Martin: “Hi I’m Martin Downing, I live up in Newcastle and I’ve played in a band called Lavotchkin for seven years until earlier this year when we split up and now play in a band called End Reign which I’ve been part of the last year. However, although my initial brain child, I must introduce Oliver Goodland the other main operator of Church Of Fuck who is just as much COF as I am.”
Oliver: “Yo, I’m Oliver, I started singing in bands 12 years ago when I was 15, my first band was basically a Will Haven covers band, I’ve been in allsorts of bands since then, racking up an impressive personal debt and having a whale of a time. I moved to Manchester in July of last year, formed a metallic hardcore band called Knife Crimes and met Martin properly in November, although I am a long-standing Lavotchkin fan after seeing them back in 07 or thereabouts…”
What made you want to start Church of Fuck?
Martin: “I guess first and fore-most I am an absolute music obsess, so naturally the thought of being able to put out bands I like has always been an aspiration. However, the initial reason for COF’s creation was to support friends doing heavier bands in the North East area, although not long after COF’s beginning it became apparent that there were awesome bands from outside of the North East that we wanted to do something with. At the same time I met Ollie and him being in Manchester naturally opened up the flood gates for COF to focus on the whole of Northern England. Then Let It Die turned up on our radar and everything went out the window as they were too good not to put out and not far off the south coast. So fuck it, we’re just supporting good heavy music now.”
Oliver: “Yeah I was toying with the idea of starting a label, I really wanted to work with Swinelord a band from Manchester who we have ended up putting out on COF, but time/money constraints and doing shows/being in a band held me back, I was a big fan of the whole concept of COF when it started and was eager to get Knife Crimes involved, Martin told me I was welcome to get as involved with the label as I would like so I jumped at the opportunity and am happy to run it alongside him as I am also a heavy music nerd! I liked that it was just original for his mates bands, reminded me of labels like Robotic Empire who clearly just work with their mates/a few scenes, it has more of a community feel, real grassroots, real mates who are playing shows together and enjoying playing music, no funny business.”
Is Church of Fuck a one-man endeavor or are there other staff working with on you?
Martin: “Asides to Oliver and myself also active Fuck contributors are Dave Youll, who plays Bass in End Reign who has been dealing with art and layout stuff. Matt Philips other guitarist in End Reign is also joining in towards the end of the year putting out his first tape (for an awesome band called Razor Eater) and putting on the odd FUCK show in the North East later in the year. A guy called Dia Artio has also been contributing some unreal art work to the fuck family so please check him out also!
Church Of Fuck in all honesty is more of a collective than a record label, as anyone who wants to get involved officially or not is more than welcome. We don’t want to be seen as Ollie and mines record label or as a boys club for people who play in bands…. Good music and getting people to check it out is all that matters. Not meaning to sound like I’m name dropping but we’ve had a lot of support from a lot of people in this early stage that do deserve a thank you and mention. So shout outs to the guys at V revolution in Manchester, the Night Terrors distro, the Bitter North records guys/girls, the mighty Witch Hunter Records, Moshtache Records and Londons best dude Paul Caudell.”
Oliver: “Yeah Martin created the label but anyone who wants in and can help spread the word/help creatively is more than welcome to chuck us an email, spread the word whatever way they can, it is definitely more of a collective/open forum than a strict label with a boss and ‘co-owner’ or anything like that, we just want to share good music we love/get people involved, that is something that has always appealed to me about heavier music, anyone can form a band/start a zine/start a label and pretty much be at the same level as everyone else up to a point, some people probably think that is a bad thing, but we view it as a good inclusive thing! Oh and my first 2 releases for the label are 2 Manchester bands, reissues of the Swinelord tape, although the first run was extremely limited… and a reissue of the Esoteric Youth tape which was originally released on Night Terrors, the label run by Dom and Gio of Esoteric Youth. Swinelord are an awesome and under-rated grindcore/crust band and Esoteric Youth are pretty much 4 of my best mates from Manchester and make amazing blackened hardcore, I do guest vocals on their demo, and their singer Dom did guest vocals on the Knife Crimes demo, we’re just a bunch of mates from the North who love heavy music really, I’m very happy to be able to bring some Manchester bands to the label though, Manchester has an incredible music scene and a lot of good people doing good things.”
Why the focus on cassettes?
Martin: “I’d love to give you a better reason than this, though it was a great way to start as we are absolute paupers. Don’t get me wrong, I like Tapes and own a great deal still myself, though if either Oliver or myself happened to be a secret rich kid we’d have been releasing on vinyl. However although tapes are somewhat dated, the other appeal for us to do tapes was that we wanted to create a product of worth out of something that stereotypically had little value. With the tapes we’ve done, its essential that we try to make the tape itself and packaging as nice as possible so it is worth someone looking after and owning.
Oliver: “It’s a retro thing, the idea of tapes for me, I think every band should do a demo tape, the people who release them and buy them are in my eyes expressing that they don’t see music as a disposable commodity, the fact most people don’t have tape players doesn’t factor in it for me, money is changing hands for music from the people who want it to the people who create it, I like the fact that the people at the top of the music industry and tearing their hair out and declaring music dead and the music industry is being killed… whereas all over the world there are kids (and adults) releasing self-recorded music on dead formats and selling out 100s at a time, it’s a statement of love for music to me, the same as vinyl, just cheaper for us to do, as Martin says if we had the dollar we’d be doing records, hopefully one day.”
What bands are currently on your roster and where can our readers check out their music?
Martin: “Firstly, all Church Of Fuck releases are made available for free download and stream. So if you’d like to listen to what we’ve put out to date, follow this link: http://churchoffuck.bandcamp.com/
So far we have put out releases for Hades from Durham, Knife Crimes from Manchester, Lavotchkins last release (which was originally meant to be a 12inch though we split up) and Let It Dies first record (that was meant to be released on Southern Lord, though the label over committed themselves unfortunately.) Fourth coming we have Swinelord and Esoteric Youth, both from Manchester both demo EPs being re-released by us, Iced Out have a new EP they want us to do end of the summer, End Reign want to do a discography to date with a couple of new tracks and Matt Philip’s debut release later in the year for Peterborough’s Razoreater. Soon as the fourth coming tapes go online to order, we’ll have their releases available for all to stream/ free download. So keep an eye on our bandcamp! We’d love people to use it and its free so what more do you want!?”
The UK hardcore scene is thriving at the moment. Why do you think this genre of music has become so popular? It’s not exactly radio friendly.
Martin: “I have literally no idea but it is better more people are into it than not whatever the case. At a stab in the dark though I’d give credit to the long term efforts of people like Dead And Gone Records, TDON, Hemlock 13, CTW, Purgatory, FITA, the work ethic of a lot the UK’s HC bands touring wise and all the UK promoters who’ve been supporting the shows. I guess It’s been a long time coming, but as much as I like hardcore I’m not a diehard hardcore fan, more just a big Heavy music fan across genre, so my opinion probably doesn’t count for shit ha… ”
Oliver: “An interesting question, and eloquently put. In my opinion, the UK hardcore scene has always been thriving, and it’s just the rise of social networking/the internet which has brought it more into the fore. Places like Leeds, and Canterbury and numerous other cities have always had prestigious hardcore scenes, and places that don’t even have such great scenes have still been host to awesome shows. I just genuinely think that it’s easier for people to find out about bands/shows these days thanks to technology, no one goes to a show not knowing who the bands are anymore, which is a little bit of a shame, but any band someone hears of they can just google it in seconds and be on their bandcamp and listening to them now, it’s almost too easily accessible… but yeah, like Martin says, whatever the reason, it’s a very good thing and there is a very good scene. Also, I’m not into hardcore at all besides metallic and blackened hardcore, I got into heavy music through metal and grindcore before I got into more hardcore-ish bands like Coalesce, Deadguy and Converge… But Knife Crimes are more hardcore-orientated and End Reign, Knife Crimes and Church Of Fuck have a lot of hardcore kids who dig, but we are definitely more into heavy music as a whole, metal, grindcore, punk, and in general the darker side of hardcore. But the scene is very open-minded for the most part, and we embrace all forms of aggressive music and hope we can offer something worthwhile into the fray.”
You’re curating your own ‘Fuck Fest’ on the 29th of September; excited?
Oliver: “Yo bro, yeah that’s me, I started putting on shows when I moved to Manchester in July, basically because I had lived in a tiny town with almost no scene (bar the odd few shows) all of my life and I was eager to get to the big city and put on some shows. I lost a fucking fortune, because i paid bands even when i didn’t break even (bar Slabdragger who I owe £20 as I couldn’t afford what we agreed, and Black Mass who I owe £50, because I literally didn’t have the money and it was a big show, I will pay you back one day bros) but yeah, I just put on my mates bands really, few bands from down South, few bands from up North than I just wanted to see, I only ever put on bands I liked myself (apart from a few that were in package deals) but it was a good way to learn the Manchester scene (bands, venues, people etc.) and to make a load of friends/lose a fortune. I stopped doing it for a while after I put on Deafheaven (one of my favorite bands) to concentrate on Knife Crimes and to save some money back, but I’m doing FUCK FEST as a celebration of Church Of Fuck and our little collective in general, again I’d class them all as friends, but hopefully people will be interested and come out, I love the TDON alldayers and the whole vibe of them so I guess this is our little-ass version of that, it’s all the bands on COF plus my mates in Grazes and Reparation the latest Witch Hunter Records band, should be a blast! £6 presale to email@example.com, your name will go on the door on the day if you do that, and £8 on the door on the day, doors at 12 midday, first band on at 1pm, Kraak Gallery, Manchester, it’s my birthday as well so I’ll be drunk as fuck making a fool of myself and being bullied by my straight edge mates as usual. Come down if you can make it, it’ll be a laugh indeed.”
Not all the bands who are playing Fuck Fest have had music released on Church of Fuck. Is this an indication towards future releases?
Oliver: “The only 2 that haven’t are Grazes, who we would love to work with, holla if you want any tapes done fools and Reparation who are working with Witch Hunter Records but who are good kids and who I wanted involved as I have been promising them a Manchester show for months after they got in touch with me!”
Regarding future releases, who would be your dream band/bands to work with?
Martin: “There are too many bands I’d kill to do a limited release for worldwide, so I’ll keep it UK to be interesting. I’d fucking love to do a Dope Fight limited discography tape, love that band! If Throats hadn’t of already done a limited discography tape when they split up I’d be on that shit tomorrow. Also I’ve been a November Coming Fire fan since I was seventeen years old buying Black Ballads from them, so for huge nostalgia reasons a limited tape for those guys would be awesome.”
Oliver: “November Coming Fire seconded, I’ll keep it UK also otherwise it’d get silly: The Guillaume Seam (best UK band ever), Christa Pike (most under-rated UK band ever), there are loads of UK bands I love but who already have labels etc. but I’ll list them anyway: Anguish, Burnt Earth, Hang The Bastard, Cease To Exist, Unholy Majesty, Slabdragger, Black Mass, WODE, Pine Barrens, Grazes, Hammers, Dragged Into Sunlight, Tyburn, Wayfarer, Abyss, fuck man, I could go on forever, there are SO many good bands in the UK, so many good little scenes and so many good people, I’m very happy with our current roster but would cut off my let nut to work with any of the bands I’ve just listed…”
Any chance of future releases getting released in larger prints instead of the standard 50? You seem to sell out pretty quick!
Martin: “Whilst we’re releasing on tape I can’t see us increasing the size of our runs unless it gets to a stupid point where things are selling out in an hour. The Lavotchkin tape sold out in 3 hours or something like that so we let our friends Dead Dead Dead Music in Scotland do a second run with different art work a few days after, so it didn’t devalue the 1-50 COF tape people got straight away on ordering. I guess in my head I see the limited Tape for the more die hard / collectable fans and the free download/ stream for everyone else. The important thing for me is getting people to listening to the bands.”
Oliver: “Yeah if we got a bigger band we might do a run of 100 tapes, but any bigger than that and we may as well go with records and do runs of 200/300 and step the whole operation up a bit, I really would love for it to get to that point but me and Martin have jobs/educational shit/lives/limited money to put into it, so we’ll just have to see… if we started doing 7 inches for slightly bigger bands though that’d be awesome, just gotta see what happens in the next year or so!”
What’s your take on keeping physical music relevant? Considering all your releases have sold out it’s obviously still important for some.
Martin: “I absolutely hate it when a bands songs are released for digital download without a product to support. With the future of music looking very download orientated I feel it’s important that music’s physical product doesn’t get lost in time, as downloads for me personally are the wrong side of disposable.”
Oliver: “Yeah, it’s nice for music to have a physical equivalent to the non-existent MP3s, even if it is just a run of 50 tapes. I am old and uncool and still like CDs also, my collection has records, CDs and tapes, I like all 3 for different reasons, I like music and the packaging/memories I associate with it, I remember buying my first record which was ‘Document#7’ by Pageninetynine, I remember playing my Slipknot CD over and over again on repeat when I was 15, I remember doing big orders from Deathwish, Robotic Empire and stuff when I started collecting, getting tonnes of stickers and cool little notes, it’s all good man, it’s what makes memories of music, who remembers when they downloaded an album from mediafire fondly? It’s fucking soulless.”
Are you going to continue releasing music exclusively on cassettes or can we expect some vinyl/CD releases in the future?
Martin: “The long term plan if we can get some money together is to see about doing the odd vinyl. We don’t really make any money off the tapes, so is more a case of when we’re both in slightly better financial situations and Church Of Fuck is a little more established.”
Oliver: “Yeah as we’ve said a couple of times, 7 inch records is the goal… and when we have a bit more money, I’m about to start training as a chef so when I am on a better wage, and Martin is a millionaire producer hanging out with Ross Robinson and Rick Rubin and when I am kicking about with Ramsey and co and have my own TV shows we’ll probably start doing runs of 10,000 for Converge and Pig Destroyer on the side… but nah, records when we got the cash hoss.”
What’s the best way people can stay in contact and up-to-date regarding all things Church of Fuck?
Martin: “I hate to say it but social media platforms. We hate to rely on it, though again it being free and the direct connection to people is really useful. I think the long term plan is for Dave to make a site so figures crossed that develops.”
Oliver: “Yeah, we are on facebook, tumblr and twitter, the main 3, as well as soundcloud, bandcamp etc. I’m not so adverse to social networking, it’s just the way it has gone, I have friends that use one but not the others, or 2 out of the 3, so I know that if you want to get the word to people you gotta use all 3 really, I update them like I do with the Knife Crimes one, if we get a show I just post it on all 3, hope someone gives a shit, you always get a few likes/reblogs/retweets which is a nice indication that at least someone cares haha. It’s just the way it’s all going I think, at least that shit is free, otherwise we’d be screwed.”
Big thanks to Martin and Oliver for taking the time to talk to us.