Thursday, March 27, 2008

An interview with Failsafe Records el-supremo Rob Mayes

To coincide with the FAILSAFE RECORDS MUSIC MONTH , the great saviour of local Indy Music, Failsafe label owner, producer, musician, writer, rock historian, mollycuddler to the musically unwashed, the inimitable ROB MAYES has the blow-torch applied to his y-fronts.

Q.) Starting from square one, how does a band/artist go about getting recorded on Failsafe? Do they come to you? Or do you approach prospects?

Failafe's a hobby label, most releases don't break even so if I'm going to put a lot of time and money into something it has to be because I think its a worthy project, or cos I'm into it personally.

There is the odd release on the label that I'm not that invested in where I've put something out cos I know and like the people, but I try to keep that to a minimum and certainly in recent times its all personal projects. If you want to draw my attention to your personal project that fits within the music tastes that the label clearly follows then I'm happy to hear from bands but I don't take kindly to being approached by blues rock outfits wanting me to release their latest jam because it shows the band clearly hasn't taken the time to investigate my label and what I do, and blues rock would be one of the many styles of music I don't do, along with hip hop, soul, r & b etc.

The label is specifically a post punk, post rock, alternative melodic indie guitar label.

Q.)What's the future looking like for Independent Labels in New Zealand?

Harder to break even or generate any money to cover costs without compromising your art.

Q.) How's pirating affecting you guys?

Its pretty hard to find any of our stuff on limewire or bit torrent, but cd copying is definitely making it difficult to continue to do releases,when there are reduced sales in an already small market its going to be harder for any label or artist to do the next record. Music fans should acknowledge this issue and make a conscious effort to channel money to their favourite artists, or not be surprised when they stop making music and get a job in a fast food joint.

Q.) What's your favourite Failsafe band of all-time?

I've got favourite tracks. I love:
substandard - global research system
YFC - most of the ricochet album
Eight Living legs - don't do that near me
147 Swordfish - love (off avalanche)
Beat Rhythm Fashion - most of the album

I also really like some of my own music, cos I make music that I would want to hear so I don't see it so much as being egotistical to like it. I made it cos its what I was missing in available music.

I'm very proud of The Throw albums, particularly the track softly off Dreambaby goodbye. The middle section of that song is one of my favourite bits of production.

Likewise The new Kimo album, some really good moments on that puppy which people will be able to sample for themselves soon.

Q.) And your fav Failsafe Album?

See above. A little hard for me to choose. Like asking me to pick a favourite child (if I had kids)

Definitely some important albums for me like the YFC and BRF ones, and the Kimo Throw and dolphin albums.

Q.) The undisputed best local band you've had the pleasure of seeing live, are or were?

I really enjoyed "how to kill" who supported Into the Void twice at the Dux in 2006. I'm hoping to pursuade them to record something soon.

Q.) The Failsafe band that should have 'made it' but didn't ,was?

There's quite a few there, and I feel semi guilty about not going all out for some of them, but in reality Failsafe is a one man label and I do as much as I can, more than I should possibly, ie slightly obsessively not putting enough into other aspects of a healthy life :)

Throw were a pretty good live band. We had song ideas worked out which were often simple riffs and hooks, but we left the length and dynamic of the piece open so sometimes you could blow yourself away with the power of a version. A lot of that came from my relationship with Drummer Steve Birss from our 6 years of music together and we'd drag Taylor along for the ride.

YFC were ground breaking and still were on their 2005 reunion gigs. They may play again.

BRF wrote some amazing songs and their gigs in 82 still ring clear in my mind.

But really a lot of the failure to make it of these bands was of their own doing, or undoing. it takes a lot of effort with no reward before you start to see even a little of what you need to see to justify attempting to make it. And NZ really isn't that good at recognising or supporting its art, notable wasters of good public funding which could go to making it easier for artist to make art are NZ on Air who now routinely divert money to the least culturally significant sounds around (i.e. the stuff that sounds like overseas trends). They should be ashamed of themselves for an organisation who's logo is "our voice, our country".

Q.) Granted one wish and the opportunity to join any group, past or present, what band would you be in?

Well I was already lucky enough to play with Children's Hour on their reform tour of '05 so I wouldn't want to push my luck wishing for anything more, but YFC or Joy Division or Cure, maybe Killing Joke or Comsat Angels guest spots would be nice.

Q.) The coolest guy in the band is always the?

I really don't notice things like that. I do admire talent (the unthinking ability to produce inspirational sounds) above skill (the planned and practiced) though, and a great emotive musical drummer always gets my attention and appreciation. You can get a bad band with a good drummer, but you very rarely get a good band with a bad drummer. the drummer makes or breaks it for me.

Some of my favourite drummers have been:
Steve Birss - Dolphin and Throw Drummer.
Chris Spark - Degrees K, exceedingly musical in his drumming, you could almost hum his drum lines.
Michael Daly - YFC, Eskimo. No denying his drum parts are integral to YFC.
Bevan Sweeney - Children's hour, Headless Chickens. The drum pattern to gaskrankinstation is one of the best sculpted pieces of writing I've witnessed.
David Toland - Playthings, Expendables, Springloader. another extremely expressive player.

On the Children's Hour tour I had the chance to complete the set of playing with my favourite drummers of the early eighties. Birss, Daly and Sweeney. a great honor, although I wouldn't say that to their faces cos you got to keep drummers in their place :)

Footnote: Tune to Pure NZ Alt Radio in April and you'll have the pleasure of listening to Rob's labour of love. It's 100% Failsafe music 24/7.

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