The Big Beat In The Heart Of The Vinyl Jungle
So that’s kind of the roots of all these Australian bands being into all this garage music.
Well, I wouldn’t say that I was responsible, but I would say that Phantom played a decent part in that we made it easy for them to get it. Now, the ones who really cared a lot would have gone and searched them out anyway. But I’m sure there are a lot of people who ended up in bands later on who came in and didn’t know what they wanted. They’d come in and asked me “What’s good? What do you recommend?” Or you’d just be playing it, and they’d go “What’s that? What are you playing?”. And I’d go “That’s the Headstones single.” “How much is it?” “$9.99”. I’d think “I only bought it for a dollar, and I’m selling it for 10 bucks. I feel terrible for doing that.” But now it’s selling for 300 dollars. I’d feel pretty terrible about that sort of margin. But I had to pay for the airfare over so it DID make sense. You know, I’d try to justify it to myself for making such an outrageous profit … on a record that was really worth 10 times as much.
When did you start the label and what made you decide to do that?
OK, Dare and I owned the shop, and we both had girlfriends who were in bands. My girlfriend, Penny, was in Shy Impostors, and his girlfriend Julie was in Flaming Hands. And they had both done recordings, and our mates the Visitors had done recordings. And these were things where they hadn’t recorded them because some label was going to put them out – well I suppose in the hope that some label was going to put them out. I don’t think the bands had made that much effort in going around to major labels, because it was just sort of a given that major labels would not be interested under any circumstances in that sort of music. Which they weren’t.
So these were all friends of ours, so Dare said to me “I think we should start a record label and put these things out.” And I thought “Hmmm, yeah. That’s a good idea, Dare. We should do that.” So someone told him that EMI does pressings, so he rang them up and asked “How do you get a record pressed?” And they said, “Well, you bring the tape up here, we master it up here, and there’s a process you go through.” Mastering, what’s that? (laughs)
So we go to the cutting room and we sit there really proudly while they cut the Passengers record. The Passengers was other friends of ours, and they were the first single we put out. So that’s what happened. We didn’t know anything about putting a record out, and here we are “Well excuse me, how do you put a record out?” “Well, you come with me, and we do it for you. We do all this for you, and then we take it in and we do the pressing and it costs this much.” And we go “Oh, yeah, it sounds right.” If we sell 500 copies we’ll actually break even. Well that’s good. We only want to break even. Because it was just a hobby. We were making good money at the shop.
The main reason the label started was really because we had a love for this music that we used to go and see live, and there was no outlet for it to be released, and there were three or four bands that had recorded some stuff. So we thought, well maybe we can do something here. So we talked to all the bands about it and they said absolutely!
And then some other friends of ours were in this band called the Surfside 6, who were sort of slightly Birdmannish but with kind of a surf edge.
That’s one I found used this week.
The one with the pink cover?
No, “Cool In The Tube”.
Ah, that’s a good one. The pink coloured one is the second one and that’s really good, to me.
That one I’ve had for a long time.
Well, it sounds like Birdman. That’s one of the closest records to Radio Birdman I’ve ever heard. But anyway, we put out that Passengers single and the Surfside 6 guys came to us and said “Do you want to put out our record, too?”. I was really nervous because I thought “What if I hate it? Imagine if somebody we liked gave us a tape and it was horrible?” But they gave us the tape and we thought “Fuck, it’s fantastic!”
So the first records were bands that were kind of friends. We were just so lucky that we liked them. We liked the people! But there’s always someone you like who’s your mate who’s in a shitty band. But it didn’t happen. It was never awkward – it was fantastic.
In a way, I would never say that we were responsible for Citadel or Waterfront, but Steve worked in Phantom, and JFK and the Cuban Crisis came in and brought their demo tape in, and I liked it, but I didn’t like it enough that I would want to release it. See, our credo was that if this demo tape existed as an actual seven inch single, would I actually go out and buy it because I wanted to keep it and play it a lot. If it didn’t meet the criteria, we wouldn’t do it. And the JFK thing was really good, but it didn’t quite meet that rule, so we ended up saying no. But we played the demo in the shop all the time, and Steve just loved it. And he thought “I might start a record label, you know”. And he may have done it anyway, but I remember the moment in the shop where he said he’d been thinking about it and he said if we didn’t want to release this thing that he’d really like to do it. And I said, absolutely! So he did that, and then I remember John Needham coming with the Minuteman single and wanting us to release that, and we liked it pretty well but we had too many things happening just then to do a proper job of it, so we ended up not doing it. So he said, well bugger it, I’m going to go do it myself.