I recently chatted to Sounds Of A Tired City about all things Gizeh Records and made them a label mixtape.
Gizeh Records is an independent label based in Manchester, UK. Founded by Richard Knox in Leeds, 2004 and focusing on a fiercely DIY ethic, Gizeh has grown with its artists over the years to form a strong community of musicians and artists from around the world, most of them collaborating together over the years across various projects, helping the label and those involved progress and evolve in an organic, inspiring and galvanising way. Their aim is to conduct themselves with modesty and humility in an ever changing industry. They put love, care and passion into their records and their artists and continue to push their ideals and their collective as far as they can within the available means. They have no care for genres or pigeon-holes – simply the noise of harmony and the harmony of noise and the inspiration and spirit of the people who are making that noise. We spoke to Richard Knox to find out more about the artists and the history of the label and the perks of an enthusiastic DIY attitude. He also made a splendid guest mix, featuring some of the best tracks released on Gizeh Records.
How did you first get involved with music?
I was fairly late getting properly ‘into’ music, probably in my late teens really. I was at school when ‘Brit-Pop’ happened so that was my first introduction and the first time I’d been aware of particular scenes, trends and movements. Things really changed when I started to discover bands like Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Labradford who were all releasing their first records around a similar time. I remember seeing Mogwai in Leeds on the ‘Young Team’ tour in a tiny venue that has now unfortunately closed down. It was incredible and I’d never experienced live music like it before. That was the beginning of realising there was some music I could properly relate to and immerse myself in. Glissando was born out of this soon after.
When and how did you get the idea to give birth to Gizeh Records?
We’d made the very first Glissando recordings and wanted to figure out what to do with them. There were some friends making great music as 30 Day Hex back then, in the early 2000’s and we played a bunch of shows together. The label started as just a simple way to put a name on some CDr’s to sell at shows. There was no masterplan at that stage and I never envisaged doing what I’m doing now. Over the years it steadily grew piece by piece and I released a few other small things on CDr until I decided to try and do something more substantial with it all.
How would you describe the sound of Gizeh Records in 5 words?
There is no definitive sound.
What is the concept of the label?
It’s a DIY label first of all. Distribution aside we handle everything ourselves and always have. We have always tried to build something with a collaborative element in that we encourage our artists to work together, tour together and we look for artists with similar expectations and work ethics. Having a particular concept can close certain paths so we try to be open minded, try new things, work hard but mostly it’s simply about working with music we love, made by people who we respect and trust and whose company we also enjoy.
Why ‘Gizeh’ Records?
It was actually the name of mine and Elly May’s first band before Glissando. I liked the name and we never did anything more than play a few shows so I decided to take it with me. I enjoy the way it’s written and the fact that no one really knows how to pronounce it. It’s taken from the ancient pyramids in Egypt.
How do you usually find and select the artists/music you’re going to sign to your label?
They usually find us. Mostly there is already a connection somewhere to someone or something. Occasionally we happen upon an artist randomly but it’s important to get to know people before working too closely together.
What do you find the most stimulating/disappointing thing about running a label?
The obvious things are true. Hearing a piece of music one of our artists has written, getting finished physical copies back from the pressing plant, seeing an artist play a stunning show are all really exciting parts that never get old. The hardest thing is usually finances and constantly questioning and calculating if we can release a record. While the freedom of running an independent label is very liberating you have to always make mistakes or errors in judgement in order to learn and progress.
Do you think that in our digital era the non-musical elements – eg. album artwork – are overlooked and not appreciated enough? How important are these kind of aesthetics for Gizeh Records?
Yes, I do. These things are very important to us but things are changing really quickly right now and it’s not financially possible to do the things we have previously done, so you have to find new ways or be clever or sometimes even follow a trend to get the most out of a record for the artist and ourselves. The fact is that less people are buying physical products but a lot of people still are, so the calculations we have to do before deciding to release a record can be quite complex. The music industry is in a very weird place right now and it feels like it’s really trying to figure itself out. It seems like everything is almost at the maximum it can be before it breaks and collapses. As I said in another recent interview, the money pie is getting smaller and there are more people eating from that pie. It can’t continue and I don’t really see how it sustains itself going forward.
How does a ‘regular day’ look like at the Gizeh Records office?
Well, I’m an early riser so I’m usually working with a nice strong coffee at 7:30am. I do a lot of different jobs aside from or as an extension of the label; press work, tour booking, design work and obviously making music as well so I have to structure my week depending on what’s most important. Normally I’ll start the day by making a list of jobs to be done and adding things that didn’t get finished the previous day/week. I’ll then tackle as many outstanding emails as I can before heading into the main work for the day. With a label like ours there is always something more you can be doing so the work never really ends. I’ll usually do around 11 hours per day but it depends on workload. Sometimes the evenings can be free and relaxing or sometimes there is music to work on or rehearsals etc. It can be very difficult to find the right balance.
Are there any artists you would secretly love to sign to Gizeh Records?
Plenty! I’ll keep those a secret though.
Do you have a personal favourite among your releases? Which one are you the most proud of?
I’m proud of everything we’ve done in different ways because the conditions of each release always change and throw you new challenges. I think I’m most proud of the fact that we still exist without any external help.
Do you remember a particularly wonderful moment in the history of the label?
I have many great memories but if I had to pick one I think the FareWell Poetry album launch night in Paris was very special. It was in the beautiful Saint-Merry Church, right in the centre of Paris, next to the Pompidou Centre. We spent the whole day building a stage and installing the visuals in the church and so many people came. The show was just amazing and I joined them on guitar at the end of the last song which added an extra personal element to the excitement. It felt like something that would live with me for a long time.
What kind of advice would you give to someone who is interested in starting their own label?
I’d say that right now is not the best time to be trying to do that. However, I’ve never been one to adhere to such advice myself, so I think most importantly you must start out with no ambitions to make any money –especially in the early stages. That will then give you a feel of if you want to do it long-term because it can be really, really difficult and the rewards can be minimal at best at times. Obviously there are plenty of amazing elements to running a label otherwise people wouldn’t do it. It’s important to set out your expectations and your budget carefully – never stretch beyond your means. Be sure you work with artists who share your ambitions and your desires and your expectations. Communication is key and don’t be afraid to ask people for advice.
What is the latest news at Gizeh Records? What should we keep our eyes and ears on?
Our recent releases were from Ormonde and Last Harbour and we have a new Shield Patterns EP in March. There’s a new Aidan Baker album coming in April and a new 20 minute, one-track piece of music from Tomorrow We Sail which we just announced. A lot of our artists are touring in the coming months which is nice to see too, I’ll be away with Shield Patterns in Europe for a few weeks so I’m very much looking forward to that. We’re having a few months off in the summer and then there are a couple more records scheduled for the last part of the year.