In the sleeve notes to their recent 'A Box of Odd' compilation, Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation (SPC), setting out their manifesto, say that it is "a fallacy that the whole of Sheffield is completely obsessed with synthesizers. What boys and girls in Sheffield, and most other places, really want is guitars-and lots of them. Fast and bulbous unbridled guitars that twang, buzz, feedback, squeal, howl, cling, go 'Waaaaaaaah' at you."

"No guitar solos, showing off or other self-indulgent twaddle. And no songs that go on for more than just three minutes. Just short and to the point trashy guitar rock with surf guitars, sneering vocals, songs that are called 'No Brain', 'Dirty Girl', 'Death Ray', 'Kill 'Em All', 'Now I Got Worms' and 'Get Into the Goddam Car.'"

Thee SPC, a 7" label, which "reveres all things trashy" and "puts its particulary lurid lumps of vinyl" in packaging which combines elements of Victoriana with surreal Monty Python-style humour, made an immediate impact at the beginning of this year with their debut single, The Motherfuckers 'I'm a Fucker'(SPC 001).

Both it and its follow-up Chuck's 'No, Not Ah' (SPC 002) sold well and won much acclaim. Thee SPC has since then gone on to release another two singles, Champion Kickboxer's 'Like Him and Her and Her' (PC 004) and The Long Blondes' 'New Idols' (SPC 005) and also its first CD, the 'A Box of Odd' compilation (SPCLP 001).

The Sheffield musicians behind Thee SPC are a mysterious bunch, but Pennyblackmusic caught up with Tiffin, one of the owners, to ask him some questions about the label.

PB : Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation was formed by several different people. Who are they, and what are their different roles in the organisation ?

T : Thee Reverend is the head honcho and administers punishment to his staff wherever it is needed. I look after distribution and scones, Missy Tassles makes everything look nice for her chaps and The Baron is a shadowy financier operating on the very cusp of the law.

PB : Why did you feel the need to form Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation ? Was it just to prove that there was more life to Sheffield musically than synthesizer groups , and to give a voice to some of the acts in its underground scene ?

T : Yep, you got the answer spot on "to give a voice to some of the acts in its underground scene"-namely our own bands. Who else was gonna do it? Sheffield is full of bands, but 90% wanna be Oasis and 9% wanna be Muse. We try and seek out the other 1%ers. We are few: A lonely band of brother and sisters.

PB : Three of the six acts who appeared on 'A Box of Odd' all share the same drummer. Is there a lot of swopping and sharing of personnel with all the bands on your roster ? Do you see Thee SPC as representing a scene ?

T : Not really, it's just how events have panned out. There ain't too many people into surf & 60's style garage so some of us have had to double up on roles. We set up the label purely as a way of releasing our own bands records, Chuck and The Motherfuckers. We've got a surprising amount of support in the local Sheffield live music scene, given that we are into rather obscure stuff. We had faith in ourselves that we could sell records so we decided to give it a go. Then the idea of doing a garage compilation took shape in the form of 'A Box Of Odd', which constitutes the entire surf/garage fraternity of Sheffield (plus Beachbuggy from Doncaster)! I'm not sure if so few a number of individuals constitute a scene or not...we ain't gonna worry about it.

But it's been so much fun that we decided to widen our original remit to any Sheffield bands who takes our fancy. Hence the later releases by Champion Kickboxer and The Long Blondes, both of who are much more indiepop. Deep down we are a bunch of indiepop kids. We all get on down to Offbeat and dance like crazy to Helen Love, The Fieldmice, n' stuff. Plus at least two of us (who will remain nameless) used to be in Velodrome 2000, so we're not all about the garage punk. One day we'll find the next Even As We Speak and die happy.

PB : Most of the bands on your roster combine a garage band sound with a strong emphasis on tongue-in-cheek humour. What other similarities do you see the bands on your roster as having ? Are there any dissimilarities ?

T : Once again, that is how we started out but it is changing. Yeah there is a large element of humour - in Chuck especially. They are kind of like a surf-garage version of Half Man Half Biscuit. But as a label we're too old to try and be cool as fuck, so we just fool about instead. But it is not all humorous. Champion Kickboxer are a lot more serious, which definitely comes across in their single. A wonderfully edgy paranoia envelopes their songs. They are beautifully melancholic. As for The Long Blondes, the're different again: Youthful, ice cool and very, very sexy. I suppose if one thing ties all the bands together it is a pop sensibility. No matter how different the releases are, I think they all have that in common.

PB : The first release of the label was the Motherfuckers' 'I'm a Fucker'. It is a pretty's eye-catching name for a band, and also for the title for any release, let alone a first record. Why did you choose to put that out as a first release ? Was it to simply to start the label off with a bang and to generate some healthy publicity for it, or were there other reasons as well ?

T : It was just gonna be a one off...can you see a pattern here? Thee SPC has emerged fairly organically. Well, more of a snowball effect! The Motherfuckers are pussycats in reality, the name was just a joke which got outta hand...But they ain't frivolous when it comes to the songwriting and we don't plan to put out any old rubbish. 'I'm a Fucker' is a completely fantastic record. It's malevolent psychobilly like The Cramps or The Birthday Party. We have absolute faith in everything we put out. It's all quality stuff.

PB : One single in your catalogue (SPC003) was never released. What happened to that record ?

T : It was originally supposed to be a single by The Hotwires, but for reasons I'd rather not go into, it never materialised. We decided to "retire" the catalogue number as a mark of respect (or is that "shameless gimmick"?)

PB : 'A Box of Odds' was released on CD, but all four singles to date have come out on coloured 7" vinyl. Why did you decide to release those singles on vinyl ? Is it the aim of the label to continue to release all its singles in this format in the future ?

T : There is something very lovely and special about the 7" single. We want to create beautiful artefacts as well, so thick, coloured vinyl is important. Call it a fetish, if you will., maybe even a harking back to Postcard or Sarah. Also, we have a vision that every SPC release will be as much a tangible experience as a musical one. These days anyone can put out a CD single. A vinyl-only release takes a little bit more guts.

PB : Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation uses a lot of very fine Monty Python style Victorian artwork in is packaging. Where did you get the idea for this from ?

T : I really can't remember, but it probably involved too much wine and too much spare time. It's good fun and keeps us amused, anyway. We intend to continue with the ruse until it gets far beyond the point of crapulence. On the plus side, we've all learnt a lot about Victoriana and even a smidgeon of Sheffield history.

PB : In the very few months that it has been going the SPC has already generated a lot publicity. It was recently the subject of a feature on BBC radio, and 'A Box of Odds' was given a four star review in The Sunday Times 'Culture' magazine. Are you surprised at how successful you have become so quickly ?

T : I suppose we are doing something quite different, at least in Sheffield. It was a sad state of affairs that the fifth largest City in Sheffield didn't have a decent underground-independent record label until we started. Maybe people have sat up and taken notice because we are wearing our provincial credentials on our sleeves. But I'd like to think the records also speak for themselves. The Chuck single certainly hasn't had anything but great reviews - that doesn't surprise me because it is completely off the wall. I can't think of another record that sounds like it, can you? The Long Blondes single has done really well for us. I think the fact that they were also on an Angular Recordings compilation with the likes of Art Brut has helped us tremendously. It's bloody hard for a tiny label to get anywhere on the cultural radar, so having Steve Lamacq give one of the singles a spin and getting a review in The Sunday Times has been astonishing.

PB : The label's latest release is by the Long Blondes who actually come from Leeds rather than Sheffield. Does The SPC hope to release records by other acts from outside the boundaries of Sheffield in the near future ?

T : Actually The Long Blondes are an amalgam of East Anglians, Geordies and Brummies! They did form in Sheffield, though, so you're out by 35 miles, not that we are quibbling. To be honest, we don't care if bands are from Sheffield or not. We just all live here and work here, so we wanted to reflect that in our name. Our next couple of releases are also from Sheffield bands, but who knows what the future will hold?

PB : The next two releases are going to be by Smokers Die Younger and Texas Pete. Who are they ?

T : Texas Pete are a bunch of young kids who think they are a real old fashioned surf band. Their single sounds like it was recorded in about 1951. Billy Childish would be proud. I know we are!

Smokers Die Younger are quirky. A simple comparison would be Pavement, but they have too much individual personality to realistically quantify by comparison. Once again, it is a single we will be very proud to release.

PB : Thee SPC also has plans to put out a fanzine with a compilation attached. What is liable to appear in both of these ?

T : The fanzine is a kind of thank you to all the local bands in Sheffield that have helped us develop as a label. It's only going to be a very limited edition run and we think it's got some of the best and more unusual Sheffield acts on it. Actually, one of your writers, Denzil Watson, appears in the form of his band The Repomen. There will be more Victoriana/Monty Python nonsense, reviews, feature on films & art plus interviews with the likes of Kings Have Long Arms and our own Champion Kickboxer. It is primarily for Sheffield consumption, but we shall also sell some copies through our website.

PB : Thank you.

Related Links:

Commenting On: Interview - Sheffield Phonographic Corporation

ie London, England

tick box before submitting comment

First Previous Next Last