It is hard not to be rather excited about an ever thriving UK punk and rock ‘n’ roll scene which right now seems to be bubbling rather rigorously with great bands, inspiring releases, and memorable live events. Certainly in the underground, intoxicating and thrilling propositions seem to be a perpetual temptation for our ears, new and older bands with their shows and releases breaching new tenacious creativity with impassioned roars bred from aggressive and uncompromising rock ‘n’ roll. Helping provide support and an outlet for many of those incitements are serious music fans like Stu Taylor and his STP Records. From putting on shows on the Manchester music scene through to becoming a regular port of call at the Rebellion festival, Stu and STP has become one of the most potent and respected presences in the underground scene. Embracing punk to punk n’ roll, basically anything exciting them with flavoursome unbridled rock ‘n’ roll, the label has brought fans some essential and refreshing releases whilst introducing wider attention to their creators artists, and its founders a continual supply of history lingering shows and performances in Manchester and around the UK. Without wanting to sound like an advert, as a music fan and reviewer it is impossible to miss the open appetite and professionalism, insight and passion in wanting to help promote good bands and music within STP. Hearing of new plans and adventure afoot within the label we thought it was time to explore more the people behind many of our favourite encounters of recent times. So we grabbed Stu, piled him with a torrent of questions and went about learning about the background to man and label, future plans and their inspirations, the team behind the face and label, and how he ‘annoys’ the STP ladies at shows…
Hi Stu, a big thanks for taking time away from important things to chat with us J
Can we start by asking some background to and what inspired you to set up STP Records?
The release side of things came about as an offshoot from the shows we have been doing at The Star and Garter here in Manchester since the mid Nineties, and those shows we started to do as bands were simply not playing Manchester. So with a friend, Ian, we used to travel to shows to see bands and simply asked them to come and play in Manchester. Like most promoters, we have been privileged to see a fantastic array of bands down the years, and sometimes that can lead to those bands becoming very good friends as well.
You know how it works, you are in the same room with bands sharing a beer and chatting away about anything and everything, a band mentions that they want to get their songs heard but either don’t know how or have anybody willing to release things.
The very first time we released something was for a band called Sadie Hawkins Dance and it became a collaboration with some Norwegian labels (October Party Records, Goldenmusic, Fucking North Pole Records) so we could get the hang of doing things.
The rest as they say is history as we continue with shows and releases.
Did you have a particular intent with it?
There was no particular intent and no initial thought other than to put on shows in Manchester to begin with to save us travelling when bands we liked were touring. Likewise there was no particular intent with the release side of things other than helping friends out and of course you have to like what you’re releasing as well otherwise it just becomes impersonal. As with anybody that attends a show, I suppose you could argue that the initial intent was, and still is, to have fun doing things and as any of the bands we have worked with will attest, I have always maintained that, and that extends to releases, the fun aspect from start to finish that hand in hand with the hard work and financial outlay leads to that smile when you get that finished product in your hand for the first time….something you don’t get with a download.
Obviously punk rock in its various shades is the focus of STP and your passions as a fan. Has this bred from mere love of the music and like us a hunger to hear and embrace the best of the genre or was there been a musical side to you before moving to create the label?
Various shades sum us up quite well, as we hope our selection of releases to date reflects. Of course in some instances we have more than one release from a band and whilst that becomes immediately identifiable to those buying from us, and fans of that band, we also think that the cross selection of musical styles on offer at STP Records keeps things interesting for us and others, at least we hope so.
Love of music as opposed to a musical background has of course kept us fuelled, and continues to do so, so yes we do like to hear and embrace all that several genres of music have to offer.
That having been said I can bathroom sing up there with the best of them in that tone deaf way so many of us enjoy so much, coupled with that at show beer fuelled singing which again many partake in so I don’t know if that counts as musical background, if so I’m an expert.
How would you say STP has evolved most dramatically since those early days?
Three areas to cover here; live shows, releases, merchandise…
On the live show side of things, from those first tentative steps of winging things and not really knowing what was involved, we now have our own backlines, can and have put on shows in various size venues not just in Manchester but around the UK, and are more than happy to share that equipment and knowledge, which we do frequently.
Regarding releases, again initial enthusiasm has now given way to full knowledge of every release from inception to final product, and in partnership with bands we like to ensure releases get honest reviews which benefit ourselves and bands in regards to constructive positive/negative feedback. We do enjoy reading fuller reviews rather than the one or two sentence variety but do appreciate some zines etc. do not have the space to carry fuller reviews, but all are welcomed.
Merchandise has become an offshoot of both shows and releases and for STP has built into a stall that we are able to adapt in size from a full 3 sided 18ft stall at large shows to a couple of release boxes at local shows. We have also rather than just concentrate on tee shirts and releases, added a whole range of items that cater for people wanting to buy jewellery, hair dye, boot polish, and a whole range of quirky and one off items sourced from a variety of places on our travels.
I think the largest evolvement for STP however is the name getting out and about by word of mouth combined with an online presence, and of course being out and about and recognised. We also count ourselves very lucky that without question, everybody we have worked with, whether band, festival, zine etc. has also endorsed what we do and for that we are grateful; this could I suppose count as a fourth area of evolvement.
For us STP Records is much more than a label, it is a proposition truly supporting the independent punk scene and its artists well beyond just providing an outlet for their releases. We can assume this was and is increasingly the driving force for the label and your personal endeavours?
Very nice of you to say so…Of course we do support as much as possible artists we release for and are reliant on sites like The Ringmaster Review to help us achieve that alongside venues / promoters / radio stations and the general public; all of these combine to hopefully get people out to see a band for the first time if they have not yet seen them or bring them back if they like what they see / hear first time round.
Of course anybody can release anything or put on a show to support a band / scene, and it will always be a work in progress in an ever evolving / changing entity as there is always room to take on board new thoughts. Support within not just the independent punk scene, but any scene / genre works 2 ways for us, we will give it unconditionally and are grateful if we get a return and likewise sometimes we get support and will return it. It doesn’t always work this way but it’s the same in any walk of life so it’s nothing new, you just have to accept it for what it is and move on focusing on what’s relevant to what you are doing, and again this train of thought comes with experience. We like everybody else have made mistakes in this area but for where we are now, we concentrate on the positive and it is this on-going positive thinking that has become our driving force.
STP is basically a one man band? How difficult was it to set up the company and more so keep it going in the modern music scene?
Whilst it may seem like a one man band, it’s truly not. Initially a good friend Ian Lewis helped me set up shows back in the early nineties which is where we moved from being paying customers to promoters. Today we also have Samantha Mason (my better half), Barbara Taylor (sister) and Laurence Smith (nephew) who help out in their own inimitable way regards merchandise stalls, taking money / tickets on the door, carrying gear and basically supporting what the public perceives as STP in the manifest form of myself.
Of course people see what I do publicly, with bands and online and it’s easy to see how that is taken as a one man band but the above 3 people are as much STP Records as I am.
I would also count the many promoters we have done joint shows with, the staff past and present at the wonderful Star and Garter in Manchester, the bands we have released with, the people who have paid for our releases or come to our shows, and the staff and promoters at venues worldwide who have booked our bands and played our songs, and Rockers England store on Oldham Street for selling tickets and CD’s…all of these when added together knit a far and wide STP blanket under which we can sleep soundly.
As previously mentioned, anybody can set up a label, put out a release, put on a show. You just need a basic amount of research and how you take it forward is dependent on what you want to put into it or get out of it. And as anybody doing any of these will tell you, you learn as you go, you will make mistakes, you will do things right, you will upset people, you will be upset by people but if you take all that on board and continue, you will know if it’s right for you.
The modern music scene shifts all the time and you have to continuously look at things and not be afraid to change things, and I’ll cover this a little more in one of your other questions coming up a little further down.
Whereas previously you have been running the label alongside ‘real life’, I believe you have recently made STP your full-time job and attention?
I have indeed for many years been fitting a lot of what I do around a full time job. The only time this has been any different was a few years ago when I gave up work to work alongside the fantastic people of Vice Squad until a short illness took me away from this and back into work…but that’s another story for another day.
But yes, the decision was taken by myself with full support from Samantha to hand in my notice at work and I did indeed walk away from the day to day routine. Of course this decision was taken as we have paid off our mortgage and having worked since leaving college. It’s still a little strange for me after 7 weeks…and to be honest as I have mentioned to a few folk, how I fitted so much in before I will never know as I now seem to have so much to do but I am slowly incorporating appreciating time, nature, and more alongside thinking ahead for what I want do personally regards bringing money in, which for the moment is unimportant, and also for changing what we do STP wise, again something I will talk about further down the set of questions.
Was this move something you have intended for a while?
I had intended to do this a while ago as mentioned when I was out and about with Vice Squad, and indeed the last couple of years it has been the main thought to change my life outlook and something I am now dealing with on my own terms with the full support of family and friends as I look to integrate STP into an acceptable lifestyle for myself, Samantha, family and friends.
2015 will see a new shift in direction for STP I believe, can you explain what will be changing and growing with the label?
2015 will see a small change in that following a hectic release schedule in 2014 we have slowed down a touch this year, again to fit into my current lifestyle change. We have just released Horror Movie Matinee by The Obnoxious UK, again another band who over the course of a year or two have impressed with their attitude and friendliness as well as their music naturally, and sometimes you just have to release something to help bands like this get a foothold and that is indeed at this moment in time what I am doing. Outside of this we are planning only another 4 releases this year from Dirt Box Disco, Brassick, The Kingcrows, and Healthy Junkies as we also chase up another 2 outstanding releases from late 2014 yet to emerge….but again, I will cover the change and growth question more in your upcoming 2016 question.
What about the live side of your work, shows etc.?
Live wise this is a bit bitter sweet at the moment. Our venue of choice for the last 3 decades for putting on shows in Manchester has been the Star and Garter. The venue has now been issued with a compulsory purchase order connected to the upcoming Northern Rail hub work (a story you can look up elsewhere) and that work is scheduled to begin early 2016.
Now a question I have been asked hundreds of times in the last few months is where will I do shows in Manchester…well the simple answer is that I will not be.
I simply cannot bring myself to begin to build the amazing relationship we have built with this venue, it is something unique and if any promoter elsewhere has the same length of time relationship, you will know exactly what we mean. It will be a sad day if/when it closes but I have taken the decision now to hold a last finale weekend for STP shows here and this will take place on Sat / Sun December 19th / 20th and we are urging people to get their tickets for this as for both ourselves at STP and the venue, it will be an emotional one to bow out on and we are hoping we can sell out 2 nights with everyone simply having an amazing time.
We of course have done shows in other venues in and around Manchester as well as further afield, but in a sporting context we view these as away fixtures with Star and Garter shows our home fixtures. We are truly privileged to have worked with the owners, staff past and present and clientele on some truly amazing shows and there are some amazing stories behind some of those shows.
For the future, the only STP shows that will surface will be Dirt Box Disco shows as that is the band we currently work with on a full time basis, and the occasional album release show for when we do decide on a new full release for a band, but none of those will be in Manchester.
How do you see the UK punk scene right now? From the outside its looks and sounds like it is in one of its healthiest states ever since the late seventies. How have you found it working within it?
Very active would probably be the best description. There is an awful lot going on, more so in some places than others but overall it’s in a good place. There’s a healthy mix of young and old, sometimes combining, sometimes not, but overall keeping things going.
There has always been something happening somewhere since the late seventies regards shows, releases, cafes, record shops and that continues today and long may it do so when we finish and leave our little dent in history.
Working within, we have covered every emotion over the years and I think it’s safe to say that’s the same for anybody who has done it. There is good and bad in all walks of life and people will continue to see it first-hand week in week out, but it all blends into making an ever evolving and hopefully thriving set of conditions for others to jump on board and augment, and as we have aged and grown we have learnt to respect anyone who gets on a stage, anyone who works behind that stage, anyone who puts on a show, anyone who releases anything, and anyone who buys anything or attends anything; they are all jigsaw pieces working to finalise an ever unfinished puzzle.
Can we ask a few things about your own musical tastes etc. like what were and have been the bands inspiring your passions as a fan and to get really involved with music? Has it always been punk first spreading outwards?
I hope this was intended as one question, if not apologies for my making it so but it seems apt. As those who know me well know, the only other interview I have ever done was in November 2006 for http://www.fungalpunknature.co.uk and I hit on this very briefly in that interview. Like anybody else of my age group, music played a big part at school and has remained a big part ever since, and hopefully will do so as I approach the big 50 this year and look beyond that.
I have always been drawn towards noisier bands and fortunate enough even at that young age not to pigeonhole things, something that was sometimes frowned upon for peer pressure purposes in the playground, but nonetheless has stood me in better stead for choosing to look at a broader spectrum. Both Rock and Punk gave me the door to finding that need for loud bands and that was augmented by Indie and extreme metal so to answer the second part of this question, it’s not always been punk first spreading outwards, but a good mix of bands and styles, and to answer the first part there are far too many bands over several years to point at. Of course I feel spoilt at having so many good bands over several good decades to watch and listen to and I hope to continue to be spoiled for a while yet.
How about live, what were your earliest pleasures watching gigs and which again especially went towards sparking an appetite to get involved?
Anybody who has been bitten by the watching live show bug will know, it starts young…From watching bands at Butlins Holiday Parks as a kid, to watching bands in school, then progressing to venues and pubs (and underage entry and drinking ones included); there have been many a place and reason for going to see something. My earliest pleasure, and still my favourite pleasure (sometimes much to the STP girls displeasure), I have always loved being in venues as early as possible and I continue this today taking in as much as possible and thus giving every band playing my eyes and ears.
Locally, despite closing venue issues aside, we still have many places to go and watch bands ply their trade on a stage, and that’s the same for most towns and cities. We have of course lost many a venue as well already (Banshee, Boardwalk, Metro, International, Rockworld, Gallery etc. etc.) but there are still places to see live bands and always will be, so as long as there are bands to watch and get involved with, that appetite will hopefully remain intact.
Is there anything about the punk scene or the UK music arena in general which has you feeling excited and alternatively things which frustrate even anger as a fan and a label owner?
Pretty much year on year, it’s the not knowing what’s coming next regards a new band, or a new album that keeps me on my toes. With so much talent out there, you just know that somewhere down the line you’re going to want to do something for a band that will hopefully pass on that excited feeling to others, but of course its individual to each and every one of us and it’s also that diversity of feeling that excites as well. Nothing angers me anymore as either a fan or label, I simply now accept things for what they are, do what we do as a label to ensure the best possible platform for our releases and shows, and then quite simply enjoy things and of course if that translates back into someone else being excited about things, all the better.
You mentioned the great releases lined up for the rest of the year, including Dirt Box Disco’s next album, a highly anticipated release from a band we like so many love with a lustful greed. What can you reveal going in 2016?
As previously mentioned above, regards this year and 2016, we have releases planned for indeed Dirt Box Disco, Brassick, The Kingcrows, and Healthy Junkies, and of course you have already reviewed our first release this year from The Obnoxious UK. That’s going to be pretty much it for 2015 as well as our last few shows in Manchester. Of course we will be out and about as usual around the UK (and possibly further afield) at various times this year and for the 2016 part of this question, let me jump straight to the next question and tie it in……..
Are there any ideas or irons in the fire to which you can hint at if not yet fully reveal?
2016 will see a change in thinking regards us releasing things on CD. A continuously shifting attitude to CDs will mean we will literally be doing at the maximum around 3 or 4 full releases in CD format, and by full releases I mean having pressed quantities of 500+, and even then I may even trim these to 300 copies and maybe add a vinyl option.
We do currently have 2 projects for vinyl in the works, one outstanding and one upcoming and we are going to look at maybe releasing some runs of 300 regards vinyl for initially Dirt Box Disco, and then maybe take a look at our back catalogue regards vinyl and in the case of something that may excite us around the corner, possibly a new band release as well.
I am also in 2016 going to be resurrecting and expanding our STPLE range of CD releases. These are Limited Edition releases of just 100 copies of a CD. These will be aimed at bands from overseas looking for some UK zine coverage and radio play, as well as new UK bands that have been in formation for no more than 12 months. The aim for these is to sell 50 to cover costs and use 50 to promote new bands and bands from abroad that folks have not yet heard….we have done 4 of these to date and they proved a very popular concept, plus of course if you own one you know that they are extremely limited with no repeat run by STP Records, so you have to be quick off the mark to order when we start these in January.
And of course our connection with the rise and rise of Dirt Box Disco will continue apace as we plan for 2016, which will see a change too, but I won’t reveal anything on that just yet, people will have to keep watching the sites and social networks.
Where can people best keep abreast of STP and indeed buy its releases etc.?
http://www.stprecords.co.uk/ is our website and of course you can find STP Records on Facebook and Twitter as well.
Thanks again Stu, any last words?
Absolute pleasure, the questions had me re-visiting some memories and I have no doubt omitted a fair bit but as with all things, anybody reading this can come and see me at a show, on a merch stall and ask me about any of this or anything else
Finally a slightly unfair question but is there one release coming up which you are especially excited about?
Always excited, as mentioned already, about every release so no single one takes precedence over another in the excitement stakes.
The RingMaster Review 26/03/2015
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