1) How did Artscare get started?
I’m a MASSIVE music nut and had always fantasized about setting up my own recording studio / ‘record label’ and it all became a reality in early 2007 after my good friend Andy Robin Pickett from the band LANGUR lent me Gem Cohen’s Fugazi ‘Instrument’ tour documentary DVD. I clearly remember sitting up really late and being transfixed by it. The scene in which Ian MacKaye is handing out money to the rest of the band and trying to figure out how they will possibly be able to afford the logistics of making it to the next show blew my mind and really helped to put things into perspective. I found the whole experience so inspiring I figured that with just a little bit enthusiasm and passion I could actually get up off my arse and just bloody do it myself. I immediately set up an ARTSCARE myspace page (If anyone remembers what that is?!!) and contacted a couple of friends bands to ask if they wanted to be part of it and things have just grown from there really. The name Artscare comes from my time in the mid 90’s working in a psychiatric hospital. I had to clean out a department called ‘Arts Care’ which basically was a place for the patients to relax by painting, drawing and expressing themselves through art. I thought the name ‘ART SCARE’ sounded cooler and I knew then I would use it one day for something and here it is. Haha!
2) You’ve recently just done a cool vinyl 7″ split vinyl between Bristol’s most exciting new band, The Backhand Jags and Bath’s legendary The Dynamite Pussy Club, what do you think of the rise in popularity of older formats, and the underground dislike of the digital revolution?
Being an obsessive vinyl junkie the idea of doing an Artscare 7″ split single had been something I had considered to do for a long time but it wasn’t until Chris from THE DYNAMITE PUSSY CLUB contacted me and proposed the two bands hook up that I realised it could be done quite easily and most importantly for me, being a tight ass Welsh man, cheaply! Vinyl & cassette are undoubtedly making a return back into fashion which is great. Admittedly, in the early noughties I was as guilty as everyone else in terms of downloading mp3’s/ zipped albums from internet blog sites, etc, but after a brief few years in the digital wilderness I have found myself returning and yearning for the vinyl format more than ever before. It is just so much more satisfying. Owning a vinyl record forces you to love and take care of your music collection. You have to make sure it is stored safely – definitely not next to the radiator! Just taking the black wax out of the sleeve and gently placing the needle into the grooves all has to be done with as much care and love as you can possibly muster! Everything about it is awesome. The artwork looks so much cooler in your hand at a size you can actually see and touch. Another great thing about vinyl and cassettes for that matter is that you actually have to listen to the whole record as it was intended by the artist. A billion mp3’s in a folder on a plastic piece of shit ipod does not encourage any of this. In fact, it utterly devalues the entire process. The fact that kids today working in the underground are rediscovering and embracing these older formats is for me massively exciting and completely fucking fantastic. long may it continue!
3) As major labels get in more and more trouble, how do you see the future of true indie labels and the national role in new music?
Bands and dedicated music fans interested in developing their local scenes have been setting up their own DIY record labels and promoting / distributing themselves via fanzines and the internet for years now so in the grand scheme of things nothing too drastic has really changed especially for non commercial artists. Bands consciously wanting to get signed to majors will certainly find it even more difficult as major labels are just not interested and only see things in terms of immediate monetary return and will continue to rely on re-issues and Coldplay /U2 sized mega acts to survive. Having said that, the majors are desperate to ‘develop’ or rather manufacture new emerging talent but only if it ticks the mass market commercial boxes they crave. Teams of ‘professional’ songwriters work with these labels to groom and market the next Adele, Winehouse, Del Ray, Tinie Tempah etc, etc. The bigger more established indie labels have and will continue to do what they do successfully as they are run by people who actually care, understand and love the music they are involved with. it is not just a business to them but a way of life. I think true independent underground labels like Relapse in the US and the legendary (In my view) Earache records in the UK are great models to look at and see how to grow organically and achieve success and longevity. Both these labels specialise in the most uncommercial music imaginable but continue to move from strength to strength attracting loyal fans because they know they are going to get something new and interesting from these labels.
4) How do you feel about the current Bristol scene?
Bristol has always had a vibrant and exciting music scene and the present is no exception. There are so many great artists at the moment helping to raise Bristols’s profile nationally ranging from hotly tipped noise pop duo The Hysterical Injury through to Zane Lowe’s new favourite band, Scarlet Rascal and the Trainwreck. However, I feel a scene is not purely just about the bands but equally it’s about the people & venues behind the scenes. Speaking of which, there are plenty of great live venues for unsigned local bands to play and I am impressed with how many of the bigger venues such as the Fleece, Louisiana, Croft and even the Thekla support the scene by regularly giving local artists the opportunity to open for touring bands. It does feel to me that Bristol currently has lots of ‘mini’ scenes rather than one over arching ‘scene’ identity. The mainstream London music press still probably think Bristol is just a ‘Trip Hop’ / ‘Drum ‘N’ Bass’ town but I sense that misconception may be turning especially with the rock press (Kerrang, Metal Hammer, Rock Sound) and this is mainly due to the success of local Gloucester road boys, Turbowolf. Loads of great local DIY labels are currently springing up all over the shop and Howling Owl and Drawn Recordings have recently caught my attention whilst old school boys Invada Records continue to release challenging records. There are also tons of great independent promoters out there putting on fantastic shows. I always tell new bands to contact Dean at Offbeat promotions if they want a debut showcase as he is out almost every night of the week doing his thing. Press and radio wise there are only a handful of resources but I guess this is fine as over saturation is never a good thing! Jodie at live music scene is a massive supporter of the local music and often provides bands with their first ever reviews. Venue, Crack and now of course the FEAR OF FICTION magazine do their bit and those two hunks, Richard and Sam at BBC Bristol Introducing remain hugely important. I must admit that I am slightly disappointed with the lack of interesting metal bands in the city. If anyone knows of any great heavy bands in Bristol please get in touch as I am always on the look out for something to bang my head too!
5) Whats next for Artscare?
Good question! It has been an ever evolving journey for me and I must admit that things have become more business like and serious, especially in the last 6months or so but don’t take that in a negative way. It’s all good. I’m happy with the progress and proud that through word of mouth ARTSCARE is continuing to grow organically. You’ll never see me begging for random people to ‘LIKE’ the Artscare fb page as I’m not interesting in ‘casual’ followers. I believe in quality over quantity and would honestly prefer to have 400 people genuinely excited about what I’m doing rather than have 2,457 non-plussed cyber ‘fans’ who probably ignore / restrict my messages anyway! ImmedIate plans include continuing to produce the ARTSCARE Soundcloud Podcasts as a monthly showcase to help promote the scene and highlight new artists on a regular basis, if anyone reads this wants and fancies some airplay please get in touch and send me some links and I promise to check you out, If I like it it’ll be on the podcast! I’ll also be organising my usual handful of special live events throughout 2012. The next Artscare show is friday 24th Feb at Croft with History of the Hawk, Stinky Wizzleteat and Koshiro and promises to be a right belter! We recently sold out an exclusive gig with Patrick Duff (Strangelove) at Arnos Vale Cemetery a whole week in advance, which was a massive deal for me as this was the first Artscare show to do this ever! Release wise I have a few truly great records coming out most notably: ROCK IN YOUR POCKET’s debut ‘GUTTERDUB’ album which I can guarantee is fucking awesome and full of chunky riffs, dubby bass and hooky tunes. WE ARE STRANGERS MINDS have an 8 track acoustic mini album out entitled ‘Elegy to Light’ which is available from the bands bandcamp site now. Bravo Brave Bats released the ‘Red’, ‘Green’ & ‘Purple’ EP’s to much acclaim last year and will have an album of 12 new songs by the end of the year ready hit the festival’s hard in 2013. Also don’t forget Langur have their third album ‘Dead Facing’ available to buy on bandcamp and the split 7″ between The Backhand Jags & The Dynamite Pussy Club will be available to buy direct from the bands at all future gigs. Oh, almost forgot but I am also tentatively exploring the world of PR / Management and expect this side of things to grow steadily throughout 2012. Watch this space…
Dave, Artscare x