we decided to do it ourselves. Its always seemed foolish to me to plough wilfully away at 'doing your own thing' and then to expect someone else to cough up the money, anyway, so I've always wanted to do it. If it hadn't have been for The Curse of Lazarus Clamp disrupting our efforts at every turn, then the single which is coming out this month would have been out two years ago ... 2. So far there is only one! But I'm already focused on the next one (we've been recording new stuff for a CD) and I guess it must always be a bit like that. You always like your new toys best.

3. Well, despite the fact that the label was started for Lazarus Clamp purposes, we're obviously going to be interested in releasing records by other bands once things are up and running. Its a question of money, of course, and at present we haven't got any. I've been talking with Ian and David at Magic Teapot (who put on gigs in Leicester) about combining forces in order to expand the possibilities, but that's all some way off just yet. A dream release? Sally Tims singing one of our songs would be good.

4. No, no - 'do!' But don't piss about, get on with it. Everyone will tell you this, but the phenomenon will still amaze you - everything you do will take twice as long as you think its going to (even if you anticipate it taking a while in the first place). So, yes, get on with it. Now. Talk to as many people as you can who've already done it. We've had the benefit of the experiences of Nigel at Pickled Egg, Dave at Sorted, Sean at Foruna Pop and Kristen at Amberley, and they've all helped enormously. Knowledge is power etc.

Distribution is obviously fairly essential. We've dealt with this by making our first release a joint enterprise with Amberley Records, who already have distribution through Cargo. Cargo have been helpful and enthusiastic about the record, and hopefully that means that they'll be happy to carry future releases, too. I'm sure there are other ways to get this sorted out, of course - the obvious one being to begin by releasing a record by a band who already sell plenty of records: distribution guaranteed!

Justin, Cold Spring 8, Wellspring, Blisworth, NN7 3EH

1. It was the natural extension from the work I was doing with bands, and writing for national music press.

2. Difficult...probably the reissue of PSYCHIC TV - `Those Who Do Not` (CSR10CD), or this years KEROVNIAN - `Far Beyond, Before The Time` CD (CSR24CD)....Mind you, the new MERZBOW / GENESIS P-ORRIDGE - `A Perfect Pain` CD (CSR23CD) I`m pretty damn proud of too...

3. No idea...too many....but at the same time, the records I do cherish, I`m just glad someone else had the stress and anxiety of releasing, as the process does make the record become a product to an extent....

4. Good and loyal mail order base, or good retail distribution. Without either, you`ll last 5 minutes....and neither are easy to come by.

Dave and Becky, Crackle PO Box 7 Otley, LS21 1YB

1. it was something me and Becky had wanted to do for some time. finally, after years of being on the dole we had enough money to do it. why did we want to do it? we just did! we saw Chopper and thought they deserve to be heard.

2. i can't ever answer questions like this. most of them for (sometimes) different reasons. we are very fussy about what we put out. maybe the biggest surprise for me was the improvement between the first and second Chopper 7"s.

3. i don't have one. i live for the next release on crackle, so in that case it will be our Grover 7". i'm entirely happy with what we've released. if there's a band and song i like, i try to put it out ... or it's already out, so there's no point us doing it too.

4. don't ... settle for anything less. it's your money and label, make sure you only do something you're happy with yourself.

Douglas, Creeping Bent Records Unit 14, Firhill Business Centre, 76 Firhill Road, Glasgow G20 7BA

1. I remembered the total excitement in Scotland when Postcard and Fast/Pop Aural were active, it struck me there should be a similar platform for mavericks and weirdoids, hence I started Creeping Bent.

2. Fried for Blue Material by the Nectarine No.9 because it was our last release and they are our favourite group. The Revolutionary Corps of Teenage Jesus/Alan Vega debut album---"Righteous Lite" is coming out March 1999 and is the scariest electronic musique.

3. When I started the label I was influenced by Subway Sect, Fire Engines, Suicide, the Pop Group. All of these people have now worked with Creeping Bent My dream release would be Sun Ra wit the APhex Twin.

4. If you feel the same way Lou Reed did when he wrote Rock'n'Roll for the Velvet Underground---DO IT. If you want to make money, get a job in a bank.

Selwyn, Cripperty 37 Oakhill Close, Glen Park, Douglas, Isle of Man

1. First off, I was pissed off that so many great bands have existed on the Isle of Man and have never had anything released and can't get gigs because the venues are clogged up with unbelievably shit cover and blues bands. Also, rampant egomania is a factor. The first release on Cripperty was by my last band which was named after me. Need I say more. Also I'm living out my ultimate fantasy---record label boss bloke---although it sometimes assumes a nightmarish twinge ("why haven't you finished it yet!?!")

2. Both releases have been satisfying. The "Easy for you" 7" because I always wanted to do one. It sold jack shit due to lack of promotion and the implosion of Selwyn. The CD because it doesn't have a duff track on it due to quality control being exercised; "you don't think you're putting that Celtic shit on here, do you?" Also, it shows a depth of originality and invention but with tunes that you so rarely get on compilations like this.

3. A new Sudden Sway record as good as "Spacemate." If they're still making records, it must be under a new name. Does anybody know?

4. All the usual things: money, distribution, promotion, etc although all of this tends to go out of the window in my enthusiasm to get stuff out. Also maniacal force of will. Don't work with people who piss you off---the music won't sound half as good to your ears as it should. The good guys' records will sound great. Be a control freak---don't be frightened to say "no!" to shit or shits. Say goodbye to your sanity.

Paul, Dada Tapes 30 Wiltshire Ave, Burton Upon Stather, Scunthorpe, N. Lincs DN15 9ER

1. the idea to do a compilation tape, AGF, came first and we just thought it would be really good to have a sort of collective to group promote the various other projects that we were developing, and, y`know, slay the opposition i.e. "I`m running a record label" usually silences the other show-offs. So basically scott came up with a name, changed it, collected more contributions for AGF, changed the name again, told loads of people about it, changed the name again to DADA and we got on with it. We want people to hear what we and our mates are doing and a banner brings things together nicely.

2. AGF has definitely got the most attention because it features lots of known quality bands, and I would say AGF myself because of the respect I have for these bands. Before I had a bit of an idea that if it`s on vinyl, the artists are earning and sort of in their ivory tower but it`s been so cool to hear, for eg, an exclusive track from isan who are one of my favourite bands. As for our own material, scott would say "eat first think later" and I would say "evidence from the seance room"

3. well, AGF still seems a bit of a dream to me I asked michael and he wrote down a collaboration between ella fitzgerald and cut chemist called "the whim that breathes." Scott says aphex twin vs. myra hindley which would, of course, be a video release, and/or boards of canada or DJ Shadow on vinyl. I would suggest a sort of techno battle record which is entirely looped grooves (ie not spiral, like the final loop on a record) with contributions from everyone on warp and loads from r&s and tresor and mo`wax and all sorts of stuff - as many loops as we could fit on.

4. don't expect to be rich - as rich as nazis. Forming your own band is a nice thing to do, and so is an AGF type getting-in-of-the-respected-names because, BING! Instant exposure and connection. Actually, AGF probably wouldn`t have been so possible if it wasn't for running a zine, so first run a zine and let it flow from there. Or possibly get involved with someone else`s zine like I did..

Douglas, Dark Beloved Cloud

1. I wanted to have some outlet for unleashing other people's art on the world, basically. It seemed like fun, and there were a couple of projects I thought would make good records.

2. You're asking me to pick between my children! But I have a special place in my heart for the "Dreams Are Free (With Purchase)" compilation---I'm very happy with how the sequencing came out, and I guess part of the reason I'm pleased with it is that for that reason it's the DBC release I've had the greatest hand in.

3. Now, see, this can be answered three ways. Way one is "what record do you most envy someone else's release of?" And I'd have to say Sun City Girls' "330,003 Crossdressers From Beyond The Rig-Veda". Way two is "what record do you most regret not having been able to release?" In which case it's probably Growing Up Skipper's "Peepshow." Way three is "what record, as yet unreleased, do you most dream of releasing?" Which is easy: a disc of Stereolab's demos, especially the ones for "Dots and Loops."

4. Do not imagine that you are going to make money. Do not imagine that you are going to break even. Assume that it's simply going to be an enjoyable hobby, and that you are going to lose every cent you put in; after that, any income can only be a pleasant surprise, and you can't get discouraged.

Syds, dDrecords POBox 18 233, 1001 ZC Amsterdam, Netherlands

1. To give a chance to people who deserve it IMO, people who create music not just to get money, fame or to get laid, but because they love music and are putting all they have into it. I also think there is to much of the same stuff [house, R&B, rock, britpop and more top-40 stuff] all over the place - people should have a choice.

2. the one I've been working on the past few weeks and which will be released officially in September: AUDIO ARCHITECTURE by Viktor Sjoberg [online ordering/selling already possible]

3. DJ SHADOW -Endtroducing

4. don't think that others will be as enthusiastic as yourself about the music you release - most people are lazy and just consume what the radio/tv/MTV is pouring into their ears. If they never heard of it, it is probably shit: that's their basic idea or so it seems. The next thing is that professional music-writers are very often more concerned about their ego's [will it make me look good ? - what's in it for me ? What !!? mr. X thinks this is a great record ? I hate it already !!] than the music..

John, Deep Elm PO Box 1965 NY NY 10156, USA

1.The idea behind Deep Elm came to me in late 1994 while I was listening to Sunny Day Real Estate's "Diary" on a plane. I guess I was in an emotional state. Well, from the first riff that record had a tremendous impact on me. I can't describe what happened. It was like a religious experience or something. Sometimes music just speaks to you. At that point I knew I wanted to help struggling bands release and promote their music. I had absolutely no background in music except for being a college deejay. So I started to learn everything on my own from the ground up. You see, I am addicted to music, literally obsessed. Especially music that is emotionally powerful. Sometimes I need to run to my office just to listen to something I have in my mind. Yet I can't write a song for a million bucks. It's a mystery to me how someone can pull a song out of their head, perform it and effect me. I have tremendous respect for songwriters and musicians because they do something that I cannot possibly fathom. And running a record label is how I can be involved. Deep Elm simply exists to help independent bands.

2. All of them have a special place in my heart, but I am very pleased with the way The Emo Diaries series has turned out. We get to work with twelve to fifteen of my favorite bands on each chapter. It's a great way for bands to get exposure...

3. The dream would be to release Roger Water's next solo record, but I'm not holding my breath. He's a genius and his records are filled with dark emotion backed by power. It's more than music.

4. Be committed and learn about the business before you jump in. You must be responsible and accountable if someone else is trusting you with their music, so be prepared to work hard for your bands. Take baby steps - don't try to achieve all at once. Every day you learn and grow, that's half the fun. Be honest with your bands about what you can and cannot do. Take your time and don't give up when the chips are down. Believe in what you are doing...

T, Deroy PO Box 424, Spring Gardens Office, Manchester, M60 3DR

1. Recording and submiting demo tapes to record companies just don't exist anymore, as I encounterd when I graduated from college. I went back to my previous job, saved some money and went on a mission.

2. It's still early days for Deroy but, were all quite happy with our current release (Delusion) and even happier with the following.

3. This year has seen alot of established crediable acts (too many to mention) firing back, working with them would be quite nice.

4. There's alot of ground work and determination involved in setting up and running a record label. Most of which I have learned, along the way, and am still learning. We work as a family who takes what we do seriously but still have a laugh. It all gets harder and harder. When things start to pick up and the name DEROY RECORDS spreads that little bit further, it gets better and better.

Rob, Deviant PO Box 699, London, SW10 OLS

1. Because no other fucker would employ me.

2. Various : "Volume 1"---1991, Various : "Trance Europe Express"---1993, Various : "Pacific State"---1997, Paul van Dyk : "For An Angel"---1998, Vorsprung Dyk Technik : Paul van Dyk remixes 1992-1998---next month. - All for the same reasons.

3. Cocteau Twins : Spangle Maker / remixed by Paul van Dyk

4. Find someone who doesn't mind losing a shed-load of cash.

[1] why did you decide to set up a label?
[2] what release have you been most pleased with?
[3] what's your dream release (any band, any song)?
[4] tip for anyone starting their own label (don't just say "don't")?

Paul, Diskatopia

1. I was surrounded by extremely talented musicians who didn't know how to or want to play the Major Label game, and who didn't want to become the next one-release wonder in the flood of "product" that some Majors were and are emitting.

2. Our new CD compilation, Diskatopia's Intimate Gathering Volume One, has pleased me the most in listening to it, mainly because it has seven superb artists doing their own things on it. I'm extra happy because it's FINALLY shipping from the disc manufacturer this week.

3. I'd like the Hartnoll bros (aka Orbital,on ffrr or London Records I believe) to each do separate tracks and release it as a duel dual CD. Or I'd like to convince 12-15 upper echelon electronic artists to all redo a certain 80's song (secret;) ), and release it as "The song title Compilation: We Told You All Electronic Music Isn't the Same."

4. The more the music matters, the less the money matters. Respect the artist. Quality over quantity. The truth will set you free.

[1] why did you decide to set up a label?
[2] what release have you been most pleased with?
[3] what's your dream release (any band, any song)?
[4] tip for anyone starting their own label (don't just say "don't")?

Tracy, Dreamy

1. To put out records by arco... and then I liked it so much I kept putting records out by other bands too. I still love it and want to do more.

2. Head In The Clouds is a compilation record I put together. I love all of the artists so much and the artwork is beautiful. It's very personal to me and it's probably the best compilation I've ever heard.

3. All of my releases are Dreamy releases - does that count? I guess the two that I have been dreaming about for a long time are the Izumi Misawa CD & the Santa Sprees double LP. Those will probably happen at some point (hopefully!). The one release that I have been dreaming about for just as long but is less likey to happen (in fact, impossible) is a split seven - Elliott Smith covering an unreleased Nick Drake song and Nick Drake covering an unreleased Elliott Smith song.

4. I would never say 'don't'! Passion is they key. You may lay awake at night wondering "how".... but never "why".

Stefan, Drone

1. I wanted to build a platform for---in my opinion---unknown, generally under-represented, emotional striking experimental music, coming from the independently (and I mean really independent) working cassette- and (Post?)-Industrial culture.

2. the VOICE OF EYE (DR-09) - Sprocket. It's perfect.

3. there is none. or there are artists I adore which wouldn't fit in the label's concept or are just too well-known. I would have loved to release Zoviet France in 1983 when they were best. Or Hafler Trio in 1985. Now I try to find the forthcoming masters of mysterious music. But in general, with Voice of Eye, Life Garden, two of my "dream"-bands are already released.

4. Anyone should do it! Anyone should make music as well, everybody who feels the energy to become creative should try it! My tip for a label-start: you should begin very small, let it grow gradually & naturally, don't expect too much, and don't do it for the money.

Mike, Drop Beat PO Box 99156, Emeryville, CA 94662

1. to release the kind of records that i would want to buy, which is actually pretty rare for US electronic stuff.

2, probably the first chessie album, because it got a much nicer reception than i thought it would.

3. anything by 4 hero

4. make sure that you have a good reason to do it. there are way too many labels out there following others footsteps - try to do something different!

Lara, Dune 8 West 56th Street Suite 5A 10019 New York, NY, USA

1.For my intense passion for music.

2.I like Tricky's latest release and for what concerns our label I love our upcoming release of Transonia (out on Dune Records in February).

3.My dream will be to sign and release Aphex Twin ...

4.Sign up for a course of personal motivation!

Massimo, Dust 2 Dust Tempo House, 15 Falcon Rd, London SW11 2PJ

1. Wanted to put out good music.

2. I've been pleased with every release---the current always tends to be my favourite---the artist albums in the new year should turn a few heads

3. This is a hard one---and I can't answer it

4. Do. Don't expect lots of money of free time---but there's nothing better than hearing your ideas on plastic & releasing music you love.


A-B, C-D, E-F, G-H, I-K, L-N, O-Q, R-Se, Sf-Sz and T-Z

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