Ian Roebuck and Sacha Shaikh used to promote shows until everyone started doing it. Now they release records instead, having worked with new bands Clout!, Woman’s Hour, Novella and Shinies within the last 12 months. Sacha’s just got the label’s logo tattooed on his bicep.
Dirty Bingo Records has been going for a year now. So, how’s it been?
Ian: “It seems to be going really well, a year’s flown by and we’ve achieved everything we set out to do. We’ve just put out our fourth record and each release has been special in its own way, you fall in love with the music every time, so it’s quite a personal thing.”
Sacha: “We’re not going to rest on our laurels, though. The reaction from people ‘in the know’ has been very positive, and it’s still quite surprising when we contact some bands and they’ve heard about us and the roster we’ve built up. It gives us the confidence to know we are actually doing something of worth that’s working.”
You started off as a club night. How does releasing records compare?
Ian: “Less stressful and more rewarding. We reached the end of the road with the club night and it was time for a new challenge. Plus the whole band and DJ thing just got so tired and saturated around London. Who wants to see Electricity In Our Homes three times a week?”
Sacha: “When we first started out there weren’t that many nights going on and then all of a sudden something switched, more and more small venues were setting up for gigs, whether they were suitable or not, and the fees that some of these places were charging were astronomical. Then you have to factor in dealing with booking agents and managers. Now people will have our records in their collection/iTunes in amongst other bands that we love and that gives me more of a buzz than stressing about who’s going to bring the bass amp.”
Obviously, there are loads of record labels around now. What makes DB different?
Sacha: “We’re both dedicated to this 100% and that comes across when we work with the bands. That’s not to say we don’t like to have a laugh, but we know what needs to be done. I think what makes DB different is us as a team, and that’s not blowing our own trumpet that’s just the belief we have in ourselves and each other. I think this gives the bands the confidence to do what they do best and that’s make music and for us to facilitate it for them.”
Ian: “We run a pretty tight ship. It’s only a small independent, but Dirty Bingo Records is punching above its weight and we’re a very professional outfit. We really care about the band when we take them on and work bloody hard for them to make it work. You’re right, there’s loads of little labels out there but in my opinion there’s room for more. If it’s done right and you have everyone’s best interest at heart then it can only be a good thing.”
Didn’t you drive to Manchester from London to see your latest band, Shinies, play for 20 minutes, then drive straight back again?
Ian: “Yeah. If you’re going to do it, do it properly. I think if you start a label like ours you need to take it seriously and see it through. When you believe in a band and what you’re doing, stuff like that becomes second nature and all part of the enjoyment really. Plus Sacha was driving home so I could have a pint.
Sacha: “I just like to get out, really. No, seriously, you get what you put in and isn’t that what it’s all about – charging up and down the length and breadth of the UK in chase of something we love? If it’s feasible we’ll travel anywhere to see an act that we’re keen on.”
Sacha, your tattoo is pretty dedicated. It seems pretty admirable, a.) for someone without loads of tattoos, and b.) for a label that’s been going for just a year.
Sacha: “I’m not sure admirable is the word – a love for tattoos and boredom on a snowy Saturday afternoon springs to mind. It’s subtle, I think, it’s not like it’s scrawled across my forehead or anything. I see the label becoming a full-time gig and I guess when Ian and I are sat in our retirement homes in 40 years time I’ll glance down at it on my wrinkly old arm and remember how we were bold and took the risk.”
When you work with bands, you also do videos with/for them, and press shots, and sort studio time. Again, it seems above and beyond the call of duty for a new label?
Sacha: “The bands need to concentrate on the most important thing and that’s the music, so if we can alleviate any unnecessary stress for them then that’s only going to benefit everyone. Plus, it’s nice to be involved in the whole process. If you run any kind of business, in my opinion it’s important to be involved at every stage and know exactly what’s going on.”
Ian: “We offer a fair bit of experience and have a great group of creative people who support and help us where they can. We aren’t ringing up James Cameron or anything.”
If I was in a band and wanted you to release us, what would you be looking for?
Ian: “We’ve both got pretty broad tastes. It’s when we both agree on a band that it really clicks. I’d like to think you could pick out one of our releases from a crowd and over time this will show even more. Musically, the bands we’ve worked with so far have really impressed, but what really matters is striking a relationship with the people. We wouldn’t work with the hottest band on the planet if they were a bunch of tools.”
Sacha: “I also like to think of DB as kind of like a little family, so there has to be a connection and togetherness with everyone pulling in the right direction, and of course there must be some talent.”
And what about if we wanted to start a label. What’s the golden rule?
Sacha: “Have a strategy and stick to it. Things change quickly, which you’ll need to react to, but always stick to your beliefs and remember why you’re doing this. Above all, enjoy it and keep smiling.”
Ian: “I think you’ve got to mean it. A good band should do and you need to match that ambition. A sense of humour helps too, take everything in your stride as this is meant to be fun, right?”
With so many other labels around, don’t you find it stressful getting onto bands first. That’s surely the biggest turn off – the tumor factor?
Ian: “That can be exciting too, but yeah it’s a pretty busy industry out there. We’re savvy enough to know our place and who to approach at the right time. It’s like there is an imaginary league out there and you keep within your range. I’d like to think we’ve just been promoted to the Championship.”
Sacha: “It’s a challenge, but if we get knocked back by a band or management then it spurs us on to find something else.
Do you have any kind of motto/ethos at all?
Sacha: “Don’t forget to bring a towel.”
Ian: “Sacha’s going to get a tattoo of that.”
What’s the grand plan then?
Ian: “Apologise to Electricity In Our Homes, then concentrate on our next few releases.”
Sacha: “Never apologise and establish DB as a label of true magnitude.”
By Stuart Stubbs
Originally published in issue 37 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. April 2012.