Ahead of The Revenge’s debut LP release our intrepid reporter KMG caught up with Graeme Clark for a chat about what brought it all together…
It’s 16 years since you set up Five20East and began releasing material… can you tell us how it all started?
I was working in a call centre in Dunfermline for Sky TV at the time, and me and a couple of mates at work got talking about starting a label. As a group of naive 19 year olds we just decided that we would go and get a record pressed… as we had a few tracks that we had been working on together. We took it (and a bunch of other white labels) to the Miami winter music conference in 2001, and also down to London in an attempt to get it out there. If was a lot more difficult back then though as the internet was still in it’s infancy, and if you didn’t get a review for example, it became an uphill struggle to get the necessary traction. It was certainly a lot of leg work to be doing based in Dunfermline!
In that short space of time you must have seen a big shift in the way music is produced and released?
Oh yeah… looking back on it though it was good that we’d put our selves out there in that way, we were so young and didn’t necessarily know what we were doing. Not that I know what I’m doing now! But to think that we just got on a plane and went over there seems crazy to me now, and although it’s now easier to get your stuff out there, it’s not easier to get heard to be honest.
You’re also engineering other artists work, such as Harri & Dom’s 20 years of subclub mix. Is this a natural progression from your production work? or born from an early ambition?
I’d applied to get in Art College when I left school, but that didn’t work out. My dad’s a bass player and he suggested that maybe I’d like to do sound engineering, as he knew some guys who were doing a course up in Perth. I’d been making tracks and buying equipment for years but hadn’t really considered engineering up to that point. It was a really good way for me to learn about other aspects of the music industry though, and I met my label partner Paul McGlashan on the course, and he plays live with me now. Without that connection I’m pretty sure things would be different.
Yourself and Paul have also progressed to playing live now too… can you tell us a little bit about how that came about?
Paul and I had just moved to Glasgow where Optimo had been going for a year or two on Sundays at the Subclub…. Paul was a regular attendee, and we had a lot of gear in my flat, so we were experimenting with a set-up. Then out of nowhere Paul managed to get us a gig at a Glasgow techno night in the Soundhaus called Monox, which was a popular club at the time. We’d made a record together under the alias ‘Deportivo Street Team’ which was getting played by the guys at Monox, so that got us the gig, and off the back of it we played a few more, even supporting Calvin Harris(!) in Edinburgh. It was at that time when I met Harri and began to work in the studio more, and the Revenge stuff was beginning to get going, and then Paul got a job too, so the live set-up was tucked away for a while. To make it work you need all the gear together in one place, and both of you need to be able to rehearse at the same time.
… so what’s brought about the return to the live set-up?
Well, it was two years ago and I had finished my old label, Instruments of Rapture, which was beginning to morph into a label in its own right, when it had originally been a platform for edits. So instead of letting it evolve and drift I decided it was better to end it on a high and start something new.
I was doing so much remix work at the time, and having not put any original Revenge material out, I was beginning to get boxed into a corner, so I felt is was important to step back and get a new start. That way I could get reinvigorated in the studio, and just start jammin’ with some of my old gear again.
To celebrate the end of Instruments Of Rapture we did a live set at the Subclub on the Queens Jubilee bank holiday… so that weekend we just took out loads of equipment to the club, and had an improvised jam for an hour. It was a real baptism of fire! We had hoped to go on a tour with the idea of improvised sets but quickly realised that it would be very difficult to sell without having any material. So that’s when I decided to start the new label, as a vehicle for the new work.
So the new label was created as an outlet for your new album ‘Love that will not die’ ?
Doing my own music, on my own label, with a live performance element around it, and to be doing it with my mates Paul and Julia is great.
For me its symbiotic, and it was a realisation I had a couple of years ago. Beforehand I used to separate the idea of DJing, the live performance, the label and the studio… as individual entities. I now understand that they are all part of the same thing for me. If they all lead into each other it allows me to express myself more fully, whether its live performance, the artwork, the music… and means I get to invest a part of myself into all aspects of the job. This has enabled me to be more passionate about my output, so that it doesn’t become… just another track… just another record.
Has this new found approach to your work had an influence on the title of your album?
Yeah possibly. The title actually came from the name of a Johnny Guitar Watson track, a great funk soul record, and the title had stuck with me for years. But I think also because it’s got love and death in the title, those are the things that define us all in some way. Without trying to get too deep!
You collaborate with Sister Sledge on the album track ‘Stay A While’ – how did that collaboration come to pass? And how were they to work with in the studio?
They were great, and it came about quite bizarrely over twitter. They posted something about being into an edit I made years ago, and it was at a time when I was dreaming up ideas for the album. So I decided to respond with thanks and asked if they’d be up for collaborating and it just snowballed from there, before you know it we’re in the studio for a few hours jamming in London. They have some new material soon as well, so hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to return the favour on their album. It’s refreshing to know that someone like myself who’s working an indy label can make connections like this, and that there’s still hope for other people who do the same.
Do you think this will be the first of multiple LPs, or is Love That Will Not Die a labour of love that you just needed to release?
The LP format is one thing that I’m not sure about at the moment. I certainly did take time to make this into a cohesive piece of work, with the intention that it’s read as a whole. I’d like to make more, and in some ways it’s made me more interested in expanding upon it, with an ambient cassette version to be released in the summer to coincide with the summer solstice. The thing that sometimes irritates me about my own work is when a track’s finished it becomes set in stone, and I often find when you come to the end of producing there’ll be another element come to the fore and you think, ‘well if I did something with this there’d be potential for another great track’ and you never really get the opportunity to explore it, it finishes there. So by doing another version, and also playing it live where it can evolve, I’m finding greater opportunity to give the album material a further lease of life.
With a new album, and refreshed live set, does this mean we can expect a summer show?
Yeah, we’ve got a live show in Fabric on Saturday 4th July, and that’s the main London gig in the diary just now, with more stuff in the summer currently TBC.
THE REVENGE’S NEW ALBUM ‘LOVE THAT WILL NOT DIE’ IS AVAILABLE TO BUY ON 12” NOW AT BELOW LINKS