One of the key decisions when mixing a track is what the reference track will be. The balance of instruments to voice, and the way they sit together is crucial to how the song will sound. Although not immediately obvious to the casual listener, it is only when you listen closely to the track before referencing, and then flip between this and the reference that you realise how far away you are.
One thing that became obvious from the start was how low guitars tend to be in pop songs released recently. Even song's that I would consider have strong guitars to the fore are sometimes deceptive, and often the addition of keyboards and synthesisers can make these songs a poor referencing source if you are not using keyboards and synthesisers. I have always been a fan of guitar driven indie music of the 80's and 90's and listened to quite a few contenders including the Smiths, The Cure and early U2. However it was only when I heard the mix for the REM track, The One I Love, that I knew I had the sound that I most wanted to emulate. It is ideal it mirrors the mix of Guitar and vocal I am looking for and the instruments are broadly the same as those used for Far Be It.
Having started out trying to work out how to get music written and recorded as efficiently as possible I have found out that the skill set you need to run your own label is much broader than I thought. On the positive side it is amazing how much more you hear from songs you thought you knew well, when you are REALLY listening.
Going viral in japaN
Evan has always been interested in J-Pop. When his hero Shuta Sueyoshi finished his album he listened to it immediately and loved Human. As it hadn't been out for long there were no backing tracks created and so he created his own backing track to do a cover version.
This meant that when he posted this Shuta was on tour promoting his #wonderhack album and he was keeping an eye on the response to his latest shows. Fortunately he liked Evan's version enough to retweet it and from absolutely nowhere Evan was getting a huge number of views on his tweet. As Evan has been teaching himself Japanese for some time now he has been able to talk to interested fans who have loved this cover version and requested more since. Good timing for our first release which also has a Japanese version of Far Be It. Many thanks to Shuta for retweeting and beyond all the positive feedback, Evan was so pleased that he liked it.
Why start a new record label?
For as long as I can remember I have loved Scottish Music with a bit of a preference for the more DIY approach of Postcard Records and the independent sensibilities of John Peel. I confess that I used to be quite the indie music snob dismissing Wet Wet Wet and hailing the importance of The Jesus and Mary Chain. However working for HMV in the early nineties opened my eyes to some of the amazing dance music that was moving things forward at the time, Technotronic - Pump Up the Jam or Pump Up the Volume by M.A.R.R.s, and I could close my ears to other genres no more. Working with people with completely different tastes has meant that I have opened my ears and been broadening my tastes ever since. When Ray Charles says that there are really only 2 types of music, good music and bad music, I think I know where he is coming from.
In the early nineties the biggest barrier to making it in music was the sheer cost of recording and distributing music. Thankfully modern studio standard equipment is excellent and it is much more affordable to buy the equipment to create music of studio quality and with the plethora of self-help videos on YouTube you can now learn how to use this equipment well. Distribution is less of a problem and less expensive. Aggregators such as EMU Bands, which I use, makes the distribution part of the process significantly easier than it would be otherwise. So if it is possible to do all this on your own and if many could now afford to do it, this doesn't really answer the question, why start a record label?
Looking at the lack of variety of recommendations on Spotify and Apply there is clearly a challenge for local artists to find ways to promote themselves. That is not to say that all successful artists are not worth listening to, but it is going to be hard to be successful and prove the value of your music if no-one ever hears it. Listening to Radio Forth and their main breakfast show, there is an acceptance that the local DJs and producers, etc, won't be choosing the music any time soon. So I see the role of the label that I am starting as more a way of defining a style and a common ethos of music that will help artists alert each other's fans to the other's music, even if they are quite different. I see this at a local level and think when you lose distinct geographical voices this all serves to reduce the variety and value of music. The role of Rough Trade in defining a diverse approach to music which held true to Geoff Travis's view of quality over commercial success is one I would like to emulate, but with a particular emphasis on Scottish Artists.
Finally the success of Gerry Cinammon has shown that it is possible to be heard above the commercialised homogenisation of music. My favourite quote being
"The only reason I'm in this game is because it's full of imposters ruining music and my very existence annoys them and it pleases me. If you're a working class musician hearing this or reading it and you respect the art of song writing more than the art of pretending then you have a responsibility to get involved. There's a war on for real music and if you're sound and can write decent tunes then you're on the front line whether you like it or not."
Start Stop Vinyl
Founder of the Start Stop Vinyl music label which aims to promote local artists and their music. Currently Scotland's smallest small label.