In this new edition of Collector's Corner we talk to Nick Allport, concert promoter and founder of UK indie labels Che and Club AC30. Living in Portugal for 5 years now, he's been busy bringing great live acts to the west region of Portugal with Cartaxo Sessions, but he exceeded himself with this year's Reverence festival (a heavy psych smorgasbord featuring bands like Hawkwind, The Black Angels or Electric Wizard) which takes place in September in the village of Valada. On this interview, Nick recollects his crazy days in the mid-to-late 80s UK indie scene and comes clean about sound level abuse on the countryside.
What led you to become interested in music and records?
I guess from an early age my mum used to play music around the house. She was a big Beatles fan and had all the albums up to Sergeant Pepper, she loved Dylan too, and later on Kate Bush and Abba. I got a radio when I was 10, and used to listen to stuff at night in bed. But it was listening to John Peel when I was a bit older that I started hearing bands that I became obsessed with when I was older, Jesus & Mary Chain, Cocteau Twins, The Smiths, Echo & The Bunnymen, Bad Seeds, that sort of thing.
What made you transit from being a music lover to a record label owner/concert promoter? Was it chance or a will to share your favourite music with the world?
I think it was more about wanting to be involved in some way. I couldn't play any instruments, although it did try to learn guitar for a while, but I was hopeless. So I started off doing a fanzine with a friend, we used to have these flexidiscs with them sometimes, and eventually the fanzine sort of faded away and then it became a proper record label when we met The Telescopes and started working with them. Promoting shows didn't come until much later. My brother did some shows when he was at college in Salisbury, Manic Street Preachers was one of them actually. And when we started Club AC30 in 2003 the main purpose was to promote live shows in London.
Do you still get a chill down your spine when you listen to an exciting new band? Do you feel the urge of trying to sign them?
I think I get that more from seeing a band live rather than listening to a record. I remember seeing Whipping Boy for the first time, this would have been 1989 I guess, at the Falcon in Camden. They were absolutely incredible. I don't listen to music all the time because I find it can be quite emotionally draining, I have to be in the mood. But now I live in the country, when everyone's out I can open the doors and really blast it out across the vineyards. That always feels good...
Which is the band you're most proud of having signed to one of your labels?
I don't think anything will beat those first couple of years of The Telescopes, going from tiny rooms in pubs to main stage at Reading Festival. That was a crazy time. There were some really dodgy moments, a lot of audience violence with them for some reason. They supported Primal Scream at ULU one time, it was a particularly difficult show, people spitting and throwing stuff, lots of drugs around. Some of the records we did on Che were really great as well, the first Disco Inferno album is amazing, although the band will deny that.
Format of choice: vinyl or CD?
Vinyl, without a doubt! I do own a lot of CD's actually, but I don't really play them much these days. I have a 1974 National Panasonic record player that a friend sold me, sounds really nice, so I play my records on that.
What is the most important album of your life?
I think the album that probably changed my life was Treasure by Cocteau Twins. I'd never heard anything like that, and it totally immersed me in alternative noisy music. But I guess the most important album was probably Psychocandy. I was obsessed with Jesus & Mary Chain in the mid 80's. I can't even listen to that these days...
What was the last record that amazed you?
In recent times, two records come to mind. Titans by Black Bombaim, which is an incredibly brave record to release these days. Four track double album, all tracks between 10 and 20 minutes long, basically instrumental, absolutely amazing record. And then Dead Magick by Dead Skeletons, when I first heard Dead Mantra I was hooked, those guys are really out on the edge, and there's something really evil about the sound they make. They played one of their first shows at CCC in Cartaxo, we had nearly 200 people, one of the best shows I've ever seen. And I've seen a lot of shows.
What is the one record that you don't have and you're most looking for?
There's not really anything in particular, but I am trying to accumulate good condition copies of the Hawkwind early albums. I have some of the reissues, but it's not quite the same as having the originals.
Tell me an interesting story about buying records, either because of the purchase process itself, or for the importance (commercial or emotional) of the records in question.
For me what I really love is when a record is created by a band or a label and you can see the love. I remember buying Land Beyond the Sun 7" by Flying Saucer Attack at Sister Ray in Berwick Street, hand written numbers (I had #13), and stamped with cut up potatoes. There's been numerous times when I've sat on my own, or with a group of people, numbering sleeves, putting records in bags. We did this single with a band called Tindersticks on Che in 1992, a 10" single called Marbles, and all of us sat around their dining table folding and stamping, putting these beautful records together. We sold 2500 of that record before we gave up making them, it makes me a bit sad because that couldn’t happen these days.
Check out Nick Allport's Club AC30 artists and releases, and make sure you buy your ticket to Reverence Valada (it's cheaper until the end of the day)!
Have you enjoyed this article? Then take a look at the previous editions of Collector's Corner with Paulo Coelho and Rui Miguel Abreu.