Brassneck Records is one of the finest punk rock distros in these lands. Based in Cardiff, over the past four years, Brassneck Records has been providing easier access (with much reduced postage costs) to LPs and 7”s from DIY punk rock labels that were probably only ever available before in Florida record shops, or online, with $30 postage costs. It is particularly brilliant if you are as big of a supporter of the mighty It’s Alive Records as I am, whose records are regularly stocked there. Brassneck Records has now started releasing (and co-releasing) its own releases, including an LP by a cool little French band called Chestnut Road. So, I asked Scott, the owner, what this Brassneck Records thing was all about.
You decided to set up Brassneck Records in 2010. What was your reasoning behind this?
There was no big plan to it really, no grand idea above and beyond selling records I loved to likeminded people. Ever since I was a nerdy little kid I loved the idea of working in a record shop or running a record label, it just always really appealed to me. I grew up in a pretty small town in Northern England so my exposure to decent independent vinyl stores was limited and, when I did get to visit them in Manchester they were really exciting to me and I built up a sort of naive romanticised ideal of how awesome life in a record store would be and how hanging out and talking music all day would be my dream job. OK, so now as an adult looking back on it, it was kind of dumb but the passion for vinyl and for punk never left me. More recently, the specific impetus for Brassneck was the fact that I was buying a fair number of records from overseas and, with international postage being what it is, I often ended up paying like 3 times the value of a record on postage alone. I’m not a rich man and this meant I managed to buy very few of the records I needed. There are plenty of great UK distros out there but I just felt the time was right to give it a shot and maybe try to stock some other records that weren’t readily available over here at the time. So it was partly about keeping my own costs down when it came to my own collection but also offering what, to me, was a valuable service for any people who had a similar passion. I kind of went in half cocked, not really knowing what I was doing or what to expect and part of me fully expected to fall on my arse. I guess that somewhere in this big lumbering 38 year old punk there’s still a little nerdy teenage version of me that is over excited by record stores and talking about vinyl to the people who really give a damn about it. So no, there was no grand plan in place, no amazing back story to it, I just wanted to do something positive for punk in the UK. It was as simple and naive as that.
How did you find setting up Brassneck Records initially? Did you find any particular challenges?
I think the only real challenge in the early days was my not knowing what the hell I was doing. I just knew I wanted to give it a shot so I emailed a bunch of people who ran labels I knew, asked how I could buy stuff wholesale and winged it from there. Luckily everyone was really helpful and I made a few new friends and discovered a few new bands in the process. After that, the next issue was seeing if anyone would buy anything and if people would even visit the store. There were a few clumsy errors in the early days, a few expensive lessons learned but I really was lucky that I hit the mark more than I missed it. Nearly 4 years in and I’m still learning. I probably always will be.
You are based in Cardiff. From what I understand, South Wales/Cardiff has something of a thriving punk rock/ DIY scene. How has your location impacted upon Brassneck Records?
Yeah, the scene in Cardiff/South Wales is pretty good right now. I haven’t lived here long enough to compare it to “the good old days” but I think most South Wales punks should be pretty pleased with the amount of activity that’s going on in the local area. We’ve got more great local bands than I have the time to name here but check out Dividers, The Arteries, Grand Collapse, Pipedream, Not Since The Accident, Hipflask, Bad Sam, Bedford Falls, The Modern Farewell & Question The Mark as a starter. There are plenty more I forgot as well (sorry). We also have some really good independent venues (particular mention to Le Pub in Newport) and a bunch of great guys who go out of their way to put on shows for touring bands (STHC Cardiff being a main player). Cardiff is also home to the world’s longest running punk fanzine (Artcore) and we even have an actual physical punk record store in the form of Ghost Town Records right in the centre of the city. And of course we’re just over the water from Bristol so we have access to another local scene less than an hour away.
From a label/distro perspective, I think that having all these things on my doorstep keeps me motivated to be an active part of something that’s important to me. I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of local support and have a lot of good friends in the local scene that stop me becoming jaded or bored with it. With the internet it’s easy to build relationships further afield and be part of something more global but there’s always something kind of special about playing a part in something close to home and the local bands, labels and promoters out there mean I’m as excited about what’s happening in South Wales as I ever have been. Every time I go to a show or hang out with guys and talk about music I’m that same excited kid in the record stores of Manchester.
You were originally solely a punk rock distro, but have since began to release your own records, including an LP by Chestnut Road. How did this come about?
It was always part of the plan. I didn’t actively think about it too much in the early days as I just didn’t have the cash. Luckily, as the distro did a little better I was able to put a few quid aside to branch out. At the start I was conscious that I wanted to release stuff by new bands or at least by bands who hadn’t released very much rather than go for the more established names. The 2 bands I was looking at for the first release were Holiday and Chestnut Road. I heard Chestnut Road’s demo via Bandcamp and heard Holiday after buying an LP from one of the band on Discogs and getting talking about music. As time went on I spoke with Rich Speedowax about co-releasing a Chestnut Road 7” which then (with the help of the band and Aston at Boss Tuneage) turned into a full LP. At the same time I was speaking to Adz & Matt from Holiday about helping distribute their demo on CD. But before a CD was even made, it turned out that a bunch of other labels were keen to release that demo on vinyl so I jumped on board and the debut Brassneck release was born. So, along with the LP and a briefly delayed split 7” with Speedowax, I suddenly had 3 releases planned in the space of a couple of months. It’s really just grown from there with another few 7”s and a tape under my belt. There’s also the debut LP from The Caffiends just around the corner.
What does the future hold for Brassneck Records? Do you plan to continue to release more records yourself?
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve put out 7 releases in 10 months the Caffiends LP is due by the 1 year mark in May. Basically I plan to keep on releasing records for as long as it’s affordable and as long as people keep buying them. I’ll keep running the distro alongside the label of course and I’m lucky to be in a position where I can do both and they pretty much sustain themselves without me having to lose too much money.
As for what else the future holds, I dunno. It’s probably clear by now that I’m not business genius of the year. I release and sell records I like. I support bands I like and I take unplanned appealing opportunities where they crop up. Whatever happens, I want Brassneck to be involved in punk in some way for as long as it can. Quite how that will happen is as much my guess as it is yours but I’m quite happy doing my little thing here in Cardiff and, if people can get something out of it then it’s even better.
It is stated on your website that you only sell records you personally own yourself? Is this still the case?
Haha, I should probably update that. That was definitely true at the beginning but, the increased amount of traffic over the years means I’ll sometimes sell things I don’t necessarily need for my own collection. That’s certainly the case for CDs. I don’t really like the CD format and traditionally they sell poorly for me so I don’t stock many of them. I guess I should rewrite that to read “I only sell records I like”. I’m not going to sell records I don’t enjoy just to make a couple of quid, I’d rather stock a bunch of records I love that nobody else gives a damn about than sell music that doesn’t mean anything to me. If I wanted to do that I’d just go work in HMV.
And as a follow-up question, do you get many requests from bands to have records stocked in your distro?
Yeah, all the time. Bands and labels. I replied to a couple of these emails just before speaking to you. And even though money and good taste means I have to say “no” a lot, I do welcome it. Sometimes you hear great new bands that way. Sometimes you just hear another band that sound like a 5th rate Ramones rip off, but I’ll always try to reply to people who send me a message that’s directed to me and who seem to know a little of what Brassneck is about. In these cases I try to listen to everything I’m sent. There’s also those situations where I’ve just been copied into a generic mailing list promoting a Bulgarian death metal band or something when the sender obviously knows nothing about what I’m doing or who he’s emailing. Those guys don’t get responses any more than those Nigerian princes that have a million pounds waiting for me when I send them my bank details. Legitimate punk bands and labels are always welcome though, I’ll always do my best to listen to everything that falls into that category.
During your time at the helm of Brassneck Records, what have you noticed about the punk rock scene in the UK? Do you think it is pretty strong right now?
I guess my answer about the scene in Cardiff can be related to this to some degree. It’s easy for me to look back on the glory days of my youth and grumble about how it’s not as good as it used to be. But it’s all relative. If you look at the scene in any given year and there’ll always be someone who thinks it sucks and there’ll be those who think it’s better than ever. I remember feeling less than positive about it in the mid 90s when every second band wanted to sound like Green Day. And don’t get me wrong, I had plenty time for that band at that time but I was guilty of falling into the “punk was better 5 years ago” camp. Although personally, I’m now very positive about how strong the DIY ethics are across the country and how many really good bands there are right now. Excluding the Welsh bands I already mentioned, there are some amazing UK bands are out there like Bangers, Bear Trade, BUZZorHOWL, The Dauntless Elite, The Down & Outs, Epic Problem, Good Grief, Holiday, The Kimberly Steaks, The Murderburgers, The No Marks, Pacer, Paperjets, The Unreleasables, Zatopeks, etc, etc. The list could go on forever. So yeah, to answer your question, I honestly believe the UK punk scene is thriving. Maybe not commercially but, in terms of underground DIY punk, we’re churning out as many quality bands as ever.
Final question: if there is one record you could recommend which is stocked in your distro right now, what would it be?
Just one record? I mentioned earlier that I only sell records I like so that makes it kind of hard. As such, I’ll just sidestep the question and go for the one I’m listening to at the moment which is “Goocher” by The Credentials. It’s not a particularly new LP (released in 2011 I think) but I did just restock it and it has all the elements I love in an album. It’s short, raw and dirty (in a Crimpshriney kind of way), it’s lyrically smart and …..in addition the title is an obscure reference to one of my favourite films from my youth. Pretty much ticks all the boxes for me!
Thank you, Sir. Good luck in your future Brassneck-ing!
Thanks for the questions Dave and thanks for taking an interest in what I’m doing over here. Good luck with the webzine.
Check it out: http://brassneckrecords.bigcartel.com/