Audio Antihero: Walking The Line Between DIY And Rubbish

The label has released Nosferatu D2’s debut album - two years after the band split up.

It’s always sad when one of your favourite bands split up before they’ve peaked, but very few of us actually try to do anything about it. Audio Antihero are the exception. The label has released Nosferatu D2’s debut album - two years after the band split up. We spoke to Jamie about inspiration, new releases and going for broke.

Would you mind just telling us a little bit about your label?
Audio Antihero is my sunshine my only sunshine and an independent label that I run. We’re not at war with anyone, but we’re very much outside the mainstream dome. We’re run from a bedroom in South East London with money saved from student loans, 11 hour shifts behind a bar, things we sold on ebay, overtime in warehouses and other such glamorous sponsors.

We try to walk the line between DIY and rubbish - our albums are self-funded and self-produced by us and our artists, and in Benjamin Shaw’s case the artwork is also handmade; handmade by us, again in a bedroom, with a stapler, a guillotine, some nice paper, a huge pizza and albums by Flipper and Ben Folds Five to keep us going. But at the same time, we try do things properly, getting things manufactured at an industry standard, with barcodes and all the rest. Something a shop might stock, something a ‘real’ label might release.

Audio Antihero essentially just puts together albums that we’d like to buy at the standard we’d like to buy them, but at this moment in time, no one is letting us.

It’s been two years since they split up - isn’t it a bit strange to be releasing Nosferatu D2’s debut album? What inspired you to do it? And why now?
Audio Antihero began as an idea back when Nosferatu D2 were still together - I had two demo CDRs and a compilation they’d appeared on, I’d been to see them twice and thought they were the greatest thing I’d ever heard – and I pretty much still do. Time went on and they agreed to release a record with a new label called The Johnson Republic, which was actually a little heartbreaking - and then they broke up instead, which was much worse.

I still had it in my head though that I wanted to start a label - and I just couldn’t find anyone that meant as much to me as Nosferatu D2 did, nor could I find a better calling card to the world. Eventually I gave in, and decided that now the money was saved, I would ask to release their album regardless of their ability to promote it. It wasn’t sensible, but I don’t regret it. I used to explain it by saying ‘If I could only release one record, I would want this to be it’, I stand by it and I hope some people can see why.

Gareth from Los Campesinos! is a noted follower, and has described them as having some of the ‘best, most hateful lyrics of all time’, but how would you describe the band’s sound?
Firstly, thank Goodess for Gareth from Los Campesinos! And secondly, I’ve read a heap of Nosferatu D2 reviews; NME said they sound like a mix of The Fall & Mogwai, while lots of others mention The Wedding Present, Pavement, Art Brut, Billy Bragg and even Biffy Clyro.

It sounds like a cop-out, and I suppose it is, but Nosferatu D2 never sounded like anything to me other than Nosferatu D2 – Ben & Adam Parker making really wonderful music. There’s parts of them that could have existed in London 1974, New York 1977, DC 1980, Seattle 1990 or indeed Croydon 2006, and I think all those things are a part of Nosferatu D2’s cellular structure. They sound like a great band. Do they sound like Sonic Youth? Not really. Minor Threat? No. Tubeway Army? Not at all. But it’s all in there, yet it’s all their own.

Lyrically, you just can’t touch it. It’s story telling, it’s poetry, it’s stream of conscious, it’s bitter balladry, it’s something you saw on TV and forgot about, it’s a chat on a park bench – it’s the stuff you hear in your head but can never quite communicate. It’s the genius of Ben Parker and I don’t think even he knows where he gets it from! People say David Gedge, but I pretty much just put that down to him being an unhappy songwriter who mentions things atypical things like William Shatner. It’s a compliment for sure, but I don’t think it’s quite the same.

Have you had any contact with Ben and Adam? What are their views on it?
I have. I’d been going to see Ben perform as Superman Revenge Squad since they broke up and it was him I asked about doing the album.

I’ve tried not to step on anyone’s toes while putting it all together, but Adam had been quite closely involved. He remastered the album himself, having produced it in the first place. They organised David Broadbent’s design and artwork as they wanted it, and Ben wrote a nice retrospective note for the inlay too.

I’d never actually met Adam personally beforehand, and I was a little nervous about it, but he was lovely and even brought me a 7 inch single from a band he and Ben used to be in called Tempertwig. He couldn’t seem to believe I was going to spend all this money on a record he’d mixed at home two years before, but he seemed excited too. I would hope they’re happy about it, I certainly am - and I know that their fans are too.

Their stature seems to have only grown since they broke up, but do you think there is any chance of the brothers touring again?
I asked on a couple of occasions if they would consider playing for an album launch or a label launch, but I don’t think it will happen. You never want to say never, but I myself have tried to stop thinking of it as a possibility. The two of them are on top of their game and both seem happy. Adam is drumming for a really brutal, technical metal band which is obviously something he’s always liked, I’d like to plug them but when I went to see them they didn’t have a name! Just billed a ‘?’.

Ben is doing great too, he’s done three CDs as Superman Revenge Squad, written more great songs than he can remember, supported Jeffrey Lewis twice in one day and is actually beginning to look comfortable in his own skin when he’s on stage these days.

I’m glad their profile has risen since their demise, Nosferatu D2 shouldn’t be forgotten. The album is their legacy and for as long as I’m still alive and Audio Antihero is still attempting to trade – they’re still out there.

Your label is also releasing Benjamin Shaw’s ‘I Got The Pox, The Pox Is What I Got’. What drew you to sign him?
My man Ben is a rocking machine. I met him when I was interning at Southern Records, when the Audio Antihero was finally moving towards something. I heard a few of his songs through the usual modern channels, he gave me his old demo and I thought he was a really good songwriter, and he is - but it was when he sent me a folder called ‘POX ROUGH MIX.ZIP’ that I saw what a dark horse he was!

I avoided saying anything for a while as I had enough to contend with, but I was privy to the makings of ‘I Got the Pox, the Pox is what I Got’, looking at his art designs, listening to his words and I just thought that he truly was an artist. It was all there, he’d created something so complete and wholly perfect - his early stuff had been a collection of nice songs, ‘POX’ was a RECORD. From that brilliant sketched cover to the final bit of fuzz at the CD’s end, he had something that worked so beautifully together.

It was like looking at the cover of ‘Unknown Pleasures’ and listening to ‘Disorder’ - it just works, it feels right, it’s practically a world inside itself. I think people are put off by the idea that he’s just going to be a ‘singer-songwriter’ whining at his guitar, but he’s not. It’s one of the most layered and dissonant albums you could ever hope to hear; there’s tuneless synth, scattered percussion, wild distortion, some shrieking and some freaking. In the world of ‘POX’ Benjamin Shaw doesn’t write a song about those who upset him and have a little cry, he bashes their head in with a crowbar, keeps you in the freezer and cooks you in a stew when he can’t pay the rent. It’s a gorgeous album, full of really touching songs - but he stands alone as far ‘acoustic’ performers go.

Your website describes the venture as ‘commercial suicide’ - do you really have no hope of even breaking even?
None. I’d like to though! So, you know, do help out. No, we’re releasing niche and defunct artists into an increasingly barren music market and we’re keeping our prices as low as we possibly can. It’s money I’ll probably never see again, but as long as people hear the albums, I put my artists a little further into the spotlight for press, fans and promoters and I don’t end up with 900 copies of each title under my bed for the rest of my life - I’ll be happy. It’s an honour to be a part of it – but it would be nice to feel that sense of momentum and success that Bruce Pavitt and Jonathon Poneman must have enjoyed.

What’s the plan for the future? Have you got any more releases in the pipeline?
Everything and nothing. There’s at least four artists I’d like to release records by right now, and I’m sure that Benjamin Shaw has another two albums in him at this point too. I’d really love to put out the four unreleased Nosferatu D2 songs on two 7 inch singles or one 12 inch EP, but that depends on my ability to actually sell it, unfortunately, and I haven’t actually spoken to the band about it. Pipedream!

I’d like to be a label like Sub Pop, Stax or Sun in their prime, have a huge roster of artists under a logo people can get behind and trust. I’d love to have ‘Hot Buttered Soul’, ‘Bleach’, and ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’ under one roof and be the go-to-guy for something that’s new and fresh, without being at all disposable. I’d even like to be for Ben Parker and Benjamin Shaw what Numa was for Gary Numan - an opportunity to take control of himself with ‘Berserker’, go too far with ‘Outland’, destroy himself with ‘Machine & Soul’ and then come back stronger than ever with ‘Sacrifice’.

I couldn’t be happier to be doing what I’m doing, and I see a future, but at the moment I’d have to tell you what I tell any artist who contacts Audio Antihero: I’ve got 2000 CDs in my bedroom and until I sell a few of those, I can’t jump in and recreate the grunge movement just yet - as much as I would love to.

So, the tip to any aspiring Audio Antihero artist is this: buy 800 CDs and I can probably give you a deal!

Thank you kindly and Good night Dumfries!

You can get your own copies of Nosferatu D2’s ‘We’re going to walk around this city with our headphones on to block out the noise’ for £6 and Benjamin Shaw’s ‘I got the pox, the pox is what I got’ for £4 from http://www.audioantihero.com/. There are even some MP3s on there for you to download.