By Dan Lane
Rough Trade Records’ Alabama Shakes have been revealed as the first Number 1 in the new Official Record Store Chart.
To celebrate their victory in this new chart compiled to recognise sales from 100 of the UK’s coolest and most vibrant independent record shops, we caught up with Rough Trade label boss Geoff Travis.
Geoff is one of British music’s real innovators; not only did he set up the Rough Trade record shop, he also established the Rough Trade label. Geoff also has one of the keenest pairs of ears in the business and has signed everyone from The Smiths to Stiff Little Fingers, and The Strokes to The Libertines.
Read our interview below:
What inspired you to start the Rough Trade shop?
Geoff: “City Lights Bookshop in San Francisco, which was run by the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. It was a place to hang out, learn and read, and drink coffee and meet people. I wanted a place that was not work but play.”
How did the decision to start the Rough Trade label come about?
“Our first big decision was to start a distribution network for independent records. When we were approached by a French group called Metal Urbain, they asked for help with a track they had recorded, we agreed to help and the label was born. Stiff, Chiswick and Virgin all had labels round the corner from us. ‘If they could do it, why not us?’, we figured.”
Was keeping your independence important to you, despite interest from the majors in the ‘80s?
“We had always wanted to keep ourselves separate from a major. We prefer the love, the loyalty and the freedom to pursue quality over sales.”
Did you ever think of giving up? Or did the success you had with everyone from Stiff Little Fingers to The Libertines and The Strokes to Belle & Sebastian make it all worth it?
“It felt like giving up when we went bankrupt twice, but only for a moment. Addiction to music is a hard monkey to shake!”
Where do you find your acts?
“In the nooks and crannies of the world.”
With independent record stores being the place it all started for you, it is surely a wonderful thing for a Rough Trade label act, Alabama Shakes, to top the inaugural Official Record Store Chart? What do you make of this?
“We’re Very proud that we have not entirely lost our musical marbles! Alabama Shakes deserve every accolade and success that may come their way. They do it right.”
How important are independent record shops to a label like Rough Trade now?
“Very important. They are staffed by people who feel the same way about music that we do and therefore can spread the gospel. Personal contact beats cyberspace every time.”
What advice would you give to people aspiring to set up their own labels?
“My advice is to pursue the same thrill that BB King sings about losing. When you find it, that is the record you should be releasing, and not until then.”
And it would be rude not to ask….what was the last record you bought?
“Can I just say that I am anxiously awaiting the release of the new Best Coast? Can't wait to hear that.”