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 about 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 along with encouraging reviews in the national press. the label got distribution via 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 and 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 and 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’ and vaudeville gypsy cabaret ensemble ‘joey herzfeld & his so-called friends’.
it’s not all just friends though.. some complete strangers crept onto the release schedule as well -bristolian jonny velon’s 2017 debut ‘goodness flows’ was an indie label market discovery plus i met coach hop mainman charlie gigging in a shop window and then released his poprageous dave lee roth via john grant single ‘i like taylor swift’ for record store day in 2018.
part three (is that too many parts ?)
bromide electric band version meanwhile had reformed in 2012, making a couple of new records with producer brian o’shaughnessy (primal scream, MBV) and in an entirely logical transformation ‘full english breakfast’ became ‘that will be lunch’ and scored breakfast show plays on both bbc6 and virgin with an inspired cover of ‘once in a lifetime’.
more recently, lockdown led me to my first solo album proper,‘following the moon’ and a tune-laden debut ‘we fall apart’from the volunteered. right now i’m getting ready to release english folk / americana-channeling hank dogs ‘lost’ third lp ‘from nod to nut’ early in 2023. their first two albums were overseen by none other than nick drake's legendary producer joe boyd.. enuf said.
see you at indie label market somewhere soon - i’ll be the idiot trying to lassoo you with some headphones..