The Man With One Brain: John ‘Brainlove’ Rogers in Interview
Nathan Westley catches up with the indie label guru ahead of this weekend's Brainlove Festival at the Brixton Windmill to discuss the fight against blandness and how to run a label in the modern age
When did Brainlove start and what was the motivation behind doing so?
The label started in Wolverhampton in 2003 and was born from a fanzine, in which we slammed the "landfill indie" of the day in our reviews. After a while and after way to much bile, I realised I could channel that same passion into championing the creative edge of music rather than aiming endless waspy stings at the borecore masses.
I think it’s safe to say that Brainlove has built itself a reputation for being involved with a certain type of sound and artist ... do you think it is important for indie labels to build themselves a reputation? Do you receive many inappropriate demo submissions?
I'd be interested to know what your idea of the label's house-style is! Different people have different ideas. To some people Brainlove is a completely weird label releasing a steady stream of music that sounds like it was made by aliens; to others it a fairly pop-leaning indie label.
We've released folk (We Aeronauts), orchestral post-rock (Bleeding Heart Narrative), wonky circuit bent "indietronica" (Pagan Wanderer Lu), glossy dancefloor electro (Bishi)... I like to think the thread that runs through it all is creative courage, good spirit and a sense of adventure.
What are the main difficulties faced when running an indie label in today’s market?
I think it depends what stage you're at. When we started out, getting a distributor and raising enough capital to press CDs was the main challenge. Now it's more like, finding European label partners or distribution; making our voices heard above the ever-growing plethora of web labels and blog labels; looking for investment from higher up the food chain. The job is never-ending and there's always something new to learn and a way you could streamline or improve your release process.
What advice could you offer those thinking about starting their own label?
Start small and box clever. Don't sign bands with drink or drugs problems, they'll fall apart and waste your time. Don't fall into the trap of the "imaginary audience" and press 1000 CDs for a 100 fans. Connect with the scene around you and the press, personally. Take care of the ethos and the detail; the look, the feel of your label presence in every area - design, posters, web. Don't work in thrall to 'the rules': rip it up and start again. Be as nice and generous to other people as you hope they would be to you. The people you are coming through with now will one day be running the show. Respect 'em.
You also run an alldayer at the Brixton Windmill, it must be enjoyable bringing several artists of your label together and seeing them perform one after another?
Yeah, Brainlove festival is as much like a family gathering as a gig - our signings and friends from all over the country and beyond, all congregate in one venue all on one day. People often use the opportunity to play new stuff too, so there's excitement in the air. Plus, we work very hard on bringing in guest bands that we think are bright stars of the future - this year we have Female Band, Enjoyed, Crushed Beaks and Dad Rocks!, and any of those bands could seriously take off in the next year or two if the wind fills their sails.
After we had Fuck Buttons play just before they went stellar, Tim at the Windmill plays a game of picking the next big stars in the line-up each year: last year he said it would be Patterns, but we're waiting to see how it pans out for them still.
What plans does Brainlove currently have for the future?
We have an Andrew Paul Regan (aka Pagan Wanderer Lu) album out in June; we have signed an Estonian band called Väljasõit Rohelisse (trans: roadside picnic) who make amazing hypnotic drone-gaze type stuff; Mat Riviere is putting the finishing touched to his second record, "Not Even Doom Music", which is sounding staggeringly good; and I want to do one of our full-to-the-brim epic scene-summary compilations again this year.
Finally if you could sign any artist in the world, who would it be and why?
One of them was David Thomas Broughton, and we released his record "Outbreeding" last year - as far as I'm concerned he's one of the best living musicians, alongside people like Björk, Nico Muhly, Owen Pallett, Simon Bookish - I'd release any of those guys in a flash. Those guys are fearless, instinctive innovators - and I put people like Napoleon IIIrd alongside them, in ambition, if not yet in fame.
THIS SATURDAY 26 MAY
AT THE WINDMILL IN BRIXTON
STARRING: DAD ROCKS! NAPOLEON IIIRD, CRUSHED BEAKS & MANY MORE
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