25 Years of Chapter Music
Chapter Music a stalwart label of Australian music turns 25 this year. Known for their impeccable list of artists including Dick Diver, Holy Balm, Twerps as well as Doogs alumni No Zu and Pikelet; Chapter Music heads Guy Blackman and Ben O'Conner are our honoured guests this year at Camp Doogs. We asked Guy Blackman some questions ahead of his debut Camp Doogs appearance.
This year is your 25th anniversary as a label, how did it all begin?
Chapter began in Perth when I was just a little kid. I was in high school and a friend of mine was doing a fanzine dedicated to Spacemen 3. I was really into Syd Barrett, the first singer from Pink Floyd, so I decided I wanted to do a fanzine too, about Syd and with record reviews, gig reviews, and some poems (I was at high school remember, and also I was going through a gothic phase). So that was Chapter 24 the fanzine, it started in 1990 and I did three issues over the next 18 months or so. For the fourth issue I decided to do a cassette tape of local Perth bands to give away with the zine. A few other people had put out cool tape comps recently - From The Same Mother put a tape called Nuns In Adidas Footwear that I loved, and there were others like Initiations and Forest Frenzy - that made me think I wanted to do something similar. I was always a label nerd kid, obsessed with Flying Nun Records, Creation, K Records and a bunch of others, and K were all about the international cassette underground. So the first tape was Bright Lights Small City - A Chapter 24 Compilation in June 1992, made up of Perth lo-fi, grunge, shoegaze and even kind of Manchester-y bands. But the fanzine never actually came out, I just did the tape in the end. I was at uni by this stage and had just moved out of home, but still hadn't turned 18. I used fake ID to get into the Bight Lights launch I'd organised at the Shenton Park Hotel. Lots of people came, everyone bought tapes and was really enthusiastic, so I decided this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Next tape was a Sonic Youth tribute tape in early 1993, and that was the first official release on Chapter Music.
You're from Perth originally, how has Perth music changed over the years from your perspective?
I left Perth in 1995 and started doing Chapter with my boyfriend Ben in Melbourne. I do try to keep up with what's going on in Perth, but when I'm back there these days I'm usually at my mum's in Glenforrest or my dad's in Beaconsfield, and I don't get as much time to go to gigs as I would like. As soon as I left, all these bands from Perth started doing well - Jebediah, Ammonia, Eskimo Joe etc - it was like a feeding frenzy for a while, but of course most of that was pretty bad. I like what Andrew Sinclair did getting involved with helping out more guitar based bands at first and then moving into weirdo club world - Ben and I have followed that path ourselves in some ways. Stuff like Mental Powers, Ermine Coat, Eleventeen Eston and Leafy Suburbs has held our interest in the last few years. Perth has always been omivorous and open minded and more fun-based than the rest of the country. Do people still dance at shows all the time? That's what I remember, putting on gigs and having 200 people dancing to weird 90s indie rock. When I moved to Melbourne people just stood there with their arms folded and it took a while to adjust.
Chapter is well known for its strong list of artists including acts like No Zu, Dick Diver and Holy Balm. What do you look for in the acts you sign?
Thanks for the nice compliment! Ben and I aren't too fussed with genres, although I guess we haven't signed any metal bands yet. We just like music that is made with a real fierceness or openness, or both. It has to be really important to the artist to convey something to the people listening, they have to feel it strongly and make us feel it too.
What are you most looking forward to at Doogs?
It's always fun to see familiar friends in a different context, and there are few of those coming so we're looking forward to that, but mostly we're excited about being exposed to Perth bands we should already know about but don't!