Independent label talks to David Adamson ahead of celebrating its 25th birthday

Melodic Records was set up in Manchester back in 1999, and like many independent labels of the time it started as 'a sort of hobby' and grew into something altogether different.

The label celebrates its 25th birthday on Saturday 6 July with a party at The Golden Lion in Todmorden, a famed pub that has over the years hosted sets from the late Andy Weatherall, Jarvis Cocker and Steve Davis (yes, that one). 

Headlining will be W H Lung, with sets from Minotaur Shock, Shaking Hand, Lilli Holland-Fricke and Strawberry Guy plus DJ sets to follow. 

Tickets for the birthday party can be bought here.

Ahead of the Calderdale 'do, David Adamson chats to founder Dave Cooper, Label Manager Andy Moss and Label Assistant Dylan Leggett about starting out, the changing scene amongst independents and being saved from the brink by a meth-cooking scene.

2024 06 28 Melodic 25 Th Golden Lion
Melodic 25th Birthday Party Image: Melodic Records

DAVID: So, firstly, did you ever think you'd last a quarter of a century?

DAVE C: It's weird isn't it? I think as you get older time seems to move much quicker and you think 'God, I can't believe it's been so long since we did this or that', but 25 years is just stupid. Obviously you don't set up a label thinking, 'I wonder where I'll be in so many years' time'. One piece of advice I've always told other people is that you don't want to say 'I'm going to start a label', and then go looking for bands, because it's like you're trying to force a situation or something. And I never had any plans to start a label, I just got my hands on a demo and something started. 

DAVID: How did that happen then? 

DAVE C: I was working for a regional PR company called Pomona and got chatting to this guy who was writing for the Oxford University paper about the artist I was doing publicity for. We got on really well and he said 'I play in a band called Dakota Oak Trio and we've just got signed to this label called Twisted Nerve' - which was Andy Votel and Badly Drawn Boy's label. He said he'd done some solo stuff on a 4-track and sent me the demo. I got into work early and the tape was there, I put it on the stereo and my whole body started tingling. I called him up desperately like, 'I want to start a label'. And he was James Rutledge, known as Pedro, who went on to be a well-known producer and mixer. None of the others have come about quite like that but that's how it started. 

Then we had more electronic acts like Minotaur Shock and Arab Strap's Aidan Moffatt (as Lucky Pierre). I just looked at Arab Strap and thought they looked like scary people, these hard Glaswegians, but I rang Aidan up, we got on really well, and we put out the Pedro EP

I think something that carries on throughout the label to these times is that you've obviously got that initial thing with the music - that is what obviously gets you wanting to be involved with an artist - but then it's about how you click as people, and that's equally as important, especially for your ongoing relationship.

ANDY: We kind of become friends usually with most of them, especially if things are going well and we release a few albums. These days me and Dylan are just on WhatsApp with W H Lung or Strawberry Guy, and the younger bands don't really use emails that much. So it becomes fairly casual in a way. And it's nice to think all the bands that have been on the label for a while we're now mates with really. 

DYLAN: Definitely. It's important to have because it's so much easier in every aspect; you can work through the creative issues a lot easier if both parties trust each other and get on really well. You're able to say 'I'm not sure that song's good enough' and it's not a problem, it's helpful input.

ANDY: Or you say 'Why don't you go and try a couple more?' 


DAVID: Yeah it's how you put it, isn't it? 

Some bands it seems have particularly bad experiences with major labels. They'll get a call from on high and report back, 'We've got to scrap this or we've got to do more of that' - like there's a real hierarchy in place. Whereas here it seems you're all collaborating on the same project with the same end goals.

DYLAN: It feels more like us and the artists are working together to make something rather than the artist is making something and we're telling them yes or no, I suppose.

DAVE C: And financially we do a 50/50 profit split with the artist. These guys say it best; I think you have to feel equal with an artist. If that balance isn't right, whether that's the artist having too big an ego or if we were to boss them around like a major might do, then it's just not going to work well. 

2024 06 28 Melodic Lineup 2
Left to Right: Dave Cooper, Dylan Leggett, Andy Moss and Niall Summerton Image: Confidentials

DAVID: So when you started, what was the landscape of the independent scene?

DAVE C: Manchester, to me, was very different. Factory Records would have been obviously over by then but Tony Wilson was probably still doing In The City at the time, and there was still a Factory influence on Manchester I think, and to be fair it influenced me massively. It's just so inspiring to be in a city where that has happened. And I think really, Factory was based on Joy Division not moving to London. If Joy Division had done what Oasis did, Factory would have had like, two releases or something. As much as Factory stylistically was very striking, and really important to me personally, it was also that thing of having artists from Manchester or the north of England and then them not moving to London.

There were also quite a lot of dance labels. We'd go out on a Friday night after work and we'd all mix; all the different labels and musicians and DJs and whatever, in the Northern Quarter, when there were about two trendy bars. All the offices were around here so you'd just go out, everyone was always very supportive and we'd share ideas. 

There's always been a very good framework in the city and it's probably got a more mature and developed framework even than London has and probably any city in the UK. 

ANDY: I think Manchester is good for that; people do support each other, and still do I'd say. There's not so many factions or 'us and them' stuff, and I think you get that a little bit in London.

DAVID: Is that down to that sense of intense competition that makes people a bit less generous or a bit less easygoing? The sense that 'We're in London and we're all competing for this A&R person or this gig or this venue?’

DYLAN: My friend was in the music scene in London and when he moved up here, the first couple of times he went out he thought people were taking the piss because everyone was just being really friendly. 


So it's obvious, even now, that there's a complete difference in the kind of musicians in London and Manchester. What Dave said about the labels all hanging out and sharing ideas, the musician scene is still very much like that here.

DAVE C: The sad thing is all those labels that I was going out with on a Friday aren't really around anymore. It's only just dawned on me but there was a time after we'd been doing the label for a few years where I realised it was still really a hobby label, and if I wanted to commit serious time to it, I'd have to actually start making some money. I was really thinking of jacking it all in, and I think around the same time labels like Twisted Nerve and Grand Central were dissolving or ending.

We weren't making any money really and signed this band from Manchester called Working for a Nuclear Free City, and they got a sync on the pilot for a new American TV series called Breaking Bad. 

DAVID: [Laughs ]Oh right, okay. 

DAVE C: They used this track called Dead Fingers Talking and it was the scene where they first cook crystal meth in the van, so it's almost the most significant scene in the whole series.

Their music started getting used in adverts for things like Jaguar and a few others and they must have ended up making a few $100,000 through syncs. So the label suddenly became a viable thing. There was a bit of an explosion in the sync world at that time and we almost rode the crest of that wave a bit; we were lucky and that actually turned us from a hobby label into something full time. Then it was, 'We'll invest this much money into recording an album with this band' and that's when Andy got involved and became I suppose the first employee.

DAVID: So finally then, tell me about the birthday party? 

ANDY: We've been trying to do it for about five years now [laughs].

DYLAN: I think we were going to do the 20th and we couldn't get our shit together, then it was 21st and COVID ruined that.

ANDY: And before you know it you're 25. 

We've got Minotaur Shock, who was obviously one of the first signings to the label, and he still plays live but not very often, so it's quite rare. And then we've obviously got W H Lung and Strawberry Guy, who are probably the biggest artists on our label right now. Then a couple of new signings; Lilli Holland-Fricke who's a cellist with electronics, and Shaking Hand who are a really new Manchester, kind of post-rock band. 

DAVE C: I love them because they're like the kind of band I was trying to sign right at the beginning; these young guys making music from when the label started. 

I'm really excited about it, and it's only 20 minutes on the train.

Melodic Records' 25th Birthday Party takes place at The Golden Lion in Todmorden on Saturday 6 June from 5pm til late.

Visit here for tickets

25 Years of Melodic in Five Records

1. Baikonour - 'Oben Beg'


Mainly as it's probably the one Melodic track I've played out when DJing more than any other. My pal Will Lawrence who runs the excellent Basin Rock label has always played it out too. Possibly my biggest regret of the label is not persuading Jean Emmanuel Krieger to form a Baikonour live band.

- Dave Cooper

2. Dark Dark Dark - Wild Go


A beautiful record and the first band that Andy signed to the label after his stint as an intern. Hailing from Minneapolis USA. The band toured Europe loads, played Abbey Road Studios for a Channel 4 TV show and had their music used in Skins and BBC TV show Thirteen (Starring the now very famous Jodie Comer).

- Andy Moss

3. L. Pierre - 1948


Our first (and only) vinyl release without a sleeve... for Aidan Moffat's final album as L. Pierre he had the idea to release it vinyl only - no sleeve, no digital, nothing, let it deteriorate. I remember packing them all up as an intern, hopefully everyone obeyed the rules & didn't just put it in a blank sleeve as soon as they got it...

- Dylan Leggett

4. The Cool Greenhouse - Sods Toastie


I loved the first album before knowing much about Melodic, and I started as an intern in the midst of the second album campaign. I got given a vinyl before it was released and bought a secondhand record player the same night on Facebook market place so I could listen to it. It's a great album I still love listening to and 'Get Unjaded' features on most of my playlists.

- Jos Lee

5. Stephen Steinbrink - Anagrams


Steinbrink's second album, it came out in 2013 but would stand up just as well if it came out next week. This record is one of my closest mates desert island discs, he thought my job was 10x cooler when I told him we'd put it out.
- Niall Summerton

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