As part of our new monthly feature looking at the state of play in the modern music industry on various levels I’m incredibly pleased to present our interview with Basick Records main man Nathan Phillips.
Incase you’re new to Post-Blog as F**K! and unaware of our never-ending love affair with Basick, they’re one of the most cutting edge and modern independent labels currently operating today both with regards to their roster and their business approach. Getting to pick the brains of Nathan in London at the Basick Records showcase earlier this year was easily one of the highlights in Post-Blog as F**K! history such as it is. In fact to get to the stage where labels like Basick would take notice of this site was the end goal of this site never mind one that seems to be achieved so far.
As an extra wee treat here’s an embed of the Basick Records 2012 free sampler to give you something mind fuckingly awesome to listen to while you read the first part of my in-depth discussion with Nathan.
PBAF: I guess the best place to start would be the beginning. What was the impetus behind starting Basick in the first place?
Nathan: It started on a really local level. we were working with a couple of local bands, one of which was Fellsilent and we just wanted to help push them out and get known outside of the home counties. It was born out of that. I guess there was an impetus with sites like Pure Volume and MySpace was just happening it was great time to find new music. We were looking at things and thinking it was great for bands to have a way and a means to get stuff out there but it was very much throwing it into the ether and hoping someone finds it. There was nobody really channeling the bands in the right way to the right audience, so that was part of the reason for wanting to do something. So we decided to get the label together and put our money where our mouth is. We were also looking for something…not the next big thing really but just something new as the scene was stagnating a little bit. That evolution is what we’re all about.
PBAF: I’ve always noticed Basick are very cutting edge in so far progressive metal music goes. You don’t carry any cookie cutter bands.
Nathan: It’s a difficult trade-off. Unless you’re lucky you’ll never get the sales that match these cookie cutter bands but we’re not in it for that. We want to make sure that everything we put out we can say ‘ hand on heart we put that out for the right reasons’ . We’ve released some different stuff, but every release has been a quality release.
PBAF: I’ve picked up more or less everything on Basick since the My Mind’s Weapon album came out.
Nathan: Awesome. For us, with Weapon, those were really great guys writing some really solid material and it had some old school themes with new stuff like nice chords with the Textures and Misery Signals influence. It made a lot a sense for us to help them put that album out there so we did.
PBAF: I was listening to their album today on the way from London to Glasgow and I have to say I’m kinda gutted they didn’t keep going.
Nathan: Yeah, its a tricky one. It does happen to a lot of bands. They put in a lot of effort to write the music while balancing that with day jobs. That was what happened to them there was no one thing that made them stop. Dan, the principal song writer and guitar player, had a demanding job in architecture and the writing process was slow. Got to the stage of where if you’re going to push on you need to push on now and sometimes real life just gets in the way.Its a tough call to make. There’s no magic formula to get you to be able to say ‘yeah come on quit your jobs it’ll all be fine’. We can’t offer that and unless you’re a major label willing to salary your band then no one cane. We never kid any of our bands on about it either, we’ll push them as far as they want to go but if they decide to hold back then we’re not going to force them on.
PBAF: Obviously the modern music industry is very much a state of flux these days. Do you see Basick as an old school model label or more of an evolution of the typical record label?
Nathan: I think we’re towards the evolution side. In a way, you could look at us as a servicing company. I think the traditional role of the record label is fast disappearing, and a lot of labels need to change if they’re going to survive. The great thing for us is we’ve never known any different. We started when it got tough. We’ve no history of the 80’s record sales. We’ve been learning from day one. It’s a tough time for a lot of majors with lots of job losses and labels splitting into sub divisions. And I don’t think that split is a bad thing, its shows they’re changing and getting smarter and people are working harder. You get people whose sole job now is to work on merchandising a band, that never happened before. It was all about record sales. Now you’ve labels looking more into publishing deals and booking and ticket sales. We don’t get involved in that directly, but we do have the connections. The argument these days is of course do a band NEED a record label or can they go it alone? And I think to every band who wants to do it on their own fair play to them, I think that’s great but I do think there’s a ceiling without the contacts that labels can offer. If you ever want widespread record sales you need a good distributor. Unless you’re a great all-rounder who somehow has a great list of contacts you can’t do it on your own. You need the help of someone eventually. In what role that comes doesn’t really matter. What’s great about us is we do have all those things to get the most out of your band and which works out best for us. We’re not here to get our claws into everything you do, that’s not our style at all. That’s the ethic I guess.
PBAF: That ethic is one of the key things that attracts me to Basick, other than the bands of course. I think people sometimes get the wrong end of the stick with what a label can do for you and think you don’t need one these days. Partly down to bands like Enter Shikari who are perceived as being entirely independent, without people realising the various management and distribution contacts that are behind them.
Nathan: Enter Shikari are a great example of that. The perception is, like you say, they’re totally independent. And to a degree they are. I mean they’re good friends of ours and they’ve done fantastically, but like I say the man they have managing them ahs been in the business 30 years, and he knows everybody. Plus the rest of the guys have links with merchandising, they’ve people doing their publishing, which last I checked was Universal so they’re not entirely independent. They’re running their own label imprint which is running through PIAS, to do distribution. They need PIAS for distribution, they need Iain for his contacts and they need PR for the press contacts. That’s totally natural and there is nothing wrong with that at all. But you need to work with other people.
PBAF: So speaking of distortion how did the US-based deal with Prosthetic come about?
Nathan: That’s interesting because we had the deal before with Century Media. That was only ever in place for 12 months. There was no fall out or anything, just the end of the deal. So we were reconsidering what we wanted to do stateside to get the coverage because America is MASSIVE. We were determined that we wanted to push on in the States. So we were approached by the two owners of Prosthetic who have been around the block a few times, one them is also the VP at Metalblade and the other one used to work at Columbia. They’ve a lot of pedigree and they fought hard for us. They believed in what we were doing and hooking up stateside tours with some of their bands and some of our bands. I mean we’re not asking for the earth from them, we’re just looking for ways to organically grow the label in a steady way that won’t jeopardize our longevity.
PBAF: I remember it thinking what a great turn of events it was that you guys secured that deal. In as much as I love that you guys are a very home-grown label its great to think that now you’re more of a world-wide concern as well.
Nathan: Funnily enough some Americans go mad for the British bands. Those guys in LA see that as a selling point. I think music fans, real music fans, like to feel like they found something first. You find that band and they’re you’re cool new band that you get to introduce to people. A lot of music love is sharing music, torrents or not, that’s how it works. It says something about them and their identity. It’s cool that we can translate over to the USA, some of the US audience are a bit more open-minded as well so it’s great for us.
PBAF: 2012 is obviously going to be a big year for Basick with releases and of course with this slot at the HMV Next Big Thing Festival. How did that come about?
Nathan: It goes back to the contacts you have. It was our distributer s ADA who set up the whole thing. They obviously have accounts with HMV and HMV do this every year and its a great bit of exposure. Chimp Spanner’s new record comes out today as well, which is a happy coincidence. But without ADA we wouldn’t have been hooked up to this.
PBAF: It’s great to see an institution like HMV involved with Basick because tonight features two instrumental bands and one band with no guitars what so ever. Those hardly scream commercial sales to the casual on looker.
Nathan: That’s one of the freak of natures we’re working with. There’s enough there for us to justify working with these bands. There’s not a lot of sales but there’s enough for us and the bands. People’s perceptions are changing a bit more now, with regards to whats acceptable in music and what can be done live. HMV get a lot of flack but I take my hat off to them, because there’s no one else out there trying to do anything with retail to make it work and keep it alive. I mean there is the indies and we support them to the hilt, they get all our vinyl exclusively for example. HMV took a chance on us, it’s an interesting night tonight, two instrumental bands and one band with no guitars at all, and it’s not the biggest venue in the world but we’ve sold it out tonight and its going to be fun. We’re stoked on, HMV is stoked on it and everybody involved is stoked.
We’ll bring your part two of our in-depth interview with Nathan later in the week where we go on to discuss upcoming Basick releases, their recent signings and the ever controversial Spotify debate.