Tunes straight from the mouse’s house
Bronzerat Records is a UK-based independent netlabel. With the amazing and creative talent a metallic musical rodent obviously needs to have, BR works with a variety of genres focusing on the individual artists and their genuine music. With worldly appeal, Bronzerat delivers pieces of music charged with their eclectic sense oftaste. Get to know these folks through this lengthy but interesting interview. You’re bound to find something you’ll want to play on repeat.
How and when did you start as a netlabel? Where are you guys located?
I started the label in 2006 to ‘legitimize’ the charity work I was doing for bands! I was making music with Gemma Ray and Charles Campbell-Jones and we had a vision, so we decided to cut out the middle man and do it ourselves. It started in London, is still based there, but I flit to Berlin soon. We have our partners in North America, Europe, Australia.
The label is like a ghost. We’re here, we’re there, we’re everywhere. So beware.
What musical genre or style do you particularly / more often work with?
It’s definitely not a genre-specific label. That would be too easy!
And boring. I make life difficult by having mixed tastes and ADD. There’s no agenda.
What is a defining aspect of the artists you represent?
I am attracted to music which affects me, without analyzing it too much. It usually turns out that the artists have a timelessness, a charisma and soul, and an energy, plus outstanding songwriting and musicianship. Easy on the ear, but surprising and unpredictable. I have been a full-on musician since the age of 7 and I don’t get my kicks from the obvious. I’m long in the tooth and hard to please. So, it often turns out that the music I listen to is progressive. But I like melody and hooks, so I don’t go for prog per se. Pop is fairly new to me too, so Bronzerat likes prog pop.
Unfortunately the majority of people have a casual relationship with music and want music that is not challenging. And that is fair enough. But it doesn’t help us sell records!
The other thing about the artists I represent today, is that they are all great people.
What records should we listen to understand what Bronzerat is about?
Trost – Trust Me
Solex vs Jon Spencer + Cristina Martinez – Amsterdam Throwdown, King Street Showdown!
Gemma Ray – Lights Out Zoltar!
Joe Gideon & The Shark – Harum Scarum
These records sum up the individuality, the honesty, the spirit of adventure and the fearlessness, that Bronzerat attempts to embody. But again, it is not a mission. It just happens to be that this is what floats my boat, and so that’s what I float out there.
Also, there is a strong presence of women here. At the risk of generalizing, I think this is because it comes from a different place than a lot of male music, which is often just posturing. And that is far more mysterious and exciting to me.
We could gather that Bronzerat started off releasing the music of singer and songwriter Gemma Ray in 2006. Your website reveals her as a sharp dresser and a sharper thinker with minor OCD tendencies that states that “songs become a vehicle for your obsessions.” What can you tell us about her iconic style?
That quote was written by a Mojo writer, and not by us, but I think that it’s true.
But I don’t think Gemma Ray fits in at all, and that’s because her style is so multi-faceted. To quote Buffon: “style is the man himself.” In years to come, she will be lauded as a true maverick, a genre inventor. She will be making music til the day she dies, but I think that it will always evolve and her style will always be on the move. She doesn’t choose to make music, it spills forth. She’s always bursting with new music, and years ago she could not control it. Everything came out at once into huge epics. It was great, but now she has learned to control the tap, and she leaks out the songs in a calm and simplistic way. She then makes them lavish. As for the obsessiveness, that is definitely true. She lives her life in conjunction with the number 4 or something, which is weird. What is even weirder was that I was in a taxi with her in Melbourne last April, and the driver turned to her and started telling her this, and nailed her personality on her date of birth. But it is lucky that she focuses that into music, and not witchcraft.
Just recently, in October 2009, Bronzerat Records teamed up with Crunchy Frog Records to release new album “Midnight Soul Serenade” by Jon Spencer and Matt Verta-Ray. Does Bronzerat often partner with other labels for music projects? If yes, with which ones have you done it in the past? If not, do you plan to do it in the future?
So far I’ve only done it for vinyl really. There was the Heavy Trash one, and early on I co-released Seasick Steve’s “Dog House Music” with Breakwater Records (from Norway), and Skycap Records (in Germany). By nature of our size, we naturally have to team up with distributors, so I work with Inertia, Soulfood, PIAS etc.
I like the idea of partnering up with other labels in other territories. It’s good to know you have passionate people working something in their territory. If any Venezuelan or South American labels or similar are reading this, call me! We have no network there as of yet. And I would love to.
Bronzerat Records are renowned for signing acts regardless of what is popular at the time. To Arms Etc‘s is defined when chamber pop melodies clash with indie rock sensibilities. What can you tell us about their amazing work, and how it balances with other distinctive artists in your label?
Thank you. That is a great compliment.
We don’t adhere to musical fashion. I have learnt from experience as a lover of music, that it is easy to get swept up in fads that you may be embarrassed about later! I’m not saying that all Bronzerat releases will forever stand the test of time, but I am certainly conscious of these thoughts.
Charles Campbell-Jones, who heads To Arms Etc, is one of these people who doesn’t fit in. And doesn’t try to. He is a misplaced Aussie, who never felt like he belonged in Australia either. His music inhabits this place that only he dwells in, and so it is inimitable. Highly original. Very open-ended. I have no idea what will come next sometimes. Gemma and Charles are the same in that respect.
Seasick Steve and Heavy Trash, is coming from a totally different place. The songs are full of conviction and character and soul, but also with an eye on the bigger picture of being entertainment. Showmanship accompanying great music is not easy to come by. It puts a smile to your face without disrespecting your high taste ! It’s the best of both worlds. I’m told it’s called Rock’n’Roll.
Joe Gideon And The Shark, fall somewhere in the middle. The entertainment factor is not a primary concern, at least I don’t think so. It just so happens.
Gideon and Viva are oddballs. Lovely, fantastic oddballs. You can’t help but be sucked in to their world and be entertained. But it’s not for the masses. Neither is Richard Dawkins. Joe Gideon & The Shark are, in that sense, a very important band.
What are some upcoming releases and projects to watch out from you?
The next Gemma Ray album is shaping up to be something otherwordly, but pop. She has surpassed herself.
The next Joe Gideon & The Shark album will be immersive and career-defining. I haven’t heard much, but the song titles alone are enough to make we want to buy it.
What about concerts and festivals? does Bronzerat organize or plan to organize any?
I’d need to clear the decks first, but yes, it is an ambition of mine. I have a few venues in mind, and I have a name for it.
I think 2012 is the earliest it will happen, if I ever get my shit together.
I just came back from a fantastic festival in South Africa, called Oppikoppi.
How do you see today’s music industry? In your opinion, what is the role of independent labels in this current times?
I don’t know and I don’t really care.
The role is whatever you endeavour to take on and achieve. Bronzerat is a shop-front for an experimental laboratory of activities.
I honestly don’t feel like a part of the music industry. I feel like we are an island industry that co-exists, doing our own thing in a non-industrial way (we don’t release that many records in comparison to others). One that has occasionally side-swiped it. I think that’s what the music industry is becoming, for better or worse: a collection of independent industries that get compartmentalized for convenience into one. The rules are all broken, because of the democracy that is the internet and so forth. People, like me, who never knew the rules, did their thing and many got noticed.
There is far more music out there now. Most of it is shit. But it makes it harder for everybody to get noticed, because of the saturation. The playing field is not level, but it’s almost equal opportunities. You just have to learn what to do. And who to do!
What are your methods to discover new bands or artists?
What kind of things do you look for in bands or artists you’re interested in working with?
I don’t actively seek out bands/artists. I am exposed to a lot of music naturally. Beyond my control, the occasional one will get under my skin. If they are unsigned, they will maybe get under my skin more.
Please complete this sentence: “If we weren’t answering this interview, right now we’d be… thinking about maybe finishing those spreadsheets.”
And to finish: What other independent labels would you recommend to us?
A label is only as good as its artists. So I can never recommend a label 100%.
A label should be heard, via its bands, and not seen!
I’m not very good at branding. I’ve even considered changing the label name for each release, to eliminate the baggage of previous successes or misfires, but it’s too much paperwork.
I honestly don’t pay that much attention to the labels, as it can pollute your perception of the artist.
Label fans are annoying people. They usually work for the label. They also usually miss out on a lot of good music.
These are the records I am currently enjoying (and their respective labels):
Sparks : Exotic Creatures of the Deep (Li’l Beethoven Records)
Various artists: The Sounds of Wonder (Finders Keepers Records)
Extra Golden – Thank You Very Quickly (Thrill Jockey)
CW Stoneking – Jungle Blues (King Hokum)
Dan Sartain – Lives (One Little Indian)