Designer Label: ANCHORS AWEIGH RECORDS
Dan Jones looks at the label that brought you Dead Swans, More Than Life, Gold Kids and more...
When it comes to DIY European hardcore labels, you don't any better in RM's eyes than Anchors Aweigh Records. The brainchild of André Suergiu, who you may also know thanks to his other day job as livewire vocalist for Italian hardcore mob Gold Kids, Anchors Aweigh are at the forefront of the fertile European underground scene, having helped bring the UK's very own Dead Swans and More Than Life to an international audience, as well as a host of other bands from across the continent such as Lighthouse, Day of the Dead and Daggers. To get the lowdown on the label's past, present and future plans, Dan Jones quizzed André Suergiu to find out all about the labels that first inspired him to form AAR, his thoughts on illegal downloading and how on earth he finds time to juggle running the label and being in a hard-working touring band...
First things first, why did you decide to form Anchors Aweigh Records? What was the underlying urge behind it all? When and how exactly did it start to form?
"The label started early 2007 but I had the idea for ages, it was just really hard to find the right bands to work with! Reasons why I'm into it are quite many to be honest. Mainly cause as a musician I always had a huge DIY sense and I was never satisfied by what the music business could offer in Europe. Plus after loads of bad experiences with some old bosses all I wanted was starting my own activity and even though it doesn't pay me back with tons of notes, at least it gives me so much more satisfaction!
What were your aims for the label at the beginning?
"I have always been ambitious. I planned to do it properly since the first day even though I made some mistakes and I had to pay for it, but that's all part of the game. I got so much to learn before it becomes what I want it to be but I'm happy about the whole thing for now."
And what are your aims now?
"Same as above. Still giving all my best. Still signing only hard working bands, people who are committed in what they do. Real things."
I've heard you mention Deathwish before, but were there any particular labels or artists that inspired you when you started Anchors Aweigh, or still do?
"Deathwish and some of their affiliated bands have always been a huge example of how independent music should be. The way they work and support their artists is just incredible! All the visuals / art concepts are unreal, basically they pay so much attention to anything they do, from small details to big things! Beside them I can't really say much. Bridge 9 is amazing as well but I used to love it more in the past!"
Do you feel any affiliation with any other labels? Do you feel close connections with labels like Day by Day and Thirty Days Of Night?
"Oh yeah totally. They're both great dudes who helped me and my band a lot during the past few years so I consider them really close to what I do and work for."
Gold Kids - 'Winter 365 Days A Year'
So what is your policy in recruiting bands to join your stable? What do you look for in an act? How did you generally come across the bands currently on your roster? Is it a case of catching them live or hearing about them through the scene?
"The fact I spend so much time on tour always helped me out on knowing new people/bands or scenes. Any band we sign has to work hard and tour really often. If they're not into touring and promoting their own work it doesn't make any sense at all to produce and support their material. It's something I had to learn from my past mistakes as I said before. Some of the bands are close friends of mine that I actually met on tour somehow and had something to do with what I was looking for as artists. So I could kind of watch them building up something real with their projects. Some others got signed cause I was into the music and that was it."
Is there any bands that you've passed over that you're now kicking yourself for not working with?
"None for now. I bet there will be though."
Is it difficult balancing running the label with being in Gold Kids? How do you find the time to do everything?
"Not at all. Both things actually work perfectly together. My own band gives me loads of chances to meet and tour with some great artist who could be part of AA records. This is how I met 80% of the bands on our roster. I find the time to do both cause they're the only things I do. I'm a radical one : these are the things I love in life, so these are the things I'm doing. I have no time to waste anymore. I used to have a brainless job I didn't like, I used to be a slave for someone who didn't deserve all my work. I gave up on it even though the amount of money I used to get at that time was good."
What do you make of the current European hardcore/punk scene? Are there some countries you visit where the scene is a lot stronger than in others?
"In my opinion Germany got the biggest and the most organized hc scene at the moment. It's plenty of good artists but unfortunately we cannot work with all of them."
How does a hardcore label stay afloat in the digital age? What type of impact do you feel 'illegal' downloading has had upon the scene? Is it harder for independent labels in the modern age?
"We do have a big worldwide digital distribution. You can find our titles in any good digital download store. I find illegal download always killed the underground music scene but it's all about the kids mentality. If they don't get it it's just cause they don't deserve it. The day the scene's gonna die or the day they might start their own band they will understand what its like. At the same time vinyl is getting more popular again and loads of people start buying it again, probably just because it's "cool" to collect it, but still kinda helping the indie labels who have faith in vinyl somehow."
I know it's like asking a parent to choose their favourite child, but is there any particular release on Anchors Aweigh that you're most satisfied with or attached to?
"Dead Swans and More Than Life are the bands that in fact changed the path of AA. They've done and are doing a lot. I have a lot of faith in the new bands we just signed. New Lighthouse and Daggers are both great records and I have a feeling they can do really well."
You've just signed Lighthouse, but what else are you most excited about in the near future of Anchors Aweigh? What plans do you currently have in the pipeline?
Beside Daggers which I just signed and announced, I have a few things I'm dealing with and if they happen they're going to push the label to a higher level. I can't really talk about it cause nothing is 100% sorted yet!"
What are your long-term ambitions for the label?
"I've never had a long term idea of anything I did in my life. All I'm doing at the moment though is at my best, so it should keep going till I stop caring. I can't really tell what the future will be like for us and what's going to happen. Any false step could just kill all the work I've done in the past. It's all a risk and you never know. But yeah, I wish everything works fine and it gets better and better."
Do you have any advice for people wanting to start up their own label?
"Just do it if it means the world to you. Don't take it like a hobby cause it won't work or get anywhere."
Thanks so much for your time. Do you have any final words for our readers?
"If you really care about independent music/scene/art in general please support labels and artists. There's a lot of work behind all of it and you kill it every time you head up to any blogspot or other bullshit!"
Anchors Aweigh: Meet the Roster
Andrés band Gold Kids could well be Italy's finest heavy musical export ever. A band who never seem to be off the road, firmly following the Black Flag Get In The Van mantra, they can be regularly caught scaring the living shit out of audiences all over Europe, and have just hit Australasia this winter to spread their word. Check out their awesome album The Sound of Breaking Up to see what all the fuss is about.
The biggest band to bare the distinctive AAR logo, Dead Swans have since gone on to sign to US hardcore giants Bridge Nine. However it was their stunning Southern Blue EP on Anchors Aweigh that first brought them to everyone's attention and even bizarrely led to them being nominated along with the usual array of disposable prepubescent crap for a Kerrang! best newcomer award last year.
More Than Life
RM will make no secret of the fact that we've got such a massive mancrush for More Than Life that it's almost getting embarrassing these days. Not a week goes by where we don't blast out their amazing Brave Enough To Fail EP (Review) to pick us up and remind us how brilliantly life-affirming hardcore can be. With their debut album set to drop next year, this lot are going to be absolutely fucking huge soon. Click here for RM's recent interview with the MTL guys.
More evidence that AAR have their ear to the ground of the UK underground firmer than the majority of their British contemporaries, five-piece Jealous are a brilliant and ferocious beast of a band that can be frequently seen lighting up hardcore bills in London town with their venomous brand of hardcore. Their split 7" with label-mates The Romance is a ideal way to get introduced.
Hailing from Belgium, Daggers are the latest addition to the Anchors Aweigh roster. Only two years old, the young four-piece managed to turn all manner of heads recently after heading out across Europe with RM favourites The Legacy as part of the latter's farewell tour. Their upcoming debut full-length Along The Acheron will no doubt raise their profile even further across the continent.
For many the German hardcore scene is the strongest in Europe at this moment in time. If you want evidence to back up that claim then look no further than Augsburg's Lighthouse and their crushing yet melodic inaugural long-player Abyssus Abyssum Invocat. Set to hit the road with label-mates Daggers across Europe in early 2010, that's one tour that certainly shouldn't be missed.
Born from the ashes of the influential November Coming Fire and Bossk, the awesome Tortuga sadly called it a day earlier this year following tours with the likes of Gallows and a well-received album, Kings Of Albany (Review). They may not have been given their fair dues, but they will be much-missed on the UK scene.
Day Of The Dead
Another Anchors Aweigh band to recently call it quits, Portugal's Day Of The Dead played their last show together in October after eight years together. Perhaps the most politicised outfit on the label, the four-piece were known for speaking out about straight edge, animal liberation and extolled the virtues of veganism. Their swansong release Perspectives acts as a fitting epitaph.