There is no doubt that our “scene” in the UK has seen some tough times in recent years. Venues continue to disappear, money continues to be tight for many, and perhaps a combination of the two has put a great many longstanding club nights in peril at one point or another.
/Talk Show Host/052/Ten Years of Analogue Trash
/Talk Show Host/2018-19
But not everyone has struggled. The most successful in our scene in recent years have been the ones able to adapt to changing tastes and regulatory environments, and thus continuing to make their events and/or releases worthy of purchase, and Manchester-based collective Analogue Trash is one of those.
As they reach their tenth anniversary this summer, with a big event to celebrate in June, I caught up with Adrian from the label over e-mail to discuss how they’ve got this far.
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Ten Years of AnalogueTrash. Did you ever consider you’d get this far, in the early days?
Honestly, no, but then when we started AT we didn’t really have any long term plans or even really know what we wanted to do with it. I think that the fact that it’s still a thing 10 years on is as much a surprise to us as it is anyone else.
I long (wrongly) associated AT with being another “bleepy industrial” night – the peril of being down here in London and not actually attending events, I guess. What was the original idea for the night?
I suppose it was and it wasn’t. I’ve always been concept first, audience second when it comes to any creative project so with AnalogueTrash it was very much a case of thinking “right, this is music we want to play, let’s see who’ll be into it and promote it to them”.
Originally, we wanted to run a night that played a mix of music that we thought was cool, and at the time that was a wide-ranging mix of classic dance, synthpop, futurepop, industrial, electro and anything else that fitted in really. After we’d conceptualised it, it felt like the industrial crowd were a good target audience so that’s who we pitched it to and thankfully, they liked it enough to come along.
The thing with most of the stuff we’d play at the AT club nights was that even though it was really different genres that probably appealed to difference audiences, sonically it wasn’t that much of a leap from say Ferry Corsten to VNV Nation or from stuff like Phosgore and Noisuf-X to the more hardstyle or hard dance stuff we’d play back then. It worked, and while we certainly got plenty of folks into industrial music along to our club nights, the audience was pretty diverse and we’d attract people from the LGBTQ+ community, people into the harder end of dance music and even people who weren’t necessarily into the music but enjoyed the atmosphere and the vibe of the night.
Coming into it as people who loved a lot of the music but weren’t really embedded in the industrial or goth scenes, there was a lot of winging it and finding our feet involved in the early days, but we made it work. As we went on, we refined the music policy, tweaked the brand and it slowly evolved and mutated into where we are now.
I understand that you started at a Covenant show, but was there a specific event that had you pivot away from the first concept and spread the net wider?
It was a more gradual thing really. I’ve always had really eclectic music tastes, so it was always going to happen, but I think with the more legacy industrial/ebm stuff we were known for with our early club nights that really, we just ran out of places to go with it. I’d DJ’d Resistanz and Slimelight, and that’s about as big as it gets in the UK, and despite doing a couple of slots at Amphi Festival, Germany remains largely inaccessible unless you’ve got thousands of euros to throw at it, so the glass ceiling is very real if you want to reach that audience.
By mid-2013 I’d hit the stage were I was pretty disillusioned with where we were, and to be honest I’d gotten a little bored with a lot of the music I was playing at our nights and some of the politics associated with the scene as a whole, so a change was the best thing I could think of to re-energise myself and reignite some of the enthusiasm that’d prompted me to want to start AT off in the first place.
It was launching the label in late 2013 that really made us switch things up a gear though, because I knew that I wanted to really put out some different stuff that fell under the umbrella of being interesting, alternative and vaguely electronic, but not necessarily just music that comfortably fit within the confines of what the people who came to our club nights would expect us to release.
It felt like the perfect vehicle to do something different and more eclectic, but in hindsight, the biggest mistake we made with the label was not launching it under a different name to our old club nights. Despite the music at the club nights being fairly varied, we very much existed within the industrial bubble, and while that was fine for the club because we’d found a natural home with that crowd and they were a lot of fun, it made things difficult with the label because we’d wanted it to be a very different beast from the offset.
At the beginning of the label’s life, people assumed everything we were releasing was industrial or ebm and while there was some harder electropop stuff and futurepop in there, that wasn’t the case for a lot of our output. Because of what we’d done before, people were either ignoring releases because they weren’t into industrial and assumed they’d not be into what the label was doing or, conversely, they were thinking they’d be into it because of our club nights, then listening to what we actually releasing and not digging it at all.
It took a good few years of plugging away to reposition the label’s identity to where we wanted it to be while trying not to alienate too many of the people who’d supported us to that point. At times it felt like we were starting from scratch and losing fans all over the shop, but while that sucked at the time, it was totally worth it to be able to reach a place where we were creatively happier.
The past couple of years has seen AT veer into increasingly diverse musical territories, to the point where our latest and upcoming releases fall anywhere from indie electro and acoustic to prog rock and even beat poetry. In fact, we’re pretty much deliberately ensuring that our roster is as eclectic as possible these days and while there’s still a healthy dose of alternative and electronic stuff in there, that’s far from all we’re doing.
From a club initially, you’re now, what? Promoters, a record label and a radio station? How many people are now involved in this?
Our main focus at the moment is the label and the promotions side of things. A few months ago I got a job managing three small venues in Manchester, and that’s really spurred me on to book loads more gigs and focus on live music because even though the internet is a thing and it’s really democratised the grassroots music scene, getting in front of an audience and winning them over with a quality live show is still a big part of developing a band’s following. That and, well, gigs are fun.
As well as the smaller gigs, we co-promote an occasional alt.queer/goth club night called Anointed, and we run an annual weekend grassroots music and arts festival called Foundations with another local label – Valentine Records.
We curate a new music blog too (that’s more Mark’s baby than mine) and we have an online radio station but that’s being retired soon and converted into a more sporadic podcast format because there just aren’t enough hours to keep on top of all this stuff alongside our full time jobs and my voluntary work.
Essentially, AnalogueTrash is just my long-suffering partner Mark and I at the core and we (somehow) manage about 90% of the workload between us. The rest is a handful of paid and voluntary contributors who look after stuff like PR, artwork and social media.
Is there a music policy nowadays? It’s obvious that it isn’t just industrial anymore.
Not at all to be honest. The music policy is just interesting music made by good people. I’ve a real penchant for stuff that doesn’t obviously fit anywhere else, which is great for the label being unique and eclectic, but it can make marketing it a struggle!
There’s certainly an ethos to what we do too, and, because I can be a bit of an idealistic wanker, who an artist is as a human being and what they’re about is just as important to us as the quality of the music.
Clichéd as it sounds, the label is a big dysfunctional family in a lot of ways, and I’m really big on trying to help create an environment where as well as working with a label, people are joining a community of likeminded creatives who support and encourage each other.
Manchester seems nowadays to have a thriving alternative scene to an outsider. How do you see it, being involved in it?
Manchester’s music scene is brilliant and there’s really something for everyone, and as a music fan you’re properly spoiled for choice.
I don’t really go clubbing these days, but on the live music front you’ve some amazing promoters like Strange Days, The Beauty Witch, Hell Hath No Fury, Grey Lantern and Glasswerk putting together some fantastic and really progressive line ups.
I’m sure it’s not unique to Manchester, but one of the things I love about this city is the way that people will just get up and have a go at things. It’s like, if someone’s favourite underground band isn’t playing here, rather than sitting around and complaining about it, folks will just get together with some friends and put them on. I genuinely think that’s what contributes to there being so much cool shit happening here all the time – as long as you keep your eyes open and don’t limit yourself, you can go to a quality alternative gig every night if you want to.
What do you think of the wider sound of industrial music, as much as it is nowadays? Is there anything that is exciting you beyond releases on AT?
Analogue Trash (Adrian): Not strictly industrial I know, but at the moment I’m massively into goth and post-punk. I’m loving the current crop of brilliant dark alternative acts like Boy Harsher, ACTORS, TR/ST, Soft Kill, Drab Majesty, The Agnes Circle, Zanias, Cold Cave, She Past Away and Desperate Journalist.
In fact, one of the main reasons I set up the Anointed club night with my pal Deany was so that we could play a mix of all of the above in one place!
Ten years down, then, what do you see in the future of AT?
The future’s hard to predict and the music industry’s certainly not an easy thing to navigate or stay afloat within these days, but I’d hope that we can continue to be in a position to carry on doing what we do; putting out cool music, organising fun gigs and doing our small part to keep interesting music out there and part of people’s consciousness.
I’d be more than happy with that.