If you haven’t heard of Ochre Records , then read on, especially if you have ever been a fan of Echo and Bunnymen, Spiritualized and Julian Cope or also Yellow 6, Avrokar and Longstone, all of whom have a strong connection with Ochre Records. The Cheltenham label was established in 1994 by Talbot . 10 years of history have seen Ochre releasing over 50 albums and many more singles, organizing it accclaimed Ochre Festival and unstoppingly building up its fanbase.

It’s difficult to describe Ochre’s musical style. You can find anything on it from post rock, and electronica to psychedelia and melodic and indie guitar rock. Pennyblackmusic spoke to Talbot about the beginnings of his label and its evolution over the last 10 years.

PB: How did Ochre Records start? Reverb's 'Pedal' 7" was the first release on Ochre in the autumn of 1994. Why did you decide to start a record label and why did you decide to begin with Reverb as your first release ?

T : Cheltenham housed a vibrant music scene at the time and several of the bands really deserved more recognition than they were achieving. I liked what I saw and heard with Reverb when I watched them live. They got wind that I was starting up a label so they sent me a demo. When I listened to it I loved it! Reverb's music contained a classic indie-psych-pop feel to it, so I pressed up 500 copies of the 'Pedal' 7" which became OCH001. It sold out pretty quickly, within a few months. So thus begun the Ochre story!

PB: How did you come up with the name “Ochre” for the label?

T : Well we were sat around whilst thinking of a name for the label, and an episode of 'Captain Scarlet', Gerry Anderson's puppet series, was on the TV. All of a sudden Captain Ochre came into one of the scenes! So that was it! "Ochre Records!".

PB: One of your first releases was 'Space Age Freak Out' by Glide, the solo project of the Bunnymen guitarist Will Sergeant who has also had an important part to play in Ochre's history.

T : I've known the Bunnymen's guitarist Will Sergeant for a long time now and over the ten years Will's been a great ambassador for Ochre, spreading the gospel worldwide. Will had recorded a wealth of solo material as Glide after the Bunnymen Mark 2 finished and had a recording of a live performance in Liverpool at The Bubblebath. So Will said to me why don't we put out a coloured vinyl 7" single of two of the tracks.

Will was also involved with BOM in their early days. BOM were a three-piece that also included ex Bunnyman drummer Damon Reece (who went on to drum in Spiritualized) and long time Bunnymen keyboardist Jake Brockman.

PB: Would you saythat in the early years that Ochre had very much a dance feel to it?

T: The label possessed the right mixture of dance, ambient and indie! Glide was Will's Psychedelic Tripscape project and was very much influenced by Eno. We ended up releasing two more Glide coloured vinyl 7" singles in early 1996 which formed part of a trilogy. We always were going to release three 7" singles anyway as they were all called 'Excerpts From A Space Age Freak Out', and there was Part 1, then Part 2 and so on

PB: But the first album, which was also by Glide 'Space Age Freak Out' was some way off?

T: In early 1996 Will phoned me up to say that I should hear Paul Simpson's new recordings. Paul was a founder member of The Teardrop Explodes and ex front man of The Wild Swans and had started recording home demos under the name of Skyray. Paul had taken a music sabbatical for a few years. The recordings sounded great! and had eally long Krautrock influenced grooves, which is an area of music that I love. So it was well up my alley! Paul then went in to Mac from The Bunnymen's Basement Studio in Liverpool and recorded the 'Invisible' 10" with Will producing. The 500 copies of that disappeared pretty damn quickly.

PB: And then Ochre released the Shallow 7" 'I Wonder (Sonic Boom remix #3)' in May 1997. Already you had begun to gain a reputation for being a label of collectable coloured vinyl releases!

T : That's right. Will had been over touring America and Shallow introduced themselves to him in Kansas. Will said they should send some material in to Ochre. One of their releases featured some Sonic Boom re-mixes on it including that of their track 'I Wonder'. So after chatting to Julie from Shallow on the phone a few times we hatched plans to release a limited red vinyl 7" of the 'I Wonder' track with a previously un-released Sonic Boom remix, remix number 3! I was, still am, a big fan of Sonic's work and Spaceman 3, Spectrum, Experimental Audio Research and so on.. So it was a great thrill to have his name attached to the label. I was able to chat with Sonic at greater length at the CMJ Festival later that year as Reverb were supporting Spectrum and The Silver Apples at rhe Cooler in New York. I had already begun sending him Ochre releases, which he appreciated.

PB: This seemed to be an interesting era for the label as the music then seemed to begin to drift into the Post-Rock area.

T: Well yes, I'd been heavily listening for a couple of years to all the post-rock stuff knocking around. Fair play to Dominic at Enraptured who seemed to get in before anyone else in getting hold of acts for releases. But these artists were more than happy to release music on several labels. I was able to sort out for him Will Sergeant's 'Grind' 7" in May '97 for Earworm.

1997 ended with the release on Ochre of the Windy & Carl 'A Dream Of Blue' 10" on blue vinyl. A really hauntingly beautiful drifting track. Windy and Carl had paintied all 1000 sleeves individually themselves! It was great to have them on the label. They are a really nice couple. They run the Blue-Flea label in Michigan, which is named after their dogs. A few years later they released an Ochre compilation on Blue-Flea titled 'Through The Square Window'.

PB: In 1999 it was Ochre Records' 5th anniversary which you celebrated with the Ochre 5 Festival.

T : We did indeed! It took quite a lot of planning. We took over the Gloucester Guildhall for the day and performances took place in both the main hall and the cinema! All the usual suspects took part including Glide, Experimental Audio Research, the Serpents, Skyray etc. Even Julian Cope turned up to watch. I wanted something special to end of the day. Mike Mooney, Damon Reece and Sean Cook had just received the legendary sacking from Spiritualized. So I got those guys to headline along with members of Portishead and Massive Attack. They performed this really wigged-out set full of cosmic psychedelic jamming with a fantastic psych light show! They went under the name of The Creeping Meetball! It was just prior to them forming Lupine Howl and quite a few riffs from that the Lupine Howl album, 'The Carniverous Activities of Lupine Howl', were played during the set!

PB: Mike Mooney from Lupine Howl also started his other band with Don Mandarin called Applecraft who later released their first album on Ochre.

T: Yeah a lovely album, 'The Shining City On The Hill'. Applecraft are basically Don Mandarin and Mike Mooney. Mike of course was responsible for that awesome guitar solo on the Julian Cope track 'Safe Surfer'. It was the beginning of a move away from the experimental / electronic sound that was becoming an Ochre trademark. The Applecraft album had a definite psych-folk feel to it!

PB: And you decided to once again hold an Ochre Festival. Ochre 7 celebrating seven years of the label in November 2001!

T : Well Ochre 5 had gone so well that we went for it again! It was nother really enjoyable day. This time we had three performing areas on the go. Alan Holmes of Ectogram curated events in an Upstairs room whilst once again performances took place in the Cinema including Paul Simpson's 'Dream Diaries' plus a Skyray set! In the main hall we had sets from Avrocar and Yellow 6 and I subsequently released a CD with both of those sets on. Set of the day in my opinion was from Applecraft. AMP also performed as did the Freed Unit. The headliners were now Lupine Howl so it was a continuation of a theme I suppose. Entrance included being given a free compilation Ochre 7 CD programme, OCH030LCD.

PB: This period, the end of 2002, the beginning of 2003 saw some other really exciting albums being released. Notably the Charles Atlas 'Worsted Weight' CD and also the third Ochre album from the Land Of Nod.

T : The Land Of Nod had been squirrelling away at it and when we released their third proper studio album 'Inducing The Sleep Sphere'. That's when things really began happening for them. John Peel played seven different tracks off the album and the band went in to record their debut Peel Session at Maida Vale which was aired in the April. The band had a compilation album, 'Reality Channel'. a kind of best of released on Elephant Stone Records in the States, so they went over and played a short tour of California! Not long after 'Colli Di Pedona', an EP, was released on an Italian label and the Nod went over and did a mini-tour there as well. 'Inducing.' received great reviews as well and became one of Ochre's most successful albums of 2003. NME described it as "sounding like the Spiritualized LP Jason Pierce could never get round to putting words to" and said that "the Land Of Nod do for cycling what Kraftwerk's 'Autobahn' did for motorway travel. "

PB: The summer of 2003 had a slightly Japanese flavour to it! Already you had released two previous albums by Makoto Kawabata 'Infinite Love' and 'I'm In Your Inner Most' and now you released a third, 'I'm in Your Innermost'. You also put out the self-titled debut album of Migu.

T: Migu is Cornelius drummer Yuko Araki. I'd been lucky enough to work with Cornelius on part of their European Tour in 2002 which was great fun and they became good friends. In a bar in a hotel in Freiburg myself and Yuko hatched the plans to release her solo album in Europe on Ochre. Keigo Oyamada, Cornelius, also appears on one track and mixed it as well!

I had already had a 10" series and an 8" series so I thought let's go for a 7 x 7" series! So 7" releases soon followed from P.A.T.E (Cornelius bassist Nobuyuki Ohashi's group) and Neil & Irazia (Cornelius guitarist Hirohisa Horie). So yes a real Japanese flavour but a real thrill to release these as well as they were all really lovely people.

PB: And the Japanese theme continued with the artwork for the 'Season' compilation release!

T : Yes! Well we thought it would be fun to have a compilation in which artists give their interpretation of the seasons of the year! 'Seasons' is a collection of music inspired by the changing landscapes and slowly shifting patterns of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Exclusive tracks from The Land Of Nod, Longstone, Stylus, Longstone, 90º South and Lakescene. I'd attended an art exhibition in London by Mitsuru 326, a leading Japanese cartoonist who shared the same management as Migu. So I approached them to find out if I could use some exclusive work which was agreed and so Mitsuru provided an illustration of Spring and the Cherry Blossom etc.

PB: And so to 2004, the tenth year of the label. What's been happening recently?

T : Well we've been working on the new album from Love guitarist Mike Randle, a new Charles Atlas CD 'To the Dust From Man You Came and to Man You Shall Return' and an album which I'm really excited about from Thighpaulsandra, who is not only a full time member of Coil but Spiritualized as well. Thighpaulsandra was a collaborator for years with Julian Cope not only in his band but on the Queen Elizabeth project as well so it was great when they decided they wanted to record an album for the label. Also we've completed the 7 x 7" series, the final 7" being from Japanese group the Acid Mothers Temple, which is limited, some on black and some on purple vinyl.

PB: You're also about to put out another compilation CD celebrating ten years of Ochre and aptly numberedOCH050LCD. Your're also another Ochre Festival, 'Ochre 10', once more at Gloucester Guildhall in October.

T: I wanted a mixture of tracks on the CD. A CD representing ten years of the label, some highlights, some faves, some new exclusives. Some of the tracks included have only previously appeared on vinyl. It was hard to decide which ones to include but I also wanted a CD that represents and gives justice to ten years of the label!

And yes Ochre 10. Well the Guildhall in Gloucester is a fantastic building to put events on and has played it's part in the first ten years of Ochre. I wanted to have the Festival on the label's doorstep again. I've booked the Acid Mothers Temple to headline and booked the venue back in March so it's been once again several months of hard planning to make sure the event is a success!

PB: Obviously you must have had labels who you have admired and have been an influence on Ochre?

T: Definitley! Bill Drummond at Zoo Records and Tony Wilson at Factory. I'd grown up listening to the bands on those labels (Bunnymen, Teardrops, Joy Division etc) and collecting these labels. So without doubt these two played a major influence on my running of Ochre.

PB: Thank you.

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