Shoegaze Week: Label Focus # 26: AC30
Robin Allport and Duncan Jones are the guys behind Club AC30, yet another successful club night that morphed into one of the most vital, and groundbreaking independent record labels of the past decade.
Their firm emphasis on quality rather than sales and marketing potential is a rare commodity in the current climate, and this week sees something of a landmark for Club AC30, in that they will be marking their fifth birthday on Wednesday (22nd April.
Having watched the label grow from both a critical and fanatical point of view, we thought it only right to wish the guys many happy returns and find out what the future holds in store for both the label and its sister club night...
DiS: Congratulations on Club AC30's 5th birthday! Did you envisage five years ago that we'd be sat here now talking about the label as possibly the genre's most well-respected outlet?
Robin: I think I would have laughed if you'd suggested that.
Duncan: To be honest, no, but then I did have a demanding job outside of music, so just to have something like this was a godsend in itself.
What made you start the label in the first place?
Robin: The label started as an offshoot of the live night, which we started because we were sick to death of going to shit gigs. It always tended to be that if you went to see a good band, they would be supported by someone completely wrong. Oh, and not to mention the music played between bands always tended to be dreadful. There were exceptions obviously such as Silver Rocket, ATP or EOYE shows, but aside from that it was pretty poor out there.
Duncan: I was introduced to Robin (and subsequently Nick) by a mutual friend from the music forum I was running at the time. We met up for a few beers and quickly realised how much we had in common musically, and offered to help out in any way I could, financially or otherwise. Initially we talked about increasing the sizes of the shows that were being run at the time, but actually decided on starting the label arm of AC30.
How difficult was it combining day jobs with running both the live night and its subsequent label?
Robin: At times it could be... but luckily my day job was fairly flexible and I was able to duck out early to set up shows, or take days off here and there to look after bands. As time went on, it became easier... especially with venues like the Luminaire who just look after everything for you.
Duncan: It was pretty horrendous and at times heartbreaking for me as my job entailed a lot of shift work, where upon I would miss a lot of the awesome shows we put on over the years. Thankfully that is a thing of the past now.
What has been your proudest achievement with AC30 so far?
Robin: Putting on Swervedriver - they are probably my favourite band, so working with them was a real treat.
Duncan: Personally, the first time I walked into an HMV/Virgin and seeing our first CD single for sale at the front point-of-sale. That made me beam with pride for months!
And the most difficult decision you've had to make?
Robin: Probably turning down one of a number of really tantalising UK licenses. There's been a few bands from the USA we could have released the album for - who have gone on to do pretty well - but it just always seemed like something that we simply couldn't afford to do. We just had to hold our hands up and admit that we were not quite ready for that then.
I hear you're planning to expand the label. How did that come about and what are your future plans for AC30?
Duncan: Call it twist of fate if you will, but the very things that were preventing us from expanding before, ie work commitments, lack of cash flow etc, suddenly disappeared late last year/early this year, and so it made perfect sense to throw ourselves full time into the one thing we all loved doing. We’re never going to get a better opportunity!
It must be difficult for anyone wishing to start a label in the current economic climate. What effect do you see this having on future record sales and ultimately, for the industry in general?
Robin: Well, I think it depends how you look at it - it's a tough time out there, but it is also a time of opportunity. The industry is changing rapidly, and as we've all seen over the last few years the old ways of running a label have ended. Funny thing is, vinyl sales have actually gone up a bit, so for the kinda thing we do it's not really been affected. People may be bored of boring "product", but the more interesting side of physical releases is still strong - 7"s, 10"s, coloured vinyl and so on. Spotify is great though ain't it?
Your motto is "Because Why The Fuck Not"? Explain...?
Robin: A lot of the idea when we started was that a good night out in London costs a fair bit. Beer, gig ticket, more beer, getting home and so on. So instead of putting up with hearing fucking Newton Faulkner playing over the PA between two really good bands... it just made sense to do it ourselves. Sure, if we put on 3 bands whose demos we loved, and they only pull 30 people between them - fuck it - we enjoyed them, we got to hang out with our friends and listen to some great music... if we lose money in the process, it's no less than if we'd gone out and got battered in central London on a Friday night.
**Although your output to date has been predominantly associated with the shoegaze scene, would you consider signing artists not necessarily influenced by that genre if the financial rewards were beneficial to the label as a whole?**
Duncan: We never started out as a money making venture, it was only ever about the music. Luckily we don’t all just like the same stuff, and so are always introducing each other to bands and artists that usually you wouldn’t think of yourself. But we also have to be realistic, especially in this current financial climate.
You've just put out your third 'Never Lose That Feeling' compilation, whereby the artists cover a "classic" from their peers. How did the idea for this kind of compilation come about and who decides what to cover/who should cover what?
Robin: I think this started off as a drunken conversation in a pub somewhere... then within a week or so we'd compiled a list of what we thought were the more shoegazey classics from the late 80s and early 90s. We sent the list out to maybe 30 or 40 bands, to varying degrees of enthusiasm, and the artists picked a track from that list. The third volume took a while to sort out though, mainly because the first two filled up really fast, then various bands for the third either split up or never got their track to us. Funnily enough, the first artist we asked to cover a song, was the last artist to get their track to us!
What has been your most significant moment and/or release so far?
Duncan: For me personally, the most significant moments were Air Formation’s '57 Octaves Below EP', not just because it was the first time I had been involved in anything like that at all, but because it was one of the most fantastic and complete 4 track EP’s I had heard. From first hearing the demos to seeing the band actually record it in the studio, to seeing the artwork develop, to stamping the CD cases, to seeing them in the shops. I was like a huge fan actually being involved with the band’s music in some way and that is still the best feeling in the world.
What are your forthcoming plans for release in 2009?
Robin: We've got lots in the pipeline. Some I can't talk about yet because it's not a done deal... others - well there's a few incredibly good bands from abroad that we're chatting to. There's also new material on the horizon from Hearts Of Black Science, Air Formation and The Domino State...
Club AC30 will be holding the following clubnights over the next few months...
22 London Wilmington Arms (5th birthday party w/Exit Calm, I Concur and many more)
3 Dublin Whelans (w/ And So I Watch You From Afar + **Maybeshewill)
6 London Luminaire (w/ Marissa Nadler + Erin Lang)
22 London ICA (w/ Crystal Stilts + The Bats + Comet Gain)
25 London Luminaire (w/ Crystal Stilts + Shrag + Maribel)
3 London Queen Of Hoxton (w/ Library Tapes + Kontakte + Simon Scott + Epic 45 DJ set)
17 London Queen Of Hoxton (w/ Codes In The Clouds + Into Flight)
The album 'Never Lose That Feeling #3', which features the likes of The Daysleepers, Spotlight Kid, SJ Esau and Ulrich Schnauss covering classics from the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Ride is out now.