How to live a psychedelic life with the poet and activist John Sinclair

July 26, 2016

John Sinclair at 12 Bar Club, London, Sunday 11th May 2014

Psychedelia with John Sinclair
Stuart Maconie’s Freak Zone

Stuart finds out how to live a psychedelic life with the poet and activist John Sinclair as BBC Music’s My Generation celebrates the 1960s. John Sinclair is best known for his jazz poetry, managing the rock band MC5 and being a founding member of the White Panther party in the late 1960s. Stuart chats to him about the creative philosophies behind psychedlia and how to open your mind.

John Sinclair in the Iron Man Records shop

Robert Anton Wilson meets Steve “Fly Agaric” Pratt

June 15, 2016

Robert Anton Wilson - Meets Steve "Fly Agaric" Pratt 1600 x 1600

WORDS: Robert Anton Wilson and Steve ‘Fly Agaric 23’ Pratt

MUSIC: Steve Fly, Tim Egmond, Martin ‘Youth’ Glover, Rick Rasa, Hagbard Celine, Garaj Mahal.

ARTWORK: CHU

PRODUCED BY: Mark Sampson and Steve Fly Pratt

MASTERED BY: Simon Reeves at Framework Studios, Birmingham

RELEASED on IRON MAN RECORDS June 23rd 2016.

Special thanks to: Robert Anton Wilson, Christina Pearson, Rick Rasa, Chu, Mark Sampson, Kai Eckhardt, Matt Black, Martin ‘Youth’ Glover, Paul Krassner, John Sinclair, Tim Egmond, Toby Philpott, Prop Anon, Nick Larson, Caleb Selah, Pete Maybe, Jenni Vyskocil, Faustin Bray, Bob Tesch, Lance Bauscher, Jack Sarfatti, Nigel Blunt, UB40, Robin Johnson, Tom Jackson, Raymond Wiley, Daisy Eris Campbell, Janne Svensson, Gregory James, Ben Kappel, Brien Harvey, the Maybe Logic Academy staff and students.

While getting firmly hooked on the series of Cosmic Trigger books during the mid 1990s, I literally dreamed of meeting the mysterious author, Dr Robert Anton Wilson. He was an early anarchist hero to me, a truly free man, and he remains one of the funniest scientific philosophers of all time. And yet, he, and his great works remain underground for the most part, bubbling away beneath the surface, patiently awaiting rediscovery and reenactment by brave new readers from next generations and with fresh interpretations. I hope this recording can introduce his ideas to at least one such reader. We need to act on his wisdom now!

After an auspicious solar eclipse experience in August, and a house fire in December moments before the millennium fever of 1999 went into overdrive, i had a rare moment of clarity, and decided to sell my prized turntables and scrape the money together for a ticket to go and see this guy for myself. Only six days after the sad passing of Terence Mckenna, i set off to New York where i next caught the Greyhound bus to New mexico, and my destination, the so called the ‘Prophets Conference’ only two days before my 24th birthday.

Little did i know that RAW had fallen ill that week due in part to his post polio syndrome, together with the grief of losing his lifelong companion, writer and activist Arlen Riley Wilson. The announcer at the conference informed the crowd Bob would not make it, and i went into an altered state of total shock awareness. 

 After the conference was over i straddled that Greyhound up to San Francisco and fell in awe of the San Francisco bay area. I hung out at Wired Magazine radio station, worked for Sound Photo Synthesis, jammed on turntables with jam jazz super group Garaj Mahal. Plus i met Dr John Lilly, Jack Sarfatti, Saul Paul Sirag, and some other friends and associates of RAW, all  seemingly by happy coincidence most of them were presenting at the Guilding The Lilly event at 3220 Sacremento street.

PROPHETS CON

When my visa time limit came up, unlike Columbus, I returned to the UK. One memorable summer day in 2000 i received an email from the Prophets Conference asking if i would like to be a carer for Bob during his next lecture in Palm Springs, 16-18th December 2000. I eagerly responded ‘yes’ and started to save up my dole money.

Bob’s fine lecture at Palm Springs can be viewed on youtube and you can hear him say at one point “I had a Manhattan with my lunch” which i purchased for him when sat together with Paul Krassner and his wife Nancy before his show. This may have led to him using slightly more taboo words than usual, which became part of the reason why the conference wrote him a letter explaining that they had received complaints about his language! and were unwilling to invite him to any more conferences, unless he more or less cleaned up his act. For fucks sake.

 Bob writes about this in his book T.S.O.G: The Thing That Ate The Constitution. I was sacked from the Prophets Conference a few months before Bob. My crime was much less punk rock, i failed to get Bob to the stage with adequate time to spare before he was scheduled to speak, which set a few people panicking and resulted in the boss lady of the conference screaming at me in front of Bob.

After his lecture, Bob gestured me over and invited me up to his room to conduct an interview, which i hinted at earlier. This was partly due, i think, to the fact that he saw how badly i was disgraced earlier and so took a little pity on me. I gifted Bob with a copy of the “The Stargate Conspiracy”, a pretty lame book in retrospect, but a text i figured he should take a look at as he had a few mentions in it, along with almost everybody else at the fringes of paranormal and psychic research in the 1970s.

I offered Bob some dried mushrooms picked at my local spot called Wychbury Hill. He gracefully passed on them with a kind smile and nod. They didn’t go to waste though, years later while reading an article by Richard Metzger (Dangerous Minds) who visited Bob’s room shortly after my interview–i discovered Richard ate the shrooms’ and reported that they were good and strong. Success. His friend Alex Burns, also from Disinformation, managed to get us all super high with some High Times Cannabis Cup winning weed, named William’s Wonder.

CAPITOLA

I pressed the button for the apartment number Bob had sent and waited, and waited…and after what seemed like an eternity i heard the crackle of the intercom and a familiar voice “yes”.

“It’s fly agaric, erm’, i was in touch with you by email about coming down to visit”. After another long pause he said “So…do you wanna’ come in then?” “Yeah, sure” i said, and he buzzed open the steel gate. I walked around the small inner garden area, up some steps to the front door which was already ajar. I stepped through the door.

Once through I slipped my shoes off and walked past his study on the right, and his small library area to the left. He was sitting on a couch, next to some large sliding doors, with a fresh clear view looking out over the Monterey bay. “Hi Bob, thanks for having me over.”

“Would you be so kind as to grab me a coffee, it’s in the pot” he said. “Sure”. I fetched a mug, which had a quote from Hannibal Lecter printed on it, filled it with black coffee and set it down on the table, sitting opposite Bob. “Thanks, fly. So, you’re going to make a recording right?” he asked. “yeah, if that’s cool with you.” I unpacked my minidisc recorder, and set up the microphone on the table.

The apartment reflected a humble man, with moderate furnishings, a couch, two chairs, a television set, stereo, coffee table and a dresser decorated in what looked to me like traditional Japanese artefacts. There were framed pictures hanging up and ornaments that indicated this really was Bob’s residence. On my way out I recall seeing a certificate from a UFO convention, plus I’ll never forget the cute Loch Ness monster ornament laying out on top of the cable box, which at one point during the interview he politely asked me to straighten out for him.

We had two smoke breaks out on the balcony, where i kissed the sky with a specially rolled up bomber. Bob passed my offer due to already feeling high as a mountain goat on his marijuana brownies, which he consumed for medical purposes to help relieve the pain from post polio syndrome. It would be fair to say we were both pretty high and cheerful. I went the whole nine yards and cracked open a four pack of guinness, which was probably a mistake due to the slight fogging of my memory caused by the alcohol.

Bob talked and talked, weaving his unique prose to my unrehearsed questions, turning them into delightful examples of his unique mind at play. He mixed hilarious tales with some serious facts and produced his unmistakable discordian dance of delicate metaphors. There were times when my mouth opened and nothing came out, due to my processing what he had previously said. I had to remain mindful not to interrupt or talk over him, which i’m prone to do at times. There seems nothing worse to me than an interviewer who can’t listen, and sings the eternal song of “I”.

The audio interview is regrettably only the first half of the full recording, the other half of which remains lost in an ocean of badly indexed minidiscs. Fortunately, i made a transcription of the full recording, which was published at the Maybe Logic Quarterly magazine in 2008. However during the interview my disc space ran out, but we carried on talking for at least another 45 minutes. Hence my regret at getting half drunk. Some of the subject matter i recall from that chat included Saul Paul Sirag, Jack Sarfatti, Paul Krassner, David Bohm and the Physics Consciousness Research Institute. He commented at length on 9/11 describing a friends experiences in New York, and the high weirdness that day, and the days that followed. I talked about some of my musical projects, about Garaj Mahal, graffiti art, Ninjatune and my fascination with jazz and synchronicities connected to the music John Coltrane.

Robert Anton Wilson Meets Steve Fly

I was made to feel welcome during the 3-4 hour visit, and Bob did not whinge or complain once. I only felt him get slightly agitated during the interview after i blindly asked him a series of four readymade questions from somebody else, the last of which was “how do you plan to take physical action?” which, when i said it, sounded rather inappropriate for a man suffering from post polio syndrome most his life, and who uses a wheelchair to get around. It hit a small nerve, he coughed and raised his voice a little “I don’t mean to ball you out but, it’s just that i hear that kind of question a lot.” He went on to describe how he attends protests and gatherings when he can get a ride there, and contributes to Amnesty International.

In 2015 I was digging for a minidisc of DJ Fly material for use on my Fly By Night radio shows, produced for Radio Free Amsterdam. While sifting through the discs I noticed one with writing in light pencil that read: R.A.W 10th September 2002. I popped it into the player, and to my delight it was the first half of the interview. I edited and boosted the sound files to the best of my ability, and added a selection of music from friends and past collaborators, resulting in what you hear right here.

I uploaded two short excerpts from the interview to my Soundcloud account and was planning to release the other parts when a friend, Mark Sampson of Iron Man Records, stepped up. In March 2016 Mark kindly offered to master the audio and release it on his independent record label Iron Man Records. So the circle is complete and I hope you enjoy the words and music. Long live the optimists.

– Steve Fly, June 2016

A small donation could help Iron Man Records to release more music on Vinyl

October 5, 2015

I want to invite you to support Iron Man Records releasing more music on Vinyl via Patreon.

Police Bastard

I have been running Iron Man Records since 1996. I have never earnt anything, of any significance, from the work I have done so far, and neither have the bands. In fact the debts are what the label’s worth. It has been a true labour of love, and I like to think the music has made a lot of people happy. The label has released over 30 records by some fantastic bands and artists and continues to work hard on a daily basis. Iron Man Records wants to make all new releases from the label available on Vinyl and you are invited to help.

Iron Man Records - Vinyl 7" singles

The journey has been back-breaking, and the label has generated a mountain of debt too. Everything I earn as a Tour Manager goes into keeping Iron Man Records moving forward. I manage to ensure that records come out every year and during difficult times perhaps every two years. But without fail, Iron Man Records continues to release records by some of the most interesting and talented artists, writers, and musicians. The label seeks to provide an alternative to the onslaught of pop culture and everything that goes with it. There has to be something that opposes the nonsense that we are surrounded by every day, in every format.

I don’t expect everyone to like what the record label releases, but at least the label gives you a choice. You don’t have to buy everything from “the man” and you don’t have to work for “the man” either. There’s always another way, and for Iron Man Records and the musicians, artists and writers it supports “the show must go on, by any means necessary, or until we are all eliminated”

I can handle running Iron Man Records by myself but I could use some help with releasing Vinyl. At a time when “ownership” of music is becoming less important, and digital services are making “access” a much easier way of listening to more music than ever before, I have been left with a problem to solve.

Iron Man Records - Vinyl 12" and 10" LPs

How can I continue to release physical records for people to “buy,” at a time when anyone, with any money left, can “access” more music for free, or at a fraction of the price, using streaming digital services?  

We all know how to google an album or a song and find it for free. We’ve all done it. We all know how to access music on social networks for free, and through Streaming services like Spotify. Some of us buy our music from download sites. I think its fair to say some of us listen to more music than ever before, and choose to only spend our money on music from our favourite groups.  

Iron Man Records has invested a lot of time and effort into making every release available through as many digital services as possible. From the stats, it is clear that plenty of people want to listen to the music Iron Man Records produces, but they don’t want to pay for it, they want it as cheap as possible and ideally for free. Fair enough, I can accept that.

It always makes me laugh when you hear people talking about how they wont buy music from Amazon because Amazon doesn’t pay its workers a fair wage and then get drawn into a discussion about what sites to use to find music for free without having to use Amazon.  

People forget that starving musicians have to go to band practice, pay for their rehearsals, record their music, and work out a way to release their music. Many musicians also have to plan and finance the costs of touring to promote their music all by themselves. Musicians also need to eat and have a roof over their head, and I do too.   These days, it’s interesting to note that many musicians would probably earn more per hour packing boxes and packages for Amazon, even on the poor wages that Amazon pays, than at most gigs they end up playing. But lets move on, you get the point.

Iron Man Records - Vinyl 12" and 10" LPs

Where does Iron Man Records find itself in the current digital world?

Streaming is taking off and dominating everything, people want “access” to more music and are very choosey about what music they actually want to “buy.” The CD in my view will be around for a while yet but, if you can already access the music as a digital file online either as a download, or a stream, why buy a CD as well? I have always loved vinyl as a format and I have reached the stage now where I want to start making every release on Iron Man Records available on Vinyl, as well as via streaming, downloads and on CD. To be fair, in the UK, not many people will buy the vinyl I produce, the real market for Vinyl is in places like Germany, or Czech Republic and other places in Europe who can’t get enough of it. Vinyl provides a good incentive for any band with Vinyl for sale to go and tour. And that’s what most of the bands on the label do when given the chance.

Some years ago I was talking with a friend in Czech Republic, while on tour with Police Bastard. He was talking about the state of music and he summed it up like this. “I google new bands and their music, and listen for free. If I find a band I like, I will find out where they are playing and go and see them live. If I like the concert I will buy their album on Vinyl even though I already have it as a digital file on my computer at home. The digital files are for listening to on my phone or sending to friends, the Vinyl is for my collection and I listen to it on my record player when I’m at home.

This friend was also the same person who booked Police Bastard to play, organised the promotion of the concert, cooked the food for the band and gave us a place to have a wash and sleep after the show. People like this are what makes being in a band worthwhile, they actually care enough about the music to do something to help.

It is clear to me that if you can produce anything of value in terms of your music, a digital version is necessary so people can access and even download your music. But if you are serious about your music, you must release it on Vinyl so the really passionate fans of your music, like our friends in Czech Republic, can get a copy to add to their collection and enjoy when they are at home.

Iron Man Records is capable of releasing records and making them available worldwide across pretty much every digital platform. Producing CDs of each release is also affordable within the context of selling physical copies, sending out to press and radio and keeping things ticking over.

Iron Man Records - Vinyl 12" and 10" LPs 

Vinyl however, is a little bit tricky. Producing a record on Vinyl is about three times more expensive than producing a cd, which means you have to sell three times more records to recover the upfront costs. I don’t think any of the bands are expanding their fanbase faster than the costs of producing their music on vinyl and no one wants to start putting prices up. So something has to give. Either the records are released as digital only, or the releases come out on CD first to test the market, or I have to find three times as much money upfront to release a record on Vinyl.  

This year has been a tough year, income from selling physical sales has continued to decline. In fact physical sales of everything both CD, Vinyl and DVD has steadily declined year on year since 2004 when I started keeping a record. Its not my fault or anything to do with the bands, the physical sales are declining because the market has a greater choice of music than ever before and what I am selling is becoming a smaller and smaller part of that market. Habits have changed and the market is increasingly choosing to access music to listen to via platforms like spotify rather than owning music via buying records to take home and play. Times are changing  and either Iron Man Records changes too or it’s game over.  

So where am I going with all this? Let me explain.  

Digital – I make every release through Iron Man Records available in a digital format and that is relatively cost effective and easy to do. From the stats at this end this is something people want, and a format that makes all the music the label has produced to date easy to access across digital platforms worldwide. As a record label that’s at least one job done that the bands don’t need to worry about themselves. I have yet to generate enough money through digital services to pay the bands any meaningful sum, but month by month the situation seems to be getting better. I remain hopeful for the future.  

CD – I have made every release through Iron Man Records available on CD right up to recent years and the boxes and boxes of unsold stock tell me that there is still a market for CDS but interest in physical CDs is steadily declining. Once I’ve sold the stock I’ve already got I doubt it will be replaced by more cds. 

Vinyl – I started out releasing records on Vinyl when I first started the label, over 18 years ago. To be honest I have still got half the stock of Vinyl I pressed all those years ago but that is probably more to do with the fact I pressed too many records in an enthusiastic, naive and hopeful state of mind.   What I am proposing to do is this. I want to start releasing records on Vinyl again but I need some help and support in reducing the front end costs of producing the Vinyl. I’m not asking anyone to pay for everything, nor am I asking anyone to pay me to run Iron Man Records, I can look after all that myself.

What I want to do is invite people to contribute to reducing the costs of producing albums on Vinyl. In exchange for help and support, they will get a copy of everything the label produces, as it becomes available. Supporters will get digital files of everything, so they can also listen on portable electronic devices, and they will get all sorts of other benefits. For example: free stuff from the iron man shop, stickers, email updates, free tickets, and whatever else I can think up as I go along.  

I would like to think that if you like what Iron Man Records does, if you would like to encourage the label to produce all releases on Vinyl, and if you would like to support struggling musicians who are up against it on a daily basis, then please consider offering your support to the cause.

Iron Man Records - Vinyl 12" and 10" LPs

I have put together a page on Patreon https://www.patreon.com/ironmanrecords which I think is an interesting way to raise additional sums of money. This will help produce Vinyl in small quantities and to the highest standards with regards to artwork and packaging. Patreon lets you make recurring monthly donations and thereby helps to reduce the upfront costs of producing music on vinyl.

Anyone who donates will get a copy of the vinyl produced and a number of other benefits. Anything from £1 a month or more is actually really helpful, and knowing a small regular sum is coming in each month allows me to plan more effectively.

Everything the label produces is accessible for free online anyway so you can have anything, anytime if you look for it. Offering a small monthly donation means that regardless of what goes on, Iron Man Records can keep releasing music on vinyl and keep helping the bands and artists to survive, and to make more music.

Let me be clear: Iron Man Records is not in the pop business. In fact it’s just not in business. The debts are what it’s worth. The label is trying hard, during a particularly tough time in the history of recorded music, to help musicians and artists develop a sustainable future. And to me, the simple way to do that, is give the bands and artists a Record to sell, at their gigs, that people would love to buy. Iron Man Records wants to create Vinyl, something really special, something that presents music in a format that people want to keep and enjoy. That’s it really, life isn’t just about computers and social networking. There has to be an alternative.

Have a look here and any comments, good or bad are invited.

Mark – Iron Man Records 5th October 2015.

Independent Record Labels of the Internet Era by Kristian Evans

September 19, 2015

Few people ask me questions these days. I’m probably deluded thinking anyone would actually want to know what I do for a living, and if I told them honestly they would probably think I’m mad. In truth, I like to be left to get on in peace so I don’t really care. I think the last time I faced 20 questions was a round of “German Traffic Police Roadside Mastermind,” but that’s another story. A few months ago, I spent some time on Skype talking to Kristian Evans and answered as many questions as I could, probably more than 20, on the subject of Independent Record Labels in the age of the Internet. We talked about releasing records through a label, and releasing records as a band without a label. We talked about many of the related issues of trying to release music independently and the many contradictions bands and record labels have to face up to. When the call finished I had to get back to work but Kristian put our discussion into writing as part of a larger case study. Have a read, this is the shorter version, you may find it interesting. If you want the full Case study you can download it in full at the end – Mark, Iron Man Records

Independent Record Labels of the Internet Era by Kristian Evans

This report is dedicated to both uncovering and defining the independent record labels during the era of the Internet (i.e. 1998 onwards). A quick look back in history reveals how important independent record labels have been to modern music of the era, helping to alter the perception of contemporary popular music. However over the past two decades, a number of major changes have happened in the marketplace shifting both the power balance and economy.

By utilising primary research (surveys, questionnaires and interviews), it has been concluded that despite large changes to the operations and methods of the music industry, to some degree the essence of what it means to be an indie label has remained constant. Advancements in technology have given musicians and artists more independence and control, however it would prove challenging to realistically compete with what a dedicated label could achieve.

Introduction

Independent record labels have for decades contributed greatly to the music industry; from the rock ’n roll revolution during the 1950s to the development of other genres such as grunge, alternative rock and countless others. [Cosper, A.2012] Some of the most notable companies to date include Rough Trade, Pinnacle, Mute, Factory and 4AD. Rough Trade and Pinnacle alone stood for almost 30% of the music market during their peak; and throughout the 1980s, independent labels would continuously compete with the majors in the top 20 album charts. [King, R., 2012]

Background

Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the World Wide Web in 1989 hit the music industry like a comet. Over the past twenty six years the world has seen a dramatic change in how we consume, distribute, discover and create music; or any form of media for that matter. [World Wide Web Foundation 2015] The introduction of the Internet resulted in a bleak outlook for the music industry. The introduction of digital audio files such as mp3 in 1995 caused hard-copy sales to plummet and the industry to suffer financially. [Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, 2015]. Illegal file-sharing websites such as Napster and Mp3.com would wreak havoc until their shutdown in 2001.

It was only then that record labels started to integrate into the digital domain. [Cosper, A.2012] [The Napster Controversy, 2015][Kusek, D., 2008.] Record labels (independent or not) seemed unable to keep up with the constant changes that technology brought us. Illegal file-sharing exploded, services such as Piratebay emerged, devastating physical sales. It wasn’t until 2013 that the music had actually seen any form of market growth since 1999. [Neumeister. L., 2015][Admin.,, 2013] [uSwitch., 2015] [Batterbee, A., 2008, p. 82, 83].

With fewer major record labels today, as a result of companies such as EMI being absorbed into Sony and UMG; there has been a reduction in the amount of current market competition. This information also highlights the struggles of the modern music industry as it has attempted to adapt to the changes in technology. [The Nielsen Company & Billboards, 2011] [Pelzie, 2014]

The Nielsen Company & Billboards, 2011
The figure above demonstrates dominance of the four major record labels before EMI’s demise, and to some degree reflects how the independent section relates to them. Although times have changed, the overall picture remains the same as independents are currently a minority.

With regards to the musician’s point of view and the advancement of technology,  research indicates that internet based technology and other technological advancements have resulted in more independent control than ever before, from musicians being able to produce high quality albums in their bedroom to even being able to distribute music without the need for a label, alternatively creating their own. [Reevers C., 2011] [Thomson, K., 2015][ Case, C., 2015]

Outline

So following the aforementioned changes in the marketplace, where does the independent record label stand? Interviews, questionnaires and surveys have been used to accumulate information from both the client and business end of the marketplace; this will provide the most accurate and unbiased results.

Methods

As previously mentioned, first hand research has been conducted in three fashions. The first being a survey (created via SurveyMonkey), aimed towards the consumer and artists, to determine their overall knowledge about the industry, and also how they have adapted to it. [SurveyMonkey, 2015]
The questionnaire was created as an alternative to the interview. The questions were aimed at the recording labels, and aim to uncover how the businesses are coping.

If the label contacted preferred telephone, a time was agreed to have a recorded interview, where the basis would be the questions used in the questionnaire; interviews were used to get the interviewee to elaborate more in-depth about the inner workings of the indie world.

Record labels were contacted by finding the bands’ homepage on Google, for the interest of aiming it towards the British market place, only British labels were contacted, contact was either conducted via the labels’ online contact form, e-mail or by phoning the company directly.

Social media networking was the primary way of delivering the musicians questionnaire, posting it on social groups dedicated to performing musicians and artists.  Due to the nature of the groups and the style of questionnaire, it was not limited to being answered by British based artists, but was aimed at anybody who produced a product for release.  (Copies of correspondents, questionnaires and survey results can be found in Appendix 1 – 3).

Aims

The intention with this research report, is not to prove that record labels are necessary, but rather if they are necessary, and to some degree decipher the future of record labels.

Musicians can completely bypass recording companies to release their music; some even create personal recording labels for their own release. But can this new found control replace what a recording company does for their musicians?

What do modern music services mean for the industry?

Given all this new technology, how have artists adapted to it?

Do musicians today feel confident with the tools they have been given or how does it influence their decision.

As the market developed for 14 years without any real growth, many companies must have felt the pinch.

How has the indie section adapted to the recent changes, and has it affected operations?

How do the remaining major labels relate to the indie market of today, is there any resemblance to how things were before?

Results

The overall research shows that the drive behind running independent labels hasn’t changed much since the before the Internet’s conception; fuelled by the love of DIY, releasing creative and quality records, independent from major label influence.  Although the desire to run one hasn’t changed, the entire marketplace has shifted after the introduction of the internet. Amongst other things, independents were no longer restricted by getting distribution deals in order to get music out there. But on the other side of the coin, the internet caused havoc on physical sales maiming a major source of income; albeit, a recent rise in LP sales has occurred over recent years. As a result both bands and record labels have had “to adapt or die”. [Badger, M. (Iron Man Records) (2015). Interviewed by Kristian Evans for Case Study,21:24]  [Rushton, K., 2013] [Lewis, L., 2015]

Starting an indie label is relatively easy, with a majority of musicians aware that distribution is possible without a label, more than 50% of the survey’s respondents claim they would consider creating their own label for an upcoming release. DIY in itself is not difficult, but doing it right is a different kettle of fish. Especially as there is no true definition to what is right, what is “right” depends on the surrounding parameters. The benefit of using an established record label is that they can potentially provide understanding, knowledge, experience and resources needed to help the product stand out among the masses; “working with a label that is as old as your band is suicide”.  [Badger, M. (2015). Interviewed by Kristian Evans for Case Study, 11:34]

There is some debate as to the existence of the quality filter provided by labels, it is apparent that some labels do specialise in styles, genres or similar and have fan bases that benefit all artists released on that album. With Spotify having 4 million songs that have never been played and countless more struggling due to lack of experience, knowledge or making the wrong decisions.  [Rochell, 2013] It is more important now than ever that labels keep up-to date and well informed on current events, in order to provide their artists with optimal results.

Although the introduction of streaming services has driven some money back into the industry’s economy, research reveals that it is only the labels with large amount of copyrights that really benefit, in other words the majors, in contrast iTunes is a highly regarded source due to its design and operation.  In recent years 50% of artist’s income has been from live performances; it is therefore important to spread music effectively, market strategically, to reach a wide demographic in order to raise ticket sales. This is an area where an established record label is more likely to see satisfactory results; especially in regards to knowing the market and knowing how to proceed.

D, Passman suggests that the next generation of marketing for bands will rely on direct relationships between the band and its fan base. Research shows that more than 80% of the overall respondents claimed to be comfortable using internet based technology for promotion, 72% of the overall respondents use it actively to connect with the fan base. Having personal relationships and interacting with customers and fans at a personal level can raise the overall success of tours, album releases and so forth, and is actively being used at all stages of the industry, though some of this control can be lost in major label deals. [Passman, D., 2013. 69]

With regards to the major labels, it shows that they have little influence over the independent market, and have somewhat less influence than previously in history; at least what we regard as major labels today. Since the introduction of the internet and later online music services, “new” record labels are emerging under the names such as Apple, Amazon, Youtube and other internet based major corporations; causing competition and a shift in power. In addition to this recent changes and coming changes to the internet and how it operates, such as new laws regarding VAT can make it potentially more difficult to truly be independent.

Discussion

The findings provide an up-to-date insight into how the industry currently looks, and a brief outlook on how companies are adapting to their new surroundings.  The findings in the report are of significant value as they answer all of the aims and questions posed at the beginning of the report, while additionally giving information into what the current events are. These findings also give an insight into the possible future of the industry.

The report reveals interesting facts such as the diminishing influence of the major record labels (Universal, Sony, Warner Bros) which have previously dominated the market, in favour of an increase in the popularity and trading power of major online corporations that deal in a range of commodities (Amazon, Apple, Ebay) and offer a more convenient and efficient service to those customers buying online.

Companies such as these may become the major labels of tomorrow as they regularly cause havoc in the industry; causing major changes in how the internet functions and how customers make use of the various services available.  The days of the Internet providing freedom may be limited with newly established laws and the music industry finally adapting to the monstrous invention that once made the outlook seem grave, though this seems likely to make running an indie label or any indie company more difficult, research has shown how many of these companies are quick to adapt and vigilant in keeping updated about how to deal with coming issues. 
The overall findings are important as they ascertain the importance of indie record labels in modern society, showing that they are as important as they ever have been. Despite many artists being comfortable with their new technological surroundings, and being aware of the options available, the majority still see record labels as a necessity.

All of the aims set for this assignment were successfully met, although not all answers are as comprehensive or as useful as initially thought.  The research assignment’s main weakness is the lack of responses from labels, the entire research period being dominated by lack of replies or not answering the telephone at arranged time and date. In order for the report to have more credibility and accuracy, more time would be needed to collect responses, where the student would avoid limiting the search to labels within the United Kingdom.  The questionnaire in itself requested information that would have been useful to the assignment, but some revisions would be made to it, correcting some phrasing issues and combining questions to make the overall amount less; this might help getting a higher response ratio from participating labels.

Conclusion

The assignment was an attempt to ascertain the importance and market position of indie labels after the introduction of the World Wide Web in 1998. It was also to see how companies have adapted to the recent changes and how this has changed operations and the overall definition of “indie”. To answer questions about their market position and also the clients’ view on the industry, both record labels and musicians were contacted with relevant questions to achieve comprehensive answers.

The research shows that over recent years there has been little change to the core elements of being an indie record label, but the internet has caused for drastic changes in what it means to be a record label. Now often not being required for the recording of the actual album, indie labels function as bands PR agents, providing signed artists with resources, knowledge and experience, arming them to their best ability to survive in an industry that no longer thrives on physical sales, but more live performances and strategically supplying music via the various tools available.

Although from the musicians’ or the markets’ point of view there is no immediate danger, society’s adaptation to the internet and other changes in the market place might cause a raised eyebrow.

In many ways this is an impossible question to answer as there is no set definition of indie, it is instead a combination of past actions and mind-set that have evolved over time. To some indie means a seal of approval while to others it is purely a mind-set. What is counted as indie varies much from person to person, with music from all segments of the industry receiving the tag despite its origin.

What it means to be independent also has its grey areas as even self-releasing music one is constricted to major internet based corporations for distribution, and with the new VAT laws being introduced, releasing music for free might be the only remaining way to be truly independent.

Here it is in full as a word doc Case study – Kristian Evans 2015

Police Bastard Interview – Bald Cactus #31 – 2014

October 18, 2014

Andy at Bald Cactus has put together an interview with Police Bastard in issue #31. Here it is in full, you can email Andy and get a copy of the Fanzine for a £1 here
Police Bastard Interview - Bald Cactus #31 - 2014 (1)

Police Bastard Interview - Bald Cactus #31 - 2014 (2)
Police Bastard Interview - Bald Cactus #31 - 2014 (3)

Police Bastard – Music, T-shirts and other items of interest Buy here

More Police Bastard info here: Police Bastard, Twitter, Facebook

For all Police Bastard bookings: mark@ironmanrecords.co.uk

John Sinclair + The Founder Effect – Spiegeltent, Canary Wharf, London 17th Sept

August 24, 2014

John Sinclair at 12 Bar Club, London, Sunday 11th May 2014
John Sinclair and The Founder Effect perform songs from ‘Mohawk’ at Canary Wharf Spiegeltent, London

Download the Spiegeltent Leaflet PDF here

“John Sinclair – renegade poet, scholar and cultural revolutionary…..an Archetype of the 1960’s art, music and literary synthesis, still kicking with both feet on his trajectory for cultural transformation. Mohawk features ten tracks from his book of verse: always know: a book of monk. Beatnik poems, great odes and personal reflections of the Be-Bop jazz persuasion, all flowering together.”

Doors – 6.00pm
John Sinclair on stage 6.30pm – 7.45pm
Tickets available through SEE Tickets for £10 + Booking Fee

All Press Enquiries Sean Newsham: sean@mutante-inc.demon.co.uk
All Guest List requests to: Ben Conway ben@peterconwaymanagement.com

TUBE Jubilee Line to Canary Wharf DLR Canary Wharf or Heron Quays

LONDON BUSES D3, D7, D8, 135, 277

THAMES CLIPPERS Canary Wharf to
Central London in 23 minutes, 26 times a day. thamesclippers.com / 0870 781 5049

LONDON TRANSPORT INFORMATION tfl.gov.uk
John Sinclair at The Barbican 31st May 2014

John Sinclair and The Founder Effect at Barbican, London, 31st May 2014.

WHITE PANTHER: The Legacy Legacy of John Sinclair – a short film by CHARLES SHAW featuring JOHN SINCLAIR music by THELONIUS MONK

John Sinclair is best known as the Sixties “marijuana” activist who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for giving two joints to an undercover policewoman. He was eventually freed when John Lennon and Yoko Ono spoke out on his behalf.

Less understood is his role as the founder and chairman of the radical anti-war group, The White Panther Party, an offshoot of the Black Panthers. The Black Panther Party was a militant political organization formed after the brutal murders of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Robert Kennedy.

The Nixon Administration and the FBI launched a secret program called COINTELPRO to disrupt and ultimately destroy the Black Panthers and the Anti-War movement. As part of this program, John Sinclair was set up and imprisoned on marijuana charges. When the government could no longer justify denying him a bond over two joints, they falsely charged him with a Federal conspiracy to blow up a CIA station, in order to make him disappear.

You can find John Sinclair Books, CDs and other interesting stuff in the Iron Man Shop

John Sinclair + The Founder Effect – Spiegeltent, London 17th Sept poster

Ticket Link: http://www.seetickets.com/event/john-sinclair-and-the-founder-effect/spiegeltent-at-canary-wharf/810282

John Sinclair - Mohawk front cover

John Sinclair – “Mohawk” CD  March 2014 by Iron Man Records, Birmingham.

John Sinclair, the renegade poet, scholar and cultural revolutionary released his new album in March 2014. John, has been described as an Archetype of the 1960’s art, music and literary synthesis, and who today, is still kicking with both feet on his trajectory for cultural transformation. His new record features ten tracks from his book of verse: always know: a book of monk. Twenty poems planted firmly in a single-shot session, and carefully trimmed down to ten exhibits for this album. Beatnik poems, great odes and personal reflections of the Be-Bop jazz persuasion, all flowering together.

First conceived of in Detroit City, spring 1982, and developed throughout the 1980s with streaks of fresh edits leading right up to the session itself, John navigates some of these texts for the first time in over twenty years, free-styling his energized sincerity and attention to every word, transforming the text on the page into his unique unmistakable spoken word.

The music was written and arranged by Steve Fly who mirrored John’s poems in the music by initially combing the tempo of the original songs recorded by John ‘Dizzy’ Gillespie, Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker and Thelonious Monk.

Steve The Fly is a native of Stourbridge UK, now an Amsterdam resident who plays drums, spins vinyl, writes novels and literary and cultural commentary. He also maintains a flock of websites and works in various other art forms without visible restraint. His other music projects have included New Flesh, Garaj Mahal, Temple Dragon band, of course he is now full time with John Sinclair.

These songs are further utilized by John’s poetic method so that each title and the rhythm of his poetry can piggy-back upon the same song title, and rhythm, of an original composition set in history, for extra rooting. Steve put down drums, turntables, cello-bass, flute, and glockenspiel, shooting to play around the vocal lead lines and diverse expressions from John.

“to take the hair off
the sides of the head

& leave just a strip
along the top,
scalping pretense
for the baldness of statement

building a new music
on the bones of the old

— John Sinclair from the title track “Mohawk”

John Sinclair - Mohawk gatefold inner

The album was recorded diligently by Tim Egmond at Ei Studios, Amsterdam and passed along to Simon Reeves at Framework Studios, Birmingham for mastering.

Tim Egmond is a music producer, engineer and studio whizz, based in Amsterdam, who has worked with scores of international and locally based artists on a wide variety of projects.

Simon Reeves has completed many projects for Iron Man Records already and he has been described as one of Birmingham’s finest independent studio engineers who has worked with bands from Napalm Death to Police Bastard, and a host of other brutal metal and punk bands.

All artwork was cradled and visualized by the post-industrial imagination of CHU; The Black Country, tech savvy, rule-breaking, progressive wordsmith and thinker – an ardent advocate of aerosol painting and its vanguard for over 30 years with global public works and murals, 3D perspective illusions and many group shows, under his Walsall leather belt. CHU’s work has included projects with Banksy and Jamie Hewlett among many others, and he has been described as the ‘Escher of UK street art’ and founder of Graffiti Bastards.

John Sinclair - Mohawk back cover

The album is beautifully packaged in a double gatefold cd wallet with artwork by CHU in full colour and a ten page booklet. Mohawk illustrates the kind of care and attention a John Sinclair record deserves. After all, he kinda helped start this underground art explosion.

The words here poured forth after cannablissed talking-poet John Sinclair stared at the moon when jazz giant Thelonious Monk died in 1982. The luminous lunar loom inspired Sinclair to create a series of poems about early Monk, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie: “Lest we forget these are young men…bursting with the joy of discovery.” Sinclair lifts up the proverbial bandstand (per Monk’s mandate) with tales of the birth of bop at Monroe’s Uptown House and the jazz/Beat connection. Drummer/composer Steve Fly creates a hip-hopped be-bopped bed of rhythmic sound. (And the bonus track at the end has a Beatle on it!) – Michael Simmons

All Press Enquiries Sean Newsham: sean@mutante-inc.demon.co.uk

CHU talks about his artwork for John Sinclair – Mohawk here: http://www.schudio.co.uk/blog/2014/mohawk-by-john-sinclair/

John Sinclair – Mohawk CD released on Iron Man Records 24th March 2014 Buy It Here

Listen to: The John Sinclair Freedom Rally: John Sinclair Radio Show 526

ARTIST: John Sinclair
TITLE: Mohawk
LABEL: Iron Man Records
FORMAT: CD Double Gatefold Sleeve / Digital
RELEASE DATE: 24th March 2014
FILE UNDER: Rock
Cat No: IMB6022

Buy It Here from Cargo Distribution Direct: http://cargorecordsdirect.co.uk/products/john-sinclair-mohawk

Buy Books and Music by John Sinclair in the Iron Man Shop here: http://ironmanrecords.bigcartel.com

Visit John Sinclair: http://www.johnsinclair.us

Visit Steve Fly: http://acrillic.blogspot.co.uk

Visit Chu: http://www.schudio.co.uk
John Sinclair - Mohawk CD Gatefold back

The Bitcoin Revolution By Steven Hager

January 19, 2014

Bitcoin is rapidly transforming the financial landscape with a peer-to-peer solution for wealth transfer. It has already shown capacity to absorb tremendous resources and withstand crisis sell-offs. Read this short ebook to understand why you should invest in this revolutionary computer art meets cryptography concept. I came late to Bitcoin and have zero understanding of the technical complexities of cryptography, but I do realize Bitcoin is open source and completely transparent and completely non-predatory in design, a real departure from our banking industry. Any assets moved into Bitcoin virtually disappear from the public record at this point and do not become taxable events until they are brought back into the system. Bitcoin has numerous benefits to offer and represents a real threat to our current corrupt money system. The media has been relentlessly negative on bitcoins for a reason: they threaten the status quo. This text serves as a manifesto for the rise of a Bitcoin nation. Feel free to contact Steven’s blog http://stevenhager420.wordpress.com

Read it here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/395304

About Steven Hager: “I started out writing black comedy, but I’m best known as the first reporter to document hip hop and the instigator of the film Beat Street. I also founded the Cannabis Cup, organized the first 420 ceremonies outside of Marin County, and launched the hemp movement with Jack Herer while writing some landmark conspiracy articles.”

Interview with Steven Hager here: https://www.smashwords.com/interview/stevenhager420

John Sinclair talks to CNN's Atika Shubert about Marijuana, Amsterdam and Cafe 420

January 18, 2014

Every year 6 million tourists come to Amsterdam for the culture, but others come for the Marijuana. CNN’s Atika Shubert reports and talks with the owner of Cafe 420, and John Sinclair

Watch the video link here: http://edition.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/world/2014/01/13/ac-pkg-shubert-marijuana-amsterdam.cnn.html

Interview: John Sinclair – Mohawk

January 15, 2014

John Sinclair, the renegade poet, scholar and cultural revolutionary interviewed on his new album Mohawk, music and poetry, sharing ideas, the war on drugs, doing what you want, and more.

John Sinclair – “Mohawk” CD. Released Monday 24th March 2014 by Iron Man Records

John Sinclair - Mohawk front cover

John, has been described as an Archetype of the 1960’s art, music and literary synthesis, and who today, is still kicking with both feet on his trajectory for cultural transformation. His new record features ten tracks from his book of verse: always know: a book of monk. Twenty poems planted firmly in a single-shot session, and carefully trimmed down to ten exhibits for this album. Beatnik poems, great odes and personal reflections of the Be-Bop jazz persuasion, all flowering together.

First conceived of in Detroit City, spring 1982, and developed throughout the 1980s with streaks of fresh edits leading right up to the session itself, John navigates some of these texts for the first time in over twenty years, free-styling his energized sincerity and attention to every word, transforming the text on the page into his unique unmistakable spoken word.

The music was written and arranged by Steve Fly who mirrored John’s poems in the music by initially combing the tempo of the original songs recorded by John ‘Dizzy’ Gillespie, Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker and Thelonious Monk.

Steve The Fly is a native of Stourbridge UK, now an Amsterdam resident who plays drums, spins vinyl, writes novels and literary and cultural commentary. He also maintains a flock of websites and works in various other art forms without visible restraint. His other music projects have included New Flesh, Garaj Mahal, Temple Dragon band, of course he is now full time with John Sinclair.

These songs are further utilized by John’s poetic method so that each title and the rhythm of his poetry can piggy-back upon the same song title, and rhythm, of an original composition set in history, for extra rooting. Steve put down drums, turntables, cello-bass, flute, and glockenspiel, shooting to play around the vocal lead lines and diverse expressions from John.

“to take the hair off
the sides of the head

& leave just a strip
along the top,
scalping pretense
for the baldness of statement

building a new music
on the bones of the old

— John Sinclair from the title track “Mohawk”

John Sinclair - Mohawk gatefold inner

The album was recorded diligently by Tim Egmond at Ei Studios, Amsterdam and passed along to Simon Reeves at Framework Studios, Birmingham for mastering.

Tim Egmond is a music producer, engineer and studio whizz, based in Amsterdam, who has worked with scores of international and locally based artists on a wide variety of projects.

Simon Reeves has completed many projects for Iron Man Records already and he has been described as one of Birmingham’s finest independent studio engineers who has worked with bands from Napalm Death to Police Bastard, and a host of other brutal metal and punk bands.

All artwork was cradled and visualized by the post-industrial imagination of CHU; The Black Country, tech savvy, rule-breaking, progressive wordsmith and thinker – an ardent advocate of aerosol painting and its vanguard for over 30 years with global public works and murals, 3D perspective illusions and many group shows, under his Walsall leather belt. CHU’s work has included projects with Banksy and Jamie Hewlett among many others, and he has been described as the ‘Escher of UK street art’ and founder of Graffiti Bastards.

John Sinclair - Mohawk back cover

The album is to be released by Birmingham based Iron Man Records whose releases have included The Nightingales, Howard Marks, P.A.I.N (Propaganda And Information Network), and Police Bastard, amongst others.

The album will be beautifully packaged in a double gatefold cd wallet with artwork by CHU in full colour and a ten page booklet. John Sinclair will be appearing in November through to March to promote the new album. Mohawk illustrates the kind of care and attention a John Sinclair record deserves. After all, he kinda helped start this underground art explosion.

All Press Enquiries Sean Newsham: sean@mutante-inc.demon.co.uk

Amiri Baraka (1934-2014) Poet, Playwright, Activist. Baraka was a leading force in the black arts movement of the 1960s and 1970s. In 1963 he published “Blues People: Negro Music in White America,” known as the first major history of black music to be written by an African American. A year later he published a collection of poetry titled “The Dead Lecturer” and won an Obie Award for his play, “Dutchman.” After the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965 he moved to Harlem and founded the Black Arts Repertory Theater. In the late 1960s, Baraka moved back to his hometown of Newark and began focusing more on political organizing, prompting the FBI to identify him as “the person who will probably emerge as the leader of the pan-African movement in the United States.” Baraka continued writing and performing poetry up until his hospitalization late last year, leaving behind a body of work that greatly influenced a younger generation of hip-hop artists and slam poets. Track 5 on John Sinclair – Mohawk is called “Bloomdido” and is dedicated to Amiri Baraka. Rest in Peace. The work continues.

John Sinclair – Mohawk CD released on Iron Man Records 24th March 2014

Listen to: The John Sinclair Freedom Rally: John Sinclair Radio Show 526

Watch the short film:

WHITE PANTHER: A Legacy Interview with John Sinclair – https://ironmanrecords.net/2013/10/white-panther-a-legacy-interview-with-john-sinclair/

ARTIST: John Sinclair
TITLE: Mohawk
LABEL: Iron Man Records
FORMAT: CD Double Gatefold Sleeve / Digital Release to follow
RELEASE DATE: 24th March 2014
FILE UNDER: Rock
Cat No: IMB6022

Buy Books and Music by John Sinclair in the Iron Man Shop here: http://ironmanrecords.bigcartel.com

John Sinclair interviewed by Sensi Seeds 23rd Sept 2013

November 3, 2013

Sensi Seeds had the pleasure of interviewing the legendary cannabis activist, renegade poet, counter-culture giant and good friend of the Sensi Seeds family, John Sinclair. You will find the open-hearted, three part interview with John Sinclair on the Sensi Seeds blog
 http://sensiseeds.com/en/blog‬

John Sinclair – Mohawk CD will be released on Iron Man Records 24th March 2014

All Press Enquiries: Sean Newsham: sean@mutante-inc.demon.co.uk

Buy Books and Music by John Sinclair in the Iron Man Shop here: http://stores.ebay.co.uk/Iron-Man-Shop

WHITE PANTHER: The Legacy of John Sinclair

October 11, 2013

WHITE PANTHER: The Legacy of John Sinclair – a short film by CHARLES SHAW featuring JOHN SINCLAIR music by THELONIUS MONK

John Sinclair is best known as the Sixties “marijuana” activist who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for giving two joints to an undercover policewoman. he was eventually freed when John Lennon and Yoko Ono spoke out on his behalf

Less understood is his role as the founder and chairman of the radical anti-war group, The White Panther Party, an offshoot of the Black Panthers. The Black Panther Party was a militant political organization formed after the brutal murders of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Robert Kennedy.

The Nixon Administration and the FBI launched a secret program called COINTELPRO to disrupt and ultimately destroy the Black Panthers and the Anti-War movement. As part of this program, John Sinclair was set up and imprisoned on marijuana charges. When the government could no longer justify denying him a bond over two joints, they falsely charged him with a Federal conspiracy to blow up a CIA station, in order to make him disappear.

You can find John Sinclair Books, CDs and other interesting stuff here: http://ironmanrecords.bigcartel.com

Documentary: John Sinclair in New Orleans during Mardi Gras

February 12, 2013

“I always was involved into music. As a fan, composer, journalist, performer, photographer and now film maker….I was lucky to work with Blondie, David Bowie, Chris Wilson, Chris Blackwell and of course John Sinclair, (author, performer, beat-poet, DJ, founder of the White Panther Party, “Spirit” of the early MC5, ex-radical hippie saved from 10 years of prison by John Lennon….)

John has been a major contributor to the Culture of New Orleans and one of its most enlighted experts….particularly found of the “Black culture” of New Orleans, so rich in extraordinary talents…John guided me through the back streets of New Orleans, so to encounter the Mardi Gras Indians….” Gilles Riberolles

Click the link http://vimeo.com/47967644 to play the Documentary We love Big Chief from Gilles Riberolles on Vimeo.

Coming from Paris I joined John Sinclair in New Orleans during the Mardi Gras time….John drove me through Black New Orleans up to the Mardi Gras Indians…

You can find more John Sinclair in the Iron Man shop here: http://stores.ebay.co.uk/Iron-Man-Shop

Rob Tyner, lead singer MC5 – Interviewed by John Sinclair May 1967 for THE SUN.

February 11, 2013

The following interview with Robin Tyner, lead singer of the MC-5, the major Detroit avant-rock band, was recorded by John Sinclair in the first week of May, 1967, for THE SUN. The MC-5 has been together for almost three years and has developed into one of the most exciting bands to be heard anywhere. The group comprises Tyner, lead singer, harmonica, auto-harp, etc.; Wayne Kramer, lead guitar; Fred Smith, rhythm guitar; Michael Davis, bass; and Dennis Thompson, drums. Their first 45 single, “I Can Only Give You Everything.” has recently been released on the AMG label, and an album is being planned now. Tyner himself is not only a brilliant singer and leader but also draws, does cartoons, writes songs, and is writing a book of exercises for lead singers which will be published soon by the Artists’ Workshop Press/Detroit.

Rob Tyner - MC5 Lead Singer Interview 1967 (1)

JS: Let’s talk about the music….

RT: Well, as I see it, the real music scene in Detroit is doing all right. But the whole—the population of all the musicians—and there’s an awful lot of young musicians in town—the percentage of these people who are really into it is so low that you never get to hear any of it. I mean if there is somebody in town who is really into it, you know, in the straight teeny-bopper scene, we never get to hear them. I’ve heard very few bands in this city that I can even listen to—like, there’s Billy C. and the Sunshine, I have to mention those cats—but the whole thing is very appalling. Because being a musician, I’ve lost all my sense of being entertained. You know, I can’t be entertained at all, because I’m an entertainer. I know that this Isn’t like, AH! A SHOW!, but just guys up there working a job like I work a job, and I’ve lost my concept of that. But to see somebody get up there and actually work, like work on a musical plane, to get onto these planes and just drive and work like a motherfucker, you just don’t see it. Except, of course, when you’re listening to the three or four good bands in town, or in the area—the ones I’ve heard. And I hope to God there’s more people, you know. And there will be. Because the real people are getting good, so the people who copy them will have to get good. So pretty soon it’ll be…well, I have no worries about the scene, let me put it that way. Because it’s just going OVER THERE, you know, from all the contact. Like, you go to the Grande Ballroom and what do you see? You see, like, Billy C. and the Sunshine three times—there are bands who are Billy C.; or who are the SpikeDrivers or the Southbound Freeway, you know, you find that even now there’s a small amount of hereo-worship going on, and copping different numbers and things. It used to be that you’d go to the Grande and there’d be 4 or 5 MC-5 bands, 2 or 3 Billy C. and the Sunshines, the Back & Back Boo Funny Music band…and those people used to be sort of a driving influence there, but it’s gotten so far now that we can’t even play there anymore. At any rate, the musicians who do copy, who’ve got it down, you dig, and they’ll be getting into it pretty soon. Because every band comes, you know, you get five people together, or four people, in a band, who have got it, and you’ll just come. One night you’ll be up there on the stand and you’ll just come, and the people will just flip out, and it will be together, I felt in my group, you know, like “unhhh, unnhhh, I’m coming,” and then POW!–one night we EXPLODED. We didn’t care if the people dug it or not, and musically we just exploded. We used to do our “avant” numbers as sort of unleashing a monster on the crowd—we didn’t care if they liked it, we hoped they hated it, because we were killing them, we were shooting them down with these monstrous amplifiers and we just didn’t care. We were obnoxious. We’d get up and do all of our tunes, and then at the end, we’d come.

JS: “Black to come,” yes. That always makes me think of William Burroughs, you know, “People of the earth to come out….”

RT: The job is getting rougher every day, getting more and more demanding, on the part of singers in general. There are people in the world who are shooting the scene farther and farther, and it’s going so fast that you have to RUN to keep up with it. A year and a half ago, back in the early days of Mick Jaggerdom, that’s when a singer didn’t have to DO anything but be a singer and do his act—and he didn’t even have to sound good, because that was hip back then—sound a little raspy, sing a little flat, and that was cool, because a little farther back it was Sinatra, you know, and he didn’t do anything either. But nowadays, singing…I mean listen to Spencer Davis for a minute, and you can tell that he’s obviously IN IT. He took a left turn at Ray Charles and…

JS: Disappeared….

RT: Right. He shot it right out there. You just can’t be a “singer” any more, you got to DO IT! You got to be together musically…your voice has got to be so good, man, because the people demand it. They won’t let you shuck anymore. Listen…I’m no longer talking to John Sinclair, I’m talking to the public: people of the world, the next time you see a live band, and they go up there and do top ten material, you oughta turn on them and say PLAY THE MUSIC—either play the music or GET OFF THE STAND. Tell them that…. The lead singer of the future will have to be the most versatile cat in the band, because he has to be THE solo instrument. The lead singer and the lead guitarist are the ones who do actual note-run solos. The rhythm guitar player does feedbacks and keeps the sound up. The rhythm guitar is no longer just a-chink a-chink a-chink, it’s an art all in itself. Anybody can go the note-run route, you know, like lead singers and lead guitar players—you can express yourself beautifully with note-runs, you hear it all the time—Jeff Beck, Mike Bloomfield, they can run it down with notes. But it takes more to play a different game—the rhythm guitar has to carry the band’s sound all by himself. He’s got to BE THERE. And I haven’t heard too many of that kind of player yet…

Rob Tyner - MC5 Lead Singer Interview 1967 (2)

JS: Well, I think you’ve found one…(IN UNISEN): Fred Smith…(sigh)

RT: Yes…I’d like to thank all the cats in my band for getting as far as they have, and I wish them luck for the future. (Laughter) But as far as being a lead singer goes, in another year and a half the lead singer will have to be the most multi-instrumentalist person in the band. Lead singers should be in there playing tenor saxophones, and alto, and bassoon, oboe, everything else…harmonica, which is like a sanctioned instrument for rock&roll. I got onto that the first time I heard Mick Jagger, Gary Grimshaw brought the record over and I knew the second I heard it that I had to be a singer. So I had this harmonica I’d picked up a couple weeks earlier, and I got right down in there with that. I tried for months and months but couldn’t do anything with it. Then one night I was at a beer party and some cat told me that all blue notes are “in” notes—draw notes—and that did it. That straightened me right out. Every lead singer should have a whole range of instruments, like say, Joseph Jarman has…belles, wind chimes, gongs, and anything else that makes music. I’ve been playing organ, auto-harp, chromatic harmonica, Japanese flute, recorder, and something else…I can’t remember what it is. (Laughter) That’s why I began going into the realms of the sonic…playing feedback off the microphone. Hey, singers! You’ve got an instrument! Anyone who’s got a sound system has got an instrument. You can play the microphone.

JS: I’ve always wondered how you picked up on that. Did you hear someone doing it, or did you just discover it?

RT: We were playing at a party at Betty Conn’s house one night, a wild beer party, and we played “Hang on Sloopy” for 45 minutes, and I said to myself, “there’s got to be something else we can do,” because my voice was gone, and I’d been playing harmonica until my mouth bled, you know, and I felt that there was something else we should be doing—because I had to keep the level up there, we were using guitar, bass and drums at that point and we just kept going and kept going. That was when we were first getting into it, getting farther than what comes out of the radio speaker, and it was a question of what could we do to take it even farther. So I told everyone, in the course of the song, to listen because something really spectacular was going to happen. And they wanted something spectacular, you know, everybody was just sweating and screaming, because if you take a tune like that a drag it out, it gets so much power, like a mantra, you just say it until it’s got so much power that you can’t hold it any more and it explodes, and it HAPPENS. So I went over to my line speaker and shoved my microphone into it, and some glorious and beautiful sounds came out of the speakers and the amps. So I began doing that profusely.

JS: When was that? Who was in the band then? Were they working on feedback by that time?

RT: That was about two years ago, and we had just begun to break into it. That was a few nights before we actually did it on stage. We did it in Dearborn, and we just EXPLODED out there. The first night we did “Black to Come,” we wrote it down in Kramer’s basement, and Fred Smith discovered that you could turn up the Super-Beatle amp until it was unbearable, right. And started playing the opening chords to “Comm” spontaneously and smashed a jar! At that time our group—we had Pat Burroughs and Rob Gasper on bass and drums. Gasper now has a really beautiful, very tight band—the Endless Chain—really together. Gasper’s a tight drummer anyway. Burroughs elected to go to the Marin Corps.

JS: Is that when Michael Davis joined the band?

RT: Right. And we picked up Dennis Thompson from Lincoln Park—he played in a bar with us a couple nights, and I guess we just scared him into being our drummer.

JS: The powerhouse….

RT: You see, the thing is that Dennis amazes me…I don’t want to say anything about Dennis—I’ll just embarrass him… (Laughter)

JS: You have a lot of trouble with the technology, right? I know I’ve talked with people about this, like Marion Brown, the saxophonist, we were talking once about the arrest pushing the technology to make them come up with adequate tools….

RT: Yes, soon there will be an amplifier that can take….

JS: The MC-5….

RT: That can take sustained feedbacks. Oh, incidentally, I have to mention…if you singers want to play the microphone and the speaker, you’re doing it at your own risk. Because you can melt down your whole system that way. It isn’t a good thing for your speaker, but it sure is groovy. And I don’t want some cat coming up and telling me that I made him blow his set up, you know, so make sure this part gets in, OK? That too is an instrument. Like one night I dreamed I vomited on stage…think about that one! But I feel that it’s the duty of every lead singer to seek and find Joseph Jarman, and watch him! Because Joseph Jarman is the best lead singer that took the multi-instrumentalist route. In fact, most tenor players would make good lead singers.

JS: Yeah, they do, in fact, like Archie Shepp has said. Pharaoh Sanders, Archie, Albert Ayler, Roscoe Mitchell…Trane, all those cats.

RT: We saw Joseph Jarman out at Cranbrook last week and it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. Now, seemingly there’s no connection between rock&roll music and “avant-garde” jazz—they seem to be totally unconnected—but they aren’t.

JS: Right. These days most of the players come out of rock&roll, or rhythm & blues, anyway, like Archie Shepp says his biggest influence was Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and all those old screaming cats. Or Albert Ayler used to play with Little Walter’s band. Like Pharoah Sanders, on MEDITATIONS, right in the middle of “Consequences,” playing way up in the fifth register of his horn, screaming his ass off, and all of a sudden you hear him throw in “Hold On I’m Coming” by Sam and Dave. Blows your mind.

Rob Tyner - MC5 Lead Singer Interview 1967 (3)

RT: What I really dig is the new resurgence of the Memphis Sound—that’s beautiful, man. Carla Thomas and Otis Redding. Um um. Joe Tex and Aretha. Yeah. Aretha Franklin, if you read this, I love you. I wonder if you need a band to back you up. I’ll just play the harmonica for you if you want. (Laughter)

JS: Yeah, you know Aretha started out as a jazz singer.

RT: Naturally. I started out as a jazz freak. So did you, so did…I mean shit, you have to have your chops together before you can do it.

JS: That seems to be the difference, actually, with the new rock&roll, and that’s the thing that seems to me to be the most exciting thing about the new rock, outside of the music itself—that the rock players are becoming musicians now, not just plastic guitar strummers, bouncer up and downers….

RT: Well, yeah, I mean, what else are you gonna do? I’m sure everybody who digs rock&roll will thank the British cats very much, because they’re the ones who started the whole thing, they made us into musicians….

JS: Right. And the British got theirs from the r&b people over here.

RT: They just turned it around, they just gave it the emphasis….I think they ought to be rewarded for that.

JS: Well, they have been….(Laughter)

RT: I think we oughta erect a shrine to them, to say “thank you very much.” Because, see, rock&roll began, and then it was perverted immediately—because of the American radio scene. Perversion. You know, it just became Connie Francis, and Bobby Rydell, and Fabian and those cats….

JS: That’s what drove me away from rock&roll back in 1959. Like, I’d been a rock&roll freak in high school, and then when those other cats came around I started listening to jazz and just wasn’t interested in what those people were doing at all.

RT: After rock&roll became perverted, I watched it go down. And I was glad to see it go. Because it started off so beautifully, man, and it wound up so fucking malignantly corrupt, you know, that I was glad it just sank. Because after it sank, man, I turned my face toward Cannonball naturally and all those cats. And then a young man by the name of John Coltrane took over my heart and soul for a while. And just at the point Coltrane was about to come, see, and I could have been there to see it happen. But by then I was watching Mick Jagger and people, and getting my head tore up by cats who were doing the same type thing as the Adderleys were doing, only a little glossier because for me jazz had remained a static thing…Cannonball and the people of his genre, Herbie Hancock, the Jazz Crusaders—remember those cats, “Young Rabbits” and all that shit.

JS: You talked about the American radio system, which was responsible for all that shit being popular, and it wouldn’t let people know what was really going on in jazz at that time—Cecil Taylor, Ornette, Eric Dolphy, and all that beautiful music….

RT: Right! Radio stations ought to be bombed, right off the face of the earth. They’re a malignancy on our growth. Phew. I mean there are some parts of this cancerous corruption, man, that are OK. But then…then there’s radio stations. Any part of a cancer is still a malignancy, and you can’t sacrifice everything for just one part that isn’t so corrupt. But the AM radio scene is just ridiculous.

JS: It’ll change, though….

RT: Oh, sure it’ll change. It’s got to change. If it dosen’t, then nobody’ll believe it. We just won’t stand for it.

JS: Like what you were telling the people at the Love-In-Sunday, when the Seventh Seal and Billy C. were playing, that the people would have to demand to hear this music on the radio…because they don’t even know that the music exists, unless they hear it on the radio.

RT: Right, right….Anything that comes out of the box—any air disturbance or turbulence that comes out of the speaker—has to be made by somebody. And it can always be made better. Always. Any sound you hear can be made better. Remember that, man, because the depth and range of human musical ability is endless. Totally endless, man. You can do anything—ANYTHING—you can make the most fantastically gorgeous, soul-stirring beautiful phantasmagorical music, or you can make bullshit. You know!

JS: All bullshitters must be prosecuted! Semark had a beautiful story about that—did you see that? “The Judgment of Edmund Zwingy,” it was in CHANGE/2 I think.

RT: Yeah, I saw that! It burned into my skin! In fact, that was what turned my eyeballs to the malignancy, that story did. Read it, people—lead singer musicians, pick it up and take a good look at it. Also, for your convenience, the quotation at the top of this interview—you can clip it out and carry it in your wallet and look at it every time before you go on. Because John Tchical wouldn’t steer you wrong. That’s it! That’s the rules to the game.

JS: What about material? Like some of the things you’ve been doing lately that’ve been blowing my mind, making up lyrics as you go along that come out of the specific situation. Like at the Guerrilla Lovefare happening this winter, with all those beautiful vibrations flowing and throbbing in the room, and in the middle of “comm” you started singing., “Here we are people, / Look what we can do”….Amazing….

RT: That’s because the situation was amazing. It has to do with the situation, that’s all. Don’t forget—people listening to live music jump into a game situation and it becomes magic—and it’s beautiful, man, because while the vibrations are flowing all around you and it’s magic, you’re still living in the real world. So during the magic, if somebody tells you where you are in the real world, it burns home. It hits you outside of the magic of the music…it burns right through the magic of the music and hits you in the real world. The real world is terribly imporatant—don’t get hung up in the amphetamine-mouthed rapping, the real world is beautiful, and the music is magic.

JS: Singers and musicians were always, in ancient cultures, and in our own Western culture it’s especially true, before “literature,” in the oral culture all learning was passed on through the poets and the musicians.

RT: Magicians….

JS: Poets were magicians.

RT: Of course. Poets are magicians, everybody’s a magician, man.

JS: And all learning was passed on that way. And now we’re talking about a return to an oral culture, less and less people read, and people are getting what they know off the radio, off the records…you can hear it, and that makes it more immediately REAL.

Mail to the SUN,
4857 John Lodge, Detroit, 48201.

You can find rare stuff by MC5 and also John Sinclair in the Iron Man shop here: http://stores.ebay.co.uk/Iron-Man-Shop

9 Questions answered by Mark at Iron Man Records, Birmingham, 2012.

February 25, 2012

How did Iron Man Records come about?

I started buying records at an early age but soon found that record collecting was an expensive luxury and the only choice was what was stacked on the shelves or anything that hadnt already sold out. I spent time finding good second hand shops but again, the majority of records i found were old vinyl in poor condition or unwanted items and i could never find much I was interested in. I spent a lot of my time reading the music magazines for free in shops on saturday afternoons looking at the features and reviews but again there was never much i really found any interest in. The bands all seemed the same, none of them had any story or mystery to them, they seemed to me like manufactured, heavily marketed and promoted vehicles for generating money for the record labels behind them. Few of them captured my imagination or seemed to have much to inspire me in any way shape or form. For a while it seemed like the album artwork was almost more interesting or imaginative than the music on the record itself. I suppose the late 1970’s and early 1980’s did produce some good bands but I think anyone who was in their early teens at the time would agree that the 80’s were a bleak time for interesting new music.

One good thing did happen during that period, I discovered tape trading. In the back pages of many music magazines at the time there were small classified adverts listing people who lived all over the country, and all around the world, who had an interest in all sorts of bands. A typical advert would read something like “My name’s Joachim, I live in Germany and I like bands like Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, The Accused, Suicidal Tendencies. Write me with S.A.E (self addressed envelope) for live tapes, swaps at this address….”

I would read the advert, and then read it again thinking…”I like Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax… but who are The Accused or Suicidal Tendencies?” I would write to the person in the advert and find out. Before long, the postman was delivering parcels to me that were coming in from all around the world. A couple of my friends were doing the same, we swapped amongst ourselves and with the people we wrote to.

The packages that arrived by post, sometimes two or three a week, contained hand written letters from people the same age as me. Sometimes the tapes would contain an album or a couple of band demos or a live recording of a gig on another. I got the first demos from Heresy, Doom, Carcass, Regurgitation and numerous other bands in this way so I was already looking out for them when the band’s first album got released. I discovered bands like Oi Polloi, Stupids, Dr Know, Rhythm Pigs, Sabbat, Butthole Surfers, Sacred Reich, Nuclear Assault, Faith No More, Prong and many others in a similar way.

Sometimes i would get a fanzine through the post with a long letter listing recommendations, some of the people I wrote to also reviewed records for fanzines or wrote their own. I began to realise that the bands I was watching on top of the pops each week and the features and reviews in the music magazines were just the tip of the iceberg and that the really interesting music was everywhere, you just had to know where to look.

I think this was the starting point for everything I do now. I had this idea to try and find a way to let more people find out about, and enjoy, the music that I was finding for myself so easily. I wanted to get all this music out to a wider audience. I couldn’t understand why more people weren’t doing what I was doing. I had this naive idea I could somehow come up with a mechanism to provide some kind of alternative to everything I was seeing and hearing through the standard mass media channels at the time. If truth be told, I don’t think I had any idea how to do it or where to start but seeing as i had no friends around me that knew any better, I might as well make a start and make it up as i go along.

Every week I used to go through all the magazine and fanzine gig listings I could find. I would hope I’d spot a gig for a band I had heard about through tape traders and people I had been writing to. I started going to see bands play in London as my older sister had a place where I could stay. I would show up to gigs and hope I could get in without having to show any id, I was 16 at the time. I spent a lot of my time at venues like The Sir George Robey in Finsbury Park, The Canterbury Arms in Brixton, The White Horse in Hampstead, The Fulham Greyhound and I used to go to loads of other places too many to mention here.

I often went to gigs by myself, once I had managed to get a drink at the bar I would try and find someone who looked friendly and just start a conversation. The easiest way to do this was to ask them about the bands playing or what records they had bought recently or what other bands they were into. I started to make new friends and some of them I’m still in touch with today. Many people I spoke to mentioned various record shops they could recommend, other venues or fanzines worth checking out and many of them mentioned John Peel. I had already discovered John Peel myself through listening to the radio late at night but I hadnt realised just how significant he was in terms of the numbers of people my age who listened to his show regularly. Sometimes John Peel would get a letter in from a band, or a mate of a band, I had heard about through tape trading, and he would read it out over the air. He would include the details of their upcoming gig, news of a forthcoming release and an address to write to if you wanted more information on the band. Quite often, if I couldn’t find anything in the gig listings worth going to see, I would take a chance on a band mentioned by John Peel.

Going to gigs, or earning enough money to go to gigs became, for many years, the complete focus of everything I did. I loved seeing bands play, meeting new people and sharing a drink with other people who liked the music I was into. But going to gigs and tape trading wasn’t enough, I wanted to take it further, I wanted to contribute in some way, help these bands reach a wider audience.

In 1990 I had the chance to decide where I wanted to live, I had an offer from several Universities to do a degree in Geography (Don’t ask) and I decided that Birmingham was the University for me. The City of Birmingham up to that time had been producing the most interesting music that I had heard. For example Napalm Death were based in Birmingham, I had been at the first Godflesh gig at the Canterbury Arms in Brixton completely by chance. Godflesh at the time were from Birmingham. I had showed up to see Dr and the Crippens (from Bristol) play but they cancelled and Godflesh and Sink played instead. Bri from Doom was there, I had been tape trading with him for a couple of years and he had told me a lot about what was going on in Birmingham. I used to trade and write to Les from Concrete Sox too and he was always talking about the Birmingham scene and how good the band Doom were. I had a load of Napalm Death live tapes that I had swapped and a lot of the talk between songs was all about other birmingham bands or records that members of Napalm Death were listening to. For a while, many of the bands I was discovering all seemed to play, or had played in Birmingham either at The Mermaid or The Barrel Organ. Birmingham also seemed to be the place where many bands I was listening to were going to record demos or their first records. For example Heresy, Doom, Carcass and others all recorded at Rich Bitch studios in Selly Oak, right next to the University. It seemed Birmingham between 1986 and 1990 had been attracting bands to a healthy alternative music scene and that was what brought me to Birmingham in 1990. However, like all things in the music world and everywhere else, change is never far away, and in Birmingham, things changed…for the worse.

The Mermaid closed down, The Barrel Organ closed down, in 1992 the Hummingbird closed down. What was left were venues like The Jug of Ale, The Hibernian, The Hare and Hounds, The Flapper and Firkin and the only real alternative venue of any size was The Foundry. There was also the Institute and Edwards Number 8. It seemed to me that the only promoters left in Birmingham were only in it to promote the bands they liked already or they would only put on bands that would appeal to the student population regardless of what might be thought interesting or new. How naive I was. Looking back on it with Hinesight, most of them were probably trying to cling on financially as the world around them was already collapsing and they would do anything if it meant better tickets sales. More ticket sales meant more beer sales. More beer sales meant the venue and the promoter had a future. There had to be a better way to attract customers. At this time, the Internet hadn’t arrived yet in any serious capacity.

Across Birmingham student bars were selling beer at £1 a pint, DJ’s were paid £50 to play records in the local pub, big screen TV’s were everywhere playing sport, computer games were encouraging people to stay at home and play, more channels were accessible on the TV, Cable, Satellite channels and changes in peoples use of their leisure time were all eroding ticket sales. You didnt have to go and see a live band anymore to have a fun night out…you could go to the pub and listen to a dj, or watch the sport, or go clubbing, or go to a sports bar and drink cheap lager. The council already had plans in action to build a new shopping center right in the middle of town, people would be able to go shopping anytime they liked. If this wasn’t enough to sound the death of any hope for the future, do you remember how Birmingham used to have one of the best dance music scenes in the country? House of God, Crunch, a host of other dance nights were all attracting students and other young people…live music was no longer as important as it was, particularly in Birmingham. If you ran a pub, why would you pay £300 or even 500 for a live band when you could get a DJ for £50? It has always been hard enough to run a pub and make money from beer without worry about the rest. Things like marketing and promotion were expensive and complicated, a simple solution for attracting people to drink beer and spend their money was the aim of the game and its still the same today. (It’s interesting to note that these days people even DJ for free in pubs with a laptop or an ipod and think they’re achieving something, they’re just being used…they have their ego flattered and they help sell beer for someone else but, I digress.)

This is where I found myself in 1992. The venues were closing, the promoters were doing anything to stay in business, the breweries would rather fit a big screen tv and provide food than have a fully equipped venue and regular live music. It was too expensive and too much risk was involved. As far as the promoters were concerned, I don’t think anyone was making any money, it was a lot of hard work and a lot of stress. When the venue was packed and the beer sales were good the bands got the credit. When the venue was empty and the beer sales were poor the promoter got a talking to. Either way, if you were a music promoter it was a lose or lose situation. The situation was desperate. Then something happened that pushed me into action.

At the start of 1992 Two bands I had been a fan of for years, from opposite ends of the musical spectrum, came together and appeared on prime time TV right in front of my eyes. One band was Extreme Noise Terror, a band John Peel had introduced me to through numerous plays on his radio show, the other was KLF…a band that had first caught my attention with their antics on top of the pops and an interesting approach to releasing records. The KLF attracted my attention for a number of reasons, you can look up what they are all about anywhere on the internet. Their most notorious performance was what finally did it. The KLF collaborated with Extreme Noise Terror at the February 1992 BRIT Awards, they played “3am Eternal” and fired machine gun blanks into the audience and dumped a dead sheep at the aftershow party. This performance announced The KLF’s departure from the music business, and in May 1992 the duo deleted their entire back catalogue. Im sure anyone will tell you how scarcity increases value of some items, the internet has put an end to scarcity and so the value of music and downloads has become almost nothing. You can get anything you want anytime you want it. There’s no apparent value in ownership anymore. Anyway, back to watching ENT vs KLF on the Brit awards: I watched in disbelief, laughing my head off as the two bands performed on LIVE tv. For the first time in as long as I could remember, something had made me laugh out loud and had lit the fire of enthusiasm to do something myself.

I had been playing in bands for many years by this time, I had been to hundreds of gigs, talked to lots of fanzines, labels, bands, venue promoters and gig organisers. I thought that if no one else was going to do anything to try and sort things out I would have to do it myself. This was the chance I had been waiting for, I had this stupid idea that I should start putting on gigs myself, bring to birmingham all the interesting new alternative bands and I should mix the bills up with good local support acts. All I needed was a venue going bust that would be desperate enough to let me have a go, I would need a sound engineer to look after the sound and I could make the rest up as I go along. That’s exactly what I did.

I started at the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath. My friend Tom Wiggins was a sound engineer, or at least he reckoned he could do the sound if I paid him and sorted everything else out. I went to the landlord at the Hare and Hounds and managed to persuade him to give me one night a month. I would do all the promotion, I would take all the money on the door and I would have to pay the soundman and pay the bands. I started doing one show per month and then moved on to one show a week. I never made much money, enough to pay the sound man and give the bands a donation towards their costs but there was never enough money for everyone and I certainly was not going to make anything for myself. When I graduated I had a couple of dead end jobs then decided to sign on to free up my time to put more effort into organising the gigs, marketing and promotion. I spent many late nights thinking about what i could do to make things better. I had done my research, I had a strategy and I was putting the strategy into action but still there was not much money and not many people coming to the gigs.

A few years later I spotted a poster for a gig at what became Monkey Micks opposite the fire station in Aston. It was a poster for a band called Dogfood and on the poster it said the event promoter was sponsored by the K Foundation. I assumed and hoped that this was in some way related to the KLF and showed up to the gig with no idea what to expect. I had an interesting night out. Leaving the gig after a few drinks and making plenty of new friends, I felt I had at last found another small group of people who were also looking for an alternative. They were hell bent on making their own fun regardless. I was also pleased to discover the music promoter responsible for the gig posters, he appeared more unhinged than I was and at best came across as a dangerous lunatic. His name was Richard Temple and we became good friends. Richard introduced me to the internet, I had no idea what it was, how to use it or even what possibilities it presented. Richard had to admit that putting K Foundation on the posters was only an attempt to attract people to the gig, he was a fan of KLF and used the name purely to see who would show up. As he stated to me some days afterwards “as a strategy it worked quite well. For a start…you showed up.”

By 1996 Richard was organising shows in Birmingham under the name of “Discordian Promotions” and I was operating under the name of “Badger Promotions.” Both of us were trying to organise shows for interesting touring bands with support slots filled by local acts. I think we both knew that neither of us were ever going to make any money either for the bands, ourselves or the venues we were working in, but we couldn’t stop, the phone kept ringing. I think we both continued because we were both working at it and it felt good that there was someone else as mad, doing it, too.

In 1997 I had come to the conclusion that there was really no hope for the future of local gig promotion in Birmingham. It was a disaster area and would continue to be so until someone or something came along to change everything. Anyone who knew there was no longer any money in it was moving on in the hope of better things. Those that remained were either too stupid or too bloody minded to stop or earning money or promoting half decent new music was not the purpose. Richard and I had started using the internet and hoped that this could be the “thing” to change everything.

Richard set up the first internet based discussion group for “music in Birmingham” called “Discordian.” It started life at egroups, then became a yahoogroups list. We started putting email addresses on posters and flyers and invited people to join the discussion online. For users of twitter or facebook these days, this is it where it all started for some musicians in Birmingham. It was slow to start, painfully slow. I dont think many other people in Birmingham had any idea about the internet either and certainly no idea about what was to become “social networking.” The basic idea behind the discordian group was to provide a platform where people who were into alternative music in Birmingham could freely discuss all things music eg: gigs they were going to, bands they had seen, records they were listening to and so on. It was also a sneaky way to promote the word “discordian” and all related “ideas.” After many months the list still only had about 20 users and Richard and I were the main contributors. So always the one with the insane ideas, Richard decided to test whether the “Discordian” discussion group for music was the problem or the concept of the internet based discussion group itself. Richard tried to think of something that was less likely to be of interest to people in Birmingham than music. He picked the subject of “being naked in public places.” The reasoning was simple: “surely more people would be into going to local gigs than walking around in public naked?” Right? How wrong could anyone be. Richard and I were both masters at that. Richard set up a discussion group that was essentially aimed at people who “liked to walk around naked in public and network with other people who liked to do the same.” Within a month the group had over 1,000 users, within a year it had got out of control. Richard had to shut it down. At least we had the answer we were looking for, the internet is a powerful tool but you need to know how to use it and what you talked about, provided, discussed or promoted mattered. Just because we had access to the internet didn’t mean that people would show up to the gigs in any greater numbers than before we had the internet. The bands, the music, the quality, the profile of the bands were still an important part of the equation, we still had to choose the bands carefully. In fact, everything we had done offline before pretty much mattered just as much as what we were doing online now, we had just given ourselves even more work to do online and off. The internet was not instead of our work offline, it was an addition to our offline strategy.

I continued to think about ways to reach a wider audience, how could a local band in Birmingham reach a wider local audience, a national audience or even an international audience? Did you really need money or could you do it with strategy alone? Richard and I sat around drinking and arguing about what the internet was or wasnt going to do for us and how it would change the future. I had my ideas, Richard had his. I have to admit, looking back on it neither of knew anything but at the time Richard was the only one who had any clear vision of what we were dealing with and what the future might be. He had invested serious time finding out how things worked online and if anyone knew anything it was more likely to be him. At the same time, in the national press I was reading about the internet being the end of the music business. I’d heard that one before. Piracy will destroy the music business, Home taping is killing music and now digital files and downloading is killing the music business. It had to be rubbish, somebody somewhere was losing power and control and they didn’t like it. I thought about it a bit longer and read and re-read the articles about the internet and music. I thought to myself that people who knew how to use the internet effectively and use it in cooperation with everything else they did would no doubt succeed, and people who didnt know how to use the internet effectively were going to fail. The Internet appeared to me as a ten ton truck approaching and somehow i had to get behind the wheel or at least put some good tunes on the stereo rather than just get run down. At a time when the local live music scene was in a mess and the music industry had announced it was starting to collapse I decided to start a record label of my own. I wasn’t after money, I wasn’t after a quick hit or the hope of selling the business on to a larger company when I had made a mess of things. I knew I had no future promoting local gigs, I had already been at it for 5 years in Birmingham at this point and had seen enough to put anyone else off music for life. I just wanted the chance to compete in a new game with an all new hope for helping bands reach a wider audience. And if that wasn’t going to happen I would just have to cheat effectively long enough to stay in the game until I worked out a more effective strategy to survive. In 1997 I was on the dole, I had no money in the bank, I was behind with the rent, I owed people money, I had 5 years as a local music promoter behind me, what did I have to lose? I didnt have anything but there was one small problem. The bank was not stupid enough to lend me anymore money and my credit card was full. All I needed now was to find someone who would give me some money, enough money to release a record and test out the insanity for real. Someone who would not ask for it back if I failed completely. And while I waited, I thought I’d treat myself to a little research, I bought a copy of “The Manual” (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way) 1988 – a book by The Timelords (Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty), better known as The KLF. It’s wikipedia entry describes it as “a tongue-in-cheek step by step guide to achieving a No.1 single with no money or musical skills.” I’d heard about it and read bits that had been copied or reproduced. I decided to read it and work from there.

In late 1997 someone with money to lend me walked through the door of The Old Railway. I was organising two shows a week and they asked me how much I thought I would need to start a record label. I couldn’t believe my luck. Within 7 days the record label had a logo and the name I had been keeping for just such a purpose could at last be used. I had already thought a lot of my plans through so when the opportunity just appeared one evening in the doorway I knew exactly what I wanted to do next. Iron Man Records officially began on 23rd November 1997 although I had been working on ideas throughout 1996. The name came from the song Iron Man by Black Sabbath that I used to play when all else failed. Birmingham to me has always been Ozzy’s town. Black Sabbath could not have happened without the crushing despair that prolonged exposure to Birmingham’s built environment brings down onto people. It’s in the water, it’s the skyline, the warehouse roofs and canals, you can’t see much further than the other side of the road, it’s all around you, you can feel it. Birmingham can be a bleak and depressing place. Bands like Napalm Death, Godflesh, Doom and the rest I’m sure were all influenced by the place they spent their time. It shows in their music. The name was also inspired by my own perceptions of Birmingham as an old industrial town, made of iron, populated by stubborn, narrow minded people with no drive to do anything creative for themselves apart from work, consume, breed and die. I wanted to take a tin opener to peoples perceptions of the Birmingham Music Scene and I wanted to take a tin opener to the Music Business in general, I wanted to see what it was all about for myself and offer an alternative. I wanted to show that anyone could set up a record label and and anyone could work effectively to help bands reach a wider audience without having to be a greedy money motivated idiot. I didn’t just want to do it myself, anyone could do that. I wanted to do it properly and fairly without into the age old compromise chasing money etc. Not long after I decided to make a start on the record label, Barney, the singer from Napalm Death showed up one night at The Old Railway to write a review for Kerrang. I spoke to him briefly and asked if he could recommend a good studio in Birmingham for bands to record as I had heard so many horror stories about Rich Bitch. He laughed and said “Go and see Bag at Framework Studios, he’ll sort you out.” Barney gave me the address and the rest is history. When I found Framework Studios I found Bag aka Paul Siddens and Simon Reeves. Bag had worked with Napalm Death for the last ten years, Meathook Seed, Charger, DBH, Little Giant Drug, Cathedral, Carcass, Bjork, Admortem, Family Cat, Crowbar, Six Feet Under, Obituary, Ride, Coal Chamber, Skin Lab, At The Gates, Saxon, and PJ Harvey. Bag starting teaching me some of the most important things about touring, recording and everything else I might need to know. The rest is history, I still work with Framework Studios, in fact Simon Reeves plays bass in Last Under The Sun which is the band I started over ten years ago. The first release on Iron Man Records was a local band called I.O.D and it’s still one of my favourites, a local band that had only played local gigs and with Bag’s work in the studio, they produced a great debut release.

I have kept a list of quotes that have continued to inspire what I do since the record label has been in operation. You can read them here: https://ironmanrecords.net/about/reasons-why/

I have also been questioned on some of the above before. You can find my answers here: https://ironmanrecords.net/about/questions/ and here: https://ironmanrecords.net/about/10-questions/

Is it an equal partnership between you and Kevan? Or does one of you have more control?

I have the main artistic and financial control of the label, but just like any solo project, it is doomed to failure if you don’t have at least one other person involved to keep a degree of sanity to decision making. Kevan looks after all the Legal agreements and we discuss everything at length before I start working on any new projects. Kevan has also contributed many good ideas along the way as he has worked in music and law himself for many years and knows a lot more about the commercial pitfalls and the better aspects of the music business than I ever will.

What made you decide to branch out further that being just a record label?

I never started the record label to make money, I hoped it would cover it’s costs but that was just about it. Since 1997 the label has spent a lot of money and struggled to generate any real income at all. I considered applying for funding and working on more effective marketing and promotional strategies but in the end I decided I would rather abandon the concept of strategy and just generate more releases with bands that i liked in my own time and when funds permitted. After the closure of The Old Railway in Digbeth I was no longer booking concerts for bands and the phone kept ringing. Bands would ask for a show and when I told them I was no longer organising anything in Birmingham the next question would always be…”Can you come and get us from the airport?” or “Do you know anyone with a van who could drive us round Europe for the whole of the tour?” I started to offer Tour Management and driving to bands I already knew just to help them out. But the phone kept ringing and soon I was working with bands I had never met before and they were willing to offer me money in exchange for my experience, knowledge and time. I continue to keep to the idea of only working with people I like and I tend to favour the bands who have something interesting to say with their music, lyrics or approach to their music in general.

I have been offered work by the Musicians Union, local funded organisations, and several Universities teaching Music Industries Skills and Music PR and Promotion. To be honest, whilst I working for all sorts of different entities and enjoy teaching a lot, I don’t like being employed by anyone I wouldn’t want to invite for a drink and a chat. Sadly many Universities and local funded organisations have become administrative frameworks and sometimes you never even meet the people who make the decisions or pay your wages and as an employee you have little chance to influence what is taught or how it is taught or what subject matter should be focussed on.

In this digital age, for what reasons do you sell CD and Vinyl?

There is still a healthy market for CDs and Vinyl and I like them both for different reasons.

In Germany, France and Czech Republic, Vinyl always sells better than CDs or digital downloads amongst the bands I work with both on tour and as a label. One of my friends in Czech republic explained to me that he discovers new music on the internet, by personal recommendation. He downloads suggested mp3 and gives them a listen. If he discovers a new band he likes he buys a ticket and goes and sees the band play when they visit Czech on tour. If he likes the show he will buy a vinyl album or a 7 inch single as a souvenir of the gig and as a valuable addition to his record collection. He explained he had no use for cds as they were digital and he could get the digital files for free from the internet. He explained he likes to sit and listen to his records or invite his friends round to join him. This love of vinyl has been repeated to me by friends I’ve got in France and other European countries. Things may well change in future but for now, Vinyl is still more important that anything else if you want to tour or operate in Europe.

On a personal level I’ve always loved Vinyl, the artwork on the record sleeve, the lyrics inside, the smell of the vinyl and the simple joy of playing the record and sitting down and listening to it. I have a good collection of vinyl and I still think one of my favourite things is to sit down, with no phone, no laptop, no interruptions and just play a record from start to finish. If anyone has ever sat down and listened to any classic record like David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars or Pink Floyd – Dark side of the moon from start to finish without any distraction you can’t help but admit, the music takes your mind to another place and you just cant get that sort of enjoyment from digital files played through tiny speakers on a laptop computer.

CD’s are different to me. I like them as they are digital, you can play them in the car but you can also read the sleeve notes and packaging, you can look at the artwork and you have a physical product. The are also a lot cheaper to send through the post. I have never really like the idea of filling my computer with digital files. All that happens is I listen to endless streams of music files and in the end my brain just becomes numb to all of it and I stop enjoying the music. I still enjoy putting on a good record and listening to it from start to finish. I don’t mind getting up and turning it over if its on vinyl but I really don’t enjoy the continuos, infinite stream, of digital files playing through itunes, I find it soul destroying and eventually irritating.

Digital files tend to be found mostly on my computer so i only listen to files that don’t distract me too much while i’m answering emails or whatever online. I tend to listen to more relaxing or acoustic based music when im on the computer. I think this is why music that is marketed and promoted only though the digital medium will eventually short circuit. the only music that will prevail will be music that people like to listen to whilst playing on facebook or answering emails or whatever while sat at a computer.

Releasing a good physical product, with proper artwork and packaging, that involves the listener playing the music on a record player or a cd player means that at least there is a small chance they wont ONLY listen to the music when sat at a computer.

Do you sell any music by artists that are not with the label?

Yes I run a distro on ebay. By this I mean I buy cds, vinyl, dvd, and all sorts of other stuff off bands I like and I listen to on a regular basis. I try and sell stuff as cheap as I can on ebay and usually I put a freebie of some description into every envelope. Anyone who buys anything from me gets an extra item of some sort in addition to the stuff they have paid for. It’s my way of keeping in touch with my customers and it means I can see for myself what people are buying and what they are no longer interested in as far as ebay selling is concerned. It also helps as i can put flyers or info about events into the envelopes as I pack and wrap items before sending them out. At times it’s just like the old days of tape trading, I have a means to get the information out to the people buying the music and I can bypass everything in the mainstream media or on the net. I know that if they are buying this cd from me by this band, they will probably be interested in this flyer, for this gig, on this date etc.

Do you have a business plan?

Not really, things are changing all the time, my mind is changing all the time, I have to be ready to seize the moment and by the time I’ve written a proper plan out I’m already onto something else.  I do however do my research for each individual release, I assemble a strategy on a release by release basis as every band has different needs, wants, ideas etc and I try my best to stick to the strategy spread over a planned time period. I alway try to set goals or agree indicators for evaluation before I begin so I know whether I have been successful or not. For example I might suggest 2 good local reviews, 6 good national reviews and some radio play might deem a release a success. By comparison another record might need 5 good local reviews and 20 good national reviews to be a success. I’m not going to go through it all here but in simple terms I have a rough outline strategy for everything I do but everytime I think about putting a strategy into action I review it based on recent events, try and do some more research where required and then I’ll customise it depending on what I want to do and how much time or money is available. But I always try to set targets before I begin so i know whether what I have done has been any good or not by the time its all finished or I’ve gone as far as I can.

How is Iron Man Records funded?

The label began with a cash loan that was recoupable against sales but not returnable in the event of failure. It’s probably safe to say the word failure was the result. I’ve essentially written all this loaned money off now, I don’t think I’ll ever generate enough to pay it off, or not in the near future at least. I spent too much money too quickly and expected sales to be about 20 times better than they turned out to be. The result was no one has earnt anything and a huge debt still exists. I try not to think about it too much but it did teach me a valuable lesson. Spending other peoples money is really easy, when you spend your own you don’t make so many mistakes and one mistake can put an end to any plans. This is one of the main reasons I don’t think funding the creative industries can ever produce any meaningful results unless the funding is less than 20% of any new project cost. Projects that only exist because someone has managed to hook some funding for it are a waste of everyones time and nobody gains anything apart from the box ticking people at the funding organisation and the people who deliver the project itself, they get to pay their mortgage or go on holiday but nothing of any value is generated by the process.

Since 2002 I have been funding the record label out of my own earnings from activities outside of the record label. I have earned money from teaching, consultancy, helping to run workshops, speaking and providing online strategy and help with PR and promotion. By far the biggest earner for me these days is Tour management and driving for touring bands. Tour Management was never something I chose to do, my phone just kept ringing with bands asking for my help on tour, in the end I just gave in and said “OK, whats your budget, what are you trying to do, where are you going and when do you need me to start?”

I’ve been doing tour management and driving without even realising it for many years, and for free. I’ve been doing it for purely commercial purposes for the past 6 years as a means to provide income for the label. I always prefer earning and spending my own money than going “cap in hand” to some funding agency or governmental organisation. Not only do these organisations often know nothing about anything, their staff and the people who find themselves delivering many of the projects end up taking more interest in their share of the 45% project spend on “costs”. And when they’re not worrying about their own wages, sick pay, maternity pay, annual leave, lunch hour etc, The project leaders end up spending their time worrying how to spend all the money by a specific time rather than how to invest it properly for the sustainability of the project or to generate more funds for the future. The funding organisations in my view have not only put the real creative businesses out of action by providing unfair and funded competition, they have forced anyone with any intelligence to abandon their creative project and start a new one that meets the criteria of the funding available.

Ive had to stand back and watch people with some of the best minds, talent and ideas Birmingham has produced to date throw their own ideas and creativity away in exchange for a “funded project position.”  I’ve watched them do it for the easy money, a higher salary than could be expected than if you did it by yourself, and some stupid job description like creative consultant or creative director. These people are worse than dead people, they are living dead people who have choosen to kill off their own creativity in exchange for working for someone else because they are too lazy or too fearful of doing it for themselves and risking failure. When the funding finally stops Birmingham will start to produce some creative genius’ again. Until then, give up all hope, the creative genius’ will continue to sell themselves for any price to anyone who will take their fears away and tolerate their cowardice.

What work have you done with other companies?

I’ve organised more than 1000 gigs in and around Birmingham since 1994 as Badger Promotions. I did plenty of shows before that but on an irregular basis under various assumed names.

I set up the Birmingham Music Network in 2000, it’s still running and I organise a networking meeting on the last thursday of the month.

Since 2002 I have continued to put on shows, but they have been few, and far between, and usually under an assumed name as I felt the Badger Promotions thing had run its course.

At the moment I’m playing in a band called Last Under The Sun which started life in 2000 after my last band split up. I also play in another band called Police Bastard. I book the tours and organise pretty much everything else.

I write and maintain several music related blogs and work to promote new music where possible by sharing links, videos, news etc on twitter, facebook and through my websites.

I currently only work for money as a Tour Manager & Driver outside of Iron Man Records. I’ve worked for Seasick Steve, Anthrax, Mika, Killing Joke, Gorillaz, Brand New Heavies, The Enemy, Friendly Fires, Okkervil River, The Wild Mercury Sound, Sierra Maestra, Jay Reatard, The Nightingales, Ivo Papasov, Endbutt Lane, The Rakes, Crystal Castles, The Magistrates, Bullet for my Valentine, The Orb, Barry Adamson, Soulsavers, As I lay Dying, Roisin Murphy, Police Bastard, Dufus, Arrows, Taio Cruz, Ladytron, Son de la Frontera, Jeffrey Daniel, Johnny Foreigner, Xova, Johnny 2 Bad, The Moons, The Lines, Phantom Limb, Little Barrie and many others…..

In the past I have worked for money assembling online strategy for bands like The Orb, Arrows, Xova and companies like Moving Space Tours and more recently Good 2 Go Tours.

I have lectured at Birmingham City University as part of their Music Business degree course, I’ve delivered work for the Musicians Union, projects for Birmingham City Council, Learning and Skills Council and Advantage West Midlands. I was also part of the team that delivered “In The City” in cooperation with Radio 1 before 2000.

What do you feel the role of Iron Man Records is in regards to the music industry as a whole?

To provide an alternative, a different way of seeing the world, a different perspective, something homemade, or homegrown.

I read somewhere that 87% of the population base their beliefs and perceptions on what others around them tell them is true. Only 13% make any effort to research and establish the truth for themselves before making any decision. To that so called “13%” who “make their own decisions” I’d like to offer a record label and a roster of bands that are trying to do something I think is worth listening to. The rest I don’t care about. They have their own decisions to make.

To show you can do it yourself and do it properly on a budget you can stick under a glass.

To record, release and promote music by bands and artists that have something to say for themselves and whose music I like.

To ignore what the rest of the so called commercial music industry or latest fashion trends might be doing.

To track down and share new music by interesting bands from around the world with a new audience with little or no regard to anything else going on in the music industry.

I don’t really care what anyone else is doing, I’m happy to let them do what they want. All I’m interested in doing is what I want, doing it properly and finding like minded people to share what I’m doing with.

Mark, Iron Man Records – January 2012

Seth Faergolzia of Dufus interviewed by Jeffrey Lewis, Bristol 1/1/11

January 16, 2012


Jeffrey Lewis interviews Seth Faergolzia of Dufus outside The Thekla, Bristol, UK Tues, Nov 1 2011.
www.23psaegz.com
www.dufus.tv
www.thejeffreylewissite.com

You can buy Dufus albums and all sorts of other stuff in The Iron Man Shop on eBay

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