In another special interview ahead of M20 Festival we caught up with Karl Walsh, formerly of To Hell With Burgundy who were exposed by the Factory Records machine and in particular the keen ear of Mr Tony Wilson aka Mr Manchester.
We caught up with Karl to share his experiences with Factory and some of his favourite places to play.
MIMR: It’s a pleasure to have Karl Walsh on MIMR. Now you have some history with Factory Records through your band which M20 Festival is celebrating next week. Tell us how this came about and what memories do you have about being part of the record label.
Karl: It’s a pleasure to be a part of the festival and thank you for asking me. The crazy thing is that Factory was based really close to where we lived, They had their office on Palatine Road and Kev our guitarist went round and pushed a cassette through their letter box! We made a point of doorstepping them until Mike Pickering and Tony Wilson eventually got together and listened to what we were doing. Mike came a few times to see us play and then Tony came along too. (we were playing a charity gig in the town hall) Some time later Tony called and left a message with our neighbour that Factory wanted to make an album with us! It was the best message I’ve ever had.
MIMR: What’s your earliest musical memory?
Karl: I think listening to “Puff The Magic Dragon” on my Mum and Dad’s Dancette record player. I used to lie down on the floor and put my head up against the speaker. My uncle Roger who was a hippy left a copy of Deep Purple ‘In Rock’ behind one night after he and his funky girlfriend had been baby sitting. He also bought me ‘The World of David Bowie’ a very strange collection!
MIMR: Manchester has always been known for its huge music scene, which has evolved so many times over the last 40 years since Factory Records put the city on the map in the late 70s/early 80s. What’s been the biggest change you’ve experienced as a musician making and playing music over time?
Karl: The withdrawal of funds! We used to sell Cassettes and CDs and lovely Vinyl records that we were so proud of. We used to get payed a few quid to play in pubs and clubs and on a good night we could make a living. Factory championed all that and never took the power away from the bands. (there was never a contract, something which later spooked the major labels when they wanted to swoop in and buy up Factory)
Now, downloads bring in fractions of a penny, streaming even less. The live scene is full of opportunities but you have to play for free.
The internet means that now we can have everything nothing means anything.
Factory used a new DIY ethos to create their own Label. Then producers realised that they didn’t even need labels. The Mercury prize can now be won by someone who releases their stuff independently. The downside is that they can’t generate enough cash to sustain a career.
MIMR: What’s your favourite place in Manchester to perform at?
Karl: Anywhere with a decent stage and a well balanced PA system. There are too many places that have a shitty PA and a careless attitude. We have had great nights in some of the smaller venues like The Kings Arms, The Eagle, The Castle , Gullivers. I enjoyed playing The Apollo and the Ritz but most places are only as good as the sound on the night.
MIMR: What can we expect from one of your live shows?
Karl: You always get me taking it all very seriously! Sometimes with The Happy Future sometimes with a pal. I like to give the songs time to breath and I can talk too much. I’ve never been cool.
MIMR: Thanks Karl for chatting to us, see you at M20 Festival, where will you playing and when?
Karl: I will be on at 8PM INDIGO in Withington.