Friday, 30 December 2011

Lists of things I did and didn't do: 2010 Interview with Audio Antihero

So about this time last year, I was asked to do an interview for a Norwich fanzine of which I never knew the name, nor do I know if it was ever published. It was too good not to be, so I assume it was.

I'm posting it here now because A) as my own number one fan I tend to do things like this and B) I think it's quite funny to see how I felt going into the 2011 when we now know how I feel slivering out of 2011...

If you'd care to see what I said, contradicted or otherwise on. Rereading this was like watching myself age drastically, which I have also been doing.

So what was it about Nosferatu D2 which made you feel was worth throwing your time, effort and money into?

I couldn’t think of a better record. I’d wanted to start a label since my late teens and I’d been eyeing Nosferatu D2 for that whilst they were still going. When they split up I gave up on the idea, it was only when I spent some time at Southern Records that I got my heart back. I had to ask ‘if I could only release one record, what would it be?’ and Nosferatu D2 were the answer. Most people don’t get the chance to release an album (much less THE album) by one of their favourites bands from when they were a teenager. I’m pretty privileged.

Both artists on your label recorded their records pretty much single-handedly. How important to you is it that Audio Antihero's artists have that DIY mentality?

I love DIY but it isn’t necessarily a big deal. I wouldn’t really want a band who‘re just sitting around waiting for it to happen to them and any band who ‘signs’ to Audio Antihero has to understand the limitations of the label financially. I think I just need artists to be good, decent and aware of their resources. Bruce Springsteen isn’t what you’d call DIY but I’d be more than happy to release his next record. DIY is just common sense.

Do you think there have been any major points where the word about the bands and Audio Antihero really spread?

We’ve had our moments. Over time we’ve had radio exposure like 6Music, NME Radio and Triple R, reviews from DIS, 405, GITTV, Music Fix, TLOBF, Organ, The Skinny and got lucky with some mentions on Pitchfork, Time Out, etc. Nosferatu D2 even got on the front of the iTunes Alternative page. So there’s been moments where we’ve been ‘bigger’ (luckier) than the other doomed DIY labels we share a boat with, I suppose.

The biggest boost definitely came from the Los Campesinos! endorsement. I actually dread to think of how much worse off the label would be without that leg up. I kind of wish that luck had come a little later on though, I really didn’t know what I was doing, the website wasn’t finished and I didn’t even have the stock at the time – so I do think I probably fumbled the ball a bit. Still, eternally grateful to have been given that exposure and opportunity. Awesome band too, so a double honour.

The label's just had its first birthday, how has the first year compared to what you expected when you started out? Has it been the commercial suicide you expected?

You know, it’s not been as bad as expected. I mean, sales are BAD. But I always knew they would be. There’s been no profiteering on our end but the costs are low and spread out – so it’s an affordable loss. Sadly Audio Antihero will never be sustainable as a business – but I can keep it running as an awesome mother of a record label.

T-shirts have sold pretty badly though!

What's coming up for AAH? Will Benjamin Shaw's album-in-a-month see light of day on the label?

That album is a mystery to me, man. It’s being done for Soundcloud’s International Album Making Month so I guess it’ll be self-contained but I’ll do anything Ben wants me to! I sent the link to him as a joke and he’s actually started on it. I’ve heard a couple of songs from it live. One was a 30 second murmur about ‘sometimes I fear my head might explode’ which he followed with ‘I’m hoping to do another 60 or 70 just like that’. I love him.

Next up, I’m planning to do 12 EPs next year. Hopefully starting in January, I’ll tail over into 2012 if I need to. It’s going to be a monthly digital EP, each from a different artist. I’m also toying with the idea of a pressing a couple of 7 inches or maybe an EP of unreleased Nosferatu D2 material, if they’ll let me. I’m really still looking for ‘the one’ to push next as the real follow up to Benjamin Shaw’s EP. It’s a tough thing to do though, following up two of your favourite albums.

How does file sharing affect you? Do you feel that because you're in a position to talk personally with listeners on Twitter etc and are obviously putting a lot of your own time and money into AAH that people respect your business?

I think file sharing affects every inch of the music industry, from the bands to labels to distributors to manufacturing companies to recording studios to shops to the sleeve designers to photographers to journalists to people who provide raw materials for plastics, etc etc.

I’ve had some torrents and the like and it is a bit mind boggling. Some of them have even stolen press clips that describe what the label is doing and how much of a financial struggle it is and all the rest – so one has to assume they just don’t care. It annoys me, I had to buy 1000 copies of the albums, why should they get theirs for free? I’ve called a few sites on it though and most of them were alright about it and took the album down, to be fair.

I’d say though, that even if no one had ever illegally downloaded one of our albums that we’re still suffering from file sharing. Music has lost value. People actually try to make me feel stupid for paying for music, you know? People buy less music now. That means AAH sell less music. That means less shops take less AAH music. Meaning less people see it.

I think the convenience of streaming and downloading just stops people from caring like they used to. No effort goes into finding a band anymore, so ‘difficult’ albums can easily be written off. I think we’ll come to regret the digital age, if we’re still capable of doing so.

Are there any other acts, labels or people out there who you think are working along the same lines as AAH? Or any in the past you're a fan of and taken hope from?

I always admired Sub Pop. They really did it for themselves, they made something out of nothing. They made a city a brand. I mean, I kind of hate ‘branding’ but I respect what they achieved. I adore the early ‘grunge’ bands etc they got started and even now they’re with Warners they’re releasing really awesome stuff. That new No Age album is pretty much all I’ve been listening to lately. Their logo and catchphrases are definitely something I’ve taken or stolen a lot of inspiration from too.

There’s plenty of people doing a similar thing to AAH. Most of them probably do a better job of it too. Armellodie, Barely Regal, I Blame The Parents, Jezus Factory, Records Records Records, Song,By Toad, Alcopop!, Philophobia are all nice people releasing nice records. Probably not profiting either. Labels like that keep me realistic, if nothing else.

One of the most frustrating yet charming things about Nosferatu D2 was the way they just stopped when they stopped enjoying playing. If AAH stopped being a labour of love would you stop? Do you think it's vital for independent DIY projects to stay enjoyable?

I don’t know. Indie isn’t always enjoyable. Passion and pleasure are two very different things. I had a nasty personal thing pretty soon into the launch of the label that probably allowed me to miss a lot of opportunities but you just need to keep looking forward. Bad reviews, being polite to rude people, accounting, data entry, gritting your teeth at idiot audiences talking over an artist who deserves much better – there’s plenty of things I don’t particularly enjoy with Audio Antihero and sometimes failure hurts but it’s all about the satisfaction at the end. It’s when someone tells me they’ve picked up one of the albums in their local and they stayed up until 3am listening to it that I know I’m doing what I want to be doing. Just feeling that for one day in twenty your artist has actually had what they deserve is a pretty wonderful experience.

It’s when you don’t enjoy the music you’re putting your name to that you need to stop. I haven’t released an album in a year. Why? Because I haven’t found anyone I like enough, mutually anyway!

I don’t really know why Nosferatu D2 stopped feeling how they did – but I get the impression they aren’t the same people now that they were then. Maybe it was the ‘summer they finally cut their hair’ as Ben Parker puts it on the new Superman Revenge Squad EP?

Anyway, I’m pretty excited about 2011. I hope some other people are too. Never Say DIY.

God, I'm depressed.

For further 'end of year' opinion:

Thanks & Never Say DIY!

Jamie - Audio Antihero: Specialists in Commercial Suicide

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