BASICK RECORDS FOUNDER NATHAN “BARLEY” PHILLIPS: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
From their humble beginnings in 2005, Basick Records (pronounced “basic”) has grown into a force to be reckoned with and an undeniable presence in the worldwide progressive metal scene. The U.K.-based label’s roster includes young up-and-comers such as 7 Horns 7 Eyes, Circles and Skyharbor and established heavyweights like Ion Dissonance, Blotted Science and Chimp Spanner. After pounding down a bottle of tequila with the man and a motley crue of metal characters in 10 minutes flat at SXSW last month, I emailed him a round of questions about his label’s humble beginnings, quitting his day job, his thoughts on the current state of the progressive metal scene, Spotify, and more. Our back-and-forth, after le break:
How did Basick Records begin? How long was it before you were able to quit your day job and focus on the label full-time?
Basick began nearly seven years ago when my brother and I decided to run a label from our parents spare bedroom, in order to help a few local bands (Enter Shikari, Fellsilent, etc) reach a wider audience. Music has been my life for as long as I can remember, so building things up in order to quit my day job was extremely high on the agenda — I was an operations manager for a global aerospace company for 10 years and it sucked my soul dry! It took pretty much four years of solid work to be able to get to that point. I would do my day job, then come home and see my wife and kids for dinner, then crack right on with the label stuff until I passed out, then get up and do it all over again. My life is still like that, just that this time it’s ALL music!
Most folks in the online metal community heard about the fire that brought down a London warehouse Basick stored CDs in, but I don’t think most people got a final update on what was lost and what wasn’t when all was said and done. Did Basick come out of that ordeal in OK shape?
Man, that fire SUCKED. Truth be told, we were one of the lucky ones, as Sony DADC (whose warehouse was torched) only distributed our international stock at the time. But some labels/bands got hit real hard with that thing and lost EVERYTHING, particularly those distributed by PIAS, who use Sony for their entire distro setup. We struggled for a while and took a hit for sure, but nowhere near to the extent that PIAS and their labels did, so we have to be thankful for that.
What do you think of the term “djent”?
Honestly, I’m completely indifferent to it. It’s just a funny word that a few select people use to describe their guitar tone, isn’t it? Seriously, people need to chill on the whole thing though, that’s for sure. To me it’s a funny little word, that’s it.
How do you respond to critics of Basick’s roster that say all the bands sound the same?
Usually with scoff of retort: “Go listen to Blotted Science, The Algorithm and Circles back to back, then come back and we’ll chat.”
How on earth did you land legendary bands like Ion Dissonance and Blotted Science? Great work!
Well, Ron Jarzombek and Alex Webster and I have been tight for years. I was there at the birth of Alex’s kids and was Ron’s best man at his wedding, so you know, TIGHT.
Nah, that’s total bullshit. I’ve never even met those guys. Truth is, both bands came to us looking for a solid, forward thinking and flexible label to represent their new music, so of course, we obliged. In our eyes, they are both legendary bands of our time and should be revered accordingly.
What qualities do you look for in a brand new band that you’re thinking about signing?
Incredible songwriting and incomparable progressive musicianship. That’s pretty much it. There are plenty of other labels that are happy to sign and peddle what’s current, or relive what once was good. They’ll probably always sell more records than we will, and good on them, I wish them every success. But that’s not what Basick is here for. We will always look for ways to take music forward.
Basick has a new distribution for the U.S. with Prosthetic Records. How did that come about?
Quite simple really; Prosthetic’s owners came to us with an offer of directly plugging us in to Sony RED, and helping us get a foothold in North America from a marketing/retail perspective. The timing on their part was impeccable, as was their passion and drive for what they do, so we went for it. Those guys are great and there are a lot of synergies with the two labels, not just from an A&R perspective, but also from an ethics and mentality point of view too. I hope to be working with those guys for a long time to come.
What do you think the future holds for physical media?
Well, it’s not dead, that’s for sure. I think formats will come and go, but I genuinely think vinyl and the compact disc will stand the test of time.
As a new label, we’re more than aware of today’s digital climate; we grew up right inside this tornado of change, so as a result it just means that we have to stay savvy and make all the more effort to ensure that our physical products are the best they can possibly be. We work with the best studios, the best mastering engineers, the best artists, and the best and most innovative reproduction companies to ensue the final product is awesome. Yeah, things like that hurt your bottom line, but at the end of the day, I’d rather spend the time and effort on making something special that people actually want to own than on a throwaway piece of shit.
What’s your stance on streaming services such as Spotify, Rdio and MOG?
As an individual, I think that ‘streaming’ in general is a wonderful thing. And as a label, we make sure that all of our releases are available to stream in full via YouTube and Bandcamp etc from the very day they are released in the stores, so that people can check them out, or indeed, try before they buy (nullified torrent argument), if they so wish.
But in all honesty, because of its business model, and its application for user consumption, and the very little business info that’s publicly available, I still think the jury is out on Spotify. Is it a valid and alternative source of revenue for bands and labels (let’s not forget, they’re not selling their service to rights holders as ‘free streaming’)? Unfortunately, for the reasons listed above, I don’t feel like I’m able to make an informed judgement just yet.
I understand you have a new band signing that you’d like to announce. Now’s your chance to do some shameless self-promotion! Who is it?
I’m too classy to do that here(!), but yeah, we’re working on bringing in more amazing talent to the roster this year – we’ll make sure that Metal Sucks gets the exclusive and your readers are the first to know about it.
Any final thoughts?
Thanks for taking the time to put up with my drivel. If you’d like some free music, then please do download our album sampler for a taste of what Basick is about.
Basick is having a Record Store Day sale for 24 hours only on April 21! Visit http://store.basickrecords.com/ and enter promo code “recordstoreday” to get 25% off your order!