Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Ripple Conversation With Andrew Field, Founder Of APF Records

How long have you been doing this and what got you started running an independent record label?

I started APF Records in the Spring. I go to around a hundred gigs a year in Manchester, where I live, and have gotten to know a load of the bands who play locally as a result. Many of them don’t have record deals, or the money to self-release, so in simple terms I decided I’d see if they wanted someone to release their stuff for them. APF Records began when a three-piece from Stockport, called Under, said yes.

What motivated you? Why here, why now? 

I'm just a big old fan of music. I'm in my mid-40s now but have been passionate about hard rock and heavy metal since stumbling across my first love (Rush) in the 1980s. I turned to stoner rock with Kyuss, doom with Trouble and sludge with Helmet in the early 1990s, and my taste has gotten ever more downtuned and more underground with each passing year. Back in my youth I was a drummer, but I long ago hung up my drum sticks. I wanted to be a part of underground music, more than just a punter, and having a business brain I thought I might do OK running an independent label.

The “why here” and “why now” is because the UK has such a vibrant, exciting and burgeoning underground so is the perfect place for a small label. And for the first time in my life I have the time, money, energy and excitement these days to pile everything of me into it.

What's your prior history in the music world? 

Apart from being a fan, the only music world experience I have is a short stint working at EMI records in London in the 1990s in the press office. I didn’t last long: I got frustrated that they wouldn’t spend money on (or let me work on) their rock and metal releases, so I spent my days dealing mostly with manufactured teen bands and Cliff Richard. Then one day I put Adam Ant on hold for half an hour by accident and had a massive falling out with my boss and walked out before I could be fired.

What will be your first release?

My first release was Under’s “Slick” album back in May. Since then I’ve released albums, singles and EPs by Diesel King, Blind Haze, Mastiff, The Wizards Of Delight, Tronald, RedEye Revival and Ba’al. At the end of November I release BongCauldron’s album “Binge”. Next year I have a host of stuff coming out including new material from Desert Storm, Pist and Nomad.

Any special projects planned? 

The one I’m most excited about is a gig I’m putting on in Manchester in February which my entire roster is playing on. 15 bands. It’s probably the only time it will ever happen. We’re getting a photo taken with me and all the boys and girls in the bands. That’s gonna be an amazing moment.

I’ve just signed a worldwide distribution deal with Cargo Records, abd the thought that my releases will now be sold in record shops in Japan blows my mind.

Are you looking to tap into a particular local scene or were you aiming to capture a sound?
A bit of both. When APF started I just wanted to sign bands based in northern England who played sludge, doom or stoner rock. But then I signed Diesel King from London and Desert Storm from Oxford, so go figure. I have no plans to sign anyone from overseas at this time, but will never say never.

Tell us about the label Name and logo.  

After Under said they wanted to sign with me, I had just a month to get their album “Slick” manufactured. I spent a week trying to come up with a clever name, but couldn’t settle on one. So I went with my initials. The logo was designed by a dude I know through the scene. It was the first idea he came up with and I immediately loved it.

There's so much to learn about running a label, share with us some of the lessons you're learning along the way.

I was very lucky to have several friends who run independent labels who offered guidance and advice (Chris West of Superhot, Leigh Jones of Riff Rock, Jay Ackerman of Hevisike, Gareth Kelly of When Planets Collide, and James Kidd of UMC). I still call on them now occasionally, though I’ve learned so much in the last 9 months.

I guess the biggest lessons I’ve learned are twofold: 1. Don’t get overexcited and order too many CDs, because people don’t buy music like they used to. And 2. Getting reviews for your releases without using a PR firm is challenging.

What changes do you see ahead for the music industry?

I leave that kind of introspection to others. I have no aspiration to make money from my label, or for it to be something that I make a living out of. All I want to do is release great music that enough people buy that I break even on each release. If I can shift 500 vinyls, 500 CDs and some digital downloads for each of my bands that will make me happy.

What will you do to stay on top of new and emerging technology?
Well the record industry doesn’t seem that arsed about emerging technology as I see it. Look what’s in vogue at the moment, especially at my label’s level: vinyl, cassettes, streaming and YouTube. Two of them have made a return, and the other two have been around for ages. CDs wil come back too, mark my words. I’ll keep an eye on developments, but won’t pretend I’ll be on top of them.

What's the biggest challenge facing you today as an independent label?

Breaking even, and getting my music heard by enough people to break even whilst working within a very limited budget. Those are the only things I fret about. I love every other aspect of running my label.

Seems like there are a lot of independent heavy labels emerging these days.  What will you do to set yourself apart? 

I don’t know how to say this without coming over like a narcissist, but my label is different because of me. I was able to start it because I was well-known in the Manchester underground heavy music scene. It has grown through sheer will on my behalf, on almost no budget and largely without any PR. I’ve sold myself as much as the label brand and it seems to have worked.

Those of a certain age will remember Remington shavers and their television adverts in the late 1970s, where the President of Remington Victor Kyam used to say “I liked the razor so much I bought the company”. The advert was a hit and he appeared in all their marketing from them on. I guess I’m a bit of a modern day Victor Kyam: people know me as much as APF Records, and I’m content with that. When I look at other labels I see the brand and not the individuals behind it. I’m almost the reverse of that.

What do you look for in your bands?

When I set up APF Records I just wanted great bands on the label who made music that blew me away. Going forward I’ll be looking for a bit more than that. They must be dedicated to the stuff that comes with releasing a record: willing to engage on and in social media, do good interviews, and play live a lot. I will also be looking closely at bands before I sign them to make sure they all get on. Band members not being on the same page is a license for disaster.

I would never sign a band whose music didn’t move me, or a band where the members were not nice people. Life’s too short.

How do you find your artists?  Are you a club rat, constantly searching live venues for cool acts?

I’ve found everyone so far by going to so many gigs. The ones I love the most are all-dayers with 10 to 15 bands playing 30 minute sets. With one exception, all the bands on APF I knew from loving their bands – and telling them I love them at their gigs.

What are you looking for now?

A rest. I’ve put 10 releases out in 9 months. After BongCauldron’s “Binge” comes out on 30th November I have nothing scheduled until Desert Storm’s “Sentinels” drops in March 2018. I’m looking forward to some chill time.

Are you involved in all the creative decisions?

No. I stay away from the studio unless the bands invite me along, and I let them commission their own artwork. If they want my involvement they can have it, and they know that. But most of them don’t need it.

What would you like to see happen for the future of the music industry and your label in particular? 

When people are chatting about cool heavy labels I’d like them eventually to add “and APF Records” at the end of a sentence starting with “yeah man there’s some killer stuff on New Heavy Sounds, Riding Easy, Ripple Music, Hevisike”.

Anything else you'd like to share with the waveriders? 

Streaming is easy and cheap, but if you love a band you hear online go buy their record. Or some of their merch. Or go see them live. Cos without that, we’re all doomed.

Best of luck man.  Ripple will be there every step of the way to support you in any way we can.

Love your work! Keep on keeping on. xx

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