it’s 1996 and
i’m at work on the outskirts of
opposite me is ‘doctor mental’ aka nick johnstone, ad manager and would be
music journo. a couple of feet above our desks, suspended from the ceiling is
the sales mook. the sales mook is essentially an empty catering size tin of
nescafe which has undergone a voodoo-esque transition into the living,
floating embodiment of the craziness that surrounds me and the other
employees caught up in doctor mental’s unique approach to ad sales. like all
good religious sects we have new names.. there’s gandrew, trapper,
international nurse mental matron, the fly, flying v, michael heseltine’s
son, demi-beard and me ‘lionel’.
should work be
this much fun ? i don’t know.
selling ads so the boss can’t sack us for poor performance. every so often he
passes our enclave in a fog of bewilderment and fear as respectable ad
agencies a few miles away in the centre of town receive cut and paste sex
pistols style faxes offering last minute offers of space.
of course it
had to end. in between the faxes to clients dr mental was busy sending
pitches for features on US proto grungers ‘the replacements’ to melody maker.
one day they printed something he’d written and a new career was born. soon
after he landed a commission to write a book about patti smith who’d launched
her career back in 1974 with a self-released version of ‘hey joe’. nick
occasionally played guitar in my band ‘bromide’ and suggested i too should
record my debut album and release it on my own label.
rang a recording studio and booked some time. scratchy records was born.
debut album ‘iscariot heart’ appeared in 1997 along with encouraging reviews
in the national press. the label got distribution via pinnacle and i spent my
lunch breaks outside the virgin megastore in oxford street flyering punters
about the album on a listening post inside.
bromide album followed in 2001, this time distributed by cargo and then at a
moldy peaches gig in 2002 i met a band called ‘the rocks’. a week or two
later i witnessed them ignite a packed hope & anchor crowd and realised
i’d never seen or heard anything quite like them.. plus it turned out they
had £500 to press a 7inch vinyl single and needed a label to release it.
maybe scratchy could release music by other people as well.. like a proper
released a slew of singles and an album on scratchy, some of which even sold
out and by the time they finally imploded in 2008 i knew a handful of
musicians who all had music that was ready to go and needed a home and some
of them even had money.. so over the next few years scratchy put out albums
by postspacerockers ‘spork’, eccentric artpop recluse ‘full english
breakfast’, gifted folker matthew neel, indie glam rockers ‘jonny cola &
the a-grades’ and vaudeville gypsy cabaret ensemble ‘joey herzfeld & his
it’s not all
just friends though.. some complete strangers crept onto the release schedule
as well -bristolian jonny velon’s 2017 debut ‘goodness flows’ was an indie
label market discovery plus i met coach hop mainman charlie gigging in a shop
window and then released his poprageous dave lee roth via john grant single
‘i like taylor swift’ for record store day in 2018.
part three (is that too many parts ?)
electric band version meanwhile had reformed in 2012, making a couple of new
records with producer brian o’shaughnessy (primal scream, MBV) and in an
entirely logical transformation ‘full english breakfast’ became ‘that will be
lunch’ and scored breakfast show plays on both bbc6 and virgin with an
inspired cover of ‘once in a lifetime’.
lockdown led me to my first solo album proper,‘following the moon’ and a tune-laden
debut ‘we fall apart’from the volunteered. right now i’m getting ready to
release english folk / americana-channeling hank dogs ‘lost’ third lp ‘from
nod to nut’ early in 2023. their first two albums were overseen by none other
drake's legendary producer joe boyd.. enuf said.
see you at
indie label market somewhere soon - i’ll be the idiot trying to lassoo you
with some headphones..