Home' Rhythms Magazine : 2016 Jul-Aug Contents Rhythms 85
THE FESTIVAL LABEL
an interview with Dave laing of festival records,
responsible for their significant reissue program.
Festival Records has a long, proud and extremely
significant place in Australian popular music. Can you
give us a brief rundown of its history and significance?
well, without going into historical detail, it was very
much ‘Australia’s record company’, right up until warner
bought it in 2006. From the early rock ‘n’ roll era, right
through the ‘60s and into the ‘70s, Festival was the most
high profile record company in Australia with the most
Australian content. It released local stuff on its own
imprint as well as numerous subsidiary companies like
Leedon, Spin, Sunshine, and in the ‘70s, Infinity. Festival
also distributed mushroom from go to woe and bought
the company from michael Gudinski in 1999. So Festival
played a massive role in the record business here for a
very long time.
What is the current role of Festival Records?
when I joined warner music Australia in 2012 and
started working on compilations and reissues, we needed
a label to release them on. Having such as iconic label
lying dormant – especially one whose name resonated
so strongly with not only Australian music but so much
vintage international stuff as well – it seemed only
natural to revive it. And the old logos were suitably retro
too – everything was perfect.
How do you feel about having the responsibility of
being the caretaker of the archives now and being able
to rerelease such significant music?
Being involved in this stuff is almost a dream job really.
Being a teenage music freak in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s
I was obviously very aware of the heritage – especially
all the great ‘60s Australian stuff – and I was able to
watch the rest of it unfold. I’ve always bought a lot of
old music, I’ve worked with great reissue labels like Ace
and Sundazed, and I’ve also compiled compilations and
reissues of local stuff, written liner notes (and fanzines) in
my previous/other life as well.
I understand that there are over 20,000 recordings in
the archive – how do you decide what to rerelease?
As with anything really it’s a combination of what we feel
is required, what is deserving, and what makes reasonable
financial sense. I wish I could have started 10 years earlier
on the job because with the way the market is now it’s
very hard to sell some of this stuff.
Can you tell us about the most recently released
compilation featuring Pub Rock?
This one was a no brainer I thought, and it was
something that related to what I witnessed while I was
growing up, so it was something I felt I had a good
handle on. There are a lot of bands on there that I loved
at the time. The pub rock era in many ways was the
coming of age for Australian music. So many massive
bands came out of the pubs, and also the fact so many
Australian bands cut their teeth in a pub environment
really helped foster a certain toughness and directness
that comes through in the music, even though
stylistically it covers a lot of genres. of course as with all
these things there is a lot of discussion in regards to what
should and shouldn’t be included.
Are there plans to continue to feature rereleases of
individual artists or groups?
Sure, it’s a pretty deep well, so I’d like to think we’re
not done yet! Next up will be an ol’55 anthology, to
commemorate 40 years since their multi-platinum debut
album Take It Greasy. That will include a bunch of stuff
that’s never been reissued before – including the great
run of singles including ‘(I want A) Rocking Christmas’,
‘C’mon Let’s Do It’, ‘Stay (while The night Is Young)’
and ‘(Feels Like A) Summer’s Night’ – and a bunch of
unreleased stuff. They were a lot better than history
remembers them I think.
All releases have been done properly with great sound
and extensive notes.
The idea from the start – and warner Australia’s mD
Tony Harlow very much shares this attitude – is that
this needed to be done right. As well as possible without
busting the bank. Australia doesn’t have a great track
record of properly looking after its musical heritage.
warner started down this road before I started here with
that fantastic Cold Chisel catalogue upgrade. That was
the first time that a major label here had treated a local
artist’s catalogue in the same way that we’ve been seeing
overseas for years.
Where to from here?
Next up is an incredible compilation called Running
The Voodoo Down, which follows up from A Different
Kind of Blues, and Heavy Soul. This one focuses on
“Explorations in PsychRockFunkSoulJazz 1967-80”; it
includes Funkadelic, miles Davis, James Brown, Buddy
miles, Hendrix and others. That’s coming out end of July.
Following that there’ll be a collection of late ‘60s/‘70s
Aussie Funk/Soul/Jazz called Back on the Street Again,
and a definitive collection of material drawn from
Australian surf film soundtracks from the ‘60s and 70s.
There’ll be more to come after that hopefully, including
second volumes of Boogie! and of The Glory Days of
Aussie Pub Rock.
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