Bearded Label Love: Distraction

We love Independent record labels. We love Distraction records. So we had a little chat.

Posted on Sep 20th, 2010 in Features and Interviews, Distraction / By Peter Clark
Bearded Label Love: Distraction "Music for the strange kid at school": If that was/is you, then you'll have been yearning for the music being broadcast from the North East's (whisper it) coolest (eek!) independent record label Distraction Records. Incorporating everything Bearded believes in being an independent stallion in its field, and having already churned out some of Bearded's favourite records from d_rradio, Tempelhof and Necro Deathmort, we decided to catch up with the big chief Darren to find out just what makes him tick, where it's all going right, and what the future has in stall.

First off, who the heck are you and what do you do?
I'm Darren Hubbard, 32, from Sunderland, and I run a record label called Distraction Records, churning out typically ambient/noise/electronic/postrock, although I'm considering just releasing noise and riffs from now on because that's where my tastes are heading. Distraction isn't my real job - something blantantly obvious when you listen to the label's output - and if I get into what I actually do for a living it'll bore you to tears. Trust me.

Why is Distraction based in the North East and not the dizzying heights of London?
Because that's where I live, to sum it up boringly. Distraction would be totally different if it was based in London anyway. In the North-East where it's relatively sedate compared to the big smoke's hussle and bussle, I'm generally free to do whatever I'm please without being judged by a bunch of braying Nathans from the likes of Vice telling me what's cool today. Mind, Distraction would probably be more successful in London with the media contacts an' shit. But then again, probably not, because I really, really hate talking to media cocks.

What does an average day entail for you?
Wake up, check mails, delete the vanity Google searches for bands on my label basically telling me that the Tempelhof album is on yet another torrent site today, load up mp3 player with new music, go to proper work listening to new music and despair about new music because I'm suffering early-30s music crisis and new music isn't as good as old music, arrive at proper work, cry, reply to Distraction mails at lunchtime instead of doing something sensible like having lunch, back to proper work, cry again, go home listening to My Bloody Valentine or something to perk my spirits up (stopping off at the discounted shelf at the Co-op to survive on 15p scotch eggs because I need the money to release an album; if only this wasn't true), get home, listen to the daily demos/myspace friend requests, complain about rubbish demos to the missus (patience of a saint), sort out the web site orders, update web site with various shite, go to gig if there's one on. This is basically my life every day and I wouldn't change it for anything, except maybe the crying at work. Or listening to the rubbish demos, but I have to listen to every single one. There might be an Elvis in there.

Tempelhof, Necro Deathmort and d_rradio are not exactly your average chart bothering bands. What is it you look for when you decide to sign a band/artist?
Well, chart-bothering bands - or bands that have chart-bothering potential - don't tend to send microlabels from Newcastle their myspace links anyway, so there you go. So what do we look for? Can’t really specify what it is. But I know it when I hear it. I don’t look for any particular genre, style, whatever. Essentially something that is a bit different, not trying to imitate but create. I lean towards stuff that challenges, provokes, inspires and distracts. Square peg music that gets the strange kid at school excited.
I get sent hundreds of demos, myspace links and Soundcloud tracks, all of which eventually get listened to. Some come with flash biogs, pages of images etc. I really don’t give a care about any of that. I'm just happy to receive a CD-R with 2 or 3 tracks on. I don’t care what your image is, it’s the music we’re interested in. And I can usually tell within the minute if it’s worth listening further. Hell, I've even got good at predicting what the music is going to be like based on the name of the band. You have to be a bit cut-throat, otherwise you just end up depressing yourself because there is so much dross out there. Thankfully the rare gem comes along that makes it all worthwhile, like Necro Deathmort and Tempelhof. Although I do listen to every demo, I don’t have the time to respond to each. Unfortunately, it’s a case of ‘if you don’t hear from me, then we’re not interested’. But I do re-cycle the cases and packaging!

What's the best/worst thing about running a record label?
Best: exposing new music that you love to people. Nothing quite like it. I'm somewhat of an egotistical taste-maker in pushing new sounds and seeing other people getting a kick out of something on the label is something I treasure. The worst? 98% of demos are utter, utter gash. Terrible. Worthless. I could be listening to good music instead of some haircut band from Colchester who don't even make the fucking effort to check out our FAQ page on the web site before sending anything. Here's a tip for you bands who send demos: DO NOT, DO FUCKING NOT get ahold of the Unsigned bands guide, stick a hundred record label email addresses in the To: section, and send them your myspace link. No band in the history of recorded music has ever been "signed" that way that I'm aware of (and if your main ambition is to "get signed", you ought to consider killing yourself, frankly) and they either end up deleted or in the spam folder. Getting back to the good stuff though, I've made many good friends because of this label and have even garnered a fiancee out of it. Can't be bad!

How has your job changed since you started your role?
Hmmm. As Distraction's profile gets higher, and also because Distraction was two people and now it's just me, I've started doing more admin shite that gets in the way of just sitting down and listening to records. But I still do everything myself, from checking out demos, answering mails, artist liaison, distro comms, website/mailing list/Facebook/myspace/twitter/ updates, promo lists, chasing up royalities, gig promotion/stage managing gigs, putting up posters, flyering, artwork commissions, checking out demos and going to gigs ("A&R", to put it ponceily.) And more besides.

Do you have an ethos in what you do?
I guess so. I've always tried to avoid describing Distraction as a "DIY label" as there's always some other cunt who's more "DIY" then you who proclaims it as some kind of badge of honour that they spent four months cutting sleeves together for some shit-crust punk release, then release it on Amazon with a barcode. However, I guess that we do hold and value some DIY traits. No barcodes on the sleeves, for one: music is art, not a tin of beans (obvious, I know). Always value the indie stores: one day it's going to be itunes and Tesco selling four records and you'll yern for those days browsing through the racks in Rough Trade, Piccadilly, Avalanche or, here in Newcastle, RPM or Beatdown. Maybe other stuff too, but I don't want to come across as a self-righteous prick.

Where do you hope the future of Distraction lies? Is it all worth it?
Interesting one! I don't know really, as sales of actual records (vinyls and CDs, as opposed to mp3s) are considerably getting what is known as "shitter", perhaps the future of Distraction lies in free music giveaways, which we do with almost every release already. However, the internet is already overloaded with free audio - whether "illegal" or otherwise - so it's a constant battle to get heard out there. And I have at least five vinyls and CDs to release soon anyway, so that's by the by. But we all have to adapt to changing social times and all that bollocks. Actually, fuck it, the next record's coming out on wax cylinder; let's party like it's 1899.

It's all worth it so far, yeah. Probably. I don't know really. I don't relax and examine things and consider shit like that. It's too deep, man. . .

If a multi mullion pound mainstream record label wanted to tear you away from Distraction, would you do it?
At the risk of coming across as a quotesworthy bore, John Peel once said "If an opportunity comes for people to try and guarentee their financial security for the rest of their lives - along with all their friends and wives and mistresses - it would be outrageous to suggest they should remain in cadaverous poverty purely to satisfy some artistic requirement." So, yeah, if somebody gave me a quarter-of-a-million a year or something then I'd definitely do it. But thing is though, no-one's going to though - I doubt I'll get even get five figures - so I can toil away releasing weird shit safe in the knowledge that I'll never sell out, because I can't anyway. Hurrah! Seriously though, it's something I never think about.

Any advice for someone wanting to try their hand at running a record label?
I can only offer something from my microlabel perspective, but chiefly among them: only release things that you honestly love and want to expose to a wider audience - if you don't, you'll get bored very quickly of the boring admin slog of releasing something mediocre. Don't expect to make any money. Don't expect immediate success. Don't expect any success. Learn how to reuse stamps and recycle packaging and find out who can do free photocopying for you. Get your vinyls pressed in the Czech Republic and your CDs done in Taiwan. Yeah, it'll knack up the carbon footprint a bit more but you'll get your discs cheaper. Hmmm, maybe I should start adding "reduce our carbon footprint" to our tiny list of ethics. . .