The Big Beat In The Heart Of The Vinyl Jungle

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What are you doing now? Is it mainly the stuff on Ebay with the collectibles and all that? You’re also involved with Laughing Outlaw, right?

Yeah, yeah. Laughing Outlaw – I got so jacked off with the way Phantom Records was going. Because my criteria didn’t change. I told Seb that the criteria was the same as it was before, that it had to be something I would want to buy myself. And he tried to sort of go along with that, but he wanted to be the kind of a record label where whatever sells, I don’t care. And he put out some crap things, and all of a sudden I wasn’t proud of Phantom any more. Before that everything I’d ever put out I loved, and all of a sudden that wasn’t the case anymore. And I fucking hated that so much, because I’d held onto that ideal for 15 years, and it wasn’t around anymore. And I fucking did not like it.

What I did was, I’d been in contact with a couple of bands from Sweden. A band called Plan 9 – have you heard of them? They were kind of like the Hellacopters, but they were just before the Hellacopters, like a year before. Four or five years ago. And I don’t know what’s happened to them, but I had demo tapes of theirs sent over. And I thought, this is what I want. I want to start a record label and put this sort of music out. Because I’d started one already in 1992 called Messiah Complex and put out a bunch of singles. What I’d wanted to put out was melodic punk, basically. And I did put out five or six records on Messiah Complex.

So I wanted to have my own record label again. Just a humble little label and put out a few hundred copies.

And in the meanwhile this friend of mine named John Rooney, who was the lead singer with the Lonely Hearts, he recorded this great album, and a couple of people that I know played on it, and Mitch Easter produced it and some of the Spongetones played on it. And it was amazing, and I was telling him how I wanted to start this new label. And he played me this and I thought “Jesus!”, but it took about four years to get from recording to being mixed. It took AGES. We’d go in his car and he’d play me ONE song, purposely, just to give me a sniff of the whole thing. And he wouldn’t play me the rest until he had the whole thing, and it took Mitch years to finish it.

So anyway, he was interested in becoming part of a record label, and we talked about it. But he went overseas, and he said, “How about you get the name of the label sorted while I’m away ands we’ll move ahead with this thing”. So I get involved in all manner of day to day things and forget about naming the label. So all of a sudden I get this phone call, and it’s John and he says “Well, I got back yesterday, so what are we gonna call the record label?” So I went “Oh, uh, well” and one of my kids had a cowboy book on the chair sitting next to me, and I felt so guilty for not having done anything, so I went “Well, um, I was thinking about it a fair bit, and I came up with this name … ummmm … Laughing Outlaw.” It just popped out of this page. I flipped this book open, and in a split second saw ” … and the laughing outlaw holstered his Colt 45 and rode off into the sunset” … or something like that and in that split second thought “What an awesome name for a record label!” Because it is – it’s cheeky, isn’t it? Laughing Outlaw – this cheeky bandit is laughing at you. Anyway it just all happened in a split second. I went “Laughing Outlaw”, and he goes “Hmmm, I like it!” (Laughs) It was just totally flukey. I marvel at how that happened – it could have been anything that came up.

I’ve never been able to find that passage in the book again, either. It’s a really wordy book and I can’t find that page again.

So I wanted to find out more about contracts and publishing and stuff like that. I knew a bit about contracts that I’d taught myself, but just publishing deals and the whole thing, because I wanted to make a label that worked, and John wanted to as well. So I went and talked to Stuart about it, and he was sort of between doing things, and he was quite helpful. After he told me what he was doing – he was doing some writing here and there with some money coming in, but nothing really concrete. Just what he does anyway. That’s the way he chooses to live and it’s good for him. But I thought about it, and he’s a publicist, also he’s keen, and he’s got great taste in records, and I thought “I’m going to talk to Stuart about this and see if he’d like to be involved.” And he said, “Yeah, I would.”

Stuart knew a lot of people because he loves alternate country, and I wasn’t into that very heavily, but he was saying this is stuff that I’d really like to do, and he played me these demo tapes by all these bands, and some of them were great anyway. So I thought, well, he’s got a passion for that, and I’ve got a passion for power pop, and we can put it all together on this label. And he’s got a passion for power pop as well, and now I’ve got a passion for alt country. So that’s what we’ve done with it.

So he was on board, and then John’s brother had a bit of dosh, so John said “I’d like to get my brother involved, because he’s got money, and I’ve got a bit of money, and you and Stuart have no money. So let’s see what we can do to make some deserving people some money.”

So he got his brother involved, and his brother got another guy from Deloitte, who’s Paul Glover – you might know him because he’s on the Divine Rites list …

Yeah, I’m supposed to give him a phone call while I’m here.

He’s a good guy. He’s tall, but he’s not as tall as you, though.

And so we just ended up with – I think there’s seven of us. And Darryl Mather from the Someloves and Lime Spiders. So we were set up well as far as money and Stuart and I started running this record label. And I still had this collectible business, Phantom Collectibles, which I’ve always had for the last ten years, and I had that by day and I devoted one and a half days a week – which didn’t always happen – to running the record label with Stuart. I probably spent maybe a day a week on average. Anyway, I’ve pulled back from it now. And Stuart works full time on it, and that’s how it goes. There’s a couple of employees now too.

So you’re doing the New Christs CD?

Yeah, now see Paul is a massive Birdman, Stooges and MC5 fan. That’s what he loves. You go into his office in Deloitte’s where he’s a partner, and everybody else has pictures of fine art on the wall and he’s got pictures of the Stooges and bloody Birdman and MC5 on the wall, you know? Really! He’s great. Or he did last time I was there, anyway.

So Paul has been putting a lot of money into the label and really keeping it going. He’s been doing an amazing job, and without Paul the label wouldn’t exist, full stop. Because I don’t have any money and neither does Stuart. The other partners do all have money, but Paul’s the one who’s driving it like mad. Anyway, like I said, I’m not that much involved in it anymore – I’d like to be, of course, but I have my own thing to run and time with my family is so valuable to me. Besides Paul has a knack for running a record label, and he’s doing a fucking good job of it.

And he’s set up with an office in England now. We’re getting reviewed in the Sunday Times now – a week ago a couple things got reviewed there. I’m on the e-mail loop, so I see this. It’s being really smartly done. Paul and Stuart have been to South by Southwest the last two years.”

(At this point, we’ve been talking for over two hours, Jules has to head into Sydney for an appointment, and I have another interview to do, so we call it quits.)

Steve Gardner – tMx 22 – 11/05

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