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INTERVIEW: Bristol Archive Records’ Mike Darby

April 14, 2010 by  

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INTERVIEW: Bristol Archive Records’ Mike Darby

Ruth Wallbank caught up with Bristol Archive Records’ main man, Mike Darby, to chat about punk, Bristol, politics,

You once described Bristol Archive Records as “a mission”, what does the mission hope to achieve?
To find as many great pieces of Bristol music as we can and make them available for the world to enjoy. Every city in the UK has no doubt had a stream of acts that have broken through but equally there have always been amazing bands that have slipped under the radar. The label gives these acts the chance to be heard again and if appropriate recognised. If one person downloads their music then it was worth while going to all the trouble of transferring the material, seeking permission to release it, remastering the tracks and if possible getting a story plus pictures from the artist. Some of this music in 34 years old so imagine the thrill of having a chance to rerelease it or in many cases release it for the first time. The mission is to provide an accurate account of all things Bristol through the ages and remember the people involved.

British punk was undeniably a movement driven by social changes like high unemployment and racial tensions; do you think there was anything going on specifically in Bristol that attracted young people to Punk as a mode of expression?
The Dole
Maggie Thatcher
Bower Ashton Art College
Paradise Garage
The Dug Out
Mark Simpson
The Cortinas
The Sex Pistols
The Blues Clubs
Bristol Grammar School
Cotham Grammar
Barton Hill Youth Club

Why is now the time you decided to release the compilation? Does the current social situation (not dissimilar to what was going on at the birth of British Punk) have anything to do with it?

If I’m honest no but listening to the lyrics on some tracks it does make perfect sense. I’m working on a reggae compilation and the lyrics on this material fit right into the slot:
Juvenile Delinquent
Dole Age
Bristol Rock

Amazingly topical with the current state of the economy. The Pigs tracks on the Punk compilation fits brilliantly with what’s going on in the UK at present

Why do you think that bands from Bristol, and certain other cities, don’t get the same (long or short term) recognition as bands from London?
In Bristols case it was quite simple:
Too middle class
Weed / Drugs
No Management
Few record labels
No music infrastructure

The bands didn’t want or know how to work hard and therefore in most cases they split up too quickly therefore not giving themselves chance to develop or make an impression. Loads of musicians in the later 70’s all left Bristol and moved to London to try and make it! Whatever ‘make it’ means…

Do you think this lack of outside recognition might have helped the Bristol Punk scene to develop? Did the bands ignore the lack of wider critical reception and play to the home crowds knowing that’s where they were accepted and loved?
Bristol bands have NEVER been loved by their own people. It’s a common problem that runs not only through music but sport. Bristolians want everything for nothing and don’t support things. I would say most bands operate in spite of Bristol not because of Bristol. It’s a weird thing to get your head around when I am obviously so proud of the city and the people who made great music within it.

Do you think there is much punk spirit still alive and well in Bristol, if so which bands/venues/ labels are keeping it ticking over?

I’m not so sure about Punk spirit! But there are loads of Punk / Rock bands playing the underground scene at The Croft, The Junction, and The Louis.
Check out Cars on Fire, Left Side Brain and Full Scream Ahead plus my other label

On The New Release: Were any members of the original bands included on the compilation involved in its creation, and if so in what capacity?
Shane Baldwin Vice Squads drummer has written all the sleeve notes, all 4000 words and brilliant they are to. He’s interviewed most of the bands as well for his fanzine. Obviously we couldn’t have put this together without the permission of the original artists so in many respects everyone has been involved.

What sort of audiences do you hope the album will appeal to?
I don’t have a plan or a vision for the album. It’s just a great collection of tunes which spans the entire scene from 1977 to 1983. It’s a great piece of work with many previously unreleased tracks so it will be special and collectable especially for the sleeve and the sleeve notes

How hard was it to select just twenty tracks to feature on the compilation?
Relatively easy because it wasn’t as if there were a 100 different bands around in 1977 – 1980. Shane Baldwin and I compiled the track listing together and we hope people like it.

Was it especially important to include bands who had obtained different levels of success on the album?

No it was about starting with The Cortinas and ending with Onslaught and filling in the gaps. Secondly it was about the quality of the song.

Were there any bands you just didn’t have room to include, but would liked to have seen on the CD?
I’m delighted to say NO but we’ve missed out loads of brilliant New Wave or alternative bands from the same period, maybe they’ll appear on some different compilations.

What’s next for Bristol Archive Records? Are there any plans for more compilations like this one?

New CD releases scheduled or in production:
Bristol the Punk Explosion
Avon Calling 2
The Best of Heartbeat Records
The Best of the Bristol Recorder and Wavelength Records
The Best of the Private Dicks

Limited edition vinyl album from:
THE CORTINAS ‘MK 1’ – without them the label would not have got the kick start it needed and therefore I am indebted to the band and Nick Sheppard in particular

Hundreds of new download only releases.



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