Rough Trade’s A&R man, James Endecott, talks us though their 25-year history.
Rough Trade Records was started in 1978. It came out of the Rough Trade shop that was started in 1976 in West London by Geoff Travis. It was the time of the punk and reggae explosion in London and the shop was very popular with bands that wanted to put records out. Geoff thought he might as well put them out himself, so in 1978 he put out a single by a French band called Metal Urbain and then it just blossomed from there. Then, in the early 80s, Geoff found The Smiths. Before that, Rough Trade was seen as a kind of cult post-punk label, but when Geoff signed The Smiths it became a lot more mainstream and The Smiths became one of the biggest independent bands ever. And that carried on into the mid-80s when Geoff started Rough Trade Distribution which, to cut a long story short, was quite badly managed. Towards the end of the 80s, it went under and brought down Rough Trade Records with it. Geoff continued to put records out under different names like Trade 2 and Rough Trade Recordings, with the same ethics. Then, in the mid-90s, he re-acquired the name and here we are again riding the crest of a wave.
Belle and Sebastian and Low
Is there a label ethos?
I think the mission is just to make great records. It doesn’t matter what genre. We don’t just make post-punk records or reggae records, we’ll just make great records and do our damnedest to make people aware of them and make people buy them.
Which band best defines Rough Trade?
The LIbertines and The Veils
I think you’d have to say The Smiths because there was a time in the mid-80s when New Wave music crossed over to the mainstream, and The Smiths were one of the first bands to make it big. They were very much a Rough Trade band. There are other bands like The Strokes that typify Rough Trade, even though they’re very now, and you can go back to bands like The Fall because they just went in one direction and never really faltered, and that’s how we operate as a label.
What do you look for when you sign a band?
The Strokes and The Delays
I guess all our artists have got a certain attitude about music, a definite belief in what they’re doing. Nobody we’ve signed is out to make a lot of money and get on TV. Nothing is manufactured like that, we haven’t got any fame-hungry people. We’ve got people who like fame but they don’t grasp and strive for it. The grasp and strive to make great records.
What do you think Rough Trade’s impact has been?
Eastern Lane and British Sea Power
I think it’s made people realise they can do it themselves, that you don’t have to find a band that sounds like the one at number one to compete with. That you can compete on your own terms and you can be still very conscious about making good records. I think it’s made people realise that you can go against the grain and still be successful.
Matt Walton 17 October 03
Stop Me If You’ve Heard This Before – 25 Years Of Rough Trade, released 03 November 03 on Rough Trade.
useful link: www.roughtraderecords.com
things to look out for
The Delays, The Veils, BSP, Eastern Lane.
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