diskant is an independent music community based in Glasgow, Scotland and we have a whole team of people from all over the UK and beyond writing about independent music and culture, from interviews with new and established bands and labels to record and fanzine reviews and articles on art, festivals and politics. There's over ten years of content here so dig in!

 Subscribe in a reader

Recent Interviews

diskant Staff Sites

More Sites We Like

Brainlove Records

Brainlove Records are a fantastic example of a new breed of independent label made possible by pure virtue of CD burners, MP3s and the internet.

Ever since 2003 Brainlove has been championing bands that in their own words, “couldn’t find a label because they were too arty, weird, fucked up or far out to fit in anywhere else,” putting out a whole host of fascinatingly fun and bizarre music in the form of handmade limited edition CDRs and downloadable MP3s files. Having recently sorted a deal with MP3 vendor Karma Download, and on the cusp of exciting new releases by latest brainspurts The Open Mouths and Junkplanet, we managed to calm down label boss John Rogers enough for a diskant interview. Obligingly, he gave Dave Stockwell the lowdown on how and why Brainlove works so well, and how web labels can be the future of independent music.

Why the hell did you call your label that?

I’m not exactly sure y’know. It was the name of our paper zine up in York a few years ago, then it became a webzine, and then the label… wait, I remember, it came from a little drawing I did of two brains in tanks all wired together. We still use it in the logo. I guess you could use that as a metaphor for good music, maybe. You know, when you really totally understand where that sound is coming from, and it makes you feel a bit better, or like crying, or like rocking out or whatever you need to do at that exact moment. Yeah, that makes sense, I’m sticking with that.

Have you been inspired by any labels in terms of style/ambition/enthusiasm?

You know, not really. That sounds bad… there must have been someone, I’ll think about it. We kinda started this as a reaction against other labels. I know that sounds a bit negative, but I often think people define themselves as much by what they are against as by what they are for. Being dissatisied can lead to positive action. With Brainlove it’s kinda dependent on that. We’re against what we think of as boring and pedestrian music, and we’re for humour, style, talent, tunes and creativity… you won’t find any lumpen guitar-boy Bloc-Razor-Shamble-Chiefs crap on our label. That said, we did look up to people like Sonic Mook Experiment, Tomlab, Chicks On Speed, Experimental Seafood, Label Catastrophic and Kitty-Yo for daring to be different and doing it DIY…

What kind of a role has the internet played regarding your label? Some people these days operate exclusively via the ‘net, whilst others are still very much mail order based. What’s your stance?

Best of both – short-run, unique, handmade CDs for people that want something physical to own, and MP3’s available from www.karmadownload.com for those who just want the sound for their iPod (I mainly fall into the second category). I think it’s good that web-labels can exist now – it means music can be released without any huge amount of capital or overheads, and more marginal stuff can get ‘out there’. Anyone with a bit of passion and energy can start a label these days on a minimal budget, and that has to be positive. I don’t see the point in distributing in the amounts we’re making at the minute. I’d like this to change though.

Is downloading killing music? Do you harbour any strong feelings sympathetic to or against the RIAA?

Downloading is not killing music, quite the opposite. I can see why the majors feel threatened of course, but I can’t say I’m sympathetic. Nothing can kill music, ever, but the majors’ profit margins are an endangered species. And I don’t see that as a bad thing, no matter how they frame it.

Has there ever been a time when you felt like calling it a day, that the label was too much trouble?

Not so far. It can be a hassle, but it’s great when you look at the back catalogue, or get an enthusiastic piece of press or a thank-you letter, or see the bands going on to greater things partly due to your efforts. You know, making things closer to how you’d like them to be, even just a little.

Where have you found bands you’ve released stuff by so far? Do you get demos etc sent to you? Do you ask the bands or do they ask you?

A lot of them come from playing around the country as my solo project, Junkplanet, and from playing in my last band The $hit – promoters wouldn’t know who to put us on with, so we’d get put together with the most weird and wonderful bands… a lot of the time it comes from hearing about someone through word of mouth as well. I’m always happy to hear demos though.

Who decides the artwork for your releases? Do you have a major say in the matter, or do you let the bands decide?

The bands design their own so far. It’s all part of the creative process I think. Ideas go back and forth of course, and I get to do all the artwork for my own band. I’m always interested to see what people come up with. So far it’s all been great – maybe that’s something to do with the nature of the bands we’ve been working with.

Who do you use to make and print your records? Would you recommend them to others?

We’re very DIY… I don’t know much about mass production. We don’t have the cash. We could really do with a sponsor actually – it can be frustrating to do such small scale releases when you know the music could have a much wider appeal, but I think it’s just healthy and positive for a new band to get a release out even on a very small scale, just to present their work so far so they can move onwards and upwards. Unfortunately the way things stand, it takes a lot of cash and a huge amount of sustained effort to build profile for new bands.

What’s your opinion on the importance of press and media coverage? Do you have any particular policies on how to get it?

Massively important. And a huge challenge. We started off emailing mags and webzines that we read ourselves, and did a lot of research and contact building. It’s good to meet like-minded people who are out there writing about independent music and keeping their eye out for new things anyway, so it can happen quite naturally, not like some big cynical marketing effort or anything. Now we get people getting in touch with us asking for promos quite often. You have to build your own press lists and find out who’s reliable for reviews and genuinely into what you’re doing, especially if you have a tight budget for promotion.

Do you have any Grand World Domination plans for the label, or is it a case of natural evolvement?

I’d really like things to go a lot further than they have now. I’m hoping that the things we put out will draw more attention to label, maybe attract some investment or just help things become more viable financially. We can keep it going, and stay small, but I would love to be able to offer these great bands more and spread their music further. You can get a lot done on a low budget, but you do find yourself tapping against the glass ceiling of what you can do sometimes. Being small is great, but there’s so much more to be done…

Got any advice for the prospective new label mogul?

Stay true to your vision of the label, don’t make more than you think you can sell (you don’t wanna end up with boxes and boxes under your bed), don’t release shit bands that you think will “make it” to try and spin a buck, be straight up and honest (try to get basic agreements down on paper to avoid confusion later), work within your means even if your means are basically zero, and mainly just try to be organised and do something with personality and form a coherent catalogue of music.

Finally, what would be your dream release – which band, which format, and how would it be packaged?

Brainlove is already releasing the best bands I can think of right now, I couldn’t be more happy with the releases we’ve done, musically. I’d love to do the Napoleon IIIrd album. I would have liked to do a Simon Bookish record, but I think he has bigger ideas, which is fair enough. Coloured vinyl would be nice. My favourite vinyls were bright green, pillar-box red and candy pink… with glitter! That would rock… maybe we’ll get there one day.