9 Black Alps, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Forward Russia, The Longcut, The Bravery, The Maccabees....the list goes on of the bands that High Voltage have covered in both their fanzine and club nights. Designer Magazine caught up with High Voltage mainman Richard Cheetham to discuss how this Mancunian Institution started off as a DJ Night for mates after moving to Mancunia from Leeds. Since that night things have moved on from the early fanzines to regular gigs at Music Box, several single releases and now the album "Power Overload" which features Fear Of Music, Omerta, Lisa Brown and a host of Manchester bands and artists.
Q: High Voltage started out as the Fanzine first of all. Did you ever imagine it would become a full-time concern to the point of several single releases, weekly gigs and now the album?
The first night we did was a DJ night at our halls bar for a bunch of mates, and the other night we sold out Music Box for the Clap Your Hands gig, so its fair to say things have improved a bit! I think the momentum has just built and built really, but I never thought that we'd be releasing such high quality records so soon.
Q: Everyone has a band or record that set them on this obsessive quest for music. Mine was "Sit Down" by James which introduced me to the indiescene....what was your band or record?
A: How embarrassing! The first album I bought was by the Lightning Seeds (which is ace!) so I kind of just missed out on Brit pop. I guess it was Coldplay and Muse that really got me first interested in music, they were both totally different new bands but kind of exciting and without pretence. Then I got into a lot of late 70s punk and 80s new-wave, and kind of developed tastes for Blondie and Sonic Youth. Those are the records I go back to for inspiration every time I'm feeling down! Cos I grew in Leeds I'm not really connected with the Manchester 'sound'. i love The Buzzcocks, Joy Division, Smiths and New Order, but that's it really, and I guess that influences the style of music that HV is associated with.
Q: What was the first ever High Voltage night you put on and what are the bands doing now?
A: Well, the first band night was April 2003, and I think all the bands that played have since stopped playing! Apart from Pierre Hall who's come on a lot in that time.
(Pic: The Bravery)
Q: Just so people outside Manchester get an idea of how important High Voltage is to Manchester. You've promoted early gigs by The Bravery, Forward Russia. Give us a potted history of the High Voltage success stories?
A: Well, to me putting on early shows by Nine Black Alps, Lisa Brown, Komakino, Performance and The Longcut is a bit more special than those acts. I guess we've always been sent really good demos and I guess HV has acted on instinct by approaching these bands straight away. The first record release (Power & Demonstrations 10" EP) summarizes that feeling of loving bands and wanting to set that feeling in stone, or wax in this case!
Q: Have you had any prima donna bands that have played back and you thought, shit I really shouldn't have booked them?
A: Hmmm...I can't remember The Bravery being particularly pleasant. But I guess that you treat people the way you wish to be treated, so if you supply show bands respect and honesty, as well as plenty of beers, they usually don't complain!
Q: In the recent John Peel documentary it was revealed that he got hurt by those bands he supported early on for them to ignore him when they went onto bigger things. Have there been similar stories with the bands that have gone onto larger things?
A: I don't think so, but John Peel has obviously dealt with a lot more bands than we have! He probably grew to know how cut throat the music industry is, whereas we're just starting out. You never know, in twenty years time The KBC and Former Bullies might forget who I am completely!
Q: When booking nights which comes first - whether you specifically like a band or whether you think they will go onto bigger things?
A: HV definitely books bands who we like first but it's important to see them going somewhere and progressing as well. It often happens that we hear a band before anyone else in Manchester, off the strength of a good demo or their debut single, so we get a bit carried away sometimes. Like The Maccabees next week. One of the best new bands I've heard in ages, and we're bringing them up to Manchester from Brighton! So hopefully we can do a good job on the night.
(Pic: Forward Russia)
Q: Which gives you a bigger buzz - watching a Manchester band rise from their first gig to success, or putting on an out of town band for their first gig in Manchester?
A: It's brilliant seeing bands like Forward Russia and Nine Black Alps playing bigger gigs, mainly because they're great people who work hard and write ace music and deserve all the success. I wouldn't say that this feeling is fuelled by the fact that HV has been involved in the past though. We might try and blag a few guestlist spots if they ever headline a festival!
Q: On to the album. An eclectic range of bands from Fear Of Music to Omerta and Days For Airstrikes. How did you decide on the mass of bands for the album? Did you originally plan for a 20 track album?
A: There's no definite sound to the cities bands at the moment, and hasn't been for a few years. We just wanted to arrange a snap shot of material, from folky stuff like Liam Frost and Nancy Cunliffe to dancey guitar music from The KBC and The Whip. There's a lot of great bands in Manchester doing their own thing and we just wanted to highlight that
Q: What's your personal fave on the album?
A: I really like the Nancy Cunliffe track, but I think The Longcut's is a really ace way to close it, as it signs off a brilliant collection of tracks that work together really well despite sounding totally different.
Q: Following the album what's the plans for further High Voltage releases?
A: There's a new record by The KBC out in Feb, and hopefully a Former Bullies LP in May. We've still got a few ideas of what to do in between. It'd be nice to have a break, but there are so many cool bands out there we want to work with I don't think that's going to be possible!
Q: And finally, if someone's reading this and they want to set up a fanzine / club night - what advice would you give them?
A: Just get involved straight away. Don't even think twice. If people don't want to help you just do it yourself. Go and see as many bands as possible and build a relationship up with them and other club promoters for tips and gossip. Setting up your own night is easy to start with, but look to the future as well and see how it can progress and get better. You should respect your competition, but don't fear them. If HV can set up a label/night/fanzine then anyone can.
"Power Overload" is out now on High Voltage Sounds
Future High Voltage shows include The Maccabees, Forward Russia, Lisa Brown and The Whip
For more info on the nights / releases
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