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

Tommi, If Society Seunalantie 1 a, 00730 Helsinki, Finland

1. If Society is actually a union/collaboration of two indie labels: rooftops Are My Heaven recordings and Lo-Finn Records... We decided to join forces 'cuz we had a lot of joint projects and it was getting more and more obvious that we'd basically benefit more if we worked together. Both Rooftops and Lo-Finn were formed back in the days, because I and Mikko (Lo-Finn former) both had our own bands without a record label and without an interest to start sucking ass in order to get one...the rest is obvious... 2. I myself have been most pleased with the sissy spacek full length cd, "A Telegram Before Departure". It has a nice lay-out and the music is awesome...

3. Aww...that's really hard to answer...I wouldn't really like to release anything from any band, who has already established itself... What I really dream about is finding the best band in the world from my town and release their first album... (kinda like when Sub-Pop released Nirvana's Bleach...)

4. What ever you do, do it well...Doing stuff half assed will get you nowhere. (trust me...I'm talking from experience.) Also: Think things through...for gods sake...

Andy, Infinite Chug

1. my tape copier died. i'm generally pretty disintersted in most bands, despite being really into music, so i started trying to put out stuff that would bridge the gap between what i want to hear and what i actually get to hear. The only way i could achieve this was by starting a load of bands and make the music myself.

2. today it's the BALD MERMAID LP, but it changes from day to day; i love all of them to death because they're tailor made to my listening requirements. Hopefully these criteria intersect with other people's in some areas.

3. i have a new small things LP or CD in my head but i haven't recorded any of it yet, but in my head walking down the road it sounds pretty thrilling.

4. if you plan on releasing anything interesting then expect to be met with complete indifference from all sides, but don't allow this to discourage you.

Crayola, Inner Psyche/Thee Foundation For Nothing c/o Nation Records, 19 All Saints Road, London, W11 1HE

1. years spent in the 80s wilderness trying to get deals & then a chance encounter with Stan Batcow who told ,me to do it myself.

2. i love em all, but if i had to choose it would be the following: Team Mollusk - GO!Team Mollusk (INNER PSYCHE PRODUCTIONS), Future Sperm Brazil - Heta Uma (THEE FOUNDATION FOR NOTHING), FunMental - Erotic Terrorism (NATION RECORDS), Panicstepper - Hyperurban Hardcore Erotics (FLO RECORDS)

3. the double clear vynil FUTURE SPERM BRAZIL album which has been in preperation for a good 2 years...other than that probably getting together SUPERSILENT, STEVE BERESFORD, AGATA (MELT BANANA) & LEIGHTON CROOK (GAG) in the same room & releasing the ensuing madness!

4. don't expect to make money...don't expect to be appreciated...just enjoy what you do & do what you enjoy...cliched but true nonetheless.

Pat, Innerspace Po Box 411241, San Francisco, CA 94141-1241, USA

1 been doing it for years. I started Heyday Records in the late 80s, then helped run Normal Records in Germany after that.

2. It was pleasure working with Daevid Allen of Gong on his most recent solo album.

3. would love reissue the three 1970s NEU LPs from Germany. would love to have access to Conny Plank's tape archives.

4. have at least $10,000 in the bank and not be afraid to lose it.

Philip, innova Recordings American Composers Forum, 332 Minnesota Street, #E-145, St. Paul, MN 55101, USA

1. Originally to document the winners of various competitions run by the American Composers Forum. Later to offer guidance, funds, manufacture and distribution services to composers and performers wanting to enter the curiously uncommercial world of experimental, electronic, and new classical music.

2. Harry Partch: Delusion of the Fury. Buy it now.

3. one that gets noticed. don't care what or how. (actually we are doing a Sylvester tribute, but that's not wuite a dream.)

4. why bother? Plenty of people have invented the wheel before you; can you say 'oversaturation'? If not, then at least try something original to crack the nut in a different way (Liquid Audio, perhaps...). If it is a labor of love you can't be disappointed.

Julian and Jan, Intellectos 1009 Spruce St. Apt 1F, Philadelphia, PA 19107 USA

1. At first, we just wanted to release our own first seven inch (winterbrief) cuz we really loved vinyl and wanted to press a seven-inch eventhough, it was financially unwise. But then we decided to continue because we really wanted to release stuff that transcended "scenes". We saw all of this music that was really interesting and intelligent and really blended different genres. As well many moan that there are not many good bands around but I still hear a lot of things that interest me so that is how Intellectos became a vehicle for young or new artists.

2. We've only released one thing but we hope to have many in the future. I think the "Intellectos Manifesto" will be killer though and it will be a release that will always be special to us.

3. JULIAN: A Huggy Bear album. If not them anything by Mocket or Broadcast. If I could go back to time I would release anything by early Gang of Four from 1978-1981.

JAN: a yummy fur collaboration with the pet shop boys.

4. JAN: Get lots of advice on which plant to use for pressing so you're hopefully not ripped off and just release what you like rather than what you think will sell cuz if you like it enough you'll have enough enthusiasm to convince others that it's great.

JULIAN: Release what you like. This is the *most* important advice you can give to anyone starting a label.. Another thing is don't release too much stuff at once because it takes time for things to get out to distros and zines and if you release a lot at once there is good chance some stuff will be overlooked. Another thing that is important is good distribution. If an album is only available on one or two distros then you are limiting your label and the artist .... Getting distro through many places is important but keep your invoices organized so you can get paid.

Keith, Intelligent Recordings/Silver Girl/Curious Electricity

1. Starting something is only the end result of tons of time spent wishing and dreaming of someday doing something you are passionate about. Before I started any of my three labels (Silver Girl Records, Curious Electricity, and Intelligent Recordings as well as publishing my zine Mod), I thought long about how I could surpass record collecting and attending shows as expressions of my passion for independent music. In forming my record labels, I wanted to release records I would buy if I had the extra cash---and coincidentally since running a label my record purchases have been nearly curtailed entirely. Working with creative folks is a great pleasure and it has rubbed off on me on several occasions inspiring me to record my own musical ideas. Outside of the label, I spend as much time with artisans of other media as these people give off wonderful energy the rest of us can put to use manufacturing new ideas and consumer products.

2. I am now working on releasing the 33rd release for Silver Girl, the 2nd release on Curious Electricity and the 8th release on Intelligent Recordings. For different reasons, I am proud of different releases, and of those even fewer standout from the others. I am proud to have released debut recordings by Buck 09, Track Star, Holiday Flyer and Retriever who have all gone on to record with other labels after hearing their releases on Silver Girl. I am happy that some releases by Fluf and Ruby Falls have outsold my other releases as consumer appreciation is nothing to sneeze at---the kids know what they want! I am extremely proud to have released an album by T*Shirt that I listen to more than any other album I own by any artist. I am also very proud to have released my own drum & bass tracks (as Solid Liquid Gas) as a 12" and having the pressing sell out overnight.

3. I have never been shy about saying that Stereolab would be my dream release. Hell, aside from telling their manager Martin on numerous occasions, I have also said this to Laetitia and Tim directly. Each time Stereolab has toured the US, I have been fortunate to meet up with them and converse briefly about my fanaticism and desire to release their music. At one point, Tim and Laetitia OK'd me releasing a 7" of some early demos that I have had on cassette for a decade. I was so excited, but wanted to get the go ahead from Martin @ Duophonic who squelched the idea before Stereolab had returned from their US tour! I was upset, but understood they didn't want demos out, and I promised them I wouldn't go so far as to bootleg the demos I have. More than any other artist recording today, Stereolab has time and again caused me to shudder in ecstacy as they write, release and perform new music.

4. Some may be surprised at the number of times I have been asked this question by budding entrepreneurs. It seems over the last several years, I have received tons of phone calls, anonymous letters and email asking advice on starting a label. While some have been longer-winded than others, I think it boils down to one thing: Have a sense of humor about the label. Those that take labels too seriously, especially regarding money, burn out and jump ship quickly. Several of my friends have started record labels that have ceased to exist shortly after their 3rd or so release. One needs to have a sense of humor to get through releases that go un-ordered, returns from distributors worth hundreds of dollars, and egotistical band members thinking that "label X" can make them famous and give them more money. Few in the independent record world get the credit they deserve for long hours and millions of $s in sweat equity they invest, but some of us get a kick out laughing at ourselves as we go into debt.

Nick, Intromit PO Box 5828, Long Eaton, Nottingham, NG10 4PH

1. Because to many labels, especially on local levels, tend to be cliquey pat-on-the-back clubs, who put their mates shit records out. None of what is particularly happening at the moment means anything to me, it doesn't connect. While the Manic Street Preachers etal. con a nation (They started shit and got worse) and Ibiza DJ's find pleasurable spots in the Sunday afternoon dumb down, we are supposed to put up with it, silently. That's just works against my sensibilities. I can't be doing with the small minded workings of most of labels I used to admire or the hypocritical ideologists who permeate the live scene. Music is for all and I just figured I'd find out who agreed with me and who doesn't.

2. Livener's "The Long Lost EP" because it was our first and is a damn fine record. The guitar hook and bongos on "Long Lost" and the shear energy in the drumming on "Messed Up" all tied together with great vocal takes, and their best stuff is still to be released ("Number One", "Ten Miles High"). The only better drummer I've ever seen was in a band called Motocaster at the Warehouse in Derby about 5 years ago. Keith Moon would have been proud...walking round his kit while keeping the beat going....leaving the ground, centre song, for crash smashes and coming out of fills on time......stick twirls and catches without ever dropping a beat....crazy rhythms, mad time signatures...I've no idea who he was but quite definitely a god of sorts.

3. KLF have got to be there with Tom Waits, but not to rule out a Manic Street Preachers album.... I could tip the taste policemen off about where they were being stored and smash every last copy in a prohibition style raid and just to make sure, burn the building down with the master tapes as a symbolic guy. MSP - One down three to go.

4. (1) Don't put your mates records out unless you can honestly turn round and say that demo's shit without upsetting them...too much. (2) Just because someone's a nice guy/gal doesn't mean they are any good at writing/performing/singing. Be able to tell them.....nicely. (3) As much as your view on the world or popular music really does means shit in the big picture. It's your label and your direction. Stick to what you think is good, but never think your own opinions are more than just your personnel taste or better than others. (4) It's expensive so don't cry when the monies gone. If you're about to go under, buy a 200 pound bottle of brandy, skin up, watch the stars and start planning the way back in a couple of days.... when the heads straight.

Adam, Iris Light 55 Hawkens Way, St. Columb Major, Cornwall, TR9 6SS

1. I was offered albums that were and are excellent. To pass them up would've been stupidity. and I was working on a film and could just about afford to.

2. Blue "Nightwork" Although I'm incredibly proud of all the releases.

3. Cocteau Twins Live album---and I have asked the band several times but they aren't keen.

4. Be committed, do not even consider starting up unless you are completely comitted to the releases, but can live with losing money!

Glenn, Joe Boy

1. I started the label becuase I wanted to combine good packaging with good soul, something sadly lacking at the time. The first releases, and the backbone of Joe Boy, were CD EPs (5 track CDs) designed to look like minature 7 inch vinyl singles and providing a snap shot of great American 60s soul - the real stuff, not that Motown Baby Love Pop.

2. So far I've been most pleased with all of the CD EPs. They're not commercial and certainly don't make any money but they look and sound great. A hi second must be the remix of Cocaine In My Brain. An awesome original brought bang up to date by the G Corp, as only they could. But just wait till you here the Bobby Womack and the Bob Marley.

3. Tough one. It will probably change from day to day but right now it would be a remix of the Philadelphia Allstars 'Clean Up The Ghetto' recorded with some heavy weight soulsters and a big name American hip hop dude rapping over.

4. Be real clear on what the label is about and stick it out. Use someone elses money and, most of all, enjoy it. Don't think about getting singles away big time - you can't and it doesn't matter how good the song is. You need minimum 20 grand and a lot of luck. Concentrate on building the profile of your label and get friendly with the magazines. Be prepared to put in 2-3 years before looking for any kind of success and always keep your day job.

Candice, K Records

1. I didn't start K. I came on as an intern as the first three singles from the IPU series were being released. I chose to work in music because I just plain love music and especially the Olympia music scene.

2. That's too difficult a question. I am always pleased for different reasons with each release. I really love working with Lois, Heavenly, and the Softies so those records are particularly dear to me.

3. I don't have a dream release.

4. Be prepared to work very hard and pay attention to the details.

Mark, Kaw KAW, 94 Main St, Forth, Lanarkshire, ML11 8AB

1. Because I wanted to release a tape by my band Librarian and I was sick of other people promising to release it and then backing out. I thought it would be easier & more satisfying to do it myself. And it was!!

2. At the moment I'm really proud of the tapes i've put out by Timo & Kenyata Sullivan. This is music that i listen to for pleasure all the time, not just because i've released it. It's genuine music, made be people who mean it. That's the most important thing, i think.

3. Daniel Johnston, any song!

4. Be true to yourself. Don't put out any old shit that people send you (you'll get sent a LOT of crap by desperate bands and sad labels!) Don't give a fuck about making money cos you won't (unless you rip people off, which you shouldn't do unless you're a low-down piece of shit).. basically though, you should MAKE UP YOUR OWN RULES, cos that's what it's all about!

Sean, Kitty Kitty

1. the decision to start Kitty Kitty was an obvious one to take once Too Pure faffed about over whether or not they were interested in Tom's new demo.....the demo included versions of Happy Song Number 1, Unique Slippy, Superplus, Found A Way et demo or what....Too Pure had the option but didn't take it....we wanted to get the single out and we wanted to get it out quickly so we just got on with it.......

2. the most pleasing release to date has to be the Quickspace "Precious Falling" l.p. but I think after each release we have made I've always thought it was 'the best thing we've done....each release has brought with it it's own release the first single was the proudest thing I've then put out what i still think are two of the best sounding Penthouse records to date was a big, big thrill...putting out our first album was a big benchmark for the label...having achieved that ment we didn't have to look elsewhere to acheive that aim....Novak "Rapunzel" seven inch was really pleasing....a great song....a great sound and another step for the label.....with each record we release comes the desire to get on with the next one.....we want them to sound better, look better and sell better and that means not being too pleased with yourself for too long....

3. I think my dream release would be a lee perry 45....I know Tom would quite like to get the Dirty Three in the studio.....quickspace's tenth album?......who knows what's round the corner.......

4. tips!'ve got to love the can't start an independent label looking to make a fast honest with those your working with and ultimately to yourself....go for it.

Patrick, Kitty Yo

1. we just started for fun, never wanted to do a label,with 3 singles, all of a sudden, people in berlin showed some interest, press and people like john peel and steve albini showed respect, so we keept on going, still we do.

2. hard question, i tell ya, last year we brought out Go Plus "la montanara" and Tarwater "Silur", both records we really fell in love with, but in general, we have to admit, that the next release brings the biggest amount of fun to us. right now we are really crazy for schwermut forest, couch and laub. you see i can't give you a satisfying answer.

3. There's a really cool german hiphop band around right now: "Eins, Zwo" their latest record would be a dream release, the mc is kind of the german Q-tip, really cool, though I ordinary don't like german hip hop.

4. You should definitely think in long periods of time and there's only one way making money you can keep: selling records, don't believe people offering money (e.g. majooooor labels) for's not yours.

Filip, Krank Tinnheiveien 7, 4629 Kristiansand S, Norway

1. I have allways been interested in music, and independence seems to be a foreign word in the main part of the music buisness, so : what else was it to do? So I stareted a label to release music that big label don't want to release, and to release my own music.

2. My favorite Krank release is the coming double LP compilation; "songs from the loosing end v2.0". There are alot of nice nice music on it, by 24 different artist, each with a exlusive track.

3. If Syd Barrett did record something new, wich is a dream, and I could release it exlusive on Krank, I'd maybe die of pure joy. So...Until a such thing happend, Krank is working on a Syd Barrett tribute album..

4. Do it! Get yourself a email and a homepage (a simple one, don't hire webdesigner and so on). Do everything cheap. Press vinyl in East-europe, or make your own exlusive CD-r's. That's a good start. Show the scene that you care for music, not money. Release interesting stuff, even if no-one ever heard about the artist. Belive in music itself.

Bruce, Kranky P.O. Box 578743, Chicago, IL 60657, USA

1. We heard the first Labradford 7" single in the spring of 1993. It was unlike anything else my partner Joel Leoschke and i were hearing at the time. We had discussed the notion of starting a label and Labradford agreed to work with us. > [2] what release have you been most pleased with?

2 Which one of your friend s is your favorite? Who do you love the most in your family? Please respond in print and distribute that response as widely as possible.

3. We'd love the opportunity to work with Charalambides or Christoph Heemann.

4. Forget about compilations, tribute compilations and remixes. Find your own bands. Invest your time and money in full length albums. Be prepared to lose money, don't expect anyone else to invest their time or money in your vision. Avoid the temptation to document every single band in your vicinity. Look outside your "scene", whatever that is.

Joe, Kylie PO Box 24148, London, SW18 1WU, UK

1. started a zine called Kylie at school, then one day we were in the Rough Trade Shop buying some compilation tapes, and I thought, "Hey, I can do that," and history was born. No political agenda, though Riot Grrrl was big at the time, which was kind of empowering actually, but then the indie popster types had been doing it long before that...In short, it seemed like fun, I gave it a go, and it was.

2. I continue to be particularly pleased with every new release, particularly some of the new ones. The Father tape will always stand out as a particularly fine example of lo-fi pop shenanigans - sheer energy and pure song-writing joy. Plus the Plundershop is bloody brilliant, and the new one by FiftyHoleHead. Plus my new compilation should be seriously spiffing. But enough advertising...

3. I guess it would have to be the new record by My Bloody Valentine - one of the greatest bands ever, and one that everyone is pining for. Just imagine. Or maybe a 7" with Kevin Shields and Thurston Moore, doing a duet, with pictures of them both doing poos on the cover (purely for the added coverage in NME you understand). Actually, being a bit more realisitic, I'd really love to release some of my latest tapes on vinyl, that would be really cool.

4. Like Nike says, just do it. tape labels are easy peasy to do - find a band (there's lots of them about), stick a dictaphone in front of them when they practise, design an inlay using pictures stolen from newspapers and felt-tip pens, dub some copies, make some flyers, get someone to make copies on the office copier, and there you have it. Vinyl is a bit harder, and territory I'm only just entering. Try doing a ltahe cut first - cut by hand in New Zealand, you can get just 20 copies done, which won't take up too much space in your bedroom.


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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