TIRK Records - Scott McCready
Whatever happened to Nuphonic records? For a certain breed of records buyer, from the mid-nineties up until the turn of the last decade, Nuphonic was the essential label to check. With it’s distinctive logo, simple design, and focus on quality music, it grew quite a cult following, the British equivalent of, say, Strictly Rhythm in New York. T-shirts, slipmatts and record bags emblazoned with the legend “nu” were a way of punters and deejays making a statement about their taste, and an important factor in British (and by extension European) house music in forging it’s own unique identity, separate from American styles. The unique, disco tinged, tripped out deep house of acts like Faze Action, the Idjut Boys, Laj/Raj/RayMang, Fuzz Against Junk and Street Corner Symphony kept the bar incredibly high and helped broaden the horizons of the average house-head: indeed it was records by acts from this stable that helped many of us to delve into musical history and re-discover the previously maligned sound of disco. I would hazard a guess that in years to come Nuphonic will be looked on as being the defining British record label of it’s age (in a second hand shop in NY recently I noticed a large section of Nuphonic records that was getting eagerly checked. They were going for far more than they do over here). But all good things come to an end, and about 2 years ago there just stopped being Nuphonic records on the shelves. A news piece in Jockey Slut confirmed it: Nuphonic Records was no more.
Then late last year arrived a promo CD of two re-edits (one by the Idjuts, the other by Sean P) on a funnily named new label called TIRK. This, apparently, was the new label venture by the people behind Nuphonic. It sure sounded like it: “A Place Called Tarot” by Tantra, as diced up by the Idjuts, was an epic slice of floor-rocking Italo, and “Hungry” by Sandy’s Gang a sweet soul peak-timer (thanks to Sean P). More releases followed, particularly a very impressive 12” by Syclops. Through Radio Magnetic I was able to track down the label head Scott McCready, who, coincidentally, turned out to be Scottish, and who I discovered used to work on the Fopp store on Byers Road in Glasgow’s West End. After moving to London from working at the first English Fopp in Sheffield, Scott went into label management, first with the End, and then as a freelancer, before hearing that Sav from Nuphonic Promotions was interested in starting a new label…
“Sav just wanted to get back into making records again. It’s pretty simple really. He had a couple of things and people had been mentioning it to him and he missed it. There’s always been two strands to Nuphonic; there was the events and the production side and there was the label side. Sav ran the events and production side (as he came from doing the Blue Note). Sav’s side of that business continued, he continued doing events and productions, like he’s just done a big fashion show for Fashion Week, and also he’s doing the programming for this 1500 capacity club in Camden called Coco. He had been vaguely involved in the label but it was more to do with the guy Dave Hill, so I think Sav kind of missed it, and then he thought he needed to get somebody in to manage it. That’s when he approached me.”
So why start up a new label with a new name and packaging? Why not simply re-launch Nuphonic?
“I think Nuphonic was Sav and Dave together, and this is Sav on his own. Plus also it’s been three years since Nuphonic ended and a lot has changed since then. I don’t think Nuphonic as it was could stand on its own now. Nuphonic was very much of a sound, in terms of deep house and stuff, I don’t think you can purely do that on 12” sales anymore. Also, like, you don’t really hear that sound out much anymore, and to be honest I don’t think any of us are really listening to it as much as we were then. So the idea with Tirk is that it’s gonna be a bit more freeform. It’s still going to be of that style, but a bit more open. So we’ve had a 7” by punk-funk/electronicy act New Young Pony Club and we’re looking into putting out another thing that sounds a bit like Can/Neu! kind of stuff, as well as doing some of the house stuff. We’re still doing stuff like Idjut Boys, but again they’ve moved on as well, they’re not doing what they were doing three years ago, Maurice Fulton, he’s not doing what he was doing three years ago. Everything moves on, you can’t listen to the same things all the time!”
So what happened to the original Nuphonic? Why did it shut down?
“It was a combination of things. I’m surmising because I wasn’t there, I’ve only started working here in the last 6 months, so from the outside looking in and knowing the market… One thing: there was the label itself in terms of the general downturn in dance musics. So there would have been older productions and stock coming back, and paying for things like racking and stuff world wide, it’s quite easy to sink into debt quite quickly if the sales don’t match up. So there was that tailing off of dance music album sales about 3 years ago and Nuphonic were quite big on albums. I think that’s where the downturn in the label came. Hand in hand with that was the fact that they bought a pub called Bridge and Tunnel in Shoreditch, it’s quite a big pub. It had lots of good stuff on at it, they had Weatherhall playing on a Thursday night. It was a really the sort of epicenter of the Shoreditch thing. But then they lost the license for it, so the money they had invested in this pub drained the rest of it. It was kind of like Factory and the Hacienda, but very very small!”
What is on the release schedule for the rest of the year?
“We’ve got an album by the Idjut Boys ["Press Play"], it’s the first big thing that’s come out. It’s a re-edits album, it’s really good. There’s quite a lot of varied stuff on there, there’s up to the minute stuff like Lindstrom and Jackson and stuff like that, but then there’s also old stuff like Harry Thumann, some Chaz Jenkel stuff, stuff like that. Again it’s quite Idjut Boys-y, but it’s what they’re listening to now. Then after that we have album by Greg Wilson, This is gonna be a Loft-style collection, he’s done an album of 12 exclusive re-edits for us. It all ranges from electro stuff like Mike T through to Roxy Music and Talking Heads and Scritti Politi and things like that. Again it’s taking in a wide spectrum of things, ‘cos I think the music scene’s kind of gone back to that. There’s the whole thing of the early 80’s; a lot of it is just a reflection that things are a lot more open now, you can be into rock music, and electro and house and techno and whatever… It’s a lot less regimented than it’s been.”
You’ve also put out a 7”, something Nuphonic didn’t do. How has that been going?
“It did really well, we felt that we had to do that really early because if we put out four twelves straight away, it we become “Oh, this is the label from Nuphonic and it sounds like Nuphonic”, you know what I mean? But the NY Pony Club thing [“Tight Fit”/”Ice Cream”], I really liked it and it did really well, it got playlisted on X FM, which is the first time either label ever had a playlist. Which is a bit of a result! We’re looking to get another single and then towards getting an album either at the end of this year or the beginning of next year.”
Have you got any Tirk parties lined up?
“Again it goes back to there’s always been two sides to the business, Sav runs the Nuphonic Productions, and that. They’re launching the Camden Palace thing, they’re looking to do a lot of parties in there. We don’t have anything lined up for the immediate two months. We still do London Express parties, all around London, we’re going in regular at Fabric and also Brighton and do things at Festivals, like we’ve got a tent at the V festivals in the summer. So that side of things will be ramping up again, but I think it will be primarily around the Camden Palace/Coco thing.”
Who would be DJing?
“We’d obviously like to get people we’re putting records out by, so the best thing will be putting nights on with Greg, and whenever Maurice [Fulton] is available, we’ll get Maurice to DJ. The Idjut Boys are already doing stuff for us anyway. Just a continuation of the label and the events, everything so it will all be like stuff we like.”
And finally, what about any readers who have demos they’d like to send?
“Yeah, that’s not a problem. The easiest thing to do is just to get in touch with me.