In response to the closure of live venues and the dearth of DIY labels Grow Your Own Records was set up and has released a stream of cracking albums and EPs by the likes of Anthrax (UK), The System, Sanction This, Active Slaughter and The Fleas (a personal favourite). As they say in the interview their intention is to create a space for bands they have an affinity with, maybe that's why it has maintained it's vibrancy and relevance since its first release five years ago.
Could you give us a brief overview of Grow Your Own Records-what made you decide to set up Grow Your Own Records? How long have you been going?
We originally started releasing our own Anthrax material as Happy Release records in 2007, specifically for our One Last Drop album, a retrospective of recordings including the Crass and Small Wonder singles as well as live recordings. Then in 2012 we put out an album of new material called All For The Cause under the Grow Your Own label.
What was your first release after Anthrax?
Oscar/Gary had always wanted to start a label, and so put out the first non-Anthrax release in May 2015. It was a 7” EP featuring new tracks from The System, Virus and Bug Central.
How does GYOR operate? As mates, as a collective, a co-op?
GYO is mainly run by Oscar Anthrax and Steph Anthrax/Hagar. We are both in bands and busy with other stuff as well so it’s a real labour of love and operates quite shambolically at times… The records are put together in true DIY fashion on our kitchen table, some are more labour intensive than others – we print and cut out some of the covers at home and the days before release are a frenzy of folding, gluing and stapling. We frequently spread chaos in the local post office when posting out large numbers of records on release date.
Do you have your own recording studios and means of production?
Not yet, but we are trying to set up a GYO mobile recording unit. Watch this space! Anthrax and some of the bands released by GYO have recorded at Ranscombe Studios in Rochester, with Jim Riley. As well as being great technically, Jim is also really good at instinctively “getting” what different bands are trying to achieve. A lot of the bands also arrange their own recordings and send us the results, but we do like being involved in the recording process if bands are interested in working with us in that way.
How have things changed in terms of production-has the resurgence of vinyl impacted you?
We operate in quite a small, niche market so I don’t think this has really affected us.
What would GYOR’s mission statement read like? What role would you hope it would fulfill?
I suppose the preamble to the fanzine that comes with the first compilation CD says it all. Basically we were fed up with live venues being forced to close and with there being very few DIY independent labels out there putting out new material, and we really wanted to promote and provide a space for bands that we liked and with shared values. We also wanted to make it as accessible as possible by keeping prices low, but without compromising the quality of the sound or packaging. We love racking our brains over the different format of the covers, and doing design and artwork, but are also happy to give bands the opportunity to express that side of things themselves if they prefer. We’d also like to work with more with different artists. Digital artist Paul Trew did an amazing cover for The System’s new album Slave To The Machine, and has just done a great poster for us for the next GYO Fest.
What attracts you to a band? What are you looking for in a band to release something by them? Would those criteria be primarily political or musical?
We have quite eclectic musical tastes, and if the sound hits our ears and we like it, that is pretty much it! If we had to analyse it I think it would have to have a melody even if on the hardcore end of punk, and something with a bit of quirkiness or emotion with an individual voice coming through. If the music is great then it doesn’t matter if the words are not political, but then what is political? If the words reflect a true experience or emotion then that is important and what music and should be addressing as well. Having said that we are obviously part of the anarcho-punk tradition and do appreciate a Political lyric.
Is there a GYOR sound?
Not really What we’ve put out so far ranges from Sanction This to Flowers in the Dustbin, quite different beasts musically.
How is DIY/grassroots punk doing at the moment, is it thriving? Have the last seven years of class war masquerading as austerity led to a renewal in left-wing punk?
Yes it is thriving, and we’re really happy to be a part of it all again. It’s better the second time around – we’ve all grown up a bit and there is very much a punk family feeling around a lot of the things we do. As with any scene there is always a bit of conflict, but on the whole it’s very supportive and collaborative. I’m not sure that “left-wing punk” would describe it all as a lot of it is anarchist and outside of the political party system, but however the bands would describe themselves I think that a common theme would be that austerity is in reality a war on the working classes, the disabled, and the poor. But before austerity there was a lot to protest about too for example with New Labour, be it war or their continuation of Thatcher’s project to privatise (dismantle) the welfare state.
OK fantasy time! What musician/band would you love to release an album by if you could!? You’re allowed to time travel!
Gary: Naked, a Kent band from the 1980s.
Steph: The Raincoats, my all-time favourite band.
What releases have you got planned?
Our latest release is a 3 track 7” single by Active Slaughter.Future releases on the horizon are:
• A-Heads/PedAgree Skum 7” EP
• Mindframe EP
• Bug Central EP
• Birds Of A Feather Flock Together 2nd compilation CD
• A compilation CD of all of the singles so far
• 10” collection of new material from various bands
• New Anthrax LP
And more in the pipeline as well.
Last November you put on a GYOR Mini Festival at The Dublin Castle, any plans for another in 2018?
Yes, the first one was like a big party and everyone seems to have enjoyed it so we do have plans for another one this autumn. It will be at The Gunners in Finsbury Park, London on Saturday 11th November. It’s bigger this time, starting at 1pm and featuring 11 GYO bands (see flyer below).