Forty years ago Geoff Travis opened up a shop – and later a label alongside Public Image’s Jeanette Lee, that would transform the face of UK music distribution. Now Rough Trade is celebrating a landmark anniversary, with a live series featuring collaborations between artists associated with its early years up until the present.
Taking place as a series of discussions, debates and performances across London, it takes a closer look at Rough Trade’s legacy, and reminds you how much the music industry has completely evolved since it first started. Rough Trade’s 40th celebrations retrospects on the nostalgic indie spirit of its d.i.y ethos, that in essence is the core of its appeal.
This all-dayer is headlined by popular London political punk trio Skinny Girl Diet, summed up by The Slits’ Viv Albertine as: “At last, real girls, young and believable, singing in their own voices. The music is raw, direct and unpretentious – these girls are timeless. They haven’t been squashed and moulded. They’re still fighting, still full of energy and self-belief. Go and see them – you’ll be inspired to get up there and do it too.”
They’ve been steadily making a name for themselves for the last couple of years thanks to their signature grunge ‘riot grrrl’ styling and their frantic drums and guitar contortions, and are now back with their new cynical feminist anthem Yeti. Reminiscent of Sonic Youth’s franticness, it draws on the demonization of female sexuality in society, represented by a repressed monster (hence the name).
Meanwhile they’re supported by stoner doom band Baba Naga, and trippy Seattle garage inspired outfit Fish. Catch all the bands on stage at Shacklewell Arms on October 30th.
Wonderland spoke with Nigel House and Nina Hervé to find out more…
So how did the idea of Dice and Rough Trade partnering together to plan the label’s 40th anniversary come about?
Nina: We’d had a few conversations with Dice on how we could potentially partner with each other and the 40th anniversary shows seemed a good place to start. We have a similar ethos when it comes to music being at the heart of what we’re all about. Rough Trade has established a reputation for sourcing and recommending the best music out there for our customers and Dice are doing the same in the live shows and events list they curate making it a really simple way for people to discover new music.
Why do you think the label still successfully manages to be as relevant – not to mention popular today, as it was when it first began 40 years ago?
Nigel: I think that the label is still so successful because Geoff and Jeannette are still passionate about finding great new music, and are not constantly looking backwards. I guess our shops are the same too – we try to promote the new and exciting while at the same time recognising the amazing musical heritage that is out there and ripe for discovery.
The artists have been carefully selected showcasing acclaimed cult bands on the label such as Scritti Pollitti, The Raincoats and Thurston Moore, through the decades up until today with Skinny Girl Diet, Goat Girl and Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor. How did the selection process work for this? Not to mention the tasking experience of choosing numerous host venues in addition to Rough Trade’s stores such as The Barbican Centre, was there a particular reason for doing this?
Nina: The whole idea for these shows is that we wanted to bring musicians and artists together that had been connected with Rough Trade (the label) to work collaboratively on shows that would be completely unique with contemporary musicians and artists that have been connected with Rough Trade (the shop). Offering a one off occasion to do something completely different and giving them the platform and freedom to do so. The whole idea of Rough Trade initially was to bring like-minded people together who loved music to share cultural ideas and philosophies so we wanted to reflect that whole ethos in these shows. We needed a grand venue such as the Barbican to kick off the two weeks of shows we’ve got lined up. The staff there are great and have made the whole process so easy that depending on how this Saturday goes we’re considering doing it all again next year! The Social has been a venue that we’ve always supported as our friends at Heavenly Recordings have a very close connection with IT and the shows we have there are going to be really special because it’s such a great, intimate space. Who doesn’t have a good night at The Social? Islington Assembly Hall couldn’t be more perfect a venue for The Raincoats and Angel Olsen show too, plus when The Raincoats did a recce they were very impressed with their award winning toilets!
As we also heavily support new upcoming bands we wanted to reflect this too so that’s why we’ve brought together a selection of great emerging bands to perform at Shacklewell Arms, Moth Club and our very own Rough Trade East. All of these venues are the most natural fit for new bands today to perform in London.
Do you see there being a Rough Trade 100 in the long distance future? Considering the music industry is increasingly tough for independent artists right now, sixty more years of live music being made seems like a wild notion to consider doesn’t it? However we certainly hope so!
Nigel: It is hard to predict 6 years ahead, let alone 60! I hope that there will be RT at the end of this century – I firmly believe that people will still want music, will want to watch and listen to music, but who knows how they will consume it. Everyone wrote off the printed book, but that medium has outlasted (by 00’s of years) the mini disc, beta max, vhs so who knows – maybe vinyl will still be the preferred format even then!
Lastly are there any particular performers or shows within the series that you recommend we catch?
All of them – obviously!
Nigel House has been a director of Rough Trade since 1982. After 35 years he is still happiest when he’s behind the counter at any one of the Rough Trade shops selling music and chatting to customers about what is new and what is going on.
Nina Hervé has been working for Rough Trade since 2008. She’s had various different roles throughout this period and was the person who took Rough Trade On Tour. This year she has been managing all and everything relating to Rough Trade’s 40th anniversary as well as many other tasks.
October 30th, 4pm-11pm, buy tickets here.