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Interview: Punktastic Un-Scene 5

Our good friends at Walnut Tree Records and Punktastic Recordings recently released a 40 track compilation album, 'Punktastic Un-Scene 5'.

The compilation can be downloaded for free but donating towards Everyman, a UK-based male cancer charity is encouraged.

Sean recently spoke to Paul Savage from Punktastic Recordings about how the 'Punktastic Un-Scene 5' came together and the involvement of Everyman.

ATP: What was the motive to first bring back Punktastic Recordings and than to revive the Un-Scene series?
Paul: It would perhaps be best to give a little background before answering this. Punktastic Recordings ran for five years and put out about 18 releases before we called it a day in 2008. What had started as a bit of fun became more of a business; we were, in essence, the victims of our own success. Expectations ended up exceeding what we thought we could deliver - bands would immediately ask us 'can we support the bigger bands as others on the label have?' and it became more about ensuring we sold 1,000 CDs to balance the books than having fun, which was the initial aim. There was one incident where a major label claimed royalties we had a verbal agreement with a band not to pay and that was the straw which broke the camel's back. We paid up and shut up shop. The bands went their separate ways and for 51 weeks we enjoyed a break. Then I spoke to Andy and we started to consider bringing it back, although removing the money aspect of things. I know there are plenty of other donation-based or free labels out there, but we wanted to do our own little thing, unoriginal or not. I hadn't even considered bring Un-Scene back until Tom Beck from Walnut Tree Records floated the idea. I came up with the charity side and then it spiralled out of control from there!

ATP: What is the basic concept and purpose of the Un-Scene compilations?
P:It's always been a very simple concept - promote bands that we love. We've been lucky to have featured a lot of bands that have gone on to do good things - Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, The Steal, Sonic Boom Six, My Awesome Compilation, Phinius Gage...lots of very cool bands.

ATP: How did Un-Scene 5 come together, especially the partnership wiith Walnut Tree Records?
P: Tom at WTR actually asked me if I fancied doing something based on Un-Scene and we kicked a few ideas around before deciding on the free download, which would allow people to donate to charity if they wanted to. We then talked about bands we wanted to be on there and things kind of snowballed from there. I think it's been 3 months from initial idea to release date. Tom's put a lot of hard work in, he's been the one doing most of the donkey work. He's the brains, I'm the beauty. Or something.

ATP: I understand you asked for bands to submit music to the compilation. How many submissions did you receive?
P: Lots. And lots. And lots. We always do with the Un-Scene compilations. We've been very lucky that we've been able to ask friends in bands and also be knocked out by the quality of bands who, up until that point anyway, we'd never actually heard before. We've tried to always have different styles and genres on the compilations to cater for as many people as possible and while we know we won't always win everyone over, I'm confident there's enough to keep people interested on all five Un-Scenes.

ATP: Were there any bands that you especially went after to appear on the compilation?
P: I know Tom wanted a couple of the Walnut Tree bands on there and I personally approached Attention, but this time around we decided not to target more established artists and instead wanted to try and focus on newer bands. We thought it was important to showcase bands people may not have heard before. I think that works on Un-Scene 5.

ATP: Would you agree Un-Scene 5 is a good representation of the current state of British independent music?
P: You may be surprised to hear that I don't actually agree with that statement! I think the UK scene has such a diverse range of bands and styles and that's not something you can encompass on one record. I think the Un-Scenes give a taster as to what is going on, but Punktastic has always been at the poppier end of things and this compilation is no different. It's a good representation of one particular style of music, but it's not really meant to showcase British music as a whole. You'd need more than 40 tracks to do that!

Which bands are your personal favourites on the compilation?
P: That's like asking a father which of his children is his favourite! I think Francesqa are a fantastic little band and I've been in love with them since I first heard their EP. I also love Attention who do their thing in some style. So if you were to only check out two bands make it those two, although you'd be missing out on 38 others!

ATP: Un-Scene 5 can be downloaded for free and donations to the Everyman charity. Can you tell us a bit about the Everyman charity?
P: Call me sexist, but there's a lot of publicity about female cancer and the male disease seems to get brushed under the carpet a bit. Men are not good at dealing with illness and can be complacent about doing anything about it. Everyman does a fantastic job at raising awareness and I hope that by doing our little bit, PT readers can educate themselves on a massive issue and maybe even help them in the future.

ATP: Are there any specific reasons for this charity?
P: Yes. In January this year I discovered a lump in a place where no man ever wants to find one. It took me three weeks to do anything about it. Eventually my girlfriend convinced me to go to the doctors. We both assumed I was being silly and it would be nothing, but the doctor was concerned enough to book me an appointment with a specialist. In March I saw a specialist who was also concerned and within five days I was on a hospital operating theatre trolley going under the knife to have it removed. Thankfully it ended up being nothing serious, but you never know. And while I had many people supporting me saying 'it will be OK' you never know until you've been checked out. I read up on the work of Everyman during that process and the support was invaluable. This compilation, hopefully, will give people in a worse situation than me the hope and support they need to get through their predicament - and help raise some funds for the charity too.

ATP: Are you worried that more people will download it for free and not donate?
P: They already are - at time of writing we've had more than 1,500 downloads, raised £225 and I think less than 25 people have donated. It's a small percentage but we knew it would happen. It would have been cool if everyone donated 50p - Hell, I even donated a few quid - but people like their music for free so that's how we deal with it.

ATP: What is your stance on giving away music? What are the pros and cons of free music?
P: From a music lover's viewpoint, I welcome free music. I'd obviously rather not pay for music than pay for it. But I understand that's not feasible in the long-term. There are many associated costs with releasing music and artists and labels (or other backers) should be rewarded as such. That doesn't mean labels can get away with ripping people off; I think the days of £15 albums are long gone. Music isn't as valuable as it was anymore, hence why labels/bands have jumped on the resurgence of vinyl and often do pre-order bundles with t-shirts. Anything that makes music more valuable has been looked at. If you're a small artist wanting to spread the word, then free music is the way to go. But you won't be able to absorb those costs with a long term music career without some kind of income. It's the inevitable Catch 22.

'Punktastic Un-Scene 5' is available here through Walnut Tree Records/Punktastic Recordings with optional donations to Everyman.

More information on Everyman can be found here.

Sean Reid

Alter The Press!