As you would have noticed by now, Take Aim Zine has spent some time taking a look at the Scandinavian countries and their alternative culture scenes. One thing I have noticed while putting together these articles and while I was in these countries is that there is this amazing d.i.y spirit and comradery which unites the differing scenes. One of these examples is Jonk who founded Alleycat Records in Sweden five years ago. I spoke to Jonk about how the label began and the future of the record industry.
By Angie Hurlock
For Jonk, starting a record label was a childhood dream. Growing up going to concerts is what first made him realise that he wanted to be a part of the music scene. Jonk found himself a part of the music scene after some teenage stripping antics in a club. “When I was seventeen, me and a male friend were asked to strip in front of 50-60 girls at an 18th birthday party at a club. The deal was that we could stay at the club and have free booze that night. We were young and stupid and since we couldn’t enter any pub because of the 18 year rule, we thought it was a great idea. I spoke a lot with the owner of the pub that day and he asked me if I could have my birthday party there. So I had my party there and it was a packed house and since they made a great winning off the bar he asked me if I could arrange some more party nights there”. From these beginnings, Jonk began to regularly organise parties at the venue. “I did some parties where we played the music we wanted to instead of the new disco stuff they only ever played at the pubs in Lerum, the small town I grew up in. I did it for fun and then the owner started to pay me a little and I thought that maybe I could use this money to arrange some concert with live bands. So after sharing the idea with a guy I met at some punk concerts we booked some bands and had a club night.”
It was not long after this that Jonk started Club Riot with a friend from university in the much larger city of Gothenburg. “The club went well but we had different ideas of the music that should be played, he was more into heavy metal and I was not. I wanted to have variation with rock music from the 60s to nowadays rock music”. Jonk began Club Slacker with close friend Matilda at the Henriksberg which ran for several years. “Matilda became pregnant so we quit the club and I started a new one called Showdown. Same stuff, but I didn’t want to keep the name since it wasn’t us two making it any longer”.
After five years of putting on club nights in Gothenburg, Jonk felt he needed a change and that he needed to do something more. “My parents gave me their old shitty car when they bought a new one and since I never drive I thought it would be just expensive to have that car standing, so I sold it and contacted a band called Sweet Addiction to start a record deal. I had no clue how to run a record label at all but that’s the way I’ve always been doing stuff. People over all are afraid of doing new stuff without insurances, but well, just do it. You lose money, sure thing, but you gain so much more out of it. I am still not making money out of the record label. One in five records gets me some profit, but I look at it as an expensive hobby.”
Among the names on Alleycat records is Detroit trio Koffin Kats who earlier this year embarked on a six week tour of Europe. “Oh damn, most unlucky tour ever, but a good tour though. Six weeks in Europe and they played everywhere, but fucking unlucky. After five days on tour they were hit in Romania by a trailer from behind, so they got sandwiched between the trailer in front and the trailer from behind. The van got totally smashed, they had to go to hospital but they all survived and continued the tour. The tour manager Owen flew back to the UK, picked up a new van and drove back to the Czech Republic to meet the band for the next gig. They only missed one gig on the tour and then they were at the hospital. Hardcore, I say”. Also on the label are Australia’s own, Digger and the Pussycats from Melbourne. “I love those guys! [Digger and the Pussycats]. I was contacted by their last booking agent for booking gigs for them in Scandinavia, so I booked them four gigs up here and then one before the shows the agent could not be reached. I got an email one week before from the agent that said they had to cancel Scandinavia. Some weeks later I got and email from Digger and the Pussycats where they asked me if I could help out booking some gigs in Scandinavia, I told them I already did and that they had cancelled. It turned out that they never knew about the Scandinavian plans before. So I started to book their gigs up here and me and Joel from Denimzine released their album on license up here. We knew it would be a big loss but we had some extra money spare and since we both love the music and Sam & Andy, we just had to do it”.
Despite not having any knowledge of how to run a record label in the beginning, Jonk has learnt a lot over the last five years and would suggest to those thinking about starting a label, not to plan too many releases. “I planned one release in March and one in June and so on for a year and since 99% of the bands get delayed with the recording, the design and so on, you just end up with having three releases in one month and then prostitution is the only solution to get money for all the releases. I also recommend to work kind of like a management for the band. Be sure to them a booking agency and help with merchandise and so on. If they don’t play a lot live it’s hard to sell records nowadays”.
For now Jonk plans to focus on the releases that Alleycat has upcoming and to continue with his club nights in Gothenburg. “Right now Trubbel’s new 7-inch is being pressed and albums for The Kendolls, Transwagon and Impo & The tents are all in the making. After that some tour booking, and running the clubs, after those releases I will wait for a while before I release some more since I need to have more time between the releases to be able to work professionally with it. I will book some less since it’s hard to have time for everything. I’ll focus on Showdown and Club Slacker and the record label and try to get some better distribution”. The future of Alleycat records sees it going c.d free and focusing on vinyl releases only. “It’s [vinyl] a cooler format and most records are sold at livegigs and mailorders nowadays and if you take me for example, I buy a lot of 7-inches and LP’s but rarely a c.d”.