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

Filip, Glasvocht Handelstraat 8, 8770 Ingelmunster, Belgium

1. To do something with all of my own projects and other good stuff who deserves it.

2. I'm not sure, but the next release of Wio & The Ordinary Seaman is something I'm very proud of.

3. Stuff of Jim 'O Rourke, Fennesz, the Kranky label and many more.

4. Just release the things you like by yourself and work with guys who have good taste.

David, God Bless 92 Coronation Avenue, Victorian Rd, London N16 8DU

1. Because I've always run record labels and because there's music out there that no one else is doing PLUS modern rockpop is so BORING that someones gotta try to do something NEW!!!!

2. All 3 Fiend records , the Supermodel GT album---I like all of 'em.The forthcoming RAINSPIES album (former Telstar Pony RACHEL DEVINE) because I think she's a genius!!!

3. I want to find a band or artist that is so new, so revolutionary that everything else sounds immediately out of date.

4. DO IT! New labels new ideas fresh blood etc. Rock needs ya!!!! THE big record companies ain't gonna do it. Creation ain't gonna do it. I mean from My Bloody Valentine to Arnold. Get tae FUCK!!!

Susanna, Gold Hole PO Box 24630 , London, E2 6PL

1. i really don't know but it's the best thing i've done. think i got sick of saying "oh that's really good, someone should release it"

2. i've only done three and i'm pathetically proud of all them. i'm doing a 7" box set with three other labels which i think will be really cool

3. oh god i don't know, maybe arab strap covering a glen campbell classic. or nick cave doing the gospel song 'dragnet for jesus'..

4. um, definitely use the czech republic for production if you're skint.

Mark, Grand Central

1. Because I knew that we would beat a lot of competition at the time (circa 1994) with local north west talent. Manchester was crying out for an outlet for it's original black music love.

2. At the moment Aim's 'COld Water Music'. To release solo artists LP's is a big achievement when the quality shince through.

3. Only Child featuring Azeem, but all of the records we release are my dream releases. That's why we are still releasing records. My next dream release will be the second Rae & Christian next project which will feature The Pharcyde and hopefully Bobby Womack. 4. Make sure you are prepared to stand by your vision at all times both financially and time-wise (which is 24-7). This game is not about making money its about making music that makes money.

Jason, Gringo

1. Personally I that it is a pretty cool thing to do and at the time Bis, the Delgados and Chemikal Underground really opened my eyes to DIY operations succeeding. I get a real buzz from music and I am a big fan so putting out records makes me feel part of something I really love.

2. I've been really pleased with all four so far, each has got really good reviews and in my opinion has sounded great. The Hirameka EP though has the most awesome cover (sleeve) and is probably the most complete package.

3. Mudhoney and Fugazi boxsets maybe. Or the single that destroys all humanity. Or the My Shit/R J MacReady split single.

4. Get a financial base of around M-#800. Then try to get a few people involved to chip in. Don't overspend or try to be too flashy. It is easy to get the records pressed but distribution is most important but also tough to gain. Don't expect overnight success or an immediate financial return (or any financial). Do not release records that suck and go on a coast to coast rampage thinly disguised as a tour. And mostly, network, network, network.

[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, Guided Missile PO Box 11413 London N19 4AH

1. The label was set up as a means of gaining the respect of young indie girls. The ultimate goal; a wealth of experience between the sheets with frigid fans of the BMX Bandits and secret London meetings with leather-tailed men.

2. The triple album by prog-rock masters Gutterati on Guided Missile's sister label, Mystic Missile. It's a two-track triple LP with a Roger Dean cover entitled "Sublime and Perfect Masturbation".

3. Anything by Gnidrolog, particularly anything along the lines of their "In Spite Of Harry's Toenail" album---1973. Failing that, anything by the Barron Knights or Dan Fogelberg.

4. Don't release anything by indie-pindie band Freeboy from Cambridge. The singer guy's a complete twat.

Nic, Half a Cow PO Box 1100 Strawberry Hills NSW 2012 Australia

1. to release a bunch of 4-track recordings that i had done over the previous years and then some local sydney bands (this was in 1989-90)

2, too many to mention so i'll say the most recent Kim Salmon & The Business "Record" - by far Kim's most accomplished and greatest LP

3. The Velvets featuring Steve Miller "Rockin' Me 2000"

4. "do!" make sure that the songs are good and the people into it for the music first

Mike, Happy Happy Birthday to Me PO Box 1035, Panama City, FL 32402, USA

1. At the time (1989) there were very few small independent labels in the U.S. (Merge, Slumberland, and Simple Machines were all just getting started) and I was inspired by the example of my then-favorite British labels (Sarah and Subway Organisation) to try and do a mainly-singles label over here. Also it was before the onslaught of riot grrrl and at least initially, the idea of the label was ot focus mainly on bands with women in them and/or a feminist point of view.

2. Both the compilations I put out (The Long Secret, in 1995, and Friendly Society, this year) were especially fulfilling because I had a direct roll in picking the songs and putting the package together. Plus on "Friendly Society" I could write liner notes that related my "other job" (as a British historian) to the music, by comparing 19th-century British voluntary societies with indie music.

3. Some day I would love to put together all the unreleased stuff that came out in the late-70s on the Boston cassette label called Propeller--when new wave was still raw and punk and smart, and bands like the Dangerous Birds and the Maps were Important. Of course, the tapes have all disintegrated by now, so this is really only a dream.

4. Be completely clear with yourself, and with the bands, exactly what you hope to accomplish with the label, and stick to those goals. The world needs more labels with an identity that is primarily about the music and not about making good or bad business decisions.

Thorsten, High Society International c/o Amoebenklang, St.Petersburger Str. 4, 18107 Rostock, Germany

1. The label I worked was not interested in putting out the album of my favourite band. So I had to do this. Than I got a great demo and continued.

2. I'm a NORMA JEANS junkie - they are the greatest band for me ever, although other bands sell sometimes better. But we don't do it for money.

3. Next NORMA JEANS album in early 2000.

4.Don't be dissapointed if it doesn't work well with the first release.

Mike, Hipshot

1. Because i rarely get asked to make records these days and i like making records. Also i have a working method ive perfected here at home which is not really compatible with commercial studios - its too expensive and the technology gets i my way as well. I can sell more records on my gigs than shops sell for me and i loath having to buy my own cds in order to be able to sell them on gigs (yes I have had to do that !!) At this point in time and around 40 records into a 35 year career i own none of my original tapes and receive no royalties at all from any of them. It was time to stop all that. My musical world is extremely diverse and bewilders most record labels and shops. I had no choice. I also see it as a small step toward undermining the multi national labels (a foolish utopian gesture?) who are crippling the creativity of the young (and old) and i look forward to the day when everyone burns their own cds at home and sells them from home.

2. So far my first on Hipshot -" Kiribati " - its breadth of musicality and what i managed to achieve with such little resources.

3. A boxed set of evrything Ive ever recorded (a lot !!) available on my own label

4. Buy a cd burner and do them at home - that way you need only produce the amount that you need...otherwise you end up sleeping with cds all around the has disadvantages but there you go... i would never say " dont do it " ...its great fun.

Just like to share my quote of the month with you here if I may..

The whole culture now is down to groups of people who are good at doing meetingsand groups of people who are good at putting forward proposals, and out of this chaotic conjunction comes the trash which is the culture." (sight and sound June 2000)
Jeff & Tina, Hub City P.O. Box 1223, Greenbelt, MD 20768-1223, USA

1. We'd been putting out a 'zine for a couple of years, and had run across a number of really great people like Eric Metronome, the Boyish Charms, and Ashland who were doing their own tapes, but didn't have any "proper" releases. Seeing as no one else was putting out their records, we decided to give it a shot. We did a compilation first to sort of test the waters and once we realized we could really do it, we set out to put out proper releases.

Also, we wanted to run a label the way we thought one should be run -- with hand assembled packaging, and little extras, personal touches to make people know we really care about the records we put out. With the exception of labels like Slampt and Magic Eye Singles, no one seemed to be doing it. In addition, we wanted to put out CD's for a fairer price, charging as close to cost as is feasible.

2. Well, there's two, actually. The Iditarod, because it was such a shock to be as ked to do it. Jeffrey from the Iditarod has such a good label with Magic Eye Singles, we thought he would want to do it himself. But he trusted us to do it, and I think it's the one project thus far where the band's sensibility was so close to ours as far as how the record was going to be packaged. Also, it's such a gorgeous and challenging record -- and they're one of the best live bands we've ever seen.

The second would be Winterbrief because they're such good friends of ours and we're such big fans of their music. With them, we're going to make Winterbrief board games with playing pieces to go along with a very limited number of the CDs -- our most ambitious "extra" yet.

3. Well, we're doing Tina's dream release -- the Eric Metronome EP. At first Jeff thought maybe something by Jenny Toomey of Tsunami, but we've decided that our dream record would be a Lucksmiths record -- particularly the Untidy Town seven-inch that another label from D.C. put out. Wow, they're incredible.

4. You should only put out records by people you're friends with or have something in common with. Never, ever work with someone with a bad attitude about your label -- especially a band or person who is only using your label because no one else wants to put out their band. If the band isn't enthusiastic about doing a record with you, then that should be an immediate red flag that maybe they should go to a label more suited for them. It will onl y only lead to problems and ruin your own morale. Ideally, you should put out your own records -- but if you're like us and have no musical talent, puttin g out records by people you really respect and who respect you is the next best thing.


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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