Pete Darrington has been on the local scene in Derby for the last 20 years as bassist in Cable and The Hudson Super 6 and now as half of Derby’s independent record label, Reckless Yes. We talk to him about the local bands he loves right now and their plans as a label.
“It’s kind of strange – Cable are now venerated and literally everyone knows about us. It’s kind of passed into Derby folklore now, but at the time the more successful we became, the more other bands in Derby hated us.”
As bassist in nineties noiseniks Cable Pete Darrington has been around Derby long enough to see bands and the scene ebb and flow, to see it go through phases of mutual support and individualism as well as brief flirtations with national recognition and long spells of introspective self-doubt and apathy.
“Derby was all about self deprication back then. It became pretty clear to us in Cable that we really just needed to get on and do it, because being integral with the Derby scene meant dragging yourself down with a ‘it will never happen for us, this is Derby’ mentality. We separated ourselves from most of what was going on and focused on buidling something for ourselves.
“Derby was one of the last places in the country to catch on to Cable – a band from their own town with a major record deal and sessions on John Peel’s show and yet bizarrely, our smallest audiences were in our home town. We would play in London to 500 people and in Derby we would just about fill the Vic.”
He’s seen the Derby scene from within a band who signed a major label deal just before all the money and control disappeared from the industry, and more recently he’s observed it from his position as a journalist and broadcaster but also as half of record label and live promotion agency Reckless Yes. This latest role came from feeling re-invigorated by the bands he was hearing for his radio show and a chance meeting with local music journalist Sarah Lay.
“Like all the best ideas, Reckless Yes was a happy accident. I went to see Dystopian Future Movies in Nottingham last December and I was blown away by not only the gig, but the DIY movement happening over there, around JT Soar and places like that.
“I wrote a review for Louder Than War. Normally I send my reviews to site owner John Robb, but I knew he was away on tour, so I sent it to the editor Sarah Lay. She really loved how much I was enthused by the DIY ethic – she already loved it as much as I did and we got chatting. I said I desperately wanted something like this to happen in my city, Derby, not realising she was from Derby too and that she really wanted to do the same.
“We agreed to meet up for a chat at Quad and in 10 minutes flat Reckless Yes was born. I think Sarah said something like ‘I love this idea, I’m going to say a reckless yes to working with you, even though we’ve only just met’ and I said ‘and that’s what we’ll be called!’. She already owned the web address but hadn’t done anything with it, that touch of fate sealed the deal.”
Armed with a name and a loose idea Sarah and Pete found sharing their enthusiasm and musical finds with each other led to them both feeling reinvigorated to play an active part in their local scene. Their openness to ideas and industry connections meant that soon the initial idea of a few gigs was quickly turned into something bigger, becoming a business as well as a partnership between friends.
“We had no idea what we were and weren’t going to do. The idea of ‘Reckless Yes’was in the name itself – if we had an idea, no matter how bonkers we thought it was, we agreed to explore making it happen. It’s how we work. First we say ‘fuck, that sounds ridiculous’ and that’s what excites us, so we then say a Reckless Yes to taking it on!
“To begin with, we were just thinking of putting on shows, some DIY and some proper circuit bands. I somehow got wind of the idea that my old friends Bivouac from my time in Cable were reforming, so I contacted frontman Paul and asked if we could put them on. He mentioned to Sarah they had new material recorded and that was the lightbulb moment.
“We’d already had a ‘where could we go? Maybe set up a label in a year or two if things take off?’ type conversation. Sarah had exactly the same thought I had. ‘We have to put out Bivouac‘s comeback 7″ single!’ so we said a Reckless Yes to putting a record out, with literally six weeks to go to the gig, and Reckless Yes Records was born, completely by accident and on the spur of the moment.
“We really do live up to the brand’s ethic. That’s why we work really well together – it’s almost like we play dares with daft ideas and they become a reality. We have absolutely no idea where Reckless Yes will go in the future and that’s part of why we love what we do. We haven’t ruled anything out.
“There’ll be more Six Impossible Things, more circuit shows, a new night we’re working on at the moment, and more records. Sarah’s written a book and I had a play performed at a number of festivals a couple of years ago that I’m novelising – we both know some other writers and poets too, so maybe Reckless Yes Publishing might be a thing? Who knows!”
The first events the duo worked on were the realisation of that initial DIY gig idea, and bringing Derby into the network of DIY bands, promoters and venues operating on enthusiasm and community. This became Six Impossible Things, the night which happens every other month at a different venue in the city. As well as four bands, including at least two Derby acts, the pair have worked to seed a community from it by making it financially accessible, giving away cake and publishing a zine alongside it. They’re also tackling diversity, an issue they say is obvious to them on the local and national scene.
“Six Impossible Things is the beating heart of what Reckless Yes is about. What makes it different is this – all the bands play for the same duration. No one is supporting anyone else. It’s like a party. Playing your set and fucking off is totally frowned upon. Networking is encouraged.
“There’s no official charge to get in, it’s a ‘pay what you think’ ethos and people do put their hands in their pockets, which is just heart warming. At the end of the night, all the money made is split equally between the bands. No one goes home empty handed. The idea that you should be grateful for just getting a gig is abhorrent to us. Bands should be paid, whatever their pulling power. Everyone has to start somewhere.
“That’s what makes it different from the traditional set up. The manifesto is so important to us, because it’s the foundation of what we’re trying to do – build a community where musicians and music fans have an environment they can grow and develop in and one that they feel proud to be part of.”
This sense of mutual support is something both Pete and Sarah are emphatic about, and like their name are also ardent that finding a way to indulge creativity and community should be a yes, rather than a set of excuses.
“My advice to any band would be ‘just fucking do it’. Forget geography. Form bands, start creating music, record at Snug or Dubrek and start being part of the community. Go to see your contemporaries – the bands who are doing it right now. Get amongst it, get involved, put your own gigs on, make friends with other bands. Literally, if you like them, walk up to them after their gig and tell them they were fucking brilliant. Support each other. Rave about other bands to your mates, not just your own. You’re much stronger in numbers than you are on your own. That’s how DIY works.
“The Hudson Super 6 weren’t like that at all to begin with. We had the same approach as Cable, just get on and do our own thing, but we were kind of ignorant that the world had moved on. We signed to a large Indie for our first album and it did nothing for us really. In hindsight, I think the energy we put into finding a deal would have been put to better use in forming connections and networking in the DIY scenes up and down the country. They’re on board now though and are big supporters of Reckless Yes. That’s how we ended up doing a deal with Bristol’s Ingue Records.”
And it’s with The Hudson Super 6 that Pete remains an active musician himself, playing bass with the band. They’re currently recording tracks with producer Paul Tipler (Idlewild, Earl Brutus, Placebo) with a release due in 2017, via Ingue and it’s on The Hudson Super 6 that his own musical efforts appear focused. Despite Reckless Yes teasing followers with Cable-related imagery over the summer Pete remains coy when asked whether anything is happening with the much-loved band, refusing to be drawn on commenting on rumours of reissues or reformations. Instead he is happy to share some of his favourite memories as a musician and as a label.
“There’s some Cable and some Hudson Super 6 ones, in the interest of balance! The first gig of the Cable reunion tour was magical. Walking out on stage with Matt, Darius and Richie for the first time in something like 14 years to something like 500 people who literally went so crazy we couldn’t start for about five minutes because of the noise was just amazing. We did a gig at the Garrick that has become one of those legendary shows everyone pretends they were at in something like 1995 and headlining the Big City Bash in the Market Square in 1996 was exhilarating, especially as the whole show went out live on Radio Derby at the same time!
“I think the first Hudson Super 6 show ever was very significant for me too. It had taken me two years to pluck the courage up to get back on stage after Cable split. We were playing one of Neil Cooper’s Inner City Crawls and our first show was at the Flower Pot to a sizable audience and we went down very well, so it made me feel like it was worth getting back on stage after all. We’ve also had some amazing gigs supporting The Wonderstuff who we were label mates with for a bit and playing with Ash was brilliant as it was sold out and the audience were totally up for it. We also opened for The Beekeepers reunion at the Assembly Rooms in 2013 and that was amazing fun.
“As for putting on shows and releasing records in Derby – every Six Impossible Things has been just lovely – really great atmosphere, fantastic people and every band that has played so far has blown me away. I think standing in the audience and watching Bivouac play Sweet Heart Deal and thinking ‘we’ve put that record out!’ was a really emotional moment for both Sarah and I. And nothing beats that feeling of when a box arrives on your doorstep and it’s full of copies of your next release. It’s too exciting for words!”
Those releases keep coming from Reckless Yes. For a new label, only begun this year, they have already released a single by Bivouac, the debut album from Unqualified Nurse Band and are due to release a single by Manchester three-piece LIINES, who they also manage. While the label may be based in Derby, and both Sarah and Pete are committed to their local scene, Pete says they don’t see geography when it comes to building a roster or falling in love with music.
“It’s not just about Derby bands – the second band we knew we wanted to sign was LIINES from Manchester and I’ve repeatedly begged Dystopian Future Movies to let us put their album out, but we are definitely on a mission to put Derby on the map. As we started to put our DIY nights together, we realised that Derby was literally bursting with brilliant bands that we wanted to release records by – bands that might go unnoticed nationally because their home town didn’t have a record label to champion them.
“I’d be silly to say it’s our ethic or our passion for the music and the artists that makes Reckless Yes any different. Every little bedroom indie starts with that love. Factory Records started like that, so did Creation and Fierce Panda; labours of Love. But I think what sets us apart is the pace we work at – we’ve done an astonishing amount already and we’ve not even been going a year – that and the slightly foolish belief that we can do anything. It might all come crashing down around our ears next year, who knows? But we had a hell of a journey and that’s what’s important. We all know what Neil Young said.”
And championing local bands as well as those from further afield is something Pete does each week on his radio show, The Rumble. Broadcast on Radio Andra, a station owned and run by Marcus Carter of former Derby-based band Scribble, Pete with Sarah producing alongside him has crafted an underground music show in the mould of Peel.
“PR companies and bands send stuff to my email account at radioandra, but to be honest, out of about 50 submissions a day, I pick two or three for the show. Sarah brings a lot of stuff to the table. She’s like the John Walters to my John Peel. And I spend a lot of time scouring sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud and people I know who love new music come to me with stuff. I talk to people and ask them what they’re listening to.”
Playing everything from garage rock to trance, from experimental found sounds and lo-fi bedroom recordings to classic alternative rock and psych the show is a reflection of eclectic taste and the open door policy of Reckless Yes as well as giving local bands a chance to reach a wider audience, something Sarah is keen to open up for them via Louder Than War too. That passion and enthusiasm explodes out of Darrington whenever he is able to talk about his bands, the label, the city and the music he is hearing, something only amplified when you see him with his Reckless Yes partner.
“The bands we’ve signed so far we are totally in love with, Unqualified Nurse Band are sixty years of rock and roll distilled into one band and their live show is incredible. Pet Crow just ooze a kind of post-rock new wave cool that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up every time I see them so we can’t wait to put their record out.
“Sarah and I were bowled over by the nu-gaze soundscapes of Goddesses recently. I’m looking forward to hearing the new Replica Jesus material they’re working on – they’re like a sludgecore doom rock outfit that smash your ear drums. We both love Grawlix and Haiku Salut. At the recent Dubrek fundraiser event I had my mind blown by a band called Biscuit Mouth – really creative two piece. Cheap Jazz are also an amazing live band to watch and Mighty Kids make gorgeous electronic indie pop with added Ukelele fun. Prizefighter make Pavement-esque sloppy indie pop from the heart that brings a tear to your eye.
“I’m sure there’s more that I’ll feel bad about for not mentioning after this interview, there’s loads!”
However you look at it, the power couple at the heart of Reckless Yes, are music fans as much as music professionals and both in love with Derby music.
“The scene is going from strength to strength. I genuinely believe that. It’s been there, building up for a while, bands working together to put gigs on, playing on each other’s recordings etc – it just needed a final piece to the jigsaw to pull it all together and I’m hoping Reckless Yes fulfills that role.
“The talent is the best of the city scene. The worst of it? There’s still a lingering notion that ‘nothing ever happens here’ or ‘that can’t happen here, this is Derby’, especially from people who aren’t in a band themselves, but just like going to gigs. We are trying to blow that myth out of the water.
“We’re far from the only people doing their bit for Derby – venues, promoters, bands, punters. It’s everyone, we’re just one piece. But I want people to talk about bands from our city in the same way they talk about Manchester or Glasgow. I’ve been involved in music in Derby for over 20 years and can honestly say it’s never been this good. We should celebrate that, and build on it.”
Reckless Yes released Unqualified Nurse Band’s debut album Debasement Tapes on vinyl. You can buy it in their online store. Their next shows are Riding The Low with You Want Fox and The Hudson Super 6 on 13 October at the Hairy Dog (tickets), and Mark Morriss (Bluetones) with Steve Faulkner and Sally Charlesworth on 21 October at the Hairy Dog (tickets). The next Six Impossible Things is on 18 November with Reckless Yes bands LIINES and Pet Crow as well as The Hudson Super 6 and Nervous Twitch.
Find Reckless Yes:
Sarah and Pete put together a weekly radio show for Radio Andra, often featuring Derby bands. It airs from 8pm each Tuesday and you can find it at http://radioandra.se. You can get in touch with Pete about the show on Twitter and find Sarah on Twitter and at Louder Than War.