is the full transcript of Nigel's interview for the Where
Did It All Go Wrong? feature.
are your first musical memories?
along to Beatles songs on the radio (possibly 'All My Lovin'). I
must have been about 3 or 4.
did you start listening "seriously" to music?
didn't get a record player in our house until I was 12. The first
record I ever bought was Crazy Horses by The Osmonds - a fine record,
I still think. The earliest records I bought were mostly glam rock
singles - the only albums I purchased around that time (mid 70's)
were the 'blue' and 'red' Beatles double albums, plus Sheer Heart
Attack and Queen II (both by Queen) and a Thin Lizzy album. My older
brother had a few 60's compilations by the likes of The Beach Boys,
The Rolling Stones and The Who - I guess I was into 60's pop as
much as anything contemporary.
along came punk. I suppose you could say this was the first music
I got into in a "serious" way. I was only 16/17 at the time, and
still at school, so I couldn't afford to buy many records, but my
brother was into punk too, so I listened to a lot of the stuff he
bought (Clash, Jam, Wire, Stranglers, X Ray Spex, etc). Things moved
pretty fast in the late 70's. I guess I soaked up a lot of different
types of music then - from new wave, to Two Tone and Post Punk.
The early 80's were perhaps the most defining era in my musical
upbringing, with an explosion of bands like Joy Division, The Fall,
Gang of Four, Teardrop Explodes - all slightly experimental, but
retaining some degree of pop-sensibility, and a bit of a punk type
you read the press?
nowadays I don't read any of [the music papers]. Throughout the
80's and early 90's I'd religiously buy the NME every week. I never
really read it in depth - mainly I'd just check up on the new releases,
and find out who was playing live. I was buying two or three albums
a week at that time, and going to one or two gigs a week. Nowadays
I seldom go to gigs, and maybe buy one or two albums per month,
you listen to the radio?
listened avidly to the John Peel show from the late 70's right up
until a couple of years ago. No other show (certainly not on national
or mainstream radio) has ever come close to the Peel show in its
heyday. However, I think over the last couple of years or so he's
totally lost the plot - I find his shows almost impossible to listen
to now (and not because they're too cutting-edge). Perhaps they
should put him out to grass on Radio 2.
there a tribal NME/MM thing between you and your mates?
don't recall any music paper tribalism - possibly because all my
friends read the NME. The NME was always the 'serious' paper, catering
for your art school/intellectual crowd. Melody Maker was pretty
conservative by comparison, covering prog type stuff (Rush were
a big favourite of theirs, I seem to recall) well into the 80's.
Sounds was more earthy/working class. They were always big on punk
and metal. But if you were into stuff like Joy Division, Postcard
Records, Gang of Four, Cabaret Voltaire type stuff, the NME was
the only serious paper.
it always a bit of a hoax, though, them both being published by
don't know about that. I guess they had the market pretty much sewn
up 20 years ago - there were no glossy monthlies to compete with
- so it was probably more a question of trying to cover different
aspects of the market with the two papers.
you remember particular writers or pieces?
especially. Paul Morley came out with a few choice quotes though,
such as "this man [Ian Curtis] died for you" (at least, I think
that was one of Paul Morley's), "is this man [Paul Haig, Josef K]
too sensitive for this world". He always had his "favourites", did
Paul Morley - Davey Henderson (Fire Engines), Edwin Collins, the
aforementioned Curtis and Haig. Mind you, he later ruined everything
by backing Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Enough said. There were other
good writers - Edwin Pouncey (still writing for the Wire), Barney
Hoskyns, Chris Bohn (now editor at the Wire). In fact, quite a few
of the 80's NME journalists now write for the Wire.
was never really one for reading interviews. Let's face it, they're
mostly either terribly boring (since most bands don't really have
anything interesting to say) or they're simply an ego trip for the
journalist (or both). For me, as I said earlier, music papers were
only ever really a means of discovering what was going on - live
shows, new releases, etc. I remember in the early 80's reviews being
much longer - whole page album reviews for The Fall, Television,
Joy Division, etc - and considerably more of them than you gt nowadays
(the NME only review about 10 albums per week, for Christ's sake.
How do they have the nerve to even call themselves a music paper?)
did you become disillusioned with what the music media was offering
that you start out with this premise (which is perfectly true, of
course). I guess there's been a gradual decline over a number of
years. I'm not entirely sure when it started - probably around the
mid 80's, accelerating rapidly throughout the 90's.
there a point at which you thought "I could do this better myself"?
guess I first did that as a promoter as far back as 1983. The first
gig I promoted was The Fall plus the very wonderful Ut, in October
'83 at Bedford Boys Club. I also got involved with promoting gigs
at Loughborough University around late '83 and '84. Not as part
of Ents, though - myself and a couple of friends decided we could
do much better than the crap they were dishing up at the time (Lindisfarne,
Slade, etc), so we organised a few small scale gigs of our own -
The Fall, Three Johns, Moodists, Membranes, Nightingales - bands
like that. Back home in Bedford, '85 through to about '92 I put
on something like 40 gigs, most of which I'm still very proud of
(Dinosaur Jnr, Beat Happening, Galaxie 500, The Chills, Ultra Vivid
Scene, Teenage Fanclub, Stereolab, Spiritualised, TV Personalities,
Big Flame, Bogshed, The Shop Assistants, to name but a lot)
some reason it took me until 1997 to start a label (although I'd
had a couple of completely unsuccessful attempts before that - and
I mean unsuccessful in the sense that I never actually released
any records!). It struck me that "indie" music was slipping further
and further into the ghetto, and "dance" music had become stale.
I don't know that Pickled Egg has made any difference, although
I'd like to think that I've made a small contribution towards opening
up people's minds to different styles of music. A common accusation
levelled at my label is that it doesn't stick to any one genre.
This is true, and it's quite deliberate! The whole music scene needs
waking from its slumber, in my opinion. Pickled Egg alone won't
do that, but at least it's tugging at the beast, and who knows where
it might lead?
been a general 'dumbing down' in the music press, which has been
getting steadily worse, for a number of years. To some extent this
mirrors the so-called "Lad Culture" that is pretty much rife everywhere
(style over content), though I think its roots go back further in
the music papers. I think there's also more of a tendency for the
music papers to conform than there ever was. You only have to scan
through a selection of the press each week or month (and this is
something I still do when hopeful of finding reviews of my releases
- misplaced optimism, or what?!), to find that the same handful
of releases are covered in almost every single publication, to the
complete exclusion of all others - and it's not as if these are
the cream of the week's/month's releases!
you consider just how many records are released in any month, it's
shameful that the press take such a narrow view. I'm certain that
subtle (and maybe not so subtle) pressures are applied - or enticements
offered - to music editors from those labels and pluggers able to
afford such things. How else can you explain this situation? Even
The Wire seem to operating an "ads for reviews" policy, which totally
stinks in my opinion. I guess this is a result of commercial constraints,
and isn't limited to the music business (the film industry is surely
a worse offender), but it doesn't bode well for the future of music
(as opposed to the music industry - but how much longer will the
public stomach their manufactured garbage?)
may well be more outlets for music - national papers, glossy mags/style
mags, more TV and radio, internet, etc - but by and large the choice
is more narrow than it ever was. Again, you find that the mainstream
media cover the same narrow spectrum of music, fed by the record
companies who as often as not are run by the same companies who
own the media. Non-mainstream music has become ever more ghettoised,
limiting its sales potential. A left-field release in the early
80's - something like Pere Ubu or Young Marble Giants, for example
- might reasonably have expected to sell 20,000 or 30,000 copies.
Even ten years ago, sales of 5,000 or 6,000 weren't uncommon. Today,
however, comparable releases can be considered successful if they
sell 1,000, which frankly I find very depressing. Dance releases
can sell more, but they can really be considered mainstream these
you been personally affected by press coverage over recent years?
would be a fine thing! Of the few reviews which I have received,
most have been favourable, although there have been a couple of
bad ones (spectacularly bad in the case of the Melody Maker (oh,
how I miss them) review of the first Bablicon LP - "certainly the
worse album ever made" - I mean, praise doesn't come much higher,
does it!). However, when you read most of them, you're left wondering
how much of the record (if any) the reviewer actually listened to.
I realise that music journalists receive vast numbers of records
each week, but if they're going to make a meaningful effort of reviewing
them, then surely they would be better off restricting the number
of records that they listen to, or spend more time listening to
each one. After all, what's the point of the exercise, if so many
great records (and I don't mean just my own releases) are falling
through the net? Surely editors could divide the reviews out in
a better manner?
coverage of Pickled Egg has at best been sporadic. There was a short
period around the beginning of 1999 when the NME reviewed 4 of my
releases (all favourably), but since then, virtually nothing.
long do you think the NME will last in its present format?
already been dead for a number of years, so it's just a question
of how long the life support machine (IPC) can keep the thing going.
My guess is they'll pull the plug inside 12 months.
probably right. Check Picked Egg out at www.pickled-egg.co.uk.