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Antenna Records

With American bands such as Black Rebel Motorcycle Club now namechecking English shoegazing bands as a cool reference point, the rehabilitation of this once maligned genre seems to be underway. In the early 90’s the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Pale Saints, Ride and the Telescopes were wringing tunes out of feedback, yet still gracing the charts. The Telescopes were signed to Creation Records and led by Steven Lawrie who, ten years later, has now set up his own label, Antenna Records, and is about to start on the fourth Telescopes LP. Now back in his home town of Burton upon Trent I asked Steven about the Creation years and his plans for the future

“I wrote all the music for the Telescopes and after I wrote Flying (their biggest hit) the pressure was on to do a whole LP of songs like that. The band started arguing about the direction and I guess a load of drugs didn’t help (!!). Alan (McGee) who signed us was ill at the time, so when we rejected the pop side of things and made the LP we wanted to, we got kicked off the label”. After a recuperation in Spain Steven joined Unisex. “It’s much more a band with everyone contributing, there’s no pressure and I felt the songs starting to flow again”, so with long time partner Jo, the Telescopes where reborn and a new LP recorded that will be released on Double Agent records in May.

Around this time Steven received some music in the mail. “It was from this guy Randal Neiman who records as Füxa. It’s a weird collaboration because he’s in America and sends over tapes for me to work on, but I really liked the song Rainy Day Dream Away and it developed from there”. The tapes wing their way around the Midlands with contributions from Sonic Boom, Pedro Baracha and Dust Collectors and are then mixed and released by Füxa on the Rocket Girl label. To give focus to what was happening with the music Steven decided to set up his own label. “There’s a lot of good bands around and I want to give them the opportunity to release stuff and not have to go to a major label and change their sound, which happens so often”.

The type of music they will release is “mind expanding head music”, think Faust, Can, Spiritualised, Bark Psychosis, and with Sonic Boom a frequent collaborator Spacemen 3 are an obvious reference point. The first release on the label is by Füxa The Modified Mechanics Of This Device, electronic moog pieces creating a space to rock while lying down. The second release will be Los Planetos del Agua’s Too Many Bricks Not Enough Sea, a Derby band who work around catchy hook lines yet keep a post rock non formula to the tunes, letting them develop organically rather than making them fit into a verse chorus structure.

As Steven explains, “the label is left of centre but it’s got to have a point, I get sent stuff which is just single tones, I mean come on there’s got to be some imagination and vitality to it. The Füxa LP is experimental electronic pop and the Los Planetos LP is more ethereal, organic”. John Peel’s been playing several tracks off the LP with repeat plays for the first single (still available on Bearos Records).

Being based in Burton might not seem like the most obvious place for this leftfield label to reside. “We moved to London back in the Creation days and felt the pressure there, so it’s a conscious decision to stay here, there’s more space to be creative and no music biz bullshit. We’re also really central so can go places easily and see gigs, meeting up with all these great Midlands bands like Dreams of Tall Buildings, Magnetophone, Pram, Grover, Baxxter, Jameson, Dust Collectors and Pedro Baracha. It’s all happening right here”.

With the imminent release of the label’s first two LPs and some dates to follow the Telescopes will then reconvene to record the fourth LP. The label will grow over the next year to have a select roster of bands concentrating on CD LPs rather than singles.