When taking a trip into the city center of Birmingham, you find yourself stumbling into the Oasis market, a unique part of the city where people go to indulge in their personal interests with like-minded individuals. You may also enter Ignite records and begin searching through Richards's extensive collection of Vinyl. Ignite', then and now, stocks a great selection of hardcore, punk, metal and indie releases. Most recently, Hip-Hop and rap are also now stocked there. So whether it’s Mobb Deep, Modern Baseball or Morbid Angel you wish to own on vinyl, 'Ignite' is the place to support and keep alive! Rich has given bands such as Cross Me, Renounced and Rolo Tomassi and many others their start over the years proving himself as a legend behind the scenes and the true unsung hero of the UK hardcore scene.
When did you first become interested and involved in the Hardcore genre?
R – In 1995. I started by listening to old Minor Threat tapes that older people had passed down to me, as well as their own local bands at the time. From then I got in to bands such as In My Eyes and Chain of Strength, and then I started my label, Speedowax Records, in 1997 when I was 17. This originally started off as a melodic punk rock label as it was what I was more interested in at the time. The original goal of the label was to pair up one UK band and one international band and release a total of twenty 7 inches on my label. This was so successful that I just carried on, and I stepped in to the UK hardcore scene and was putting out bands such as November Coming Fire, Legacy, Abandon Ship, Break In, and On Thin Ice.
With bands such as Venom Prison recently playing Glastonbury, Hardcore seems more alive than ever, what is your opinion on the current state of the genre in the UK?
R – There is loads of fantastic stuff happening at the moment, and in the last few years it has definitely been reignited. However these days there is so much of it that is only internet based. This is where I see the biggest change and definitely feel it as well. So many bands will only be on Bandcamp and never make it to record, so personally I don’t hear a lot of bands until they sign to a label or get some physical music produced. Bands like Red Bait and Sanction I had never even heard of before until they signed to a label. I guess theres alot of great stuff out there that goes unheard by many but thats part of what happens when theres so many great bands around.
So what is your opinion on how physical music is surviving in the digital age, how has vinyl been affected?
R – vinyl has definitely been affected. , 7-inch singles have decreased in popularity and everything seems to be on one-sided 12 inches. 12″ was never really a punk format in my eyes I’ve always been into 7-inch singles and personally I’ve tried to keep them going. One-sided 12 inches seem to be in vogue and there have been a few corkers – I used to put out 7 inches for £5 and give the listener twelve minutes of music. I still do, but one-sided 12 inches are costing around £12 these days and that’s from UK labels. Ordering from overseas can cost sometimes up to £40 by the time you have added shipping and tax. The digital age has allowed bands who are under the radar to get their music out there, but the effect of the digital age shows when they release physical copies, a lot of effort and time goes into the physical versions of these records ….you can tell its a real labor of love.
What has been your mentality with Speedowax, did you put out releases from bands that were guaranteed sales or did you put records out simply because you wanted to?
R – Simply because I wanted to. I have even put out records for bands that have split up. I would listen to bands and if I noticed something in their music that was unique and I felt they could offer elements that nobody had heard before, I would do my best to make sure it was recorded and exposed. A prime is example is when I put the first Cross Me 7 inch out, I was blown away by their music when I heard it on cassette, so I contacted them and put that release out on vinyl. Only 300 copies were made, but from that the band got signed to Bridge Nine.
Tell us about your relationship with Chris Wrenn (owner and founder of Bridge Nine Records)?
R – I have known him for years- I mail-order records off him all the time and we kept in touch and have always emailed back and forth discussing records and music. He is a really nice guy. He looks after me with the most limited and crazy versions of his releases …recently he sorted me out a few friend pressings of his new releases …he’s a star.
Another band you have worked with over the years is Rolo Tomassi, how was it working with them?
R – Working with them was great- I had put out a record by a band called The Murder of Rosa Luxemburg, a screamo band from Worcester The record has become a cult classic and Rolo Tomassi were big fans of that band and I decided to check them out at a local show and was blown away by what such a young band were producing. So I approached them and I put them out on a split with Mirror Mirror, very Blood brothers, Locust and Hot Hot Heat. They really added some variety to the label actually, as I was just keeping to Hardcore releases this obviously does sometimes fail to branch elements out. These guys brought such interesting math and metal aspects to the table, their early music really diversified the label. This release also holds good memories as me and the band hand made all the covers for all of those records. We kept it as DIY as we possibly could. As a music fan, my tastes are all over the place, I enjoy everything from The mummies, New bomb Turks, Black flag, Rocket from the Crypt, Nirvana, Jawbreaker and The Rezillos just to name a few!
Renounced is another band that is seeing a lot of success as well, tell us about working with them in their early days.
R – I put their first EP out, Sam who plays guitar in the band used to buy records off me all the time and we have always been friends. I heard what they had recorded and I thought it was amazing and expressed how I really wanted to put it out. I loved the infleunce from Misery Signals and 7 Angles 7 Plages. They are on Holy Roar now and doing very well for themselves.
Let’s talk about the shop itself, Ignite Records, how did this all begin?
R – I started working at Tempest records when I was 19, and I’m almost 40 now so I’ve been at this a long time. When the owner of Tempest passed the business to his son he expressed interest in moving abroad and he didn’t want to keep it going. But the shop was doing really well at the time, I would order so many underground releases that filled a gap in the market for Birmingham. We would stock so much more than just standard metal releases, we had hardcore and punk from all over America and the UK, a lot of Dance records, and physical releases from the Grime scene as well. So in 2010 as part of my redundancy package I took all the racks, and with the rest of my money I brought stock for the business and set up my own shop about a month after Tempest closed as the passion was still very much burning. I took the name from one of my favourite bands of all time “Ignite”.
In close to ten years of business, why do you think Ignite has been successful?
R – I’m not sure! I’m very lucky to have been doing this for so long, but I think I have had many returning customers over the years because of my stock. I made so many connections over the years with labels and distributors that I was able to get records in that appealed to so many people, that they could not find anywhere else. An indie platform survives by investing money in the right places and for me that was giving people the records they wanted and not selling them shit basically. I think over the years i’ve turned people on to a lot of great records and they keep coming back for a great fix of old and new music.
Lastly, what is your favourite piece of Hardcode merchandise you own that you have held onto over the years?
R – I have an American Nightmare skate deck, I ordered it as a Christmas present to myself one year! It came with theiconic Linas Garsys artwork onit and a exclusive demo EP, it was definitely better than the socks and soap I got that year, that’s for sure!
Speedowax Highlights from Rich –
Rhythm Collision / Travis Cat – Split 7”
Broccoli / Pints – Split 7”
The Ataris / Douglas – Split 7”
Rolo Tomassi / Mirror! Mirror! – Split 7”
Murder of Rosa Luxemburg 7”
November Coming Fire – Black Ballards 7”
Legacy Dead Weight 7”
Down To Nothing – Splitting Headache 7”
Product Of Waste – Prophecies of a Poor Man 7”
Cross me – Demo 7”
Vulgar Display Under Darkness and Prayer 7”
Renounced – Conditioned From Birth 7”
Interview by Rob Kent