Anyone who has spent time in Manchester in the past 2 years and had even a passing interesting in music could not fail to have been affected by the work they’ve done down at The Deaf Institute. As well as supporting the best promoters in the city and putting on some of the most amazing gigs off their own back as well, they’ve built up a loyal base of great local bands who could honestly call the venue a second home. But that, teamed with their excellent food menu and ever popular 2-for-1 cocktail offers obviously wasn’t enough, as earlier in the year the venue moved into opening up its own record label, in Suffering Jukebox.
It’s probably a bit early in the lifespan of the imprint to start going on about roles and position, but whatever the name you give it, Jack Cooper is pretty influential in what they put out. More well known from his role as singer in the oft-hyped lo-fi sun drenched guitar based chill vibe underground languid garage pop band Mazes, Jack has mined talent from both the local area and from further afield to get the acts for Suffering Jukebox. There’s also a weekly clubnight and a hot blog as well, meaning it’s pretty much a one stop shop for all the best new music you’ve never heard of. Anyway, he took time out from his new, hip London lifestyle to answer a few questions about the label and, inevitably, some other things too.
Hello. For those that don’t know, tell us a bit about yourself and what you do:
Hey my name’s Jack Cooper and I run a record label called Suffering Jukebox, I’m in a band called Mazes and I work for The Deaf Institute in Manchester. I manage to have a pretty fulfilling social life as well.
You’ve just moved down to London, haven’t you? Why have you moved away from Manchester?
Well my girlfriend got an acting job that she couldn’t turn down. We’ve wanted to move for a while really… No reflection on Manchester as a place but I lived there for nearly 10 years.
And how do you feel the two cities differ? From up here, the capital seems absolutely terrifying.
Ha I’m not sure why, it’s really just like a bunch of Manchesters clumped together with more things to do if your mum comes to visit. As far as running a record label, it’s kind of irrelevant because of the internet
When did you start getting into music on a more active level, in terms of doing stuff rather than listening to music/going to gigs?
I don’t really know, just fell into it. Whether it’s being in a band or running a label…I suppose a certain level of arrogance kicked at some point and I thought “I can do better than you”
So yeah, you run (or help run, whatever) Suffering Jukebox. Why did you start the label? How’s it been so far?
It’s been good…occasionally stressful because to an extent I’m in control of someone else’s’ art or dream. I’ve fucked up once or twice and it feels pretty terrible because I know what it’s like being in a band and having to wait around for a label guy who really isn’t any more qualified to do this than me. My favourite part of being in a band or making music is when I first come up with a melody or riff in my head and finding a new band is completely up there with that feeling.
How do you find the bands you’ve been putting out? And how was it putting out a record by your own band?
Well working for the Deaf Institute, you get to hear a lot of new bands so Milk Maid and Brown Brogues came via that. Former Bullies I’ve admired for years…really ever since they started and I think Nick is one of the best songwriters I know. When we started the label, I thought maybe I could give them a hand because no-one has ever really paid them any attention. The Bat Caves tape came about when we met their singer Anna by chance at a Mazes show…she dropped that she used to sing in this band and I was totally blown away when I googled them the next day. Palmz and Colleen Green were just by spending an insane amount of time trawling the internet and following MySpace ‘friends’ puzzles.
The Mazes record was completely unrewarding to put out… Doing a record is really easy but getting press is tough and demoralising. Even if you’re peddling an awesome record like the Mazes one ha, it’s still pretty soul destroying and I felt uncomfortable pushing my own band like that. I’m speaking honestly because getting press is pretty much like a networking exercise…I’m sure people are aware of that but it’s completely who you know not what you know
And what’s your process for putting out a record? Do you manage to make any money from it?
It’s really easy – find a band, ask them to do a single, get in the region of £500, upload the songs and artwork to the manufacturer and then wait. It’s simple and more people should do it. Joel at The Deaf Institute put up the cash for the first release and it has to break even from there on in as a business or whatever, so it’s not like we have endless funds or anything but it’s breaking even-ish. If I could do this full time then maybe it’d make money…
It’s all run from/with The Deaf Institute as well, and you’re still involved with the venue despite fleeing the city. What are your views on it? What’s it like being on ‘the inside’ of it all?
Ha Well I love it obviously…I think it’s the best venue around, it has the best band booker, it looks great. I wish it was in London because London really has nowhere like it. I never think of it as being something that people are interested in but yeah I love working there.
Might as well ask whilst you’re here: How’s it going with Mazes? Rumour has it you’ve signed a huge record contract.
It’s a completely huge record contract relatively, because we never thought that anyone would be interested in putting faith in us and the label is one that we all really love and respect. I’m excited about seeing how a label works an album, so I can do one on Suffering Jukebox.
What was the first piece of music you ever purchased? I think mine was The Offspring’s ‘Get a job’, something that still makes me cringe.
It was Bad by Michael Jackson on tape from Cobweb Records in Poulton le Fylde.
Anyway, you’re a ‘triple threat’ label, as you say, putting on a night and doing a blog as well as all the other stuff. Was that a purposeful decision or what?
No not really…none of this is on purpose. I just fall into things and hope for the best
Which other labels do you admire?
I’ve never really been one of these people that follows record labels because in reality a record label is just one or two people’s personal taste. It’s almost impossible to find one that fits you completely… Labels that are run by friends are the ones I admire the most like Paradise Vendors, Italian Beach Babes and Sex Is Disgusting. Labels that I don’t admire are ones subsidised by majors as a kind of testing ground for things they don’t have the guts to take a chance on…or a way of gaining some indie cred.
And what have you got in the pipeline for SJ? And where do you see it all going? Is there anything else you’re planning on branching out into?
We really want to do an album for someone next year and I’m hoping I figure out how by doing this Mazes album… other than that it’d be cool for the label to be more well known than The Deaf Institute…y’know personally I’d like that ha
Lastly: any new bands that you’d suggest listening to?
Oh loads… Colleen Green, Palmz, Sun Electric Band and Former Bullies are all going to be doing stuff on Suffering Jukebox and then wow er… Hounds of Hate, Dead Gaze, Spectrals, Bhurgeist, Girlfriends, Graffiti Island, and Plug – the Plug album is going to rule.