Wally “Meanie” Kempton took the plunge in 2018 and launched his record label Cheersquad Records & Tapes. Since then he has released new material from acts such as The Meanies, Immigrant Union, Chris Wilson, Jasmin Kaset, Money For Rope, Nick Craft, Minibikes, The Rinehearts and Los Chicos, along with limited edition vinyl releases of older material from Snout, Sandpit and The Level Spirits.
1) For the viewers of this blog who would not be aware of Cheersquad Records, what would you tell to introduce your label?
Cheersquad Records & Tapes is a passion project that I dream to make a living out of someday soon. Mainly vinyl and digital with the occasional cd, but ironically enough, no tapes…. It’s a healthy mix of new releases and reissues of older acts from the nineties who didn’t do their albums on vinyl the first time around. The only rule of thumb is that I’m a fan of the act.
2) Can you tell when you started it all and why? Was this an out of the blue decision or were you thinking about starting your own label for quite a while?
- My first release was September 2018, a fantastic Spanish party rock band called Los Chicos. I was promoting their Australian tour for that November, they had a new record ready to go, I said I’d release it locally so they wouldn’t have to bring stock from home and there you have it. I’d decided to start the label prior to that though really. I manage a couple of acts that had new albums in the can, Minibikes ‘ ready Dreams’ and Money For Rope ‘Picture Us’, albums which I thought were totally amazing but I couldn’t find a label interested in releasing them so I thought fuck it, I’ve always wanted to have my own label, now seems as good a time as any to start one.
3) Do you run Cheersquad Records on your own or do you have some helping hands?
- It’s pretty much me with a lot of help from my pal Mirjam Adelaar, she’s the only one on the payroll. I’d be pretty stuffed without her, she’s does all of my online stuff. I just do the talk shit part!
4) Is this a full time job or do you have a regular job on the side?In your opinion, is it easy to run an independent label nowadays?
- I want it to become my full time job. As a result of fucking Covid I lost all of my other work. I was a tour manager and driver, a musician and artist manager but it’s all dried up for now because of you know what. So the label is all I have so I’m hoping it becomes all I need. I’ve also started learning all about music publishing because I also started a joint venture with a publisher (GaGa Music)and called it Cheersquad Music Publishing. As for 'is it easy these days'? I’ve no idea cos I have nothing to compare it to as it's my first time. I imagine it would never be easy. I got asked yesterday in fact, did I start a label because of an intense love of music or a hatred of myself!! It’s great fun but it’s hard work.
5) I own various previous EVEN cds that were obviously manufactured and when I compare them physically to the new one and can't shake the feeling that they are not the same. Like if the newest one is not actually manufactured but home burned? I'm I correct?
- I’m actually not sure what you mean, let me look into that. Could it may be cos I ordered only a small amount it was duplicated and not replicated? Or is that the other way around… Either way, it wasn’t intentional.
6) Let's talk about co-releases. Are co-releases a necessity today for smaller labels (as opposed to majors)? Have you ever consider it for Cheersquad Records?
- The albums by Los Chicos and Money For Rope were co-releases with UK and German labels respectively and I have one coming up too that hasn’t been announced yet so I can’t say who it is. Never out of the question.
7) About your personal tastes in music: To what kind of music did you listen to as a teenager? What were your favorite bands as a teenager? Name 3 bands that you consider still have a influence on your own work today?
- I pretty much listen to anything except rap, hip hop, modern R&B and Guns ’n Roses. Everything else I give it a crack. I couldn’t possibly narrow it down to 3 bands though, sorry! They’d change daily. If it’s got a melody and some harmonies you’re on the right track.
8) Do your personal tastes always guide you when you decide to release a new record? Have you ever been tempted to sign a band because you thought I might be "good" for the sales of the label even if you did not actually liked the band you signed?
- The label is all my personal taste!
9) What are the plans for the next releases in 2021 as far as Cheersquad Records is concerned?
- I have a beautiful, lush, pop album from local artist Nick Batterham coming out in April called ‘Lovebirds’. It really is something. Then local singer songwriter Cahill Kelly has written a cracking debut album called ‘Classical & Cool Jazz’. It’s a ripper. Although it’s neither classical or cool jazz so I’m unsure how that’s gonna work title wise, will have to wait ’n see. Link Meanie has a project called BAGFUL O' BEEZ that he’s working on and it’s amazing. All over the place stylistically. Of the 25 tracks he’s given me I’ve asked for his favourite ten, then we’ll put it out. Come to think of it, has anyone ever had a debut album that was a double? Might look into that…. I have a few reissues that I’m trying to make happen with Aussie bands such as Underground Lovers, The Fauves, Dallas Crane, Dan Sultan and The Living End and I’m in talks with an American artist I dearly love and hope to put his newest release out locally come November, announcing that soon I hope.
10) What can you say, more specifically, about the latest releases of two bands that must be dear to your heart because you are personally involved in as a bass player: EVEN and The MEANIES? - I love them both! THE MEANIES one is potentially the most solid and consistent release we’ve done across our 30+ years as a band. Mind you, I said that about the previous one too… The EVEN one is a collection of cover songs that we’ve released over the years as b-sides and the like so that one was just for fun really. Great songs though. Both bands are working on new albums as we speak. THE MEANIES one will come out on Cheersquad, not sure where the EVEN one will end up.
11) Any information you want to share with the viewers of this blog
Radio Days are a power pop trio hailing from Milan, Italy. They have been on the scene since 2008, playing in their current line up since 2015. They are the perfect mix of Beatlesque melodies and 70's punk energy; easily combining the sounds of early Elvis Costello, the Rubinoos' vocal harmonies, Big Stars' scratching determination and the Knacks' catchy melodies.
Their latest release is a 3 tracks single 7” vinyl out since a few weeks on Spanish label Snap! Records. The A-side and leading track,‘I Got a Love’, is catchy as hell and contains an infectious riff that could come straight out of Carnaby Street. The lyrics speak of a love we all desire and can relate too, if even on a superficial level. This track is taken from their forthcoming album "Rave On!" which will be released on 21 May 2021.
The 2 tracks on the B-Side are exclusive to this release: ‘Baby Blue’ is a piece of nostalgia, channelling Beach Boys harmonies and featuring Spanish singer Lia Pamina on vocals but the real fine surprise here is Radio Days' take on ‘In The City’. It gives the song a whole new dimension and is worth alone the price of admission.
Hailing from Siena, Italy, Proton Packs is a four piece including Matt - Drums, backing vocals; Alex - Guitar, backing vocals; El Leon Blanco - Bass; Brodie - Guitar, Vocals.
Their latest full length "Paradox" was released some months ago on vinyl by Mom's Basement Records and on Digipak Cd Version by Bad Man Records
1) For the viewers of this blog who would not know you, What would you tell about Proton Packs to introduce yourselves? How long are you guys together as a band? Who is playing what instrument in the band nowadays?
We're an Ecto-Punk band from Tuscany, Italy. Matt and Alex live in Siena while Brodie and El Leon Blanco live in Arezzo. Ecto-Punk means punk rock with a sci-fi vibe. We've been together for 16 years, now.
Matt and Alex play drums and guitar respectively and are there since the beginning. Brodie was the next to join, around 15 years ago. He plays lead guitar and sings. El Leon Blanco joined around the time we were writing Space Opera (our second album) and we haven't changed line-up since then.
Matt used to sing most songs in the early days but now Brodie does lead vocals on all of 'em 'cause he kicks ass and we didn't like the "two singers" approach too much to begin with.
2) About the latest full length record "Paradox", what can you tell about the recording process? Was this a "live" in the studio recording or a track by track recording with lots of overdubs?
We always record all the rhythm tracks (drums, bass and rhythm guitars) together in the same room at the same time with headphones and all the amps in separate booths. It works for us because, if you're prepared, it saves time and adds to a more natural flow of the songs. After that, we record guitar leads and licks and then vocals. Once the bulk of the recording is done we add a few effects, percussions or little synth or keyboard parts if the songs require that. We don't really do overdubs but just minor edits if a take is otherwise good and we just need to fix some small thing.
3) Do you use the nowadays digital recording technology or do you guys only work with analog machines in analog studios?
The last three albums were all recorded digitally but through a huge 32-channel '96 Soundcraft DC2000 analog mixer. We think for our kind of punk rock, digital recording works just fine, as long as you don't indulge in over-editing or tampering.
What really makes the difference is the way you play your instrument. In punk rock you don't need to be a virtuoso, you just need to go in the studio well prepared for the songs with the right kind of muscle-memory.
Plus digital recording is quicker and cheaper, if you do it right. We wanna give a shout to Freddy from the Leeches, who is our producer and works at New Mood recording studio! He's the best!
4) Is there a main composer in the band or is everybody involved in one way or another?
We all write songs and then we cherry-pick the best of the batch. Sometimes we write separately at home, sometimes we write all together during practice. The arrangements are all done collectively.
That's when we add maybe a muted-guitar part, a break or change the song structure. On Paradox probably 60% of the songs are Brodie's and the rest is by the other guys.
5) What is your favorite topic/topic that comes easily when you write a new song?
Normally it will be something about sci-fi, hard boiled/espionage or horror, to a lesser extent. The idea might come from a novel, a movie or sometimes even from a wordplay but, even when we get inspired from another work, we always try to put our own spin in it and take it someplace else. Song titles are very important for us: if we have a good title, we probably can scramble together a decent enough tune.
6) To what kind of music did you listen to as teenagers and does it still influence your today work? What were your favorite bands as a teenager? Name 3 bands that you consider still have a influence on your own work today.
If we had to name just 3 bands, it would probably be Ramones, Misfits and Screeching Weasel. They're the bands that the four of us will always love. It's really hard to play in a punk rock band and not be influenced by these giants.
7) Do you have a new video on youtube featuring a track from the LP??
We actually have 2! One is for "Man With the Eyepatch" and the other is for "Retrofuture". They were both done by Richard Sliw Deagen Frith from Laughin' Jula's Record Reviews! He's great!
8) What can concert goers expect at a gig of Proton Packs? Are you playing any famous cover songs?
We try to keep it short and sweet with little to no stage banter between songs. We usually play the more recent stuff we put out 'cause we like to think it's better than the older songs, ha! We don't play too many covers, but we might throw in the occasional Screeching Weasel or Lillingtons hit from time to time!
9) Are there any bands in world today you consider yourself close to?
Vapids (Jimmy sings on Real Identity), Mugwumps (Chris sings on Three Holes In My Head), Zoanoids, Black Russians, Ratbones, Livermores.
10) What are the plans for 2021 as far as Proton Packs are concerned?
We're constantly writing new songs and we're hopefully gonna do one or two splits with a couple of great bands. Let's keep our fingers crossed!
11) Anything you wanna add?
If you wanna make good albums, throw away 75% of the songs you write!
Today, Bruce Moody consider himself one lucky power pop survivor from the original heydays of an era that has long since passed.
Over the years, his musical adventures have taken him on an amazing journey through the music maze to places he never dreamed of going and it allowed him to meet many of his musical heroes. Highlights include chatting with Paul McCartney on the phone, doing shows with Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, A Flock of Seagulls, Sparks, and also bowling with members of The Go-Go's and Blondie. He also worked with Buddy Holly’s producer and manager Norman Petty at his studio in Clovis, New Mexico where Holly recorded his greatest songs. In fact, Norman Petty was the one who inspired him to write more songs and to release his first record which turned out to be the "Fresh Out!" EP.
This CD album "Forever Fresh!" is a collection of Bruce's power pop tracks from 1979 to 1986, many unreleased until now. This album has 23 songs, all of which have been meticulously digitally remixed and remastered exclusively for this release. The deluxe gatefold package contains liner notes and a website address for lyrics, the players on each song, recording dates and studio information.
01) For the viewers of this blog who would not know you, What would you tell about you and your musical background to introduce yourself?
Although I actually started playing music in bands as far back as 1968, I seem to have had the good fortune of always finding really good musicians to play with and that’s always made me a better musician. After playing in many copy bands for years in the clubs, I became interested in writing my own songs around 1977/1978.
I started recording song ideas at home on a four-track reel-to-reel tape recorder in order to perfect the songs before going into an eight-track professional studio that costs money. In 1979, I recorded a group of five or six songs at Amphion Studios in Houston. I didn’t really have a band at the that time so I asked some of the best musicians in town to help me record the songs. Although Amphion was an eight-track studio, I still had lots of little ideas for guitar lines, harmonies and percussion things I wanted to include in the songs.
I ended up playing and singing about nine different parts on every song, including my normal stage instrument of bass guitar. Three of those six songs are on the Forever Fresh! album. There’s a musical biography on my website BruceMoodyMusic.com, along with lots of photos, song lyrics and details of the players on each song.
02) Can you also introduce the other musicians who participated in the recordings? Are those the guys pictured on the inner sleeve of the CD? What instrument were they playing? Were they part of your usual touring band or were they guns for hire?
> Wow! You have to remember that these songs range from 1979 to 1986 and I played in four different bands during that period. The main players on the songs on the album are Rick Richards on drums and harmonies, Danny Kristensen on guitar and harmonies, Keith Lancaster on Keyboards, Doug Hines on keyboards, Terry Carolan on guitar and harmonies and Richard Morant on guitar and harmonies. There’s a complete personnel listing of who played what on each song on my website. Danny, Rick and I have always been the real nucleus of all my original music bands, which includes both in the studio and live shows. The guys on the inner sleeve of the CD are Danny Kristensen, Keith Lancaster, Rick Richards and myself.
03) About this 23 songs collection "Forever fresh", what can you tell about the recording process? Was this a "live" in the studio recording or a track by track recording with lots of overdubs?
All of the above, really. On the recordings where time and money were big considerations, we’d try to only use two tracks, play the basic track together live in the studio, in a nice stereo spread and then use the remaining six tracks for overdubs. I would sing the lead vocal, sometimes during the live take but on a separate track, just in case I screwed something up and had to fix it later without making us have to do another entire band take.
On some of the earlier songs, I sang most of the harmonies, mainly because I already had the blend I wanted in my head and I knew the parts. On those songs, we’d usually end up bouncing down four tracks of vocals down to two tracks, in stereo, and then there would be four more tracks left to put down a doubled lead vocal, each on their own tracks, and then two more tracks to do overdubs, like an extra rhythm guitar with a lead part on one track and either a keyboard part or percussion part, like a tambourine or something, on the last available track. If we’re rehearsed well, I like having the band play live together on the main tracks. You can really feel the energy in the takes on this album where we do that! That said, I’m playing all the instrument and doing all the vocals on “I Feel Strange”, “The Closer I Get” and “Missile Envy”.
04) If you were to record new material in 2021, would you use the nowadays digital recording technology or would you keep working only with analog machines in analog studios?
That’s a great question. Probably some combination of both digital and analog. It really comes down to feel. Sometime a digital drum part can sound so stiff and regimented that it dehumanizes the feel of the song. When you play with a live drummer, there’s a slight ebb and flow to the song that’s more natural. Of course, playing with Rick Richards for all those years really spoiled me! The guy was always rock solid, unless you asked him to play a sloshy hi-hat on the back beat during the chorus or something. Transferring basic analog tracks to a DAW works fine, though. I also prefer to actually play keyboard parts in real time, all the way through with the track, verses looping or copy/pasting all the parts.
Recording the overdubs in the digital world gives you so much instant flexibility as far as tones and effects go. It’s a very convenient medium and there are some great tools and plug-ins out there. In some instances, though, to my ears, what’s left of them anyway 😊, there can be a certain “warmth” missing sometimes that digital tools just cannot duplicate, especially in the guitars. You just have to experiment and see what sounds best to you, I think. Some of the digital plug-ins for vocals do nicely replicate that vintage warm tube sound you get from the old analog compressors. Terry Carolan turned me on to the Abbey Road mixing console plug-in and we used it every song on the album during the mastering process.
05) How would you describe the music you're playing?
I like to start out with a nice melody and lead vocal so that I’m working with an actual song verses writing something off a digital drum beat with a repetitive guitar or keyboard riff or something like that. There’s nothing wrong with that. I just like coming up with a nice lead vocal part with an interesting melody first and then adding some cool harmonies. That’s what inspires me when I’m writing. Although I don’t have an actual band right now I still like to work with song ideas as though I’m writing for a band.
06) What is/was your favorite topic/topic that came easily when you wrote a new song?
There’s always to “go to” subject of relationships and other personal life experiences. I like to write about different things, sometimes putting the real meaning or inspiration cloaked between the lines, so to speak. But sometimes not. I do like to play with words and I take great pride in the lyrics. There’s a sort of different sounding song for me on the album called “Secret Place”, which is about me dealing with depression.
I literally wrote the entire song in about 15 minutes; words and music. It’s been cathartic for me to just lay that out there. Maybe it’s helped someone else, too. I don’t know. “Secret Place” was featured in an Australian independent movie a few years ago. There’s also a song on the album called “Above Suspicion”. I’d been to a classic movie double feature back in 1983 that showed both “Above Suspicion” and “Double Indemnity”, both starring Fred MacMurray. I ended up using the title “Above Suspicion” for the song, but I used the subject matter is from “Double Indemnity”, which I thought was fun!
07) Do you have a video on youtube featuring a track from this collection?
There’s a very simple still images only video for “At The Rock Club” on YouTube right now. There’s also a video for “She’s A Liar & A Spy” out there somewhere, but I have one of those awful 1985 shag haircuts in it! Thankfully, the copy I have isn’t very good, as it was probably saved from an old VHS tape. It might be best to leave that one in the vault!
08) Way back in the days, what could concert goers expect at a Bruce Moody gig? Were you playin' any famous cover songs during the gig?
Our shows were always very high energy with lots of three and four-part harmonies. Having played in so many bands over so many years, I’ve played a ton of copy songs ranging from The Beatles, of course, The Cars, The Police … There’s even a sound check song on YouTube somewhere of my shortly-lived band Artisan playing “Yours Is No Disgrace” by Yes!
09) Are there any bands/artists in USA you considered yourself close to musically speaking, back then or now?
1960's Top 40 radio in the US was very cool! Back then, The Beach Boys harmonies were, and still are, fantastic! I’ve always liked The Association, Chicago; bands who wrote great melodies with lots of vocals. These days, I love Elbow, especially their song “Lippy Kids”. The way they approach their song arrangements and instrument parts is fantastic! There are a bunch of bands whose songs I really like these days. But the tunes stream by so fast that I forget to look and see who it was! From a pure songwriting aspect, I really like Fountains of Wayne. When their bassist and chief songwriter Adam Schlesinger died last year from Covid, I did a video tribute to him and the band with massive help from Terry Carolan, Suzu Highmarts from The Highmarts and Atsushi from the band Gorilla. The video is on my website.
10) To what kind of music did you listen to as a teenager? What were your favorite bands as a teenager? Name 3 bands/artists that you consider still have an influence on your own work.
The Beatles were probably the cornerstone of my early musical influences. I instantly fell in love with The Who, in particular Pete Townshend’s writing and John Entwistle’s bass playing. I also loved listening to Cream, Chicago, The Byrds and Hendrix when I was a teenager. I actually saw Jimi Hendrix in concert on May 9, 1969. I even met him before the show! There was something about that guy that was quite other worldly. I remember watching him play live and hearing notes coming out of his guitar that he didn’t physically seem to be playing! Beyond him using a fuzz effect or a wha-wha pedal, sometimes there would be a few extra notes ringing out from those Marshall amps, almost like an overdub! He covered a lot of ground on his guitar. The lead in “Waterfall” is an example of that.
But I still love Pete Townshend’s writing to this day. There’s such a great body of work to listen to. I got to correspond with John Wicks from The Records over the years and ask him things about how certain songs were recorded, how they did the harmonies, etc. I also got to tell him how much I loved his songs before he died. That was really special for me. Elvis Costello is another one of those writers whose songs are great to listen to and dissect. For pure power pop pleasure, The Outfield’s Biggest Innings album is hard to beat.
11) What are the plans for 2021 as far as Bruce Moody are concerned?
Later this year, Meanbean Records is releasing “At The Rock Club” on a vinyl compilation album called Standing In The Shadows - Volume One. Also, Terry Carolan and I will be recording some new stuff together, remotely of course due to Covid, probably starting this spring. There are those who’ve been wanting me to come play in Japan for the past few years. I would LOVE to do that!
12) Anything you wanna add?
Just to say thanks, Eric, for keeping us aging power popper’s music alive!