21 September 2010

Scottish DIY Labels #6 - Too Many Fireworks

Would you care to introduce yourself?

Hi, I'm Neil Milton and I'm the brains behind the too many fireworks record label. The label began in 2003 and ran for a few years before I went off to do something else for a while. This month (September 2010) we're returning after a 4 year rest. In the first few years we released albums by flying matchstick men, Titus Gein and Laeto and our singles club featured Errors, Macrocosmica and Findo Gask. We also ran a clubnight called Fire: works at Glasgow's Barfly for a couple of years. The new too many fireworks is based in my new home of Warsaw in Poland but is still, intrinsically Scottish. It will, in the main, be a net label focusing on modern-classical, ambient, electronic and post-rock, releasing digital download albums, eps and singles and to begin, we're re-releasing our entire back catalogue on download. On our new website, toomanyfireworks.co.uk [still in development but will be complete when this goes out] we refer to the the first time around as "act i" and the relaunch as "act ii". I guess if we ever start doing physical releases again, we'll maybe start "act iii". I hope that sums it up.

What inspired you to start your own label?

In "act i", a whole lot of things inspired me to start …fireworks. Chemikal Underground was the biggest inspiration I think. I loved their artists: Mogwai, the Delgados, Aereogramme, Arab Strap, the Radar Bros - Amazing. I loved that a band could run a label from their kitchen and become Peel favorites. I loved that they didn't feel they had to move to London to "make" it. Another huge inspiration was a label from Manchester, Valentine Records. I met those guys on my first trip to the industry conference, In The City. They gave me a lot of advice in starting up and gave me confidence to go for it. For "act ii" though, my main inspiration was my move to Warsaw and retaining a connection with the Scottish music "scene" when I wasn't really there any more. I felt it was time to bring it back. Admittedly, it's now 9 months later and we're just getting going but I guess I found emigration to be a little more time-consuming than I'd expected.

Who do you have signed to your label?

No one. We don't sign artists to the label, we license their releases - the bands retain the copyright of their music. I suppose if you wanted to ask who I considered "too many fireworks bands" from the first time around I'd probably say Laeto, flying matchstick men, Titus Gein and my old band, Troika. Everyone else was part of our "Dialogues" 7" singles club. In "act ii" we'll be dragging the Dialogues series into the internet age with a collection of "Digital Dialogue" split download singles. We've also got Graveyard Tapes, me and several others lined up for full releases but it's all "gentlemen's agreement" type stuff at this stage so no names - some are pretty impressive though.

Being based in Scotland do you only sign Scottish artists?

No, definitely not. I mean, so far everyone that has released records on …fireworks have been based in Scotland but that's not any hard and fast rule. I lived in Glasgow and released bands I liked. With the internet, there's a much wider reach nowadays so too many fireworks' artists could come from anywhere with a broadband connection.

Is this something you do as a hobby or can you make a living from it?

In the past, it was a living but now it's somewhere in between. You can definitely make a living out of it but you have to be lucky and have some money to put into it too. Especially when dealing with physical releases, you need some decent money behind you. It might seem like a lot of fun, to have your own label but it's a lot of work. A lot. Luckily though, the rewards to look forward to after all that work are plentiful.

Do you have a certain type of sound that you look for in a band?

This time around, I'd quite like to focus on modern or contemporary classical music alongside post-rock, ambient and electronic releases but there's really no rule. I mean, I could say all of that and then I might get a chance to work with, I don't know - let's say for arguments sake - EagleOwl or Second Hand Marching Band, you know, some band that doesn't quite fit that description? Well, you're not going to turn that down, eh?

How do you go about deciding which artists you want to work with? How do you go about approaching them?

First and foremost, I have to really like, if not love, the band. When you do this, you have to get behind the bands you are releasing and if you don't absolutely believe in them, there's no point. As for approaching them? I just ask.

What has been you personal highlight from running the label so far? What has been your biggest success?

I have a few personal highlights from the label. The Laeto album, Zwoa, which is now, genuinely, one of my favourite albums of all time is a huge highlight for me. Our clubnight, fire: works, was also a great success after a very slow start. Our biggest success though has to have been the Titus Gein album, tracks of which appeared on several video games - I think Juiced for the PSP and MotoGP '06 were two of them.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone wanting to start up their own label, what would it be and why?

Surround yourself with honest, constructively-critical friends who will help you when you need it, support you when you need it and be brutal… when you need it. And you will need it.

What can we expect to see and hear from the label in the future?

As mentioned earlier, we're re-releasing our back catalogue on digital download - some of the earlier releases feature a host of bonus tracks - and an 8-bit electronica album by Germlin that was only ever given away free at a gig Joe did at the Sub Club back in 2004. Next will be my own e.p. of music from the We Sink Ships: Elements photographic exhibitions. Later in the year will be an e.p. by Graveyard Tapes and in November we'll be releasing a compilation of interpretations of Fryderyk Chopin's music to celebrate the end of his 200th anniversary. It's all starting to come together and I'm really excited by this. I hope others will be too.

Too Many Fireworks


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