FEATURE: Wrong Speed Records | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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When a label is run with such taste and care that most of its vinyl releases sell out on pre-order, release dates become a little flexible. Which is my excuse for not covering anything from Wrong Speed Records sooner. So to make amends, and as a way of rounding up the label’s releases so far, I spoke to Joe Thompson about Wrong Speed Records.

Most people who know Thompson at all will know him as the bassist and co-founding member (along with Robert Davis) of the remarkable Hey Colossus, now nearly twenty years old and releasing possibly their greatest album yet next month. He’s also the bassist in West Country noise rock trio Henry Blacker and wrote the wonderful Sleevenotes, essentially a love-letter in book form to being in underground bands, sleeping on floors and jammin’ econo. It’s one of the best books about life in a band I’ve ever read. Hell, you might even be in it. Bearing in mind he’s also a postman, it’s amazing he has time for anything else, let alone a new record label. So why now?

out of all this shit, I’m hopeful excellence and positivity will grow

It’s been on my mind for a good while,” explains Thompson, “but the timing never worked out. Work was busy, home life was hectic, playing gigs was full on, doing two bands was eating into my mind. Then in March it all stopped. I was furloughed as Elisa (my wife) had a liver transplant so, as a family, we weren’t leaving the house at all. We were spending no money. We were going to the fields nearby and doing nothing else. So I started a blog and called it Wrong Speed. And then, like Sub Pop who had a fanzine, and Touch+Go who had a fanzine, I decided to approach Reigns to ask about releasing their album. The label who was going to release their album fell apart at the beginning of the year. To be honest, this year has felt like someone turning the world off and on again. Elisa’s new liver, a pause from work and music, it was time to restart with a vengeance. With fresh ideas. And mainly fresh ways of working. Of course, it goes without saying, the virus has been brutal. Not doing that down in any way. But out of all this shit, I’m hopeful excellence and positivity will grow.”

As mentioned earlier, many of the releases sell out at the pre-order stage, although Thompson always makes sure the best records shops/distros get some copies. But I wondered if he wishes he’d pressed more or planned any represses? “I won’t repress any of the releases. I was pressing small amounts as I wanted one copy for myself and 99 copies for those of a similar mind to me. Having been involved in running a label before [Jonson Family] I know how grim it is to press 500 or 1000 of something and have 90% of them left. I still have Jonson Family releases in my garage from 20 years ago. I didn’t want to repeat that. Times are different now as digital keeps the music alive. If you want the physical, tuck in quick. If you want the sounds, they’ll be there forever (unlike before). I have pressed more of the Hey Colossus record though. As a band we don’t want it to be a limited thing. We want all who want a copy to get a copy.”

 

It’s remarkable that of the six releases on the label so far, at least half have involved current or former members of Hey Colossus. This is a testament to the number of members who’ve passed through the band but also the broad range of talent involved – nothing feels like it’s being released because of nepotism. So it seems natural that the next Hey Colossus album would end up on Wrong Speed too, but that’s not quite how it happened. “We had a label lined up, a label we really like. They couldn’t do it till Spring of 2021, and they thought it wise to wait till then. We were too keen to get it out. So I took it on. And as I write this now, I’m glad I did as I don’t think bands will be able to play gigs for months yet so delaying it and waiting for that time to come round is potentially a fool’s game. Any bands sitting on a record: release it now. Record a new one for the post-Covid times, whenever that’ll be. Your album will go stale whilst you tread water.”

While the new Hey Colossus album is obviously the label’s focus right now, Thompson says “I’m always plotting. There’s a couple of things falling into place. Let’s get past WSR007 (HC) in November and keep dropping interesting things into 2021.”

Those Wrong Speed Record Releases so far (remarkably all released in the last few weeks):

Reigns – The Walled Garden (WSR001)

Reigns is brothers Tim and Roo Farthing, who’ve been releasing really wonderful music under that name for 15 years (Tim and Roo were both in Hey Colossus and Henry Blacker and Tim has played with PJ Harvey). The Walled Garden is one of my favourite albums of the year, a largely instrumental album revealing the secrets of a mythical walled garden of dangerous plants in deepest Wessex. At times it recalls artists as varied as The Memory Band, Mogwai, The Radiophonics Orchestra and even our own Dextro. Throw in words like hauntology, psychogeography, folk horror and wyrd and you get the idea.

Sweet Williams – That What You Hit (WSR002)

Sweet Williams is Thomas House and a rotating supporting cast, on this occasion mainly his near-defunct phone. Written in Spain, recorded in France, That What You Hit has a skeletal, icy feel that’s almost redolent of early Big Black – drum machines and slashing riffs – but House’s mention of the Sisters Of Mercy as a key influence rings true for sure.

Acidliner – Red-1 (WSR003)

Acidliner is longtime Hey Colossus drummer Rhys Llewellyn’s electronic incarnation (alongside the clubbier Drumcunt) and Red-1 is a thing of beauty. Originally released on sadly defunct tape label New Atlantis, Wrong Speed gave it a new lease of life on vinyl. Immersive, atmospheric and mostly beatless, it reminds me of Sabres Of Paradise, Plone and Gas. Which is a helluva recommendation

Bass Clef – Inner Space Break Free (WSR004)

This album first appeared back in 2011 on cassette only. Thompson had rinsed his copy to breaking point and wanted it on vinyl so he made it happen. Clubbier and breaksier than Bass Clef’s more experimental releases of late, Inner Space Break Free is teeming with bangers. This one is vinyl only so start searching.

Pohl – Freakspeed (WSR005)

Pohl is a Bristol band featuring Will Pearce from the current line-up of Hey Colossus. Freakspeed is twenty minutes of biker punk, amphetamine psychosis filth that absolutely demands your attention.

Thee Alcoholics – Thee Alcoholics (WSR006)

This is the good shit. Properly nasty industrial noise rock, shades of Tad and Brainbombs and Road Pizza by Spit (ask your dad). Apparently there are Hey Colossus connections but other than that, a veil of mystery surrounds it all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image: Hey Colossus – Joe Thompson Far Left. Photo by Julie Kane

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