“There’s just something nice about having something physical that you’re never going to be able to get rid of unless we all turn into robots.” That, ladies and gentlemen, is the philosophy behind one of Liverpool’s most innovative independent record labels: STADT MOERS RECORDS
However, this is a label not just concerned with simply preventing their creations falling into the hands of a machine-led overthrow – it’s also about the music (maaaaaaan).
Stadt Moers Records was formed by local artist Richard Proffitt who, after sensibly deciding to name the label after a Whiston park and discard all thoughts of ‘Dogpiss Records’, looked to collate some of Merseyside’s best aural weirdness for release. A musician himself and a lo-fi and sound collage enthusiast, these records were, of course, never going to be easy-listening rock albums or harmonious pop. Being an artist, Richard also needed to make his releases stand out aesthetically and plumped for a much-maligned format for his records; the cassette tape.
This particular idea does have a manufactured edge to it but that’s perhaps what makes it so brilliant. They want you to know this is a Stadt Moers Record, a statement of artistic endeavour and not just ten three-minute ditties downloaded from iTunes. “I like the idea of this forgotten media, forgotten object,” Richard told me. “It has to exist as a physical item; being all recorded on computer and then put on a tape, like going backwards.”
There are also several other advantages to using the format as, given the nature of the work found on the tapes, it is often necessary to appreciate each track as a grower. Therefore, the singling out of favourites should not be an option. “Tape is the least skippable format; I like that. Even with vinyl you can skip the grooves and find the track you want but with tape it’s mind-melting to fast forward through it.” That’s one way of attacking the modern human’s waning attention span.
These tapes feature a fantastical mix of white-noise right through to anti-folk and are typified by their most-recent launch Ancient Fires. That record is the combination of various artists’ exploration of sound and is, characteristically for the label, incredibly diverse. Surprisingly though, this does little to damage coherence: Stadt-Moers Records have a clear eye for avoiding jarring blends and this is because, and not in spite of, their wide-ranging tastes. Richard continued: “It’s such an eclectic mix, everyone’s got eclectic tastes, but there’s a link. There’s a meeting point with all of us, an appreciation of what everyone brings.”
The greatest thing about Stadt Moers though is not their clear aesthetic aspiration, their great taste in contributing musicians or even their impressive range of T-shirts; it is their method of financing releases. Each artist is asked to pay a (negligible) fee to secure their place on the record and cover the costs of the release itself. There are no profits to be made and yet each artist can benefit hugely from having a stylish and instantly recognisable example of their material. It’s this kind of community-led artistic release that could really catch on in these times of austerity.
“I don’t see why other people can’t do this. At the end of the day it’s not that much money per person, you probably spend more money on alcohol in a week. There’s interesting stuff that can be done if people pull together, especially in these financial times when nothing physical ever seems viable.” Inspiring words indeed, Liverpool. The DIY route may be one forced upon us given the current culture of cuts in artistic areas but it could also be a good fit – something to get music out there and remove the reluctant lips of artists from the arses of the all-powerful gatekeepers. Fuck ‘em, promote yourself.
It is Richard’s co-conspirator and collaborator, Mike Carney, who perhaps says it best with a rallying cry for the music scene to get off its arse and stop waiting for its big break. “You don’t need to wait for permission to do things. The tools are out there for people to publish.” This utterance sums up what the inspiration of Stadt Moers is all about for me. Don’t wait. Do.