Late last year I interviewed Kevin Shields, alongside Charlotte Marionneau of Le Volume Courbe, for a news piece in NME. The 300-word limit was a bit restrictive, so here is some more of the interesting stuff that he said.
Kevin and Charlotte were talking about their joint label, Pickpocket, which they had set up to release Le Volume Courbe’s ‘Theodaurus Rex’ EP and possibly other things, including solo recordings by Kevin, in the future. As a result of this, and because Kevin was hard at work recording the new My Bloody Valentine album at the time, he had lots of interesting and pertinent things to say about record shops, record labels and, mainly, his love of vinyl.
“Basically, in a nutshell, Charlotte was going to put a record out with another label and it was going to be vinyl, but then they suddenly decided they didn’t want to do vinyl for various reasons. Charlotte was like, ‘Oh no’, and I was like, ‘Let’s just do a label’. I’ve got enough guitar pedals lying around. I’ll just use that as a concept – I’ll just find pedals that I’ll never use, that have been lying around for at least five or 10 years, and just get rid of a few and start a record label and actually make vinyl. So it’s born from my old guitar pedals. There’s a sense of recycling. This stuff was just lying around in boxes somewhere and it was like, ‘Fuck it’, just for the cost of the vinyl.
“A lot of people don’t want to put vinyl out and I just think that in this time, when you can get anything as a download, a CD as a main format, personally, I think it’s finished. Of course, if people only want to buy CDs I’d sell them, I’m not going to ban them from buying them, but I don’t want to encourage it. Pickpocket is basically going to be vinyl and download and no CD. All the releases will be like that, they’ll all be vinyl.
“I only got my record player out again recently, but I’ve got lots of vinyl, I love vinyl. And I think if you’re encouraged to have vinyl and play it then you might do it, if no-one encourages you you won’t – I’m the same as everybody else. If someone brought out something and it was only on vinyl and download then I’d get the vinyl, so it was partly caused by the fact that nobody wants to put vinyl out and Charlotte really wanted to and that’s what I’d do with my stuff, it’ll always be available on vinyl.
“There’s a thing I did that we might put out, a guitar track, it’s very odd. It’s something I used to do in the ’90s, I’ve got a lot of stuff, just sounds, that I used to like doing where it sounded like I was channelling elemental spirits or something. One of them is nearly comically scary sounding.
“You could just put it on a website or something, but when something seems to have a soul it’s nice to give it a soul, which is to put it in a physical format. And since the CD is a shitty physical format, vinyl is still the only half decent thing to do. Basically, the label is for Charlotte and for me – it won’t be for My Bloody Valentine stuff because we’re going to have a label for that – but just for other odd things.
“The idea of doing a label has always been there in the background, but I’m too lazy half of the time. It’s usually things force things to happen – with Charlotte’s stuff it just seemed important for it to come out on a more loving format like vinyl than something cold like a CD or download only. So because nobody wanted to do that we thought, ‘Well, we’ll do it’ and now we are.”
“Record labels are still important. In America you get towns where there are loose groupings of musicians who are in each others’ bands and, invariably, a label comes out of it. A label represents a focus of energy over attitude – anyone can put their own record out, on the internet, on their own ‘label’, but in the end it’s about the intent and the energy of that and it often takes more than one person to do it. A lot of young bands won’t be able to afford to do their own label.
“I do genuinely believe that the old model of copyright and ownership of people’s works – the idea that a label, because it puts stuff out it owns the copyright – is wrong. I think all copyright always belongs to the originator, no matter what, under any circumstances. There should just be a fair agreement where the label puts its energy and time into things and then they make their money back when they can. I never want to own anything by anybody in that respect.
“That’s how all the great labels started – like with Factory or Creation or whoever – they started initially with this very honest thing and it’s only when money comes into it that it gets complicated.
“Ironically the only shops that sell vinyl now are the independent shops, so people like HMV are irrelevant – they’re literally irrelevant. I think we’re at the actual absolute death now of the chain, high street record shops and, in a weird way, it’ll encourage things like small labels releasing high quality product, like vinyl, instead of saying, ‘We can’t afford that it’ll have to come out on a cheap CD’. One of your big costs was the old model, nowadays it’s just as easy to FedEx or UPS records to record shops as it is to deal with a distributor. Distributors made sense when they were dealing with hundreds or thousands of shops, but why should they take 30% to give your record to 30 shops?
“Record shops are really important, but there aren’t enough of them around to be relevant. People should just release things how they want to, as opposed to having considerations for things like overheads.
“I was packing up a load of old CDs the other day to see which ones I wanted to keep, because I’m moving. A lot of them were really old, from the late-’80s, all my original hip-hop CDs, but instead of having this emotional connection to them, considering they were nostalgic items and I hadn’t seen some of them for 15 years, I found it difficult to care about them, because I knew they were just computer-encoded discs with information that was re-encoded. I can’t get excited about that and that’s the problem.
“It’s an instinctive thing. I don’t think vinyl is the future, but something real, tangible and not computer-interfered-with has to exist and so vinyl, at the moment, is one of the only things that can do that.
“I’m in this mode because I’m doing the My Bloody Valentine record. It’s going to come out on vinyl, with the CD as a secondary thing in the vinyl. CDs are good, but as the only thing no good. They should only exist as things stuck on the front of magazines or inside records.
“The great thing about releasing records that way is that you’re not ignoring the digital world, but you’re acknowledging it for what it really is – a secondary, convenient way. We should have the best of both worlds from now on. And that’s what this label will always be like, there’ll always be that attitude. Besides, I know for a fact that analogue is insanely superior to digital, so it just feels good to do that, and it doesn’t feel good to release a record just on CD.
“Also, a CD kills the concept of artwork, ultimately. Books still sell and when people realise that all these Kindles and iPads and stuff are stressing the hell out of their brains… Yeah, it’s handy, but it’s also stressful. A physical thing makes us feel better.
“It’s like 3D – I’m really glad I saw ‘Avatar’ at the IMAX on 3D, but I’ve seen quite a few other 3D films and it’s like looking at them through a beer glass. There’s a mess of not very well processed information and I don’t feel great afterwards. The point, scientifically, is that a lot of 3D processes stress the brain because it’s tricking the brain to do an exercise.
“I think the corporate world wants to stress the hell out of us so we have no energy left to say, ‘Fuck off’. They’re somehow turning all the mediums of relaxation into added stress inducement techniques.
“I don’t know, I just trust my instincts, and my instincts say: ‘Release records on vinyl, do away with corporate boringness’.”
Le Volume Courbe’s ‘Theodaurus Rex’ EP can be bought on 10” from Piccadilly Records. It includes a cover of Nico’s ‘Le Petit Chevalier’, played at the band’s first ever gig (our Nico tribute show back in 2007), and the version of ‘I Love The Living You’, originally recorded for our Roky Erickson tribute album.