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Brainlove Records: Inspirations & Realisations Via Spotify & Soundcloud
John Rogers , August 20th, 2010 05:13

In his own words, John Brainlove recounts the history of Brainlove records - and provides some killer tunes for accompaniment

Click here to download the Brainlove Spotify playlist.

It's a tough task to make a Spotify playlist of the music that inspired the Brainlove label to get rolling, for the simple reason that half of the things we were listening to and making at that time aren't on there. The first ten searches came up empty. Nobody has even bothered sticking it up on Mediafire. Pretty much a generation of under-the-radar bands that were a massive deal to us around 2000-2005 have basically vanished in the last decade or so - they aren't part of the so-called 'celestial jukebox' that catalogues most of the music coming out now.

You see, it was back in 2003. I was living in a loft in Wolverhampton having just finished a second degree in art at UCE, down the road. Spotify wasn't invented yet, and people still remembered Napster. I was hanging out with a loosely knit bunch of fairly like-minded friends, all doing their own bands or zines or nights or exhibitions. We'd basically drink until the last backstreet dive turfed us out then find somewhere to carry on till dawn, for weeks at a time. There was maybe a decent show every fortnight. People were kind of poverty stricken and those with their own places lived in fairly squalid environs. I don't think anyone was working, really, everyone was either on the dole or on a course of some kind.

Brainlove was a webzine at the time, primitively banged together from a teach-yourself-HTML book and a blue iMac, and we'd found our way onto a lot of music PR lists. We suddenly started to get awful music through the letterbox by the bucketload, and the bands being promoted to us just added to a sense of frustrated disconnection inherent in the music scenes of many regional cities.

The site was kind of against the shit that a lot of labels were pumping out at that time. A new label would get hyped as the industry talent-spotter to watch, but their output would turn out to be shoddy indie band after shoddy indie band. It was frustrating to see such mediocre rubbish getting pushed by teams of people much more connected than we were, and our reviews were often brutal. But we celebrated as much as we slated - the Sonic Mook Experiment compilations were essential listening, combustable electronic punk stuff like Polysics, Cobra Killer and Add N to X we loved, the art-music-chaos of Kashpoint in London made it a club night worthy of a National Express pilgrimage, and we'd love the twee UK shit on DIY labels like Cherryade and Truck, and the European electroclash and art-music coming out on Kitty-Yo, Tomlab and Chicks On Speed. I slowly started to discover a network of people doing interesting things in other cities and countries, and with shitloads of stuff going on my own Wulfrunian backyard I developed a hunger to connect our scene to a wider audience.

Fidel Villeneuve was a guy I didn't know but heard a lot about. He'd been married and divorced, signed to Digital Hardcore for an album and then unceremoniously dropped, all at 21 years old. From the rubble of the Digital Hardcore days came a project called The Bureau De Change. Described as "spastic 300bpm junglist breakcore for retards", I was utterly convinced that this was genius, and I took it upon myself to start a press effort on their behalf. It's not on Spotify, but you can hear their output on .

Fidel had been working with a guy I knew as Brian Hiroshima, a big scary-looking fucker with a shaved head and a bunch of facial piercings. He'd run out of money living in London (sleeping on Fidel's bedsit floor), and returned to Wolverhampton. We clicked instantly and formed a band called The $hit, intent in injecting some life and fun into proceedings with masks, cheerleaders, plastic bling, rubbish drum fills and crap samples over everything. I guess it was some kind of low-budget lo-fi low brow rap-metal catastrophe. But it was a lot of fun, and we released a CD-R EP through Brainlove, and suddenly a very low-key record label was up and running. We played some pretty great gigs like Truck festival and a Kashpoint catwalk show for a graduating Gareth Pugh. The CD-R was self-distributed and mail order only. We got a review in Sleazenation that said "it's not bad but is anyone gonna care about an electropunk band from Wolverhampton?". The answer, of course, was no, and with the usual combination of boredom and infighting it was over within a year.

Quietus Compilation by brainlove

There were other interesting bands in Wolves. End Of Level Boss played searing, unhinged anti-music noise. Down the road, Trash Fashion were doing an odd combination of 80's pop, rave culture and hair metal, and a band called Copter were playing some pretty acccomplished Detroit-style rock & roll and had built a dancing robot with a theremin for a head. Brainlove's first compilation featured all of these. It was called Sympathetic Sounds Of The Wild West Midlands, named after the seminal Detroit rock 'n' roll compilation.

The internet was kind of kicking off for music. I started talking to overseas bands online. We found an ace band called The Frenchmen in NYC who vanished off the face of the earth after agreeing to be on the compilation - another band had challenged them for the name, and I don't know to this day if they disbanded or changed name. Some Scandinavian kids called Kawaii had been making some fun messy breakcore stuff. And I'd met an Icelandic punk band called Æla at my first ATP - they ended up on one of our CDs too, and they're still going and better than ever.

On one of our trips to a gig up in Leeds, I'd seen a guy called Napoleon IIIrd. He had a reel-to-reel tape player, played guitar and trumpet, and had a surround sound speaker system spitting sounds from all around the crowd. I pretty much feel in love with it there and then, and emailed him about doing something on Brainlove. He put a track in for the next compilation we did, called Real Pirate Radio. 'Defib' was kind of a demo for a song that eventually became 'Defibrillator'. The compilation was still West Midlands-centric, but it had all sorts on it - some people who were doing well, like Misty's Big Adventure, Telescopes, Pram, Copter, Piney Gir and Bishi. We made a few hundred copies at a backstreet CD place in Shoreditch, did a little tour and it sold out.

Things have moved on since then, thankfully. We have access to an amazing studio in Dreamtrak, so things just sound better. A lot of the early stuff is actually cassette 4-track made and done on pound-shop mics. Obviously you need to know a lot about promo and retail and all that, and we just didn't at the start. But I think the attitude of the label is still kind of the same. It's still about finding and presenting music that's precious and underexposed. Maybe it got less confrontational and noisy, but the stuff we put out is still connected to the same sense of adventure, I hope.

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