- Q & A with Wally Salem from The Beautiful Music
Please give us a brief bio of the label. How did it start, til today….
We started the label in 2001 first with a concept, that quickly led to our first release in January 2002, an EP by Tremolo which featured a few of the friends that were helping with the label. The catalyst was a live concert featuring some great music by some close friends and the music was brilliant and we knew we just had to start a label to help get the music distributed a bit further abroad. At first we released a few local bands but our goal was to help bands regardless where they were from and also to share some of the music we had discovered through the years. We also had several crazy ideas like putting together an international Pop compilation and releasing tributes to some of our favorite but more obscure bands, that sadly too few around our neck of the woods had heard of. Bands like The Sound, Television Personalities, Shack/Pale Fountains, The Wild Swans, Wah!, Modern English etc. I will talk a bit more about some of those crazy ideas later.
Which labels inspired you most to make your own?
There were so many labels that inspired us including all the usual suspects like Factory Records, 4AD, Postcard, Creation Records, Fast, Sarah Records and loved how each had it’s own take on how things should be done with some focusing on more than just the music with interesting packaging while others kept things simpler but followed more o a philosophy and sometimes a sound. There were however many other labels that inspired us like Germany’s Marina Records who always paid great attention to design and a quality sound; Joe Foster‘s Kaleidoscope Sound & later RevOla who introduced us to vast array of sounds including some favorites like The Bounty Hunters and The Sneetches; Fast Product, Pop Aural and Swamplands who were often forgotten but were also trailblazers and labels that released some quality music that only recently are being given more attention. Also an interview would not be complete if I didn’t mention some of the true DIY labels like Whaam!, Dreamworld, Rather & Chicken Jazz which were labels originally conceived to release music by a few friends who often played in bands and at times grew from there. Things were kept simple and with often photocopied black and white sleeves (when they started) that were just folded over and put into plastic sleeves. They showed that anyone could start a label on a shoestring budget and I’m sure they inspired many others & I know for a fact they inspired Alan McGee and Creation Records. There are so many other cool labels that either inspired us or continue to inspire us, like Little Teddy, Rover, Perfect Pop, Medium Cool, In Tape, Cherry Red, Glass, Matinee, Slumberland Records, Summershine, Shinkansen, Bus Stop, Perfect Pop, Sunday, The Tremolo Arms Users Club, Used Bin Pop, Emotional Response, Topplers, Pop Noise, Pastime, Firestation, Marsh Marigold, A Turntable Friend, Cloudberry and I could go on for hours but I will spare you.
Which is the motto for The Beautiful Music?
We don’t have an official motto for The Beautiful Music but we have used several over the years like “What Were We Thinking?” (did we actually think we could pull this off); “The World’s First imaginary Label” (that releases actual physical product) – we are a bit of a contradiction in many ways; we also use these on our website: “Collectors and Distributors of Fine Music” and “Music That Is Created For The Sheer Love Of It“, which I guess sums it up rather nicely as we never intended this to be a business or to make money, and anyone who knows us will tell you we give away a lot of free music at great expense to ourselves. We love collecting music and we love passing it on. Music was made to be heard!
Which are the advantages and disadvantages of running a music label today?
The challenges of running a label today are many (you need lots if time and money especially, if you want to release vinyl which is what people want now and let’s not even talk about postage costs, cost of touring and many other things I know very little about) and if you are in it to make money you should probably seek your fortune elsewhere. BUT if you love music, the benefits are many and I could relate so many stories about how you get to discover new music, get to know great people, connect with other labels and bring some music and joy to others. How do you put a value to getting to work with many of your favorite bands, even coaxing a few out of musical retirement, getting letters from Dan Treacy from a prison boat and having people like Nikki Sudden seeking you out to offer to contribute to the Television Personalities tribute – how cool is that.
Which are your future plans for the label?
- Three distinctive The Beautiful Music releases
It’s hard to narrow it down to 3 distinctive releases as I’m quite passionate about all our releases, however I will try to talk about a few that have had a significant impact on the label with my apologies to the ones I leave out.
Various Artists – ‘Holding Hands Under a Cloudless Sky – A Tribute to the Television Personalities: Vol 4‘
First off, and one that I already mentioned, has to be our Television Personalities tribute series that made us international in scope, attracting bands from literally all around the world wanting to contribute a cover to the tribute. We have included bands from Japan, Australia, New Zealand, France, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece, UK, USA, Mexico, Canada and more, not to mention having the opportunity to work with many of my favourite bands. It still surprises me when I get an e-mail from a band half way across the world who says he heard about our tributes when he was talking to some friends at a local bar. Just to know that the word is traveling around the globe and reaching like minded fans, gives us much pleasure. I’ve even heard from a few people, that our 4th volume is the one of the best yet, but I think all 4 volumes are essential and feature some very fine renditions of all your favourite Television Personalities songs.
Dot Dash – ‘spark>flame>ember>ash‘
Second, I have to mention Dot Dash, who are one of the finest bands in the world and definitely one of the most active bands on the label. They are often seen playing live in the Washington DC / Maryland area, often supporting some very impressive bands. They have been releasing almost an album a year over the past 6 years of consistently amazing music with no let up in sight. Many fans have already discovered them and they have a loyal following and one day the rest of the world may finally discover them. Our chance meeting with them, several years back, and releasing Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash, has given the label even more exposure as they often garner many great reviews and interviews, for every consecutive album – and it’s well deserved. Their latest album ‘Proto Retro‘ was released late July.
Skytone – ‘Janglewaves‘
Third, I must acknowledge a joint recognition to Nick Danger (and his various guises, Nick Danger & the DCR, Nicolai Dangeroso, The Social Icons) and the fine folks in Skytone, Rod & Darius (who were Tremolo before that) as these are the folks that keep the label going and without them, there would likely never have been the beautiful music. The Social Icons album is a lost classic and the new Skytone album ‘Janglewaves‘ is simply brilliant. Thanks guys!
Curated by: Christos Doukakis