Ankst – now morphed into Ankstmusik – has always been an extremely important label that has showcased many bands of super quality alongside some truly original artists. Perhaps the label’s heyday came with the launch of acts such as Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Super Furry Animals in the mid 90s; in the new millennium however the label’s still committed to releasing some beautiful, aggressive and inventive music. DiS caught up with eloquent label co-founder Emyr for a history lesson - and a half:
“The original Ankst label started in 1988. It was started by two students, Alun Llwyd and Gruffydd Jones, at Aberystwyth University. I was also at the University but I was two years older than Alun and Gruff and was involved with the Welsh music scene on various levels - in bands, organizing gigs, making videos etc... I was part of the label since the beginning but only became officially in charge of the record company side in 1990 when I was asked to run it by Alun as he was about to be sent to prison! (he had taken part in a political protest against the Conservative Govt in protest at their policies towards the Welsh Language and Welsh communities - this kind of thing happened quite a lot in those days - he was out after three months.)”
“The label was started because it was felt that nobody else was doing what we wanted to do - which was release records from the very vibrant welsh language music scene. This also tied in with the fact that in the first seven years of the label it was all totally Welsh language music that was released - again because we felt nobody else was doing this .You had Welsh labels releasing traditional forms of music from Wales -choirs, folk, tenors; but really there was no label that wanted to seriously get behind contemporary bands. (also in our minds we fantasized that Ankst was a kind of Welsh language version of Creation Records! - considering what happened later on with SFA this is quite funny) In the early years we also moved around - Aberystwyth, Cardiff, Penygroes - but for now the label is firmly settled in Anglesey.”
“When I think of the last fifteen years it is easy to think that we were embarking on something that was true folly (how could such bands ever be successful? Who would want to pay attention to Welsh language pop music?) I am proud of the fact that we never gave up and went to look for proper employment - as we never really managed to become in any sense financially secure (this is still true today!) But making money was not the reason for doing it - we loved the bands and the records we released and to be honest we behaved quite arrogantly towards the establishment in Wales and this really did make me very happy as it always upsets me that some influential people in Wales never believed that their own culture had something to offer outside as well as inside Wales - we always believed this.”
“Also the accumulation of releases and experiences makes me happy as Ankst somehow becomes something valuable and something to be proud of. There are an enormous amount of individual events, gigs, records, signings, journeys, people that added to the success of Ankst but I suppose the thing that makes me most happy is that AnkstMusik is still an independent record label that can still boast fantastic, relevant bands on its roster year in and year out.”
And fantastic is a word that can always be applied to Ankst bands; a full release history is on http://www.ankst.co.uk but take my word for it and check out quality releases by the likes of Fall-rant sometime alcoteacher Datblygu, superb agit-rappers (and Peel faves) Y Tystion, oddball orchestra-crooner Rheinallt H. Rowlands and the quite frankly nuts Ectogram
“The glory days of Super Furries, Catatonia, Gorkys etc. were very exciting and a kind of justification for our belief in these bands, but AnkstMusik was never allowed to exploit this hard work as the major labels signed the bands up and the bands themselves didn't want their Ankst releases promoted or re-pressed so since the first big exposure for welsh music it has been very difficult building up a new catalogue of releases and finding and promoting new bands from all over Wales. I believe that I've managed to do that and I believe the music we release now is more vital and exciting than the stuff we brought out then.”
Ankst diversified in 1998, with Emyr taking over the record company and rebranding it AnkstMusik as the other two concentrated on management with the likes of Super Furries and Gorkys. Recent AnkstMusik releases have included ‘the world’s first DVD-zine’ that showcases the current roster of AnkstMusik bands and releases; a stunning new album by ex-Tystion member MC Mabon; a Geraint Jarman live album and a promise of more cutting-edge releases to come.
“The future is looking busy with the new Mabon and forthcoming Zabrinski album on its way and that is how I like it. Also the success of the webshop is very gratifying (as selling music in my opinion is one of the hardest things in the world to do but the website is started to generate sales from interested music fans from all over the world... which is brilliant) also I'd like to start to make contacts with other labels and distributors overseas - this would be a good step to take and I hope to be able to pursue this in the New Year.”
“I don't know if there is any kind of Ankst ethos, I doubt it otherwise I wouldn't be able to release such an incredibly wide variety of music. Obviously so far we've only worked with bands from Wales - but to me this is normal. Also maybe I avoid having bands that sound similar (but that too is just common sense) more than that I don't know - Personally I only want to work with groups and release records that somehow demand that I release them (does that make sense?)”
“As far as other people's opinions are concerned (exempting the bands obviously) - I don't care what other people think Ankst should do or not do; I consider Ankst to be a truly independent record label and as such the label is free to release whatever it wants - other people's opinions of Ankstmusik records are totally irrelevant to me”
“Music has always been an important part of life for me - I love its abstract nature and the fact that it really does have the power to lift the spirit and charge you up emotionally, also I am attracted to the radical and underground side of independent music so I believe that even if I didn't run the label I would still be involved somehow with music.”
With dignity intact, Emyr and the Ankst crew’s contribution to the music scene in Wales and Europe is testament to the ability of music to empower, delight and sometimes inspire. Mischievous and marvellous, Ankstmusic remains one of the most compelling reasons to get off your arse and get something done. Spread the madness and the moaners will disappear, scrawny and irrelevant in their poisonous lies.