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Glasgow’s newest music label LAST NIGHT FROM GLASGOW is making an impact across Scotland using tried, tested, debated but ultimately unique, ideologies endorsed by much-missed Mancunian record company Factory.
Glasgow writer and poet Stephen Watt met with LNfG co-founder Murray Easton to investigate what the fuss is all about, if lessons have been learnt, and if the morning after still looks as promising as the night before. Live photographs provided by David Wardrop.
Legend states that in 1978, the late Manchester music mogul Tony Wilson signed Joy Division to his Factory record label on a contract using his own blood which promised full artistic freedom to the band. Wilson was quoted as saying “When forced to pick between truth and legend, print the legend”. Thus, leap forward to early 2016 when Murray Easton and Ian Smith swooped to the Glasgow Barrowlands’ rooftop upon the backs of trained pterodactyls, lighting fireworks which fused into a bright Batman-esque signal in the swirling, wintery skies and were joined on the flying carpeted ashes of Wilson by Andy Hynes, Stephen Kelly, Ross Mullen and Joe Judge to form Last Night from Glasgow.
Albeit slightly exaggerated, the juxtaposition with Factory Records certainly did not end there. The punk ethos adopted by the acclaimed Mancunian record company, dismissing any hegemony from the label’s leaders, granting control to the artists in terms of music, artwork, and direction are all apparent in the LNfG school of thought. At its core, the label is a community of passionate music lovers looking to nurture talent, put the music first, using crowd sourced and traditional media promotion to gel fans and artists during their journey together. Wilson would profoundly observe “The company owns nothing, the musicians own their music and everything they do, and all artists have the freedom to fuck off”, and the non-promotion ideology gives further credence that the rough novices north of the border consider their artists far more than just products on a conveyor belt. “Word-of-mouth is the best form of publicity”, states co-founder Easton, “We want press and airplay but don’t have the money for pluggers. As we grow in experience and as words grows about the label then we’ll hopefully gain more exposure for our artists”.
Reliance on social media and grapevines may well stir derision from some corners of the country, but belief in Honorary Chair Smith has reaped rewards during the label’s short-lived existence. “Ian puts in a huge amount of time, energy and enthusiasm. His worth ethic is one of the main reasons for the label progressing and having such a fantastic first year”, Easton indicates. “I guess all successful labels have that key figure, the driver who goes above and beyond, be that (Alan) McGee at Creation, (Alan) Horne at Postcard, or Wilson at Factory. Other DIY labels in Scotland have that special person – Matthew Young at Song by Toad or Lloyd Meredith at Olive Grove. Their labels are their babies”.
Providing a viable alternative for both recording artists and consumers, LNfG explores all emerging talents in Scotland before deciding if they identify with the ethos of the label. “The six original members ultimately have to vote on a release”, Easton explains, “We had some heated debates, especially at the start, but now we’ve built a sense of trust and know the people we want to work with. Something just as important as the music. Alan McGhee and Tony Wilson always identified with people – not just the music, and if we put in so much time and effort then we want to get on with the people we work with and truly believe in”. It was that community spirit which led to artists such as Emme Woods being discovered at Celtic Connections, or Stephen Solo’s self-made album entirely recorded on an iPhone6, which alerted the label. “I was blown away with it”, Easton remarks on Solo’s production, “It is one of the reasons I was thinking about forming a wee label prior to meeting Ian”. Equally crucial to the label’s formation were TeenCanteen, including Easton’s younger sister Carla. “The sense of community at our launch night struck a real chord with them”, he adds.
This appears to be a growing trend in Glasgow; rather than employing professionals to coordinate (and subsequently profit) events. In March 2016, under the guise of The Yellow Movement – Colonel Mustard and the Dijon Five, Have Mercy Las Vegas, The Twistettes and The Girobabies united to sell-out the Barrowlands, a feat never-before achieved by any unsigned act. “The Yellow Movement and development of artists such as Gerry Cinnamon has been brilliant for Glasgow. It makes sense to put on your own nights, reinvest that money in recordings, putting on other bands and helping them make your next night bigger. It’s common sense!”, Easton enthuses. “I find Colonel Mustard and the Dijon Five a breath of fresh air. They care, but at the same time do not give a flying fuck about being cool or anything – and that’s exactly what makes them cool. I find them inspiring and loads of fun”. As Wilson once quipped, “There is no celebrity quite as powerful as the local, homegrown celebrity”. Never a truer word spoken in the eyes of the Glaswegian music fan.
Glasgow’s abundance of dark basements beneath its city centre streets – Broadcast, Nice n’ Sleazys, Hug and Pint, and Stereo are all highlighted by Easton as being key to new bands starting out looking for somewhere cheap to hire and gather sizeable numbers through its doors. “Fuzzkill Records is another young label that has started which has that sense of community. They’ve released Catholic Action and Spinning Coin – they have great taste. I really like their band The Bellybuttons. I only wish they would release on vinyl rather than tape”. It’s clear that a love for new music in a live environment is key to the success of the label. Easton adds “People love to be entertained, they love to dance and sing. I’ve been lucky enough to travel and whether it is a mountain village in Peru, the carnivals in Rio, or a remote town in Thailand, people enjoy creating sounds and music for others to watch or join in”.
The quality of LNfG’s output thus far suggests that this is no flash in the pan either. With 300 copies of every vinyl release printed, digital releases, and USB releases, the label appears capable of catering for both the traditional and contemporary fan. “LNfG steps up a level when you look at the quality of the music being produced”, remarks Alan Morrison of The National. In their first year, the label released five records and three further USB’s, beginning in June 2016 with the punk sensibilities of former Velveteen Saints frontman Mark W. Georgsson “The Ballad of the Nearly Man”.
“After going to a few Saints shows, (Mark) contacted me out of the blue around the same time Ian did – the stars aligned – with an email and a private link to an album he had just finished recording. It was entirely different to his previous work – Americana, alt folk, celtic, beautiful”, Easton offers. Recalling Factory’s sour ending, LNfG was smart enough to release a 7-inch without knowing if the label was capable of sustaining an album, and an unexpected link to Georgsson’s friends in Iceland resulted in an AA side – a duet – with one side in Scottish and the second in Icelandic, including Arnar Guðjónsson from Icelandic band Leaves. Whether or not Georgsson proves to be LNfG’s version of The Durutti Column’s Vini Reilly remains to be seen, but so far all the right noises are being made with Georgsson’s album ‘Faces And Places’ due to be released by the label in January 2017. “Personally, I love owning a physical copy and the night I got the test pressing for Mark’s single, I sat and played it about 15 times in a row until around 1am. It was beautiful. Then the copies came through with the (Brian) Sweeney artwork – stunning”.
With streaming and downloads frequently condemned for the disposable culture adopted by many music fans, LNfG were keen to be dutiful towards the record stores which all of the label’s co-founders had been raised in. “It means more to me that the TeenCanteen album and Mark’s forthcoming album are coming out on vinyl”, Easton provides – “then Ian discovered USB credit cards which looks amazing and Stephen could include all kinds of things on it. After TeenCanteen’s vinyl resale went so well, they asked if they could have a USB release. As CD’s are out of fashion, we then took it a step further with the BooHooHoo EP coming out on snap wristband USB’s in different colours. We had committed money to other releases so money and time was against us, but people were going mad for the USB’s and we sold over 50 copies at their launch night”. Just as Tony Wilson’s prescience for aesthetics to be a vital cog in the Factory machine, the artwork presented on the pressed records and album covers have proved crucial in the LNfG blueprint. Ross Sinclair’s radiant creation for TeenCanteen’s debut album “Say It All With A Kiss” is a startling paean to the Hacienda’s rave days – an art installation displaying custom made slogan t-shirts awash a vivid, stimulating merchandise stall. Pop punk perfection!
With one year almost under their belts, or at least nine months gestation period which has split itself into four outstanding physical releases, 2017 is shaping up to be a highly interesting year ahead of LNfG. Over one hundred members joined the label this year helping to fund releases and subsequently earn themselves copies of all releases and access to exclusive label launch parties, knowing that they have played a part in helping artists release records. “We all have day jobs or studies, many with young families, so there is only so much we can do. I think a maximum of two hundred members if we want it to grow is probably within our reach”, Easton provides. Not that this is subterfuge for where the label wants to go. “I’d love a larger independent to come ask us about re-releasing something, or help with distribution. There’s a lot to consider but we are just enjoying it and that’s the most important aspect for a DIY label like ours”. Fellow label host Andy Hynes reaffirms this sentiment: “There is no end plan for us. At the moment, we simply wish to give as many promising bands the platform to show what they can do”. Sure enough, there is talk that the LNfG blueprint may be replicated in other cities where a great number of currently unknown bands are waiting to be discovered. Last Night from Wolverhampton…. Last Night from Tokyo…. Who knows what the future may hold?
On 11 December 2016, TeenCanteen and Last Night from Glasgow co-hosted “The Christmas Effect” inside bustling, trendy city-centre record store and café Mono, inviting a number of label mates and friends including The Vaselines’ Eugene Kelly to come along and perform a couple of Christmas songs each. The event was an opportunity for stakeholders to meet with the artists, chew the fat with fellow contributors, and importantly, raise money for The Scottish Women’s Aid and Scottish Refugee Council. With sparkly wares glimmering across the room and a glitter booth on hand to top-up everyone’s shine, festive favourites from The Darkness to Aled Jones, were given their moment, raising £3,000 in total for both charities in the process.
Referring to two previous events under ‘The Girl-Group Effect’ used to fundraise for such issues, TeenCanteen and Ette performer Carla Easton provides “I got the idea after reading about the closure of Women’s Aid Centres due to Government cuts. I hate the idea of complaining about something happening, talking about it in the pub with friends, and not actively doing anything to help a situation. I’m a big believer in empathy – something which is overlooked a lot in today’s society”. A sterling year for the TC girls resulted in a debut album borne off the back of a Pledgemusic campaign, a number of festival slots, and another Marc Riley live session. “I just thought what a great close to the year it could be to organise another fundraiser. In partnership with LNfG, we split the profits between two charities – TC selecting SWA to continue our support and LNfG picking the Scottish Refugee Council. Its not all about us – it’s about the charities. For us, Scottish Women’s Aid is vital in providing a service across Scotland to women, young people and children with experience of domestic abuse”. The goodwill shown by the younger Easton continues to countersign her elder brother’s desire in preserving matters close to the heart. On her own role, Carla prefixes “I think anyone working in the creative sector has an opportunity to help and support and generate discussion. To this end, if TeenCanteen are in a position to do that then we will continue to do so”.
Perhaps this is where the lines between Factory and LNfG blur. Whilst both record labels were formed during times of great political unrest, Factory was an all-swaggering, bolshy realm of egotism fronted by rock monsters such as Shaun Ryder and Peter Hook, whilst the careful and thoughtful approach undertaken by the LNfG family is one very much focussed on looking after its bands and supporters, addressing the social changes which are needed to make a level playing field for underdogs, minorities, and the oppressed. As Ian Smith, founding member remarks, “It’s a bunch of mates who love one another, doing something they love out of nothing but a passion for music”. It seems a simple doctrine to follow but as is often the case, demands someone takes the bull by the horns to make it happen. Take the Wilson idea, give talent the platform to show what they can do, and whatever you do – regardless what anyone may say – never buy a nightclub.
Stephen Watt : Louder Than War January 2017