Thursday, January 26, 2012

RIP Society/Nic Warnock: INTERVIEW!

Australian based label RIP Society is going from strength to strength boasting releases from Kitchen's Floor, Royal Headache and Naked on the Vague. I had the opportunity to ask Nick Warnock who runs the label a few things about his recent travels, his own band Bed Wetting Bad Boys and his approach to running a record label...

You just came back from the states, how was your trip?

Amazing, the USA is a strange and wonderful place. We met so many great people and had a heap of pretty surreal experiences, the bits Americans would generally be embarrassed about we found most fascinating. Midwest singles newspapers trying to fix women in prison up with lonely farmers, evangelist Christian burger barns, the novelty of drinking cheap malt liquor (as we associate it with west coast rap artists), how dumb TV advertising is etc.

Any Bed Wetting Bad Boy show highlights from this US tour you'd like to share?

The very first show we played with Harpoon Forever, Royal Headache and Home Blitz! The rest of us had been in the US for a few days but Ben (guitarist/my brother) had to come over later due to university commitments. It was the day before the ten year anniversary of September 11 so there was security checkpoints all over Manhattan. He flew from Sydney to JFK airport, got straight in a cab to Ding Dong lounge and made it right on time to play. Although I wouldn’t say we were band of the night we played a pretty inspired, rockin’ set and held our own on a really strong line-up. Even with the kind of strange location of Upper West Side Manhattan (Brooklyn or the Lower East Side of Manhattan seemed to be the “happening” music districts), the intense anti-terrorist security and the L-train being down there was a good turn out of visibly enthusiastic people. The level of enthusiasm made me question if they were actually from New York or had just moved from Kansas. They even knew the tunes off our 7”s!

Which came first for you, playing music or running a label?

Playing music I guess, but with the circles of music I was first involved with in Sydney those who played music were generally invested in the community beyond just playing music. Booking show, making posters, releasing records etc. Somehow giving back to the music. I actually started R.I.P Society Records cause I was playing bass then later synth in Circle Pit. Their debut 7” had been recorded since before I was in the band and had gone unreleased for 10 months. I had a bit of money saved (it was probably the last time I had that much money to my name) and offered to put it out. Back then I never would have imagined running a record label would be such an important and engulfing part of my life.

Do you prefer putting out music or playing music?

They satisfy me on different levels. Playing music (either alone or with band) helps me relax and tune out from the frustrating elements that come with living in society. Don’t get me wrong I have a great quality of life but sometimes I have a hard time switching off. Running a record label can be downright frustrating! On a basic level playing music is 100% more enjoyable and than releasing music but the hard to classify music subculture(s) I‘ve been involved in mean a lot to me. Discovering rock n roll, punk and all its offshoots is one of the most important thing that has even happened to me and through running R.I.P Society, I hope I’m somehow preserving that tradition. Although releasing music often feels hopeless, it gives me a purpose, and is sometime even fulfilling. I have to do it, even at the expense of my own financial stability, being able to have a conversation with a normal person, potentially having a career etc.

Did you start RIP Society with a goal in mind? Or to put it another way, what do you want to say with your label?

Basically there wasn’t enough suitable outlets documenting Australian music. Punk/hardcore and noise/experimental circles had their shit together but there was this gap. Not completely marginal music but not your hip indie kinda stuff. It developed out of there being an obvious hole to fill and a desire for me to do it. No grand aesthetic or vision, I wanted to release music that I thought was important in a way that I as a music buyer would find appealing.

If you could have any band on RIP Society who would it be?

To tell you the truth I’m not really interested in chasing releases from established, happening bands. I’d prefer to bring attention to bands I feel are deserving of attention but for don’t fit in or for some reason (ie not being from Melbourne) have been ignored. So bands like Raw Prawn, Whores, Woollen Kits, Zond are the dream releases and the reason RIP exists. Maybe I’d someday wanna to re-issue records like the first Venom P Stinger 7” and LP, first Tactics 7”, early Cosmic Psychos material or The Shoes “Black Vinyl Shoes” LP.

What is your criteria when looking for bands to sign?

No fonzies, no artists types. Nothing angular or post-anything. I never look for artists to “sign” (we use handshake agreements at R.I.P Society), they’re usually right in front of my face and it obviously makes sense that we should work together.

How do you feel about reviews, when bands get too easily pigeon holed or perhaps misunderstood by listeners?

This one would actually take me a year to write about. Might skip the question sorry.

Have you put anything out that you’ve really believed in and had high expectations for and for some reason doesn’t get received the way you’d hoped?

Not really, seems that everything has found an audience eventually. Although there seemed to be a lot of “interest” around them at the time the debut 7” by Circle Pit was the slowest moving record I’ve ever put out. I’d pretty much sell one or two a week and now a couple have now gone for $30+ on eBay. Weird.

What's your view on other labels? Are there any you look up to at all?

Richie Records is my favourite record label from the USA. I have enjoyed all of their releases, “skull music” they sometimes call it. Any release with that little baseball man on the back is probably worth your money. I also look up to Chapter Records and admire the gusto of Bedroom Suck and Negative Guest List. I also admire the way In The Red Records operates, keeping prices down and much of their back catalogue in print. There’s lots of labels that I think do a great job but these five come to mind right now.

What would you say are helps and hindrances with running an independent label these days?

Unfortunately Australia has a large masses of water surrounding it from every angle and has quite a small population. What helps is there’s a support network and lots of very keen individuals out there, I honestly reckon the way most people find out about RIP releases is the 2012 equivalent of word-of-mouth communication (factoring in the internet and stuff now).

How long do you see yourself doing RIP Society for?
Until the world ends in 2012, so not very long at all. DONE.

What are your thoughts on special edition releases like the colour vinyl, pictured discs, limited 7’s and posters?

I hate coloured splatter vinyl and all that shit, it’s for listening not a toy! I see the purpose of limited edition records in particular circumstances but I generally think a record should be about reaching people, not conservatively pandering to your existing audience or so that the band and label can brag about their allusive “out of print” record. I do like special edition covers, non-digital printing methods etc. I think it can make a release more interesting and add a personable, human touch without being gimmicky or overshadowing the actual recorded content.

Do you have someone who makes the art work for the records on RIP – or do bands take care of that?

In all circumstances the band has had the idea for the artwork and asks whoever they think suitable to take photographs, design type etc. It’s their songs, their voice, the artwork should be their vision. I would feel like a real egomaniac forcing a label aesthetic on the bands, as the band and music is obviously way more important than the little logo on the back of the cover. I have assisted in the process of taking their physical artwork and laying it out for print in some instances (I studied graphic design at University), a few bands have sent me envelopes with their artwork and instructions on what goes where. I’ve been lucky enough to really like the artwork for all my releases and think they’re an appropriate representative of the music contained.

What’s the future of RIP Society?

Out just this week is the Woollen Kits LP, a record I’m really proud to be involved in. I can let you know that there’s 7”s in the works from two great Sydney punk bands Raw Prawn and Whores, as well as LP’s from Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys and Model Citizen due somewhere around the middle of the year. A 7” from the Mysterious Ruined Fortune and the debut full length from Constant Mongrel - Everything Goes Wrong. Other releases have been discussed but it’s a little too early to announce.

Any new releases from Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys we should look out for?

Since getting back from the USA we’ve been talking and thinking about doing an LP, wrote out a list of all the songs we’d either finished or jammed on and finally recorded some crude demos before heading separate ways for Christmas. We’ve got a few months of working the kinks out of some newer ones, maybe bringing a few more songs to the table and then heading into the “studio”. I say “studio” cause I doubt we’ll go into an actual studio but it will by no means be a lo-fi record.

What records are you playing at home right now – anything you’d like to rave about for us to check out?

Just got the new Midnight LP and on first listen it slays! Crude heavy metal with a strong Venom, Celtic Frost and Motorhead vibe. Like most good metal records would probably appeal to the punks more than the metalheads. Been on a pretty big Guided By Voices kick of late after reading the 33 and 1/3 book on Bee Thousand. In their “classic line-up” they’ve gotta be one of my all time favourites. I recently bought the Blitz - Complete Blitz Singles compilation LP, a band that started out doing Oi! tunes and somehow ended up in synth pop territory, kind of sounding like what people may term “cold wave” now. I like this record from start to end, no idea how a band would go from Never Surrender (tuff as nails) to Solar (which you could probably trick someone into thinking it was the b-side to a Total Control single) in a period. Got a copy of the excellent Cleveland Confidential compilation from 82, amazing punk tunes from bands like The Pagans, Styrenes, Jazz Destroyers and The Easter Monkeys. Mines a reissue from the 90’s and it was about $7, would’ve paid 5 times more for it! Other records on repeat at the moment Fang - Landshark LP, Television Personalities - The Painted World LP, Watery Love 7“s, The Kinks - Lola Versus… LP, Dead Moon reissues, Brian Eno - Another Green World LP, Gauze 7” on Prank records.

“I’m full of dust and guitars” – Syd Barrett, if you were cracked open what would be inside?

An old computer that doesn’t work very well, bus tickets and whatever fruit/veg was cheapest that week. Probably eggplant.

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