Thanks so much to Michael Wille for the interview! He was the man behind the great German label Blue Records that released the “legendary” 7″ by The Sheets among other gems by the likes of Suffering From a Hangover or even the Wedding Present related The Ukrainians! A bit obscure yes, but very much worth checking out all of their releases. Enjoy!
++ You are not in Germany anymore, you live in Taiwan! How come?
Yes, I currently live in Taiwan. My job brought me here. I am working for a german company here in Taiwan and I am the only German with 200 Chinese colleagues.
++ You founded Blue Records. When was that? And why did you decide to start a label?
Blue Records was a labour of love. A love for Edwyn Collins actually. It must have been 1989 or 1990 when Edwyn Collins was touring on the back of the “Hope and Dispair” LP. I was totally in love with the song “50 Shades of Blue” from that LP at that time. And after that excellent Edwyn concert I just knew what to do: I was to form a record label of the name BLUE RECORDS and each release shall bear the prefix SHADE. And BLUE RECORDS SHADE 50 was to be a record by Edwyn (a version of “50 Shades of Blue” of course). So that was the big plan which somehow never materialized. I made it up to SHADE 007.
But I am still hopefull to complete it some day…
The name Blue Records to many people sounded very uninspired and boring, having more interesting and hip named labels around like Blam-A-Bit, Roman Cabbage or Frischluft. Well, but at least it made sense to me.
++ Where were you based? Was there a scene and good bands around your town?
My home was in Kleinostheim which is a very small place quite close to Frankfurt. Back in the early 90s, Frankfurt was a really great place to see live bands.
We had the Batschkapp, Negativ, Cooky’s, 3Königskeller, Volksbildungsheim, the KuBa in Hanau (not too far a way). So many bands were playing, I remember 1 week where we attended 8 concerts in 7 days.
One concert every evening either in Batschkapp, Negativ or KuBa and then on monday late night (after a attending a concert in Batschkapp) one of the infamous Cooky’s midnight concerts. I saw Talulah Gosh, Galaxie 500 and other great bands playing monday night at 2 AM to a 50-100 or so people. So it was actually a very good time for seeing bands playing live and discovering all kinds of new music.
++ How close was that German indiepop community of the early nineties?
There were many excellent labels around at the time! Frischluft of course, Blam-A-Bit, Steinpilz, Mermaid, Viel-Leicht, Eiswürfel, Roman Cabbage, die schwarze 7, Marsh Marigold – you name them (you seem to be an expert of the German indie scene of ha time!).
I did not have too much contact with them at the time but I sure bought their stuff which was released then.
++ Your most known record was the first one, The Sheets 7″. You were telling me they were supposed to be big. What happened, why didn’t they? How did you get to sign them? Maybe they sent you a demo with lots of fabulous songs? What happened to them after the 7″?
Well, I guess you should have an interview with Joern-Elling Wuttke to find out about that (he was singer, guitar player and mastermind behind the band). All I know is that I saw the band live and I fell in love with them right away.
Right after the gig I asked them if they wanted to do a record with that Label that only existed in my head (I came fresh from the Edwyn Collins gig) and Joern-Elling agreed.
The band had a full album worth of songs recorded by then (of which I have a tape copy and I can confirm its all excellent stuff – a lost classic!) and they were about to sign to a major label. But then again, things dont always go the way they should.
The Major Label deal never materialized, the band fell apart, Joern-Elling developed a love for more electronic music and got famous with his other Alter-Egos like ‘Alter Ego’, ‘Acid Jesus’, ‘Sensorama’ or ‘Warp 69’ to name but a few.
++ Another one of your releases as a 7″ by Klaus Cornfield, the leader from Throw that Beat in a Garbagecan. My German friends don’t think it’s right that I like Throw That Beat a lot! I think because they were big! How did you know Klaus, and what do you think about Throw That Beat? Do you have any favourite release or song?
Yeah, sometimes people seem to dislike bands once they get “big” or “famous”. But never mind, Throw That Beat were really good and a bunch of sweet people.
I still love “A Kiss from you each day (keeps the doctor away)”. After I saw Throw That Beat at a open air, I just bumped into the band somewhere out in the crowd. They were just chatting and drinking a beer. So I said Hello and started talking to them a bit.
After some beers the idea of making this 7″ of Klaus with Buddy Love was born (and later repeated on another 7″ for Teenage Kicks Records from Augsburg).
Klaus is actually a very nice fellow and he now enjoys sort of success as a comic writer and musician in his band Katze.
++ The other record that surprised me very much was the Suffering from a Hangover 7″ “Note: It’s Open, Push and Go EP”. It’s great, pure indiedpop! I’ve never heard anything about them before. Care to tell me a bit about the background of this band?
Actually I knew the band for some time and they passed around demo tapes. After agreeing to release the Forsakes 7″ (the singer of which is brother to the guitar player of Suffering..) we also talked about doing a 7″ with them. I didnt like the early tapes too much but the band improved a lot and they grew on me, so we ended up doing the single. They later got a support slot for a Throw That Beat tour. There are still tons of tapes and unreleased songs, some ended up on a Fan Club only 7″ in a tiny edition of 50. Some members of the band I still see from time, I am thinking of doing a 3-CD retrospective with them hahaha…
++ The last record I listened from your label, the Forsakes 7″, was a bit different, much more rock than indiepop. Was there a particular reason to broaden the sound of the label?
I first heard the singer of the band singing just with accoustic guitar and loved it. I wanted to do a record just with him but later I heard him with his band I was really into that too. They sounded like Buffalo Tom, Lemonheads and Moving Targets, well, sort of. That was how it worked, I heard some music and if I liked I asked if they wanted to a 7″. No contracts or big money, loads of DIY and enthusiasm. Spending nights at a friend over designing he cover and he labels on he computer, cutting inserts for the single – you know that too I guess.
++ Then there are more releases on your label. Care to complete the discography for me as there is nothing online about it? 🙂
SHADE 001 The Sheets: Candyman 7″ 1991
SHADE 002 Forsakes: Jellycow 7″ 1992
SHADE 003 Suffering From A Hangover: note its open, push and go 7″ 1992
SHADE 004 Klaus Cornfield visits Buddy Love 7″ 1992
SHADE 005 Band of Susans: Now 10″ 1992
SHADE 006 The Ukrainians: Live 10″ 1993
SHADE 007 Suffering From A Hangover: Fan Club 7″ 1993
SHADE 008 (just released a record with a German punk band here in Taiwan under a new label name) 2010
++ Was there any plans for other releases then?
As I wrote before, my great dream of heaven was to release a record by Edwyn Collins for SHADE 050. Well, just 42 releases to go ;o)
++ Is it true that maybe you will bring back the label?
Actually after almost 20 years of sleep I just did another 7″ with a German band. I agreed with the band to not reveal any details though…. And SHADE 009 is in the pipeline and should see light of the day very soon. I will send you a copy of that – its a big name and big suprise….
++ You were also telling me that you’d love to do something like a Deutschland 86 compilation. That will be one of the best things ever! I’d love to do something like that, I’d love to see something like that. Which bands from that period, with that sound, were your favourites?
I thought of a D86 compilation (the Deutschland version of C86) since there are so many lost gems around by German bands (many ow which you seem to unearth on your blog!).
But I guess I will leave that to Firestation Records, a Leamington Spa german band edition – I think that would be excellent.
These guys have a really great taste and talent in finding hidden gems and have done a fantastic job with the previous Lemington Spa records.
My take would be The Sheets (of course), 5 Freunde, Honigritter, Die Moosblüten, Die Merricks and Most Wanted Men (though I think their entire recordings have been released by Marsh marigold) to name the obvious choices.
++ As a person who has had a label, how do you see labels nowadays? Do you think there is still space for them? Many people say that with the mp3 revolution there’s no need for labels, you know?
I hardly ever download anything. Buying a CD or vinyl, unpacking it at home and reading through liner notes and booklets is just as much part of the fun as listening to the music itself. I love your work with lovely designed inserts, hand-numbered and loads of info and your thoughts. I read all the inserts….
Labels sort of put a label on the music (as the name suggests) and I know if I buy a record on Cloudberry, Matinee or Fortuna Pop I cant go wrong. So definitely yes, Labels are still important to me.
++ What was the highlight of yours running Blue Records?
I hope the highlight is still to come with the release of SHADE 50. Other than that it was meeting all the bands (The Ukrainians, Band of Susans, Klaus Cornfield and all th eothers) and hanging out with them.
++ Oh! how can I forget to ask this, how did you get into indiepop in the first place?
Oh I dont remember clearly but I do remember listening to Klaus Walters “Der Ball ist rund” on the radio, Monday evenings. He first played The Chills to me and I loved that band ever since that day. Klaus Walter had a very diverse but always excellent taste in music. He was sort of the German John Peel (minus the bands playing live in his show).
And then there was this classmate of mine Felix, he ran a Fanzine called NOW! and we went to a lot of live gigs at that time together. Running the fanzine and writing about the gigs got us guest lists places in all major concert places. Thats how we could afford seeing so many concert while being a student. And every week I would go to Frankfurt main station, one of the rare places where you could get hold of a copy on NME or Melody Maker, the British music weeklys. I found out about new and exciting bands first in those mags.
++ Okay, let’s start wrapping the interview. But first, I need to ask you something that matters to me a lot. I’m very curious about this. Is Taiwanese food much different from Chinese food? Is there anything in particular there that is superbly good?
Taiwanese food is not as ‘mean’ as mainland Chinese offerings can be. People here don’t eat dog, scorpion or cockroaches (all of which I have been offered in China, and scorpion is pretty good actually). It seems traditional Taiwanese food uses very little salt but rather focuses on the original flavors of the dishes. I love the local Beef Noodle Soup, 3-cup-chicken and the excellent Taiwan Gold Medal Beer.
++ And is there any good Taiwanese indiepop?
Surprisingly there are some very good Taiwanese indie bands which I regularly see live here like WonFu. (I also sent you a CD of one of the local bands, hope you liked it.)
++ One last question, how many records are in your collection?
Sometimes I feel tempted to count them but its too big a collection, maybe a a couple of thousands records, flexis, CDS and tapes (I treasure my big box of C86 tape samplers from the early 90s…)
++ Anything else you’d like to add?
Hope I make it to one of the future PopFests and we can have a beer together… (ed. I hope so too!)
The Sheets – Crashing