FEATURE : LEEDS AND CROSS PENNINE LABEL - WRATH RECORDS
MANCHESTER & LEEDS
Scratch beneath pop's bland exterior and you'll find exciting corners of creativity where like-minded musicians have pooled resources in an attempt to bring their music to the attention of a wider audience. Microcosms of energy popping up all over the place.
Over the last four years, ManchesterMusic.Co.Uk has built up a casual relationship with the Leeds Music Scene. Firstly through its ethic sharing and like minded counterpart, www.leedsmusicscene.co.uk and secondly through things like Chairsmissing / Electric Circus (The Scaramanga Six, Palo Alto, Lorimer, Seed, Send More Paramedics etc).
Fitting that the both cities share the same urban and business booms and are also massive University cities. This affinity draws deeper as well, with similar styles and scenes apparent on both sides of the Pennines. Whilst Liverpool lacks the will to collaborate, Leeds has shown a real will to pro-actively host and be hosted. A fact that's just been recognised by the NME (don't laugh..). But today's diluted mainstream rag managed to pick up on Leeds music scene and despite missing out about a dozen milestone acts, picked up the vapours of a music movement from its London embedded roots.
But we don't need London. We need cities like Leeds and Sheffield that share our autonomous drive - hell we even need Liverpool, with its individual style and west coast sea going heritage. We need (wo)men in the corner, punching their own weight and dictating their own neighbourhood tastes.
Wrath Records is one of these corners - a committed gang of vigilantes doing it for the love of it, and creating something raw and wonderful. Wrath claim not to have one of those odd company mission statements.
Read their blurb and you get things like " if we did (have a mssion statement) it would probably read 'Mission statement: avoid all mission statements' The beauty about Wrath is that we can do what ever the hell we want. No one can stop us because we control ourselves…."
According to the official Wrath line, a few years ago in Leeds, West Yorkshire, three bands pooled their resources and put on an event in a local venue. The night was billed as the 'Ménage a trios'. A few hundred interested punters turned up. It seemed like a special event yet it was no different to any other gig. It was still three bands crammed onto one stage, one after the other. The difference was that all those involved got together to make a concerted effort and the hype grew from there. The bands told their friends who then told other friends and so on until people started telling people who already knew. This was a good sign. This is where Wrath comes in. Wrath was created to unite several very like-minded groups (initially it began with four) under one guise with the sole aim of shameless self-promotion. Interested people could now throw a blanket over part of the ever increasing live music activities of Leeds and call it by a name. That was way back in January 2002 - now a little way further down the line, Wrath is now becoming a small market force in alternative guitar and outsider pop music. A genuine slice of aural eccentricity put together by bare hands.
The Wrath label is currently part way through a singles club. Split 7" releases all carefully produced and availably individually and full of hot one offs from familiar and less familiar names.
THE WORD OF WRATH
We caught up with Wrath to pose a few awkward questions:
WHO ACTUALLY RUNS WRATH?
It's loosely a co-operative of the bands involved. The idea was that each band takes care of their own destiny and all resources are shared - every band gets what they want out of it really. We get together as often as we can (down the pub, surprisingly!) and make collective decisions about shared ventures such as our Sampler CD, DVD, Big Wrath gigs & annual parties. The rest is the domain of the individual, though myself and my brother Paul tend to muscle in and provide some direction. This may all change, who knows?
HAVE YOU JUST FOCUSSED ON LEEDS OR HAVE YOU SOUGHT FROM FURTHER A FIELD?
Leeds was the ideal place to start all this label gubbins as we are all well ingrained in the local 'scene'. There's so much ace stuff around this side of the Pennines, that I reckon we could achieve our aims in putting out utterly brilliant records to the highest standards just with Yorkshire bands alone. However, we have no policy that discriminates against other regions. As we are getting on, opportunities to do stuff with other bands/artists from elsewhere we highly admire come up - for instance, we released a single by Engerica (from Southend, Essex) earlier this year, and have an album release for Stuffy/The Fuses who hale from Laaaaahndan Taaaaaahn. I suppose you could say we are more of a national, nay international label now.
TELL US MORE ABOUT THE SINGLES CLUB AND YOUR CURRENT RELEASES (OR HIGHLIGHTS) ?
The 'Super Sevens' singles club is the most exciting and ambitious thing we've done so far. It gives every one of us in the collective the chance to get a 7" release out this year, but also allows us to broaden our reach and work with even more highly admired guest artists from all over the place - we've managed to increase the whole profile of the thing with the inclusion of heavyweights such as Beachbuggy (Doncaster, on loan from Poptones Records), Magoo (Norwich, 6-times Peel session favourites), Chris T-T (London, new album 'London Is Sinking' out now). The great thing about it is that supposedly it will pay for itself! - this is of course dependant on us getting enough subscribers together, which we need to step up a bit at the mo. The whole thing is aimed at people like us (hang on, perhaps it is aimed entirely at ourselves!) who still have a great passion for 7 inches of pleasure - anorak completer-finisher types. The finished set will be utterly ace! I love every track that's been submitted for it, though I must say the opening Little Japanese Toy/les Flames! split 7" was probably the best possible way we could have kicked it all off.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE MCR / LEEDS RELATIONSHIP ?
Far healthier than other 'special relationship's going on at the moment (Sit! Tony, Heel! Tony, Beg! Tony….). Leeds/Manchester crossovers have a lot to offer - we have so much in common that it would be an utter shame for it to deteriorate into stupid rivalry. Wrath was set up on the basis of cooperation, and when we have opportunities to do just that with like-minded bands/labels/organisations, it's good to take them. As our thriving underground scenes get stronger, I think we will see more cooperation and a strong and thriving network evolving far away from the usual tyranny of Major Label stitch-ups. It's all good stuff between our two regions, though I think that we could do with a few more trans-Pennine collaborations - They do seem to be a bit sporadic at the moment. Perhaps we should work together to start digging a massive rock tunnel under the moors - meet halfway somewhere like Middleton (apt name, huh?).
YOUR TOP 5 SIGNED CURRENTLY ACTIVE LEEDS BANDS ?
Not sure I know a great deal about these sorts. With the exception of a few, the bands that end up signed tend to concentrate their efforts on things other than playing a lot around Leeds. There will be the odd band that I've never heard of suddenly creeping out as 'the next this' or 'the next that' in the pay of some major label. Mysterious isn't it? Still, nothing against them - like I said, their hard work is concentrated on a much different approach. Of the recent glut of signings though, I do rate SammyUSA, The Cribs & 10,000 Things as all being top-notch and very original bands.
YOUR TOP 5 UNSIGNED / INDIE LABEL LEEDS ACTS ?
Of course I am very biased towards the bands involved with Wrath (The Scaramanga Six, Being 747, Galitza, Farming Incident, les Flames!) - when you are ploughing a lot of effort into a small group of bands, you tend to miss what else is going on. However, I do have a severe fondness for My My, The Research, Little Japanese Toy, The Tennessee Traincrash, The Black Helicopters, Catylyst, Lorimer, Kenosha, Falconetti, The Real Losers etc to name but a few.
BEST LEEDS VENUE?
Having been making a racket for a number of years now, a lot of the Leeds venues feel like home in a strange sort of way - in particular Joseph's Well and The Royal Park Cellars. Both have their merits - The Well tends to get the slightly bigger touring acts and is an excellent pub in general, whereas the RPC is more intimate and dingy (that's a compliment by the way!). Panama Promotions run the booking at RPC - they are definitely worth contacting as they have stuck their necks out this season with a policy of booking at least one out-of-town band on every bill - an admirable policy indeed. The idea being to provide a more open door into Leeds and encourage gig-swapping. A real humdinger of a venue called The Vine (on the Headrow in the centre of Leeds) is rising up to be the focus of many excellent gigs. This is where a lot of activity for our label's bands has taken place recently and they are getting an utterly ace reputation which is becoming evident by the calibre of touring bands coming through. Also, if it's great sound pumped out at ear-splitting volume that you are after, then I would strongly advise checking out a gig at The Vine if you are in town.
THE FUTURE OF WRATH ? - DO YOU HAVE A THREE / FIVE / TEN YEAR PLAN ? (YOURE NOT ALLOWED TO SAY "OUR PLAN IS NOT TO HAVE ANY PLANS ?!!!!"
Plans eh? Well, actually there is a fairly hideous plot underpinning the whole thing. Nothing on this label is done without some kind of hidden agenda! We are realistic enough to know that to build something up it takes a long, long time. Therefore, we look at things in years rather then months. This year, we've focussed our efforts on two things:
1. Establishing relationships with key partners to secure an outlet for our releases - distributors, Online shop, PR companies etc. Becoming familiar with all the processes behind - i.e. what do we need to do and how much will it cost?
2. Reaching out to as many like-minded organisations/labels/bands as we can - Through things like the Super Sevens scheme, 'Wrathstonbury' and general swapping of resources, we've made a lot of friends and allies and have also raised the profile of the label quite a lot. Networking, basically.
The next part of the plan will take place over the first 6 months of 2004 - we have assigned a budget to work with and due to the efforts mentioned above, we are now better placed to embark on a very heavy schedule of bigger releases (albums) in February and April. So far, that's as far forward as we go, but we will be constantly assessing the situation to plan our next step.
Ideally, I would like to be able to do this full time and 'quit the day job' - I can definitely see immense potential in the label and the quality of the music we are collectively putting out. The real trick is going to be making that jump from 'just ticking over' to 'doing rather well'. We're a long way off yet.
FINAL MESSAGES TO THE PEOPLE OF MANCHESTER?
Always have faith in what you do - if you don't, who else will? If there is something you want to do, get up off your arse and do it. Take control of your destiny etc….. Erm, eat up your greens, try and call your Mum more often, take care when crossing roads and get yourself a haircut - I mean, take a bloody look at yourself. What do you think this is, some kind of hotel? Oh, and thank you for giving us The Fall.
NEXT WRATH RELEASE?
As mentioned earlier on, the next things coming up are:
The rest of the Super Sevens 2003 split 7" releases will hit the shops. These will be: WRATH13 - Farming Incident 'The Flute Of Shame'/ Mama Scuba 'Sweet Girl' WRATH14 - Being 747 'Swingball'/ Magoo 'We R Synchronized' WRATH15 - The Scaramanga Six 'The Poison Pen'/ Beachbuggy 'Nineteen' WRATH16 - Stuffy/The Fuses 'Waltz'/ Chris T-T 'tba'
WRATHCD17 - Being 747 'Fun & Games' CD album WRATHCD18 - Stuffy/The Fuses 'Join Me Or Die!' CD album
WRATH?? - The Scaramanga Six (new album) WRATH?? - les Flames! (new mini-album)
Albums by Farming Incident, Galitza, who knows who else? Singles off the above albums plus another Super Sevens scheme for the second half of 2004.
CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE WRATH RECORDS WEBSITE
(c) (p) musicdash 2004 : words by JA thanks to steve from wrath for wrath-facts - all artist pix and wrath logo images courtesy of wrath