Interview: Glasshouse Records
"It kind of made sense to me there and then that starting my own label was the next progression. I had a good idea how a label is run, I didn’t have to pitch or prove to anyone they’d be worthy, I can choose who I want to release and it was like a “Fuck it, if I can’t be in a band, I’ll release the bands I like” mentality. That’s when Glasshouse was born."
On April 15th, London-based label Glasshouse Records released an incredible new track and video titled ‘Cathedral Thinking’ by the band in violet. Adriana caught up with Rory Dickinson and Chad Murray, who both co-run the label, to talk about the new release, the label and so much more.
(((o))): How and when did Glasshouse Records come into existence and how did each of you get involved with the label? Did Rory start it and later Chad got involved or did you start it together?
Rory: I officially launched Glasshouse Records in January 2017 whilst I was living in West London. I’d been playing in loads of bands since I was about 12 years old but had only really been a musician, playing gigs, recording, dealt in some band organization, but hadn’t really been involved in any other areas of music. It all started with live music promotion in my late teens when I was at college in Bournemouth. I, along with some classmates organized a charity gig to raise money for a local children’s hospice which turned out to be quite a successful show. We used all the resources we had available to us at the time to spread the word, booked a bunch of our friends’ bands to play and it was fantastic! I love live music and going to shows and festivals, in fact I would say my favourite format of music is live and putting on this show opened up my eyes to an entire new avenue I was eager to be involved in.
Soon after this show, a close friend and I joined a team of friends who were DJ promoters running a night called ‘HAM’. Together we started a student-orientated indie/electronic club night at our favourite venue in Bournemouth, where we’d have bands start around 9 pm followed by DJs until everyone got kicked out. This ran for about a year until I moved to London for Uni in 2012. I moved with the intention of continuing live music promotion and starting something new and after trying to start various new promotion brands with Uni friends and nothing really working out. I started promoting under ‘MUD’, which was essentially the proto-Glasshouse that never was, and I started running shows from an ex-Yates bar in Clapham that was trying out live music. It was a super sketchy venue, in a room definitely not fit for purpose, without a stage and had a sound desk that would electrocute the engineer. It was a terrible venue, but some of my favourite bands played and made a lot of good friends within the scene. Sadly, it didn’t end up working out in the end as noise complaints led to the venue axing live music and MUD never really materialized into anything further.
I was in my third year of Uni, still trying to find my feet when I landed myself as a label assistant for a well-known independent label. I’d never really thought about working in this field as I’d primarily been involved in live music and at the time, wanted to continue to either start an entirely new promotion brand once I’d finished Uni, start a booking agency or to get into touring. I was a huge fan of the label and the bands on their roster so I saw it as an opportunity that didn’t come around often. I was lucky enough to learn first hand how a small label operates and also to learn about an entirely new part of the industry I hadn’t really experienced before.
About a year into working there, my old band suddenly split up and I wasn’t having any luck trying to find a new one. I was also spending a lot of time vigorously trying to find new bands to pitch to the label, which didn’t really seem to generate any interest apart from one amazing Russian band. It kind of made sense to me there and then that starting my own label was the next progression. I had a good idea how a label is run, I didn’t have to pitch or prove to anyone they’d be worthy, I can choose who I want to release and it was like a “Fuck it, if I can’t be in a band, I’ll release the bands I like” mentality. That’s when Glasshouse was born. I named the label after an image I had designed on Photoshop; the name refers to how the image distorts at whichever angle you look at it. In a way, that’s come to reflect the label, as we house artists that look at things from very different, but commonly unique vantage points. I’ve always enjoyed bands that don’t sound like anything else.
My first three releases were Future Horizons’ single ‘Yoshimitsu’, followed by re-issuing Early Black’s EP on CD and then Future Horizon’s AA side CD. It was a really inspiring and productive start to the label too – I managed to get Future Horizons out on tour, they played ArcTanGent and Wil (Early Black) and I put on a superb all-dayer to promote the label.
I moved to east London and pretty much immediately met Jake Murray who I’d been speaking to online as he was looking to get his band in violet off the ground again. I met his younger brother Chad during our first in-person meeting as we’d both joined his band and we immediately hit it off big time. Chad had started working on getting the Burden Limbs ensemble together and had loads of acoustic demos he’d been working on. I was looking to re-launch Glasshouse after Future Horizons had called it a day, so we put out some spray-painted demo tapes and that was the start of Glasshouse as it is now. I ended up joining Burden Limbs, met Chad’s housemate’s Sam Birkett and Maya Harrison, both members in For Breakfast, who joined the roster a year after we put out the demo tapes and we went on to release their debut EP Songs In The Key Of O in 2019.
Four years later, I now work at Flashback Records, play in Burden Limbs and in violet and Chad co-runs the label. We’re about to enter our biggest year to date with new artist’s joining our roster, five-to-six releases in the pipeline and lots of exciting plans involved that we’re excited to reveal when the time is right.
(((o))): What are some of the ups and downs of running a label?
Rory: There are loads constantly and it can change at any point. Discovering new music and working on a release is obviously always incredibly exciting, as is receiving the physical product whether it be a t-shirt or cassette for the first time, and of course, seeing everything the label and artist have been working towards coming together on the actual release day. Working on a release can get busy, stressful and tiring. I wasn’t furloughed and I’ve been working full time since the pandemic hit so it can be a bit of a juggling act sometimes, especially more so since we’ve been way busier recently.
Chad: Whereas Rory primarily handles business and distribution, I mostly handle press and the creative side. With press, it’s just a laborious process of researching appropriate coverage and then organising that and contacting the appropriate parties. Having written for music websites for years, I am also aware that I have to take the time to write them all individually and not just fucking spam them with copy and pasted text and totally irrelevant music. Creatively, I think it’s just a case that sometimes bands have merchandise or visual elements that I feel could be more effective, but at the end of the day our artists have full creative control. We also exclusively lose money doing this and do it all in our free time out of our own passion, so it’s tiring and time-consuming. There’s no off-days for Glasshouse Records.
(((o))): Can you describe a typical week at Glasshouse or are there no typical weeks?
Chad: It’s basically round the clock emailing blogs, radio, promoters. When I’m not doing that I’m messaging with bands. At this point in time, we’re juggling multiple releases where I’m editing videos and designing merchandise and doing graphic design. Altering things whenever I get feedback from manufacturers via Rory or feedback from the bands. We’re always talking about the future as well.
Rory: My typical week most recently would consist of liaising with manufacturers whether it be merch companies or cassette duplication companies, checking in with and corresponding with the artists we’re working with, lots of discussions with Chad about the PR campaign he’s running, video calls with artist’s on our radar, managing the label’s Bandcamp and website, updating our social media channels and website blog, a lot of time spent on spreadsheets for costings, distributors and research too. Quite a lot of admin work goes into it and generally making sure everything’s on track and being prepared for any changes.
(((o))): Being musicians yourselves, do you find that this makes it easier or more difficult to work with bands at times? How important is it that bands have knowledge of the business side of music?
Chad: I think that it makes it easier for us because we can relate to them. Rory and I have knowledge that others don’t due to our backgrounds. I’ve been a music writer for over six years, I’ve also got a degree in Film and have been making digital art and music as a producer and songwriter for over ten years. These things allow me to understand where the bands are coming from better whilst also giving me the expertise to offer. However, the more the band already knows, the less we have to teach them. Everyone has unique knowledge they bring to the table though and we all help each other grow. We want our label to be there to support our artists and that means we have to make concessions sometimes but we also see ourselves as a launching pad label where we find really cool and unique bands and then help them grow to a bigger label. We want to make our own scene and put on gigs and showcase people no one has given a chance to yet and long-term build a music community that supports the nascent bands a lot more rather than only promoting our signing people who will guarantee profit. This isn’t about money for us, it’s about our passion for art as catharsis. The goal is to find the next thing that blows our mind without becoming totally broke.
(((o))): You currently represent a few bands via the label. Can you tell us who these bands are and share some news that you might have for each of them?
Rory: BELK are the newest band to join the roster and are the first band we have begun working with outside of the ‘core bands’ of the label. They’re a two piece full on racket of noise/psyche/grind from Leeds and whilst they haven’t been together for too long, they already have two weighty EP’s under their belt. We’ll be re-issuing their second EP UMPIRE next month on a limited run of cassette tapes and t-shirts. This EP fucking roars and we can’t wait to get it out in to the world!
For Breakfast have started rehearsing again with one less guitar but one new saxophone in their newly re-assembled six-piece line-up. Their first gig of the year will be at the Dalston Victoria on 31st July for Portals all-dayer, a re-scheduled release show at Brixton Windmill on 9th September, new merch in the pipeline and a remix collection for their Songs in the Key of O EP out later this year. A split release may also be on the way toward the end of the year too.
in violet returns after a five year absence with a new line-up and an inaugural release on the label with ‘Cathedral Thinking’. There’s also way more stuff going on that we can’t announce but, the track’s epic music video will drop via an exclusive premiere on Backseat Mafia on April 15th (out now), followed by general release on the 16th. We’re so excited! I have been a massive in violet fan for years and we really hounded Jake to get the band going again after the old line-up dissolved. It’s been such an awesome experience getting it going again and a massive learning curve for me personally. For anyone who knows in violet, this is the best offering so far, ‘Cathedral Thinking’ is gonna blow everyone’s fucking minds. “Everyone and everything has to change”.
Burden Limbs’ new live concert film Burden Limbs: In The Flesh is going to be broadcast at 9 pm across 4 time zones on 29th April via The Supernova Sect, an exciting new platform from Bob de Wit, bringing the most. Please check for a time zone that appeals to you otherwise, you will miss out. We made the film ourselves with Sam Birkett (For Breakfast, Burden Limbs) filming the non-static shots. Sam is currently on hiatus from the blimbs so, it was really cool to have them involved for this despite Sam having no prior filming experience. We’re also going to finish our first album It Can Never Be Satisfied off in a few months, then we’ve got stuff we’re working on for the following single and a split as well as gigs in the pipeline.
(((o))): You are both in Burden Limbs and in violet. Both are with the label. How do you manage being both musicians and label owners?
Rory: I think being in two bands that we release on the label creates a much closer working relationship and there’s a lot more collaboration in what we do and can achieve as a team. We share each other’s resources and all possess different skills that go towards the bigger picture, allowing us to operate much more efficiently. Although I started it myself, Glasshouse has always been a collaborative label and am very much in favour of the more people involved, the greater the project will become. Chad brings a lot of creative ideas and direction to the label which I may not have ever thought about before.
Burden Limbs was released on Glasshouse before I started playing in the band and we never really considered self-releasing as an option since the label was already going. It made sense for us to continue releasing via Glasshouse as we’re both at the same level, growing simultaneously and it meant we can release exactly what we want, when we want and how we want, such as releasing Burden Limbs’ first EP There is No Escape as a t-shirt.
We had initially thought about in violet joining another label since the last album Amber was released by US label Bottle Imp. Jake’s involvement with Glasshouse had however increased throughout the last year and has become a valuable part of who we are, having been the producer of two (three if you include in violet) releases and helping us develop the label. in violet has brought a new dimension to the label and will be the first electronic-guitar crossover we’re working with. We’re excited to delve into and open up a whole new avenue the label previously hadn’t before.
(((o))): The pandemic has affected the music industry greatly for over a year now. How has it affected the label and do you see a light at the end of the tunnel?
Rory: We released For Breakfast’s EP right at the start of the pandemic and despite everything going on at the time, it went beyond better then anything we expected and it was the most ambitious release we’d worked on at the time! It did make things harder for us however, mostly through the fact that the live music industry came to a complete standstill so their release show was cancelled. Burden Limbs had some cool shows that were coming up that were cancelled and the restrictions made it difficult for us or the bands to get together to do anything. We were still talking plans throughout the whole lockdown but it meant the label and our bands could only really exist via the internet and we didn’t have anything new to promote so the label came to a brief standstill too. It was a really weird time and at one point I even wanted to stop Glasshouse, but everyone helped pull me back.
We used the pandemic to start developing how the label operates, rediscover what the label is and find our feet again, and it also gave us the time to work on it. It pushed us to start meeting and working with new artists, as the last three years has only been Burden Limbs and For Breakfast. We’re going to be busier than ever when things fully go back to normal and I’m looking forward to where Glasshouse will be in a year from now. I definitely see a light at the end of the tunnel depending on how the pandemic pans out. We’re already seeing it with things like Bandcamp Friday but I’m hopeful a lot more people will be supporting independent music, I’m hopeful there’ll be a huge resurgence in gigs more than ever due to the current lack thereof, we want to start showcasing our bands and putting on gigs next year, and I’m overall super hopeful that this year will be important for the growth of the label and bands alike.
Chad: I’ve been off work and I’ve been dedicated all the time to getting the bands and the label in shape. We’re more productive and more focused and more energised than ever! I miss The Lexington, but this year has been really well-suited to my hermetic artist’s personality. There have been tough times financially and interpersonally but, we worked hard throughout 2020 and in 2021, it’s all gonna start paying off.
(((o))): Lastly, what’s next for Glasshouse Records?
Chad: After the stuff we mentioned above and the stuff that we’re not ready to announce. We want to look for new bands and we have agreed that we will be looking to provide a platform next for artists primarily of LGBTIAQ+, POC and other marginalised backgrounds as a priority. As two white males, we feel as though we want to make an effort to use our voices to change the music industry. We want to be part of a movement of diversity and inclusion so that young people who are asexual or non-binary or trans or are a refugee or an immigrant or any other group that hasn’t in our youth gotten equal opportunity gets that. Our roster already has numerous members of these communities but, we feel as though we want to do more and our submission box tells that the way to that is to say that right now we are not looking for bands that are predominantly cis-white males because we want to pursue progress.
I grew up with white cis men dominating the media, the government and the arts and it’s still nowhere near equal. Female-fronted is not a fucking genre. We still see that on blogs all the time, where a woman being in a band is reduced to a gimmick. We still see cismen that get angry when people talk about festivals needing to give an equal platform to any other group but them. Imagine growing up where no one like you was given a platform on the stage or the screen, where you’re never seen as the star but, as a less important person. We want unique artists who sound like nothing else out there and one of the main reasons so much music sounds the same is that it’s made by people from the same backgrounds largely listening to each other.
I want to find artists with a unique lens who make unique music and how we do that is to tell people be you, regardless of what any oppressive voice says, a true artist knows they are and won’t repress it for anyone. We want everyone to feel safe, respected and loved. That starts with axing the problem at its root and that root is patriarchy and institutionalised racism. Each cismale in our society has a responsibility to work with their male friends to change to make our society a place everyone else feels safe, respected and valued and not just us. We shouldn’t have any advantages or priority or additional power. Everyone should have equal opportunity and it starts with every cis male asking what can I do to help things improve? This is a problem created by our forefathers, that we need to change, men have to talk to each other and say, we can’t be like those selfish generations before us. Whether it’s about diversity and inclusion or the environment. “Everyone and everything has to change”. We need to do better, talk to your male friends, call them out when they catcall and demean people, cancel abusers, let’s show them that behaviour does not belong in the future we want. The men who we’d want to work with will support us in this and the men that don’t support us in this are men that we do not want to work with no matter how good their music may be.
I recently stopped listening to one of my favourite bands of all time because their frontman was revealed to be a rapist, you really think I give a fuck what some bigoted no mark that I have no attachment to thinks? Listen to the women you know, believe the victims of abuse, support victims of oppression. Champion anyone whose voice goes unheard, root for the underdog and always use any influence you have to help people who really need your help. We wanna do that as musicians, as a label, as promoters, as bloggers and as people. That’s what comes next for Glasshouse and every band on the label supports that. “Everyone and everything has to change”.