Interviewed by Toby Kidd
The Charlatans’ singer talks to River’s Edge about his record label O Genesis, Hammer Horror and earl grey tea.
Tell us about the name O Genesis. What is the inspiration? I’m guessing it is nothing to do with Phil Collins.
Nope, Phil’s not involved – although, that’s not to say I’m not a fan of their Genesis. Not so much Phil’s version, but definitely when Peter Gabriel was with them. But no, not that Genesis. It’s more of a reference to Throbbing Gristle’s Genesis. But most of all we just wanted the label to have a classic sounding name. I still love it, so I think we made a good choice.
Tell us about the other people involved in O Genesis.
Magazines and websites always talk about it being my label, but there’s three other main people involved. Nik Colk Void from Factory Floor is one. Nik has released solo material on the label. She does most of the sleeve design, artwork and photography. There’s a real aesthetic to O Genesis and that’s Nik’s input – but she’s also done remixes and brought in some of the bands.
There’s no set roles or job descriptions. Jim Spencer is our producer. He’s worked with New Order, Johnny Marr and Echo and the Bunnymen, as well as The Charlatans, so we’ve worked together a while. He’s brilliant to work with when we’re recording. He really gets what a band should sound like, and can then make that happen. That leaves Nick Fraser. Nick works on some festivals and has put together some of the shows we’ve done with O Genesis bands. He writes press releases – and came up with ideas like the track we did with Professor Tim O’Brien.
What about the numbering system of the label? Tell us a number that fits a release particularly well.
The numbers. Yes. They are a homage to Factory Records. In some ways there’s nothing more mundane than a catalogue number, but with some thought they can be as much a part of a record as the layout of the sleeve. In the Factory system, different numbers were saved for New Order’s singles or albums – posters were given numbers. Numbers are what make the universe happen. There’s an order in nature. What looks chaotic, follows some rules somewhere. O Gen 069 is the track we worked on using the sound archive from Jodrell Bank. 1969 was the year of the moon landings so that’s quite fitting.
One thing we like is that you release other artforms through O Genesis: poetry, fiction, artworks. Tell us about some of these.
Lots of labels say they work outside of recognised limits, but all their releases are bands and music. That’s not to say that’s any kind of issue – but it was something we wanted to explore. I remember albums like War of The Worlds as a kid – not the new musical but the original Jeff Wayne vinyl double album, based on the Orson Welles radio series. It had so much power – I became friends with Ian Rankin and we spoke about working on something together. Nik and I did the music for a short story he wrote and we’ve just released it on vinyl. That was amazing to work on. The same goes for the poetry we’ve released. We just wanted to shake things up. We realised quite how much we’d done in a short amount of time when we put the compilation album together – spoken word next to a single Nik released that had a handmade playable cover. You don’t get that with K-Tel.
You put a great album out for R Stevie Moore. Where did you first come across him? Have you seen him recently? Will he be over again in the UK soon?
Yes, that was something that made us really proud of what we were doing – not in a showy-offy way but in a really satisfying way. I’d heard R Stevie after reading a magazine article about him and I could tell that I’d love his music. People were calling him the godfather of lo fi music but much of it was overlooked. I was writing with Kurt Wagner and went to Nashville. I headed out to a small venue, where he was playing, and he ended up recording some bass and guitar for my latest solo album. He’s an amazing person – so humble and fantastically talented. We became friends and I wanted to help him get his music to more people. We started with a split 7″ single with him covering a Vaccines song on one side and them doing one of his on the other. I then put together a Best Of… for him that we released on O Genesis. I saw him a couple of years ago when he came over to play – I was on backing vocals, woodblock and tambourine at a couple of gigs. I’m not sure if he’ll be back soon, but I’ve got my tambourine ready if he does.
You recently put an album out for the talented Martin Duffy (Felt, Primal Scream), are there any live plans for this? Or did we miss him?
You definitely didn’t miss him. Or if you did, then I did too. Duffy was part of my solo band for a tour a couple of years ago and he is so good to spend time with. His sense of humour, his soul and his general demeanour make him someone I just love to have around. I was asking him if he had any recordings and he was interested in our label – to me it’s one of the best albums of this year. I’d love to see him play live. I’ll text him about it. Again!
What is it that makes running a label fun?
We were talking about it today. From making an O Genesis Christmas card to making a compilation VHS video – there’s nobody to pour cold water on the ideas. There’s not much more fun than making a limited edition run of 37 VHS videos – but no DVDs – when nobody has anything to play them on. The endless possibilities help it stay fun.
If you had to sum up the label in one flavour of tea what would it be?
It’s so many things all at the same time: earl grey with soy milk and two sugars, stirred with a pen. Not to everyone’s taste but you grow to love it.
What common themes hold O Genesis releases together? Or are there none?
What is one of your favourite blogs/music site thing to find out about music, or get a release onto?
The Quietus is our favourite but there’s Brooklyn Vegan, Pitchfork and others to find great new music. The Line of Best Fit and Clash have been good places to help share our releases too.
What is the next or newest release we should listen to?
D R O H N E – two kids from Liverpool who were supporting Factory Floor. It’s a little bit industrial but with a real soul to it.
Favourite Hammer Horror?
The TV series they did in the 1980s, under the name of Hammer House of Horror made a big impression on me and my friends. We were 12 at the time and it set up a love of horror films for me. I’d say it’d be one of those, The House That Bled To Death or The Silent Scream with Peter Cushing.
If Peter Cushing had written any song (that we may have heard of), what would it have been? Or what band would he be best fronting? What instrument would he suit the most?
I think he’d be a bass player. Nothing too frenetic. Slow and plodding. Like footsteps behind you. Ron Mael from Sparks used to remind me of him so maybe he’d be in Sparks – making them an even spookier three piece. The song? White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane.