The Big Beat In The Heart Of The Vinyl Jungle
So you were saying that the business split into these three pieces, and it sounds like Sebastian was mostly running the label.
Yeah, but it wasn’t meant to be. Because the only place that was making any money was the retail shop, and the collectibles place was making quite good money.
So when did you stop having the shop? Because when I was here in 1991 you still had it going.
Yeah, it would have been shitty by then. Jesus Christ! What an embarrassment! It was so embarrassing that place, at the end. I just hated it. I washed my hands of it. I just bloody hated that shop. I felt like my hands were tied and I just couldn’t really do what I wanted to do. Seb’s not a retailer but he used to hold a lot of sway with the other partners, who sort of agreed that Seb’s way was going to be the way that would work. And I lost my vision for it. I wasn’t as involved as I had been.
It closed on March 31st, 1998. Seven months short of 20 years. We opened on 17 October, 1978. It was Dare’s birthday.
It sounds like the kind of thing they say about a boat owner – that the best two days of his life are the day he buys his boat and the day he sells it.
Yeah, well, by that stage, yes. Not forgetting that what I went through in that shop was just wonderful in general. And also, it’s pretty nice being recognized around town as a guy who – I mean, at the time, you’d go to gigs and everyone knows you. And I wasn’t really used to that. Everyone knows you and thinks you’re really cool because you run the shop, and it’s a good shop and they like coming there, so they think that you’re a good guy. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s kinda nice, you know? It feels good.
I’d go to these Kelpies gigs, and there’d be all these punks there, and none of them are normal friends that you’d hang out with, but they’d just gravitate to you and they’d talk to you, and go “What about that third single from GBH? I can’t believe how good it is!” And I’d go, yeah, because I liked them, too. And then I’d go, “Well wait til you here the Undertakers single on Riot City!” And they’d go “What’s that?” and I’d go, “Well, if you like GBH, wait til you hear these guys!” And they’d get all excited and come raving into the shop two days later to buy it. It was just great! I fucking loved it so much. It was the best time of my life, probably. One of many best times…”
I wanted to ask you about the flexi disc you did by X – “El Salvador”.
Well, what I loved doing so much was promotion. Promoting things that we released. In the first days, we just put them out and released them – all that first period stuff up until around 1987 when we started again. Before that we just put the records out and that was it. We didn’t have release sheets or bios or anything. Just put it out. No photos, no nothing. But I loved the idea of really pushing something and doing the best you can to promote it. Because all the major labels did it and they threw huge amounts of money at all these dumb things for all these shitty bands. All these GREAT things, actually, for shitty bands. And I thought, I want to do that for these bands!
So I worked out where you got great leather-craft paper from and I’d print these beautiful posters. I got them printed down in Adelaide, where I knew this guy from Adelaide University and I could get them printed really cheap. He was a good mate of the Dagoes, of Neil. So he became my ally, and he would do these special jobs for me. He was just wonderful. Andrew McHugh. He’d print up these amazing folders. Did you ever see them? I only did like 70 of each. If there was a whole album, I’d do an album sized promo folder – the album would fit in there, a poster would fit in there, and photos and bios and all sorts of shit. Just like major labels would do, but I tried to make it even better, because I tried to make the folders look really nice.
The Vanilla Chainsaws one for Wine Dark Sea has gold embossing on it – really beautiful. I put a lot of effort into it. And he did all the posters for them as well, so I got all these amazing posters done. And I had one guy who was in another band who was really good at designing who would put all the artwork together for a poster. Sometimes I’d design it all myself, and he’d put it all together. So I just put a lot of effort into it.
What was the question … you had me going on something here … ah, X flexi! So I did all these promo things, and I used to send them all around the world. And I thought this is so much fun – I used to send it to people like you. All the magazines – Bucketful Of Brains, Swedish and Finnish and Spanish magazines. Especially like the Vanilla Chainsaws.
And when X were doing their At Home With You album, I was thinking I want to do something in the shop. Can we do some special promotional thing? And I spoke to the guy who owned the label, because I knew him really well. And I said – I wish we had an extra track or something – you know how they put an extra track on a CD these days? Well, it wasn’t heard of back then, it wasn’t really done. So I said – is there something we can do? Have you got any extra tracks? Because I’ll make up a flexi or a single or something. And he said, well, we have got an extra track that we’ve recorded for X for the album.
So those two bands weren’t even on your label when you were putting together these packs?
Yeah. It was just to sell them in that shop as a retail thing. It was something you would do as a promo pack. Because I was doing promo packs already, but I wasn’t selling them, of course. I was giving them away. And I thought, well, people might love these things. I liked promo packs, and I thought, why don’t we give people the opportunity to have one of these things and do something special for them. And people just fucking loved them!
When we did the Hoodoo Gurus one for Blow Your Cool I got a thick plastic cover that just fit the album cover perfectly, and we got some proofs of the album cover and put them in there, and we got another one designed – I wish I could show you, because it’s so good – we designed something that would complement the album. You know how it’s got those big letters – you’ve got the album, right? – and it’s got little pictures of Brad and all them. So what he did was he made it all gold all around them and sort of framed their faces with little dots and stuff. And he framed the lettering as well. So all that came out when you slid the album cover into this cool sleeve was the lettering for the band’s name and their faces would appear. That one was bloody cool. And we gave it a catalog number like “WIGGED-1″ or something. It had a poster, and an autographed 7” with it as well.
And we did a Johnnies one, and we did a Celibate Rifles one. We did a hard vinyl single for the Celibate Rifles. And we did Crystal Set. I think those were the only ones we did. Oh, we did a big Sonic Youth one, too. That was great, that Sonic Youth one. A pizza box with all this shit inside of it – all promo stuff from the record company and some that we manufactured ourselves.
I loved doing that. Promo packs – people love that shit. We sold 400 copies of that Sonic Youth one. They all went within a week. I advertised it a week before it came out, and we sold half of them before that.