One spring evening, some years back, a press release landed in the inbox of every news organisation in the North West announcing the death of Scouse Britpop star and Space frontman Tommy Scott. The news originated from Scott’s record label, ANTIPOP. Inexplicably, the fact that the e-mail was sent on 31st March (the day before April Fools’ Day) escaped the attention of BBC producers and a broadcast went out the next day announcing the news.
The prank backfired horribly and, quite understandably, attracted widespread derision for the label. Even local musos Pete Wylie (The Mighty Wah) and Peter Hooton (The Farm) crawled out of the woodwork to lambast the perpetrators. Despite wading tail-between-legs through a mire of reconciliation, Antipop found themselves on a media blacklist and their notoriety was cemented.
They kept a decidedly low profile, until one morning last year when an advertising billboard on Hardman Street was mysteriously papered over with Antipop’s familiar ‘capsule’ logo. The guerrilla marketing campaign was a defiant two-fingered roadblock in the path of the corporate juggernaut and a brazen attempt to reclaim advertising space for the people. This latest stunt once again risked irreparably damaging their reputation. Well, shit, it’s not like they had a reputation to protect.
So who are the mysterious Antipop? Do they have a message, or is this just directionless, self-serving propaganda? Their official biogs make a mockery of any genuine attempt to gain an insight into the people behind the veil. One is a tongue-in-cheek corporate-style mission statement from a fictional CEO, Frank Rothschild, promising to “reap gross financial reward from world class music talent” and “establish a firm foothold in the vast market of teenage angst.” ‘Rothschild’ goes on to explain the rationale behind the logo: “Branding it in a tiny capsule or ‘fix’ is our way of draining your moral fibre and any shred of decency lingering in your hollow soul.”
Having been denied a meeting, we fired off a bunch of questions to these shadowy miscreants. In their inimitable style, they ignored most of them, but used the opportunity to get on their soapbox, showing themselves to be fiercely passionate about providing the people of Liverpool with an alternative – an antidote, in their words – to the hollow, mass-produced pap that passes for music these days….
Antipop on their origin and manifesto:
“Antipop was created when a blighted, scarred and bitter group of rebels met in Highfield Street Studios to combat the mainstream. With a strictly punk ethic and independent stance, these bands started a record label that would change the face of the alternative music scene and unite the underground. Antipop’s aim is to bring the best music to Liverpool as opposed to Manchester. From the outside, Liverpool has three decent venues, on the inside there are thirty. From a house on Smithdown Road, a church on Park Lane, or a warehouse on the docks, competition is key to a thriving industry. What’s the point in a town having one music magazine, one metal club, one major festival, one famous band? How are things going to get better and more attractive as a touring destination otherwise?”
Antipop on gig promotion:
“Anyone can put on a gig. You don’t need a degree in music industry to book a band, cook a stew and print off a flyer. That is the beauty of it and the danger too. The expectations and standards have to be so high. The nature of the music doesn’t always ask for that but the nature of the bigger picture demands excellence. Why should going to see Motörhead at a university venue be safer than watching a DIY band in a disused factory? The big gigs need to come down and the small gigs need to come up. This way people will stop paying £95 to see Bon Jovi and start paying £8 to see a band with more relevance in 2013 than a band that hasn’t spoken, let alone released in fifteen years.”
Antipop on Liverpool’s cultural importance:
“Ultimately, culture is created in rehearsal rooms and studios that are free from the confines of faceless bureaucrats and overpaid consultants. Like the Cavern in the 60s, Eric’s in the 70s and Cream in the 90s these cultural movements have appeared militantly, acting as an antidote to adversity and recession. People want to be part of something, to belong.”
Antipop on the music industry:
“There is a massive shortage of new bands at the moment, partly caused by the huge amount of ultimate shit that is sold as pop music. Can you imagine if all those people who bought Killing In The Name in 2009 bought decent music every week? Bands that choose to participate in judging competitions rather than build fanbases are contributing to the demise of the industry as a whole.”
Antipop on venues:
“People need to feel comfortable at venues. They don’t want to get strip-searched, photo scanned or pay £5 to drink a £1.50 beer. The relationship with the venue is as important as the relationship with the listener and the artist. When venues close, the legacy lives on in sentiment but music moves on. Better if we look forward rather than reminiscing about Korova, Roadkill or Basement 20.”
Of course, raging against the music industry machine is nothing new. Everyone with half a brain knows how transient and idolatrous it’s becoming, and Antipop undoubtedly run the risk of preaching to the converted. But as they intimate, sub-cultural movements come in waves, often as a direct reaction to mass discontent with the status quo. Just ask NWA. Ask the Sex Pistols. Ask the Cream DJs.
So let unscrupulous venues ramp up their drinks prices, let herds of impressionable pubescent wannabes kneel at the altar of Simon Cowell, and let Jon Bon Jovi continue to fart his anthems of vacuity in the face of mankind. For, the more destructive the sickness, the more powerful the antidote has to be. And right now, the antidote is Antipop.