Mark Bowen and Dick Green celebrate 10 years in the biz
Kim Taylor Bennett
Mark Bowen and Dick Green, founders of one of the finest indie labels in the land, celebrate 10 years in the biz. Their stellar roster boasts the debut releases of everyone from Bright Eyes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Bloc Party. We met Mark to get the lowdown.
They’re not very good at spelling. ‘The label is named after the Jimmy Webb song ‘Wichita Lineman’. Unfortunately we registered all the domain names before we started and spelt the name wrong. We put in too many Ts, so we later released a compilation with only one T to try to help people spell it correctly, but it hasn’t really helped.’
They signed Bright Eyes for more money than they should’ve. ‘I was buying another record from a music website and they had this write-up about this 16-year-old who was a phenomenon. I thought I’d buy a record and I fell in love with him. I thought he was some kind of big star and I only found out a year ago that he’d sold less than 900 records. I was completely conned! In a good way. We certainly gave him far too much money given how many records he’d sold!
Seeing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for the first time was memorable in more ways than one. ‘Playing to four of us in some bar in Baltimore, Karen O did exactly what I saw her doing on main stages a couple years later. She was pouring drink over herself, going crazy – she’s a force of nature. The next morning on the way to the station I got robbed of my wallet, which contained every penny I had. So I spent the following day arranging for someone to get me back to New York. An inauspicious start.’
Signing Bloc Party nearly never happened at all. ‘It was the Saturday before Christmas and I was meant to be home in Wales, but I missed my train and thought I’d wait and see this band. Went to the ICA and it was completely empty. I fell in love with them. It was really odd – my touchstones were The Smiths and for Dick it was New Order, and Bloc Party seemed to sound like both. Kele struck me as a Morrissey heir; his words were fantastic. He was a reticent star, but magnetic nonetheless.’
They’re most proud of The Cribs. ‘We saw them as something honest, just these amazing pop songs that came one after another, whatever state they were in. That’s probably been the most satisfying thing over the past 10 years, watching them grow from that to seeing them at Glastonbury and seeing how much they mean to people. That was done the hard way.’
They were responsible for releasing Elastica’s last ever single. ‘MIA did the cover art. She was living with Justine at the time. She was really easy to deal with and so creative. I thought it was a great single – their parting shot.We’d been doing lots of new things and that was the first time we had a band on the label that people had heard of!’
Simian Mobile Disco should never have signed to them. ‘I had a meeting with James Ford about his production work and anyone who’s ever met James knows he’s the loveliest man in the world. By the end of lunch I was offering to release any band he thought was any good. I thought, I can’t believe I’m saying this and James said, “I’ve got one, why don’t you put out my band?” I thought they had a deal, but all the time they were actually trying to find the right home for them.’
Dick used to be in a cult band. ‘Dick was in a band called Biff Bang Pow! who were on Creation Records. Now there’s a new generation of bands we’re working with like Frankie And The Heartstrings and Veronica Falls, and they’re far more excited and starstruck that Dick was in this band than with anything else on the label!’
They’re total Twitter addicts. ‘We’re on it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Music, football, politics – we’re obsessed with having that news and information instantly.'