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How did you become involved in the record industry, and what led up you to working at Cargo/Livewire?
I started working in HMV Records in Sutton on the day that the Michael Jackson album "Bad" was released. The shop was pandemonium all day and while I was processing stock with the manager, I stupidly asked him if we were going to have to listen to the same album all day. He barked back "This pays our fucking wages". A good lesson learnt early on! From there I worked for Greyhound Records - an import/export company in Clapham Junction. This was at the tail end of the 80s Hair Metal/Hard Rock glory years with the Diving For Pearls, D'Molls, Stevie Salas releases and a mass of obscurities and gems being uncovered. Japanese CDs, U.S. and European CDs (along with Kelv Hellrazer's cosmetics and hair products) were the main items we imported. After a short stint at Pinnacle I joined Cargo Records in 1995.
In the age of Pro Tools, Cubase, Myspace etc., why do we even need record companies?
Record companies are still useful for marketing ideas, physical and digital distribution and co-ordinating press and promotion. Also a record company can provide a focus (as the great John Fashanu said) and make sure that energy and budget is channelled in the right way. Many things can seem like a good idea until they're really thought through, and this is where a record company can provide guidance and a structured campaign. In the words of Kory Clarke, "Myspace? That's here at the bar... "
As label manager at Livewire, what qualities attract you to a particular band or artist? When you're at a gig what is it that entices you out of the bar to watch an (unsigned) support band, and do you tend to watch bands in a different way to how most of us watch them?
Originally Livewire was going to sign what I thought were modern glam/rocknroll bands, and The Toilet Boys encapsulated that. I like bands that have a lot of attitude, and don't stand there looking at their shoes. As Livewire's catalogue expanded over the next few releases the spectrum became quite a lot broader, and we've released quality Classic Rock acts such as Diamond Head. Ideally I'd like to sign a band that combine Missing Persons and Motley Crue. The important factors are attitude... and perspective.
In what ways has the role of the record company and distributor had to change, to fall into line with the the increasing number of online outlets, iTunes etc, and the decrease in the number of bricks'n'mortar
So many of the indies have now gone - in the early nineties there were still a healthy number of really good indie stores who stocked rock music (Penny Lane, Signals, Sound Barrier - the list goes on) and the people who worked there really knew their music and would recommend releases to customers. S.T. Records in Dudley and J.G. Windows in Newcastle are two who can still provide the same service. A lot more sales are now through Amazon and Play and mail order companies such as Destiny, Loud 1, Z-Roxx etc. The records are still being made and sold through additional outlets.
Share some of your personal Spinal Tap moments with us....
Travelling from Barcelona after a particularly 'lively' weekend with only one lens in my glasses and not noticing until I arrived at Stansted... Describing an LA Glam band as "they're all kens, apart from the singer" while they were standing behind me... Being asked if I was Glenn Tipton... Being asked if I was Geddy Lee... Drinking with a bass player in the pub when he was meant to be on stage - when he realised he just walked through the crowd, hooked up his bass and off he went... but my most favourite, with hindsight - no pun intended, even though there was a fair bit of my hind on sight - was making a grand entrance at Chepstow Castle with Dave Ling (pictured here) by sliding 50 feet down a muddy embankment on my arse. There are loads more ridiculous antics, many of which would be libellous and/or illegal to talk about here!
Every era and genre brings forth thousands of fresh bands with fresh hopes, all chasing the same dream. What advice would you give to bands starting out these days?
Really think long and hard about haircuts and shoes. Create mayhem (must include physical violence) and upset people wherever you go, make sure all the bandmember hate each other and have rapidly escalating drink and drug problems. And they need to have five killer songs.
Fair enough! What do you think of the way the business has swung so far towards downloading rather than actual product?
I'm sure there will be a slight backlash against downloading at some point as a section of music fans (especially rock fans) will still want artwork, pictures, liner notes and an actual physical product. Can't be long before the 8-track revival.
And what is your opinion on programmes like The X Factor, and the demise of programmes such as Top Of The Pops etc.
Haven't really watched The X Factor but if I had to enter I'm sure I could bungle my way through the Billy Ocean classic "When The Going Gets Tough". The winners of these shows don't seem to last very long but I suppose Cowell, Osbourne and Walsh all make a few quid from the whole pantomime and get to laugh at people whose mums have told them they can sing like Whitney Houston. I'll have to start watching..
Top Of The Pops was always essential viewing in the early 70's - Sweet, The Double G, Sparks all seemed to be from another planet when I was a young boy. Singles were selling millions so I suppose the show ran its course when sales slumped.
Who are your own musical heroes - and why?
Led Zeppelin - Everything about them!
Glenn Hughes - He is the Voice Of Rock and greatest living Englishman.
Chip Z'nuff & Donnie Vie - the best songwriters of their generation.
Nikki Sixx - He's still the king of Glam/Sleaze Rock n' Roll.
Phil Mogg & Pete Way - If Springsteen was from North London he would be nearly in the same league as Mr Mogg (And if Mr Mogg was from Streatham he would be the greatest songwriter of all-time).
Which five albums shaped your life - and for each one, why?
Motley Crue - Too Fast For Love : The U.S Glam/Sleaze blueprint - #1 album.
Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti : Listened to this every day for about three years.
UFO - Strangers In The Night : Bought this corker at Virgin in Croydon the day it came out and still play regularly now. Beyond classic.
The Clash - Combat Rock : Oddly I've played this more than any other Clash album. Eclectic and brilliant. Know your rights.
Cheap Trick - In Color : Every one a winner.
And every Enuff Z'Nuff album...
And which were the best gigs you ever went to - and why?
Led Zeppelin at Knebworth - I was 12, in the biggest crowd I'd ever seen and watching my heroes.
AC/DC with Bon Scott - Anyone not a fan of AC/DC is not to be trusted.
Enuff Z'nuff - King of all Media Philip Wilding took me up to a rehearsal at John Henry's before the first U.K. shows. Vie/Z'Nuff/Frigo/Foxx line up were as good as it gets...
UFO - All the shows have been memorable in one way or another.
Twisted Sister at the Marquee - One of the hottest gigs I have ever attended at the Wardour Street venue. I was a confirmed SMF.
Motley Crue at Donington in '84 - Hugely anticipated appearance after rumours they may have been supporting Wishbone Ash! They didn't disappoint.
What albums should we look out for in the near future from Livewire?
The upcoming Waysted album "The Harsh Reality" is the next release. They have never been in finer form. Fin is a vocal powerhouse and the band have the focus,the musicianship and (unless I drink 'em all) cider in place to really do the business. The version of "Sweet Emotion", as featured on the Classic Rock covermount, is immense and the album is a tour de force.
Donnie Vie's "Extra Strength" EZN classics stripped back to acoustic guitar and piano. A truly great singer and one of his best ever performances. He may even make it to Europe in the next few months for a series of shows.
Kory Clarke - A reissue of "Opium Hotel" with extra songs/dvd footage that is as relevant now as it was when it was recorded post 9-11. Kory is one of the best frontmen around.
Also, we're hoping soon to work with a new band called Heroin Chic - The future of Glam Metal.
What would you like to be doing in 5 years time?
I hope to be living at Gibbs Beach in Barbados, or just off Streatham High Road and releasing quality albums by my favourite artists.
© Get Ready To Roll - 28th September 2007