boa melody bar interview
(January 2008)

'I can't remember when I first brought a record from Gayle, but it must be at least eight or nine years ago if not longer. Some of my favourite records of all time were purchased courtesy of her little distro, some of these I would never even have known existed were it not for Gayle's stock of obscure treasures. Gosh, the woman's an institution almost - please be upstanding for an unsung heroine.

How long has the Melody Bar being going now?

Just over 10 years I think. I started the Boa fanzine in 1996 and the mail order sprouted from that - you know, "you've read about them, now buy them". A lot of readers used to comment on how unavailable some of the stuff I reviewed was, particularly the imports (remember these were the days before paypal) so I started it in response to that and it just grew and grew. As time went on the mail order took over from the zine.  The last zine was in 2000, and I was aware that it was going to be my last one as I had less and less time for it. Boa of course was also a record label run by me and John (Cavanagh) and we issued cds and vinyl by Delgados, Screech Owls, Castaway Stones and of course our own band Electroscope.

There's been many changes since the early days, CDs and internet were only just coming into common use back then weren't they?

I used to type up the reviews on a typewriter rather than a computer, photocopy the lists, then mail them out. I set the website up in 1999, but kept doing paper mailouts but I stopped those in 2004 as it was just too time consuming and I was only sending them to about 5 people anyway. Sorry to those 5 people! To begin with I sold mostly 7" singles which I just can't sell these days at all, though vinyl LPs sell better than cds.  It's a funny old world and I don't really try to make sense of it.

The music you purvey has changed quite a bit since you first set up the distro, is this a reflection of your own changing tastes?

I've always liked to review the music myself and not rely on label blurb so obviously I like to stock music I want to listen to. I used to like the fact I sold experimental and pop stuff too but the pop stuff wasn't selling over the last few years so I had to drop that as it wasn't worth buying in 2 or 3 copies of each release. I wouldn't go as far as saying I like everything I stock - for example it pains me to have to listen to Wolf Eyes (and not for the reasons they would like) and some of the post-Skaters stuff is pretty derivative in a really average way but luckily I don't need to spend too much listening to it to comment!

The distro's obviously a labour of love, how many hours a week of your own time does it take up?

I spend most Sundays reviewing new stuff, from about 11am to 4 or 5pm. Replying to emails, parcelling up orders can take me 3 - 4 hours on a Monday or Tuesday after I've done an update on a Sunday, then maybe 1 hour a night the rest of the week. I usually take Thursday and sometimes Friday evening off cos I'm exhausted by then (I work full-time too), then catch up by getting up at 7 or 8 on a Saturday. Carrick tapes up all the packages and takes them to the post office about 3 times a week and John helps with reviewing and keeps me topped up with recycled jiffys, otherwise I have no idea how I'd cope!

The Melody Bar has stood the test of time allright, does it make any money?

I didn't start it up to make money ... silly old me! I make enough to keep it going but don't pay myself - it's the only way I get to hear new sounds as I couldn't afford to buy all this stuff myself. The whole point was to make buying music (particularly imports) affordable to people like me. I'm aware that makes me a bit old-fashioned these days but let's face it, I'm not going to buy a cdr at 7 or 8 quid by someone I've never heard of - that's a lot of money - but price it at 3 or 4 (and I do still make enough profit to break even at that price), then I would. My life would be poorer in a non-financial sense without it.

You're also the creative force behind Pefkin, and a bit of a photographer I've heard too - do you find any time to sleep?

Haha I go a bit mad without sleep so I find time for that before everything else! It can be a bit of a struggle at times - I have to be pretty disciplined. Sometimes on a Sunday it can be hard when the sun's shining and the birds singing and I just want to go for a walk.

Check out the Boa Melody Bar at (Laurence)

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