Interview: Kev Douch from Big Scary Monsters

Uber cool label Big Scary Monsters have just unleashed their 100th release! Mainman Kev Douch discusses why he does it and still loves it!

Big Scary Monsters What made you start a record label?

I thought it would be a good way to ignore my A-level studies, meet girls and make bags of money. It turns out that only one of those things was true (I got a D in General Studies, E in Business and N in Computing... I still maintain that stands for Nice Try). The label existed purely in name for the first month or so and it took a couple of years before I really got serious with it, after I developed the bug for finding awesome new bands and trying to help them get their music out to as many people as possible. I went full-time about four years back and now really annoy myself with how much I take it all for granted.

Do you work solo? Or do you have a team? If so how many BSMers are there?

I work solo but with the support of a few good people. Some of our bands have managers, booking agents and press people - all roles I often take on myself for those who don't - and we occasionally have interns who lend a hand with bits and pieces. Working on my own is great sometimes (I get to make all of the decisions and take all of the credit when things go well) but it's terrible at others (I've just been away for a week and with no one picking up my work during that time, I've got a million things to do which almost certainly means something, somewhere is going to go badly wrong, and I'll have to take all of the blame).

How would you describe the bands on Big Scary Monsters’ roster and what sort of sound do you go for when looking to sign someone?

Right now our roster is arguably more varied than ever before. So far this year, amongst others, we've worked with the king of partying, Andrew W.K., the synth-driven Tall Ships, acoustic artists Kevin Devine and Walter Schreifels, loud as hell instrumentalists Talons and Chicago based punks Grown Ups. The only thing which unites these people is BSM, which is a fact I really love! I don't really go out looking for a certain style of band, the label is purely a reflection of my taste and whatever phase I may be going through at the time. If anything, the changing seasons have more impact on me than anything else, as I often end up listening to a lot of quiet acoustic music in the winter (which means lots of those releases in the spring/early summer) then slowing get poppier through the middle of the year (see our current crop of releases) and then angry and heavy pretty much around now as the days start to get shorter (so the louder stuff will be out in the run up to Christmas). Any dirty metal bands reading this, get in touch!

Other than sound, what other factors do you look at before signing someone?

I need to know I can trust the band, that they're friendly, they'll work hard and will have a bit of faith in what I do. Some bands feel that signing to a label - no matter how small - means they've "made it" and they can sit back at that point, getting angry when things don't pan out. What I like to see is a band getting out there doing absolutely everything in their power to promote themselves.

You are currently celebrating your 100th release. How does this feel? And are you aiming to reach the 200th soon? You seem to be releasing more and more records a year!

It's great! It feels like only yesterday I was putting together our 50th release compilation so to get around to the century as fast as we have is amazing. I've been lucky to work with so many amazing bands along the way it's just been a joy and really hope we can make it through to the 200 mark. The end of this year is possibly the busiest the label has ever been (to the point that I look at the release schedule and can feel my hair turning grey!) so have kept the beginning stages of 2011 as quiet as possible. I can feel a holiday coming on.

What has been your biggest success so far? How do you measure this success?

I like to look at the label as a series of mini victories. I'm one of those people who needs the feel-good factor of crossing a task off of a to-do list at the end of a day to know that I've achieved something, and that's how I look at the company as a whole. If we sell more records year on year, at the end of the day, that's the main thing, but things such as press coverage, radio play, seeing CDs in shops and all the rest of those little joys still mean the world to me. I loved working with Meet Me In St Louis, as we set out our objectives early and met every one of them. Equally I've loved working with Toby (Shoes And Socks Off, ex-MMISL vocalist) on his solo material, as we were much more modest and DIY with our plans for this project, so its been wonderful to see it building up. A few years back now I signed Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly after his third gig and working together for two years before he eventually signed with a major label was a great feeling. Putting out a 7" from Andrew W.K. earlier this year was an awesome experience and the way things are coming together with Tall Ships, Talons and some of our other new bands is so exciting.

What does a typical day entail for you?

Emails, hundred and hundreds of sodding emails. I currently have 43842 in my inbox. Seriously! Now's actually a great time because loads of our bands have just finished recording, meaning I'm receiving new songs each day and we're making loads of plans for the coming months. Tomorrow we officially unveil our 100th release, which I'm really excited about, but at the same time I know I'm going to struggle to get out of bed, as I've got a big backlog of mailorders to catch up on after being away last week. On top of this I need to update my accounts, email the distributor with info on a bunch of new things we have coming up, help with booking a few tour dates and get a couple of master CDs off to the pressing plant.

If a major label offered you a fancy job title and a matching salary, would you take it?

When I first started the label I was really into Drive-Thru Records, a pop-punk label based in the US. They had a deal with a major label which meant that if any of their bands sold a certain number of records, they would be "upscaled" (or whatever that fancy business word is) to the major. In many ways that seemed like a great deal to me. The idea of being paid a wage to do what I love, having cash available for crazy marketing strategies and knowing that the structure to continue pushing your artists upwards, without hitting a glass ceiling, seemed perfect. I still think that it could be, although I'm now 9 years older/more jaded and the threat of red tape, sales targets and other bullshit brings me back down to earth. So, to answer your question... Dunno.

What does the next 12 months have in store for Big Scary Monsters?

Well the next 6 weeks are taken up with 'Partied Hard', our 100th release DVD/CD combo, which is only available from the day after our 99th until the day before our 101st, and all of the related promotion surrounding that. We have albums from Talons, Mimas, Kevin Devine (albeit a re-released one), Shapes and Dad Rocks, new EPs from Tall Ships, Tangled Hair and Men, a single from Tellison and no doubt a couple of other things, which are still being worked on. We have stages/showcases at Southsea and Swn festivals, our annual Christmas tour in December, a trip to the US for SXSW in March and the 5th BSM 5-a-side football tournament in July. As ever, I'll be happy to keep seeing out each day and seeing what the next one brings.

What is your mantra (if you have one)?

Be careful 'cos there's always someone willing to step into your shoes. And do your job, better... Than. You... Do it.

(ok I admit it, I don't really have one, thought I'd borrow David Brent's instead)