I first came across Uwe Weigmann about ten years ago, when we started exchanging Indie-pop compilation tapes and live Brilliant Corners tapes, so it was great to finally meet up with him in his native Berlin.

The interview takes place in a hotel (as all great interviews should) and in this case it is the foyer of a Holiday Inn I am staying at in the East suburbs of the city. Uwe is 20 minutes late, but (as he explains) he has rushed back from Hamburg especially for this meeting, so I couldn’t possibly hold it against him.

After a round of pleasantries, we get down to the interview questions.

1) Obvious first question, how did you go from music fan to being the co-founder of a record label?

It began in 1998, when myself and two friends, Annikki Kretschmer & Jan Kuhn, decided to try and release music by bands we liked. We started by doing it at a “bedroom level”, but it has developed well over the last 5 years or so and we now have an office and have expanded from 3 to 6 people. We are now in the process of setting up a record shop in Hamburg, and also will be opening at the end of the year an online mail-order for second hand records and new indiepop records. It will be similar to Pennyblackmusic, but mostly old records and without a magazine!

2) Is the label self-financing or do you actually make some money at it?

There is not a great deal of money, particularly with 6 of us now. We have other jobs – I work for a delivery company on a part time basis.

3) What are you favourite releases/favourite bands on the label and which ones have been the most successful in terms of numbers sold?

My favourite releases are by Goldstoned (from Berlin), Seaside Stars (another German band) and Swedish group Arvidson, but obviously I like them all! 'The Sound of Leamington Spa' series has been easily the most successful with between 700 –1000 vinyl & 2500-3500 cds of each being sold. The Desert Wolves release has also sold out (1000 vinyl & 2000 cds) , but due to the pressing plant closing down, the masters and art work have been lost, so it can not be re-pressed despite some demand.

4) In an ideal world (and not for commercial gain) are there are bands you would have liked to have released records for, but haven’t?

Roddy Frame/Aztec Camera. I am a big fan of his music.

5) Who are your favourite bands and are there any up and coming bands to watch out for, both German and world-wide?

Aztec Camera, the Smiths, the Housemartins, East Village, Orange Juice, Teenage Fanclub, Friends Again, Pale Fountains and many of the UK indie bands of the 1980’s.

Some bands and artists to watch out for in 2004 are the Premier League, Grey Murray, Porous, the Ogdens, the Higher Elevations, Florence Valentine, Ida Red and Jens Lekman. We have just released the debut LP form Porous on our label.

6) You must have seen a quite a few gigs, but which have been your favourites?

The Housemartins in Berlin in 1987. I’ve seen Morrissey 4 or 5 times as well, but sadly never the Smiths.

7) How did the name change/Tower Records fuss come about – it seems very petty to me?

It is very odd. We received a letter from a lawyer acting on behalf of Tower Records, basically telling us to change our name as it was “confusing their customers”. We only had a few months to change everything or face legal action. So we changed from Firestation Tower Records to Firestation Records instead. Sadly the Close Lobsters will not be changing their song title to match! (N.B. The original name was taken from a Close Lobsters song “Firestation Tower”)

8) You've recently organised a fifth annoversary gig for Firestation. How did it go and was all the effort worthwhile?

It was hard work. Not arranging the acts though; the likes of Bob Stanley and Edwyn Collins just accepted with no problem. It was the promotion that took a lot of time, but it was worthwhile. We had a great night and old loads of records and CDs and managed to not make a loss on the event, which was pleasing.

9) You have now put three in the 'Sound of Leamington Spa' series of compilations. Was it a huge amount of work trying to track down all those obscure bands from the 1980’s who appear on them and will there be a fourth volume?

Again it does require hard work, but oddly we sent out around 50 letters to 15 year old addresses for bands and got over 25 replies. Everyone was happy to get involved. We are releasing a fourth volume in May this year if all goes well.

10) Are there any bands you would really like to include in the series that have so far proved elusive?

Yes, but we can only use the contact addresses we have from old record sleeves, or on searching on the Internet. Some bands have just completely disappeared. I’m still hopeful that we will get a track from the Brilliant Corners. Their singer spends a bit of time in Berlin. Of course, also the Close Lobsters!

11) What does the future hold for Firestation Records? Are there plenty more releases in the pipeline and will there be more shows and events arranged?

We are working towards a distribution deal in Germany. We hope to get out more LPs by the likes of Porous, Greg Murray, yhe Ogdens and some compilations by The Morrisons and The Bloody Marys (both were featured on 'The Sound of Leamington Spa Volume 3'). The new 'Sound of Leamington Spa' will also be released.

12) What is the German and in particular the Berlin music/gig scene like? Are there plenty of decent venues? Are the venues government subsidized to enable them to attract better acts?

The scene is quite good at the moment. Porous are a good new band. Subsidizing only really helped the larger venues; so smaller places like the Magnet Club, where we had our 5-year celebrations have to generate all their own money.

13) Finally, if you had the power to assemble an indie super-group who would be in it and in whose style would they play?

They would be an 80’s indie guitar band with Roddy Frame on vocals and Johnny Marr on guitar. A bass player and drummer would make up the four-piece, but it’s the singer and guitarist that shape a group’s sound, so anyone could do the bass and drums!

We then natter on briefly about the wonder of the Smiths, but time is very short and Uwe should have travelled back to Hamburg half an hour ago, so we wind things up with a firm handshake. Uwe certainly is one of indie’s good guys; clearly devoted to great music, so check out his website at www.firestation-records.de for some musical gems.

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