YOU CAN GO YOUR OWN WAY...

Hot Press - - Inbox - GUEST WRITER: KEN GRIF­FIN

In 1992 af­ter a show in Dublin, I met a man from Chrysalis pub­lish­ing. He didn’t like the show, but I in­sisted he wrote his ad­dress on the back of a cig­a­rette packet. I sent our demo tape to him, he of­fered us a deal, and a few weeks later – at the age of 21 – I moved from Ire­land to Lon­don. I had £45 in my pocket and the prom­ise of a floor to sleep on for a week.

As a teenager, my friend gave me a cas­sette copy of The Vel­vet Un­der­ground’s first al­bum. That night I lis­tened to it in bed. That first lis­ten both shaped, and in a way ru­ined, the rest of my life. It gave me the courage to de­stroy any chance of a se­cure fu­ture. In Novem­ber of ‘92, my band Roller­skate Skinny went to New York to play the CMJ fes­ti­val. We were now signed to Beg­gars Ban­quet and had re­leased our first al­bum. We had mo­men­tum, so Warner Brothers de­cided they wanted to poach us from our la­bel.

They in­vited us to a party at a night­club called Nell’s, where we were greeted at the door by grin­ning strangers. Amaz­ingly, they knew all our names and seemed re­ally ex­cited to meet us. I thought, “Wow, these guys know how to bull­shit” – but we played along. Once in­side, we re­alised it was a party for the Vel­vet Un­der­ground’s re­union.

I got to meet Ster­ling Mor­ri­son and tell him thanks for ru­in­ing my life. I also met Danny Fields, who orig­i­nally signed them, The Ra­mones and The Stooges. He told me, “Don’t lis­ten to any­body kid.” The next day, The New

York Times picked my band as one of the high­lights of the whole CMJ fes­ti­val. We got of­fered a gi­ant con­tract from Warn­ers, which we signed. Suc­cess was just a mat­ter of time away.

In truth, what was to fol­low was a 16-year mess, in terms of the mu­sic busi­ness at least. I fell out with ev­ery­one – la­bels, man­agers, band mem­bers, agents. Ev­ery la­bel would take me out and fill my head with non­sense. Stu­dio time was so ex­pen­sive, you had to have a la­bel to get into one. So I played the game, and ev­ery three years I would get to make an al­bum. The last real record con­tract I had was with Vice Records – I didn’t even know who the hell they were. I stood on the cor­ner with two of the la­bel guys and said, “All I want you to do is prom­ise me you will make two al­bums with us.” They shook my hand and promised: we made one al­bum and they dropped us. The point is, it’s eas­ier now – we are in con­trol. About four years ago, I met John Rauchen­berger and formed Au­gust Wells.

We made a record in his liv­ing room. We played a hun­dred shows in the first year, booked them all our­selves, and sold a lot of records to peo­ple at the shows.

In Ire­land, Ed­die Kiely with FIFA records heard our al­bum and loved it. He re­leased our four sin­gles, and booked us four dif­fer­ent tours of Ire­land, Ger­many and Eng­land. We have our new Au­gust Wells al­bum, Mad­ness Is The Mercy, out now.

As Danny Fields told me, “Don’t lis­ten to any­one kid.” The great thing about now is, you don’t have to.

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