Wasted State Records – Interview
Interview by Adam Holt
Wasted State Reords, was set up by Toni Martone, and has been a family to many bands throughout Scotland. We sat down with the man himself to find out how WSR came to be.
When was the idea for Wasted State Records conceived?
The idea for WSR came about while I was working in a now defunct high street record retailer, owned by a wealthy gentleman who looks like Ralf from The Muppets. You know the one? The piano playing dog?
Anyway, I worked there from 2001-2004, and surprisingly really enjoyed the whole experience. Part of my job was to plan the displays for new releases, so I was always skiving off in the stock room with a bit of paper pretending to work, when in actual fact I was talking to my mate Neil about what ever gig we were going to that night, or how sore my head was. The time required to complete the pedestrian task of planning the new releases was about half an hour, but as no one was on my back about it, I usually managed to stretch it out to about 3 hours (depending on the magnitude of my hangover). I was damn good at my job, which I think is why no one gave a shit. Anyway, at the time my buddy Neil and I went to just about every decent gig that was on in Glasgow, and I got to know a lot of touring as well as local bands.
Then, while unpacking new releases on a Sunday I came across a pile of coloured 7” singles. That pretty much set me off; ‘I want to put out records’ I declared to my colleagues, none of whom gave a shit.
However, the idea to put out records stopped there for a while as I decided that further education wasn’t for me. I moved back to Edinburgh and ran a restaurant for a year while, saving money to travel to Australia to molest marsupials.
While in Melbourne I worked in an internet café. As well as the perk of meeting a lot of people, who would tell me about gigs and events (the Trash-O-Rama horror film festival was a favourite), I also gained unlimited access to the internet. As a result my mind began to drift back to the idea of putting out records.
I was basically paid, for 6 months, to research the music industry, read magazines and talk to dickhead backpackers. When the time came for me to leave the land of road kill I had a head full of ideas and a bag full of notes and print outs.
The name Wasted State came from a song I wrote for the first band I was ever in. I can’t remember the band name, all I know is that we never played a gig and were beyond shit. There were a couple of false starts, but our first proper release was in 2008 when I released Taking Chase’s debut EP ‘Have A Good Time All The Time’.
What’s the ethos behind Wasted State Records and was there a goal from day one that you wanted to achieve?
There’s no real conscious ethos behind the label to be honest. Until recently it was just me running the label. Being in bands myself, the main thing is to make sure that the artist is happy. As lame and cheesy as it sounds it is very important not just to me, but for a successful release.
I have also never wanted money to be a motivating factor. Obviously breaking even is a good thing and I don’t want to be throwing what little expendable income I have down the drain of some disillusioned ego maniac’s latest ploy to get laid. The main thing for me is that I never want to ‘sell out’. That in itself could spark an essay as long as the M8, but what I mean by that is doing things for the right reasons, not just to make a quick few quid.
I will only put out records that I genuinely think are good, by bands who have enough savvy to know that one idiot putting out a record does not mean that there will be a six figure cheque in the post next Tuesday.
The goal for the label has changed from what it once was. As I have gotten older my priorities have changed. My main goal is to expand beyond being a local label and introduce bands from further afield, signing The Sawyer Family was the first step in this, and the hiring of PR & Gin guru Ewen is the second. I’m realistic about what I can achieve with WSR. I’ve got a lot of respect for labels like Small Stone, Bridge 9, No Idea & Relapse. You can pretty much be sure, that if you like one of their releases, you will like at least 75% of the rest of the stuff they put out. I would love to get to that point with WSR, and it is happening, albeit slowly.
What was it like getting Wasted State up and running?
Getting Wasted State from its initial idea to the first release took 4 years. I was working full time and went through an extremely traumatic time in my personal life that delayed things a fair bit. There were also a few stumbling blocks along the way. The first CD I ever pressed didn’t get a proper release and ended up being a total joke business wise. I was basically learning how to run a business by trial and error, an expensive way of doing it, but still cheaper than chasing a degree in business studies or one of these ‘music business’ courses.
Although I had done a load of research on record labels, I had missed out the business side as well as important things like distribution and royalties. I got there in the end though.
Getting the first release out was a big thing for me; the Taking Chase EP marks the start of Wasted State as far as I’m concerned. It was also the release that earned the label its distribution agreements, which was a huge milestone for the label. Getting approached by The Tyrant Lizard Kings to put out their second album was another huge event and it was their album ‘Six Shooter’ that opened up a lot of doors not just for the label, but for me as well.
The most recent milestone was at the start of April this year when we released Bacchus Baracus’ first album on coloured vinyl. Releasing an album on vinyl has been something I wanted to do from the start. Getting that album out was a box ticked in the ol’ ‘life to do list’.
What was the first band to be released through the label? Tell us about the process of getting the record released?
As I mentioned before, the first release was Taking Chase’s ‘Have A Good Time All The Time’ back in 2008, I still love that record, which is a good thing I think.
The process of a release can vary depending on all the factors involved, but usually they go along the lines of:
a) find a band, talk to them and sort out what kind of release they want to do
This is an extremely watered down representation of the process, but to go in depth would require an entire book to be written.
What qualities make a Wasted State artist, and how do you go about getting them on the roster?
That’s a good question. If you look at the roster as it stands, there are a lot of different artists, spanning a few genres. The main thing is that the band can’t be a bunch of dicks, because I have to be able to get on with them on a personal level in order to get the release done properly. It’s a working relationship so it makes a huge difference if the egos are left at the door. That goes for both sides.
Getting a band on the roster is sometimes as simple as saying ‘I like your stuff, want to put out a record?’, the process of making it reality is a lot longer, but that’s the basics really.
Wasted State, as well as offering digital releases, put a lot of effort into the package that comes with releasing new material, the art work, CD, Vinyl and merch. In a digital world, how hard is it to push this to the public and why is it important for you to keep the physical side of things alive?
I’m of the opinion that things in the music industry are revolving back around to the old days when independent labels and shops were in control and bands had to tour to get noticed. Yes, the digital side of things is gaining momentum and I won’t deny that it is very important, but from what I have seen and heard, the physical format is re-gaining popularity.
I think that people are getting back to the ‘I want something to show for the money I have just spent’ instead of a couple more 1s and 0s on their computer. As the industry becomes more transparent with the proliferation of the internet, fans are realising that bands make the bulk of their income from physical products, CDs, Records and merch, and as a result of this, are more willing to buy merch to show their support.
Mail order is getting stronger and more popular, I am finding myself posting orders out to places I wouldn’t have dreamed we’d hit at the size we are. Russia, Sweden, Norway, Germany, America and more, it’s great to know that the word is spreading.
The main thing though, is having something decent to sell. You can have the best sounding album in the world, but it still needs promoting and it still needs to look good. I’m a huge fan of album artwork and good looking, well-presented merch.
I have written about this at length for The Dog: Link to- http://blog.reddogmusic.co.uk/2012/11/25/theres-no-school-like-the-old-school/
Tell us about the bands on Wasted State, who’s the bands to look out for? And within the Scottish scene are there any bands that you are impressed with?
The Bacchus Baracus album is one I think that folks should check out, it’s been getting some great reviews from all over and satisfies a lot of tastes. The Sawyer Family will be back in Europe at some point next year I hope, we were talking about doing another album, which I am really excited about.
Gareeda have just released an EP but are planning to record at the end of the year. There is some of the Tyrant Lizard Kings back catalogue that I have been looking to release for a while, I’m hoping to have that sorted by the end of the year.
Black Talon are one to watch, their single last year was amazing and they have been writing for an album which I have no doubt will be great. Johnny Steel is possibly the best front man in Scotland, no joke.
Keep an eye on Tommy Concrete too, as well as his work with the Werewolves his second book will be out soon.
As for other Scottish bands, I was impressed with Dundee’s Isak when I saw them a month or so ago, I’ll be keeping an eye on them. Robot Death Monkey are worth checking out too, fingers crossed they get a guitarist back in the band. Lords of Bastard are another cracking local band, I was lucky enough to join them on a short tour last year, good guys, big hair, bigger riffs.
Big respect to The Murderburgers too, they just got signed to Asian Man Records in the states and have been doing some intense touring. They’ll go far I think.
What’s your views and opinions on the Scottish music scene?
The scene in the UK in general is in a shocking state with far too many folk moaning about how nothing is happening but not actually being proactive and trying to make a change. Scotland is the same but there are more and more people starting to make a difference.
Deeker & Make-that-a-take, Kev and the folks at Anti-Manifesto and the BOBFest lot are making good head way for the Scottish scene. Deeker & Kev have had a lot of experience and are taking a really positive approach to things, which is making a difference. Club nights like Hellraiser are a good idea, but need more effort in the execution, but are certainly making a good difference. Kojak at Bannermans is getting some great bands coming through from the touring circuit, which is also doing wonders for the scene, as are Pisschrist promotions who have taken some huge gambles.
It is really heartening to see people make a positive impact instead of whining. Back when the label started there was very little going on that had much substance or staying power. Things are starting to change, which is good.
There are some promoters that book a band and expect there to be a sell-out crowd on a Sunday night with no promotion. The tip there is in the name. PROMOTE. If you don’t tell people that a gig is on, how the fuck are they going to know when and where to turn up.
What’s in the pipelines? What’s your future plans and ambitions for Wasted State for the rest of 2013 and beyond?
We’re having a real pain in the dick with suppliers at the moment, the Paper Beats Rock 7” that should have been here 2 months ago will be arriving next week (so I’m bloody well told). So it will be good to finally get that out there.
The rest of 2013 will see our first venture into book publishing with the release of Tommy Concrete’s second book, which is fucking brilliant. On the subject of Tommy, there are plans in motion for a Tommy Concrete and the Werewolves album, which will be spectacular. I’m also planning on writing a book myself, but I’ll see if I get the time!
I’m doing some work behind the scenes with Christian Sloan Hall and DeathLord. Christian is a great artist and has done artwork for quite a few of our releases. News on that will all surface in time.
Other than that Eagletomb, Gareeda and The Sawyer Family are talking about albums, which will be towards the end of the year, if not next year. Black Talon too have issued hushed murmurs of an album which, again, I’m really excited about.
Other than that, I might have a wee holiday and enjoy myself. I love putting out records and running the label, but sometimes you just need a wee break y’know?
Finally, if a band would like to join the Wasted State family or any label for that matter, what would be your advice to them?
Don’t be a dick and work hard are the main things. Don’t expect something for nothing. Don’t take opportunities presented to you for granted.
There are people and bands I have tried to work with whose motivations have been so far from music it’s unbelievable. I you want to get involved in the music industry to impress your midlife crisis, water cooler mates, then please stay the fuck away from me. I’ve been brunt a few times by this type.
The same goes to those whose sole goal in being a musician is to get laid and/or stoke your own ego. Work hard, prove yourself and don’t be a dick, come and say hello at a gig, support the scene, the label, the bands, the venues and you will get noticed. People talk, being an arsehole at one venue can get you blackballed by promoters, venues and labels the world over. We live in an information age and news travels fast!
As a wise, but ginger friend of mine once said; ‘No egos, no arseholes.’ I stick by that.