a brief history..
it’s 1996 and i’m at work on the outskirts of
sitting opposite me is ‘doctor mental’ aka nick johnstone, ad manager and would be music journo. a couple of feet above our desks, suspended from the ceiling is the sales mook. the sales mook is essentially an empty catering size tin of nescafe which has undergone a voodoo-esque transition into the living, floating embodiment of the craziness that surrounds me and the other employees caught up in doctor mental’s unique approach to ad sales. like all good religious sects we have new names.. there’s gandrew, trapper, international nurse mental matron, the fly, flying v, michael heseltine’s son, demi-beard and me ‘lionel’.
should work be this much fun ? i don’t know.
somehow we’re selling ads so the boss can’t sack us for poor performance. every so often he passes our enclave in a fog of bewilderment and fear as respectable ad agencies a few miles away in the centre of town receive cut and paste sex pistols style faxes offering last minute offers of space.
of course it had to end. in between the faxes to clients dr mental was busy sending pitches for features on US proto grungers ‘the replacements’ to melody maker. one day they printed something he’d written and a new career was born. soon after he landed a commission to write a book on patti smith who’d launched her career back in 1974 with a self-released version of ‘hey joe’. nick occasionally played guitar in my band ‘bromide’ and suggested i too should record my debut album and release it on my own label.
i immediately rang a recording studio and booked some time. scratchy records was born.
bromide’s debut album ‘iscariot heart’ appeared in 1997. luckily we got distribution through pinnacle and i spent my lunch breaks outside the virgin megastore in oxford street flyering punters about the album on a listening post inside.
another bromide album followed in 2001, this time distributed by cargo, then at a moldy peaches gig in 2002 i met a band called ‘the rocks’. a week or two later i witnessed them ignite a packed hope & anchor crowd and realised i’d never seen or heard anything quite like them.. plus it turned out they had £500 to press a 7inch vinyl single and needed a label to release it. maybe scratchy could release music by other people as well.. like a proper label !
the rocks released a slew of singles and an album on scratchy, some of which even sold out ! by the time they finally imploded in 2008 i knew a handful of musicians who all had music that was ready to go and needed a home and some of them even had money.. so over the next few years scratchy put out albums by postspacerockers ‘spork’, eccentric artpop recluse ‘full english breakfast’, gifted folker matthew neel, indie glam rockers ‘jonny cola & the a-grades’ as well as some more bromide stuff.
looking ahead in 2015 there’s a new album from full english breakfast nearly ready, vaudeville gypsy cabaret ensemble ‘joey herzfeld & his so-called friends’ will be releasing their debut and there’ll be another single from the new bromide album ‘i remember’.
perhaps one of the highlights so far has been having a stall at the last couple of ‘independent label market’ events at spitalfields. there’s nothing like instant feedback and it’s been great to accost random punters armed only with a pair of headphones and find them happy to part with their cash..