It’s been 10 years since Nathan Barley Phillips and his half-brother Jake Smith set up Basick Records, a label that would later become synonymous with the rise of the tech scene in the UK and beyond.
“It was a very organic thing to begin with,” Barley tells Hammer. “We ended up making tons of CDs by hand, handed them out at gigs and distributed things online via MySpace.”
Their journey hasn’t always been easy, though, with an especially steep learning curve at the beginning.
“For the first four years, we didn’t have enough releases and hadn’t picked up enough momentum,” explains Barley. “I’d invested every penny I had and I was seeing nothing back. I needed to put my money where my mouth was – it was either taking the label on full-time, or giving up. Luckily, I took a massive gamble and it’s OK now!”
As the first label to release Enter Shikari with Anything Can Happen In The Next Half Hour and the name behind Bury Tomorrow’s 2009 debut Portraits, Basick have proved their talent-spotting worth alongside major labels. Their current roster, featuring rising prog stars Skyharbor and atmospheric metallers Devil Sold His Soul, just goes to show that a decade of hard work in an unpredictable industry has paid off.
“I’m glad Basick has got to 10 years,” says Barley. “I never thought for one minute we would make it this far, given how we started out. With people’s spending on music going down and piracy going up, we have had to adapt as we’ve gone along. We were born in turbulent times and we’ve never known any different.”
Who better to curate this month’s CD of their most brutal roster highlights than the Basick mastermind himself? To accompany this shred-filled soundtrack, Barley stopped by to reveal 10 things that have come to define his label.
1. It’s a family affair
Barley: “Me and my brother Jake sat down over dinner and naïvely decided to help the amazing local bands such as Enter Shikari and Fellsilent that weren’t branching out. We started the label from our parents’ spare bedroom with only £250. We made our own CDs, and printed and cut everything with a guillotine on the kitchen table. Jake no longer works with us, but he comes back to help sometimes.”
2. They’ve taken risks
“Before Basick, I was Operations Manager for an aerospace company. I had a great salary, but I was having so much fun with the label. I jacked it all in and the rest is history. I had to put my house up as equity against the loan I took out!”
3. It’s named after their philosophy
“A lot of the bands we’ve picked up are doing something very different to the norm; they’re starting the next wave of heavy and technical music. It’s a play on words, because we set out with the remit to release bands that are anything but basic but are also sick.”
Above: Alaya were signed in 2012
4. Their first signing spawned three heavyweight bands
“Our first signing was Fellsilent, with their EP [The Double A] in 2005 and their debut The Hidden Words . [Guitarist] Acle Kahney went on to form Tesseract, [guitarist] John Browne went to Monuments, and [drummer] Christopher ‘Noddy’ Mansbridge went to Heart Of A Coward. I’m glad we played a small part in giving those guys their first platform.”
5. They unite nations
“I was always sure of Skyharbor’s talent, but I was surprised by Keshav Dhar’s journey from just a guy in his bedroom in India, creating music and posting it on Soundcloud, to international recognition and a headlining European tour. It proves the power of the internet and that the world is getting smaller.”
Above: a young Bury Tomorrow, whose debut, Portraits, was released on Basick
6. They kick-started Bury Tomorrow’s career
“I’m very proud we released Bury Tomorrow’s first record, Portraits. They were the up-and-coming metalcore band contending with everybody. They’ve gone on to do great things, and now they’re right at the forefront of UK metalcore. It’s awesome to see them doing so well.“
7. They’re small but loved
“We only sign two to three bands per year because we don’t have the infrastructure for more. There’s a small number of people working for us, but we’ve made a community around us and the fan engagement is high. Fans pick up the records just because the label’s name is on it.”
8. They predicted the tech explosion
“Ten years ago, metal was in a very different place after nu metal. The rise of the tech scene and Basick have gone hand in hand. Sikth were way ahead of their time. They’re doing much better than before; they came back to a receptive audience that understands them.”
9. They help out other labels
“I’m part of the Association Of Independent Musicians, a resource for companies looking for advice. I help people starting labels by making them aware of the resources available. If I could have my time again, I’d have sought more help and saved myself four years of ballache!”
10. They’re still humble
“It was a real ‘holy shit’ moment to be mentioned in the same breath as Earache, Epitaph and Relapse at the Golden Gods nominations this year. Those guys are 25-30 years old and I’ve always looked up to them.”
Basick’s free 10th birthday party is at London Camden Barfly on September 25. Grab your wristband at www.basick.supplies. A limited-edition vinyl, Decade Of Progression, is out at the end of September.