Interview: Winning Sperm Party

Part

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This piece was originally published on the 14th of July 2015 by The 405. So, this was part of a series of features about Glasgow’s independent music scene that was organised and written by me and my ride-or-die, Rob Wilson.  (This series was called ‘Glasweek‘ because that’s how we referred to it in casual conversation and we couldn’t think of a better name). Neither Rob or I are from Glasgow (and at this point I’d never actually visited the city), but we’re friends with people familiar with the scene, so we had a good idea of what was going on there. Enthralled by what we were hearing from the likes of Antique Pony and Herbert Powell, we were curious as to why this music wasn’t getting the attention we believed it deserved. So, we decided to use our platform to give it the attention ourselves. Our friends hooked us up with a number of people within the scene and the series grew from there, really. We soon had enough articles to take up a week of feature space on The 405, including six interviews with artists, two with record labels, an introductory piece about why the scene deserved attention, and a playlist comprising of songs by artists within the scene (many of which were recommended by other artists). And yeah, I’m proud of what we accomplished here. Organising a series like this from the ground floor was a great experience (even though it wasn’t always smooth, we had to delay the series a few times after a couple of the bands we interviewed split up), and we got to shine a light on some incredibly talented people that had been universally overlooked. Goes to show that great music is always out there, you just have to find it yourself.

Winning Sperm Party are, in the broadest of terms, a Glasgow based music collective. They began as an online zine and record label dedicated to underground and overlooked musicians from Scotland, and soon moved onto ventures such as radio shows and gig promotion. But that’s the boring stuff. See, the ’80s hardcore band Minutemen had a name for what WSP do: they jam econo. That is to say, they eschew excess and live modestly. They’re realistic about what they have, but refuse to see that as a limitation. They do all the work themselves, but don’t take a wage for it. They’ve uncovered a wealth of talented artists, but have released digital copies for their music online for free rather than capitalise on it.

This is a label emboldened by an infectiously optimistic DIY ethos that says, well, if nobody else is releasing the music we want to hear or putting on the shows we want to see, then fuck it, we can do it ourselves. In the best tradition of punk, Winning Sperm Party is about stripping away the manifold edifices of capitalist bullshit that exist within contemporary music and proving that you don’t need any of it to connect with people. Consciously bereft of any finery, they directly challenge us to do more and to be more with less. Other labels would do well to follow this righteous crusade.

Let’s get the most boring question out the way first: what’s the story behind the name?

It’s about the idea that all people are members of the winning sperm party. Since we all were once sperm racing against millions of other sperms to an egg, we’re all significant winners and this is appropriately met with celebration and music. People say it makes them cringe to read and hear it or it makes them feel disgusting to say it. It should have been called winning sperm and egg party.

Why does Winning Sperm Party exist? What do you try to address that you felt was previously missing? And has your mission statement, for lack of a better phrase, changed since you started?

All that exists is our figments that we address via winning sperm party. A lot of the releases are our own stuff, but we regularly become other stuff and it becomes us. Nothing is designed to stay the same because everything do is to be suitable for the moment. All of our releases from the start are always available to download in high quality on our website without purchase. Other than that, it shouldn’t necessarily stay the same.

You’re based in Glasgow, is that because you feel there’s something special going there? Is it a more creative place than most?

It seems to be where we are, but the city has got an amazing culture and a self-assuringly pompous art history. We voted 53.49% in favour of an independent government, displaying self-belief and imagination. It’s a proudly internationalist place and amazing artists from all over the world take residence here to make it what it is. There’s interesting music everywhere you go though. Ignore anything you hear about in the old and mainstream media, and even the established new media, and keep a look out for cool looking gig posters.

What we know about Glasgow’s underground scene so far is that it’s very DIY and there’s not a lot of money in it. So how have you been able to sustain Winning Sperm Party? And is running the label a full time job now, or does it remain more of a hobby? Or is that entirely beside the point?

We have a modest fund (currently £394.55) that started from our pocket money and a few fundraiser gigs. It goes up and down as releases are bought and sold. We employ ourselves to do things, but do not take a wage.

Running a label is obviously incredibly difficult, but it must also be rewarding too. Which of your accomplishments with Winning Sperm Party has given you the most joy?

Last summer we did a three-day gig-a-thon, using some nice parkland in Possil, Pollok Cricket Club and Shawlands Arcade for venues, taking our own PA gear and a generator for outdoors. We had some of the best bands of the moment: Fem Bitch Nation, Golden Teacher, Cosmic Dead, Froth [ed. Froth have since changed their name to Strop], Insect Heroes, Thoth, Imperium, Joe Howe, Seconds, Conquering Animal Sound, Smack Wizards, The Yawns, and Sarah Kenchington. That’s just one great recollection though; we’ve had a lot of fun with various endeavours.

Were you to meet someone looking to start up a new label for independent artists, is there anything you’d encourage them to do, or advise them to avoid?

Have a think about what is good and bad about other stuff. Copy good things and avoid bad things.

What does Winning Sperm Party look for in an artist?

We don’t have an idea of what we are looking for as such. Great new music is always a surprise.

And, related to that, do you generally see yourselves as a platform for artists to get themselves out there by putting on gigs and releasing their music, or do you try and nurture their talent as well?

We groom each other with recording, videos, html, videos, artwork and personal advice.

What are the realities of organising shows, in Glasgow and elsewhere?

We try to ignore the realities as much as possible; avoiding hassle and cutting costs by not asking for permission to do things. We make our own analysis on whether a location is suitable for a show, tell people about it, take along our gear and just go for it. We’re trying to shake people’s minds and help them see that the age-old structures of the scene are built on bullshit and everything is possible.

We’re interviewing two Glasgow labels this week, you and Number4Door, and one striking similarity is that you’re both committed to releasing your music on cassettes as well as digitally. The interesting thing about cassettes right now is that they’re unfashionable – as they’re probably at the bottom of the existing physical format hierarchy – yet also increasingly fashionable because many independent artists and labels are gravitating towards them. So what does the format offer that others – including digital ones – don’t?

They’re cheap for everyone involved and the sound is unparalleled. Tapes are portable, well-sized for collecting, don’t skip and probably continue to function after 200 years, unless you don’t look after them properly, or listen to them too much… gradually the sound of the tape can change and over time develop quirks that will make the recording sound better. We do a lot of our recordings on tape too, so the audio doesn’t need to go through any translation process.

One final question: what have you got planned for the future, and which of your future projects are you most excited about?

The next thing to look out for is a tape by a new group Spinning Coin due early March 2015. Some of the most beautiful establishment-free young male songwriters in the city are sharing a moment and everyone’s really enjoying it. They’ve got the angelic voices of heaven and hell, tight musical drum playing, bass signatures, and the best lead guitar playing in Glasgow (Jack Mellin).

This interview was conducted February 2015 via email. We have no idea who took the header image, but it was given to us by Winning Sperm Party. Likewise, we don’t know who answered our questions.

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