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Recreation Records

Andy Loynes on a real challenge to music industry big bods – coming from a dilapidated mill in Radcliffe

Published on January 5th 2010.

Recreation Records

Is Rage Against the Machine’s Christmas No1 success genuinely a triumph for real music against the manufactured emptiness of the X-Factor? That’s the populist view. Let me be unpopular and flag up some home truths. By now you’ll have no doubt latched onto the fact that RATM are signed to Sony of which Cowell’s Syco label is a subsidiary. So either way, Sony wins.

It’s direct, straight to the fans with no bullshit – and the bands on Recreation get 100 per cent royalties. It’s about the music, not the music business

But remember this campaign was pitched as a fight against the domination of Cowell’s ITV backed hit factory. The guy behind it, 'part-time rock DJ' Jon Morter has form. Last year he tried the same Facebook trick, not with the angst-ridden, sticking-it-to-the-system refrain of RATM. No. With Rick Astley’s 'Never Gonna Give You Up'. You know. The one which spewed off the production line of Stock, Aitken and Waterman’s Hit Factory. So apparently the revolution will be sanitised and promoted by a social networking site which your nan is probably on.

If you want real music and a real revolution in how artists interact with their audience, look closer to home. The insurgency is rising from a dilapidated mill in Radcliffe, land that Bury forgot. Dubbed ‘Noah’s Ark’, it’s where a loose collection of musical misfits and idealists gather to share ideas, kit and an allegiance to web-only label, RecreationRecords.com.

Recreation is the brainchild of Andy Chester, Urmston-based stalwart of the critically acclaimed My Computer, a man described by The Guardian recently as 'one of the top five British songwriters of the last 30 years.' Chesy, it’s safe to say, knows the downside of the music biz. Having secured no fewer than five record deals – including with Creation and Universal – he’s basked in extraordinary critical acclaim. This, he dryly notes, you cannot eat. Nor can it pay the mortgage on the house he so nearly lost or reclaim the girlfriend that he did.But now he is genuinely raging against the machine with Recreation’s rallying cry:REAL MUSIC SOLD HERE. NO COMPANY...NO CONTRACTS...NO BARCODES...NO LAWYERS...NO ACCOUNTANTS.

Says Chesy: “It’s direct, straight to the fans with no bullshit – and the bands on Recreation get 100 per cent royalties. No A&Rs, no release schedules, no lawyers and accountants wrangling over percentages. It’s about the music, not the music business.

“Recreation gives you real freedom to release what music you want to create as an artist, when you want to release it, with no hanging around for the slot that the marketeers decide you should take.”

Whilst it's early days, the site has already scored tens of thousands of hits courtesy of a roster that includes not just My Computer but Chesy’s ‘northern soul’ outfit Good Neighbour, Chorlton’s The Witches and rising Radcliffe indies-with-attitude, Black Jackson. The latter are currently holed up in the Ark finishing an album which Chesy claims “will say more musically and lyrically than Oasis’s debut.” In English Lit degree-holding vocalist Alex Kowalczuk, he adds, the band have “the most erudite singer since Morrissey.”

Strong claims but given his brilliant if commercially undervalued back catalogue, I’d hesitate to challenge them. Add to that the fact that Black Jackson worked with Chesy on his latest outing as My Computer and the case for the defence is rested. The Evil Spanish LP is a thing of twisted, angry beauty to which BJ add real power, not least through Rob Ormerod’s uncompromising guitar work. The odds, then, are that Black Jackson are the real deal.

So far so Mancunian but Recreation’s in-it-for-the-music attitude has also attracted Mexican noiseniks Hong Kong Blood Opera of which the Guardian advised: 'Imagine Phil Anselmo of Pantera jamming with LCD Soundsystem, or Steve Albini and Paul Epworth arguing about who's going to produce the next Hives album'. Chesy is more succinct and typically understated. “They’re the best rock and roll band on the planet.”

Whether Recreation proves to be a hopelessly naive experiment doomed to failure or the future of independent music remains to be seen. But it is a real attempt to rage against the machine, not some ideologically bankrupt, media-friendly faux bust-up from which the only winner is, as the NME used to say, The Man.

For info and downloads visit www.recreationrecords.com

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JohnJanuary 5th 2010.

Hmmm, "no contracts", sounds suspiciously familiar to the Factory Records shambles that resulted in not only no contracts but no royalties either as Joy Division/New Order's royalties vanished into the drug crazed vanity project that was the Hacienda.

AnonymousApril 13th 2010.

Nice post Andy.
Hope your well

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