Fuzzkill Records on Freakender 2016
Ross Keppie started Fuzzkill Records while living in Shetland in 2013. Three years and a move to Glasgow later, it's one of the hottest DIY labels in the country and co-running Freakender – a three-day festival of psych and garage rock
It might be one of the leading DIY labels in Glasgow, responsible for early releases by rising stars like Catholic Action and Spinning Coin, but Fuzzkill Records started life far from the bustling city in an archipelago not readily known for its music scene. Ross Keppie and Marshall Brill, old pals from Shetland, decided in 2013 they should start a label in order to release the final 7" single by Cleavers – a cult punk band from Elgin, known for deafening live shows. Its modest success persuaded Keppie the venture was worth pursuing. But long-term planning is, he admits, not his style.
"I did two years at college studying music business on a whim," he explains. "I think I had watched that Steve Coogan film, 24 Hour Party People, like a million times, and I wanted to start a label. I didn't know what the fuck I was doing. I had never put on a gig in my life, I just liked bands, I guess. I got my college degree then moved backed to Shetland for a year to save money. My pal Marshall was putting on gigs and I started the label with him – but he's a DJ and works offshore and just didn't have time to keep it going."
Fast forward a couple of years and Keppie is co-organising one of the most exciting music festivals of the autumn. Freakender, which takes place at the Old Hairdressers in Glasgow from 16-18 September, will bring together some of the best psych, pop and garage bands from across the UK and further afield. Among those making the trip will be Los Angeles-based Feels, playing their debut Scottish show, Manchester favourites Fruit Tones and Cowtown from Leeds. They'll join familiar faces from Glasgow such as pysch heroes The Cosmic Dead, garage rock masters The Bellybuttons, freak-pop specialists Sweaty Palms and many more.
Freakender is a joint venture between Fuzzkill and fellow promoters Ian Crawford, otherwise known as El Rancho, and Holly Calder of Eyes Wide Open. "We chose the best of the local bands we like," says Keppie. "It made sense to do the whole thing at the Old Hairdressers. It's the venue I've used the most. It feels like a DIY venue. You can move the room around for how you want it. Even if there's not that many people there, it feels busy. But we're expecting good crowds for this."
Fuzzkill has just put out two new albums – Cuckoo Waltz by Lush Purr, and Glimmer by Thee Mightees – but 2016 has seen a less hectic schedule for the label compared to the previous 12 months. "I did six releases in seven weeks, while moving flat at the same time," Keppie recalls, wincing only slightly. "It was a good run, but a lot to do in such a short space of time."
Two of those bands, Catholic Action and Spinning Coin, have since signed deals with much larger labels and are being touted as potential market breakers among London A&Rs. Keppie is naturally pleased to see any Fuzzkill act do well, but doesn't see his role as making money. "I do make some money, but I don't take out any for myself – it all goes back into the next release," he says. "I like collaborating with people. If I like the band, I can put them out. I can't offer them what a major label does, but I can still be a step-up for a band. I'd love to make the label massive, but it's a hobby – so I don't want to over-complicate things, you know?
"It's just me running it. I pay people for artwork, and my girlfriend helps me with the gigs on the night. But all the decisions are mine. I've not had any problems with any nights or releases. It's been pretty plain sailing. It's not trial and error, more like rinse and repeat. I feel lucky, I guess, to have worked with so many good bands."