David Fox is a very talented and busy man. Musician, producer, eminence grise behind not one but two festivals and also (along with John Mitchell) a driving force behind long-standing Manchester indie label Valentine Records. As the label gears up for a very busy 2019, kicking off with a relaunch at The Eagle Inn on January 25th, we caught up with the fantastic Mr Fox to find out more about him, his own musical endeavours and future plans for VR.
First up, tell us a little about yourself and your musical background?
Long story. Failed indie guitarist/club DJ/jazz pianist – albeit with a few ‘right time right place’ coincidences (my 2001-era band were supported by Elbow and Doves but promptly split up when we lost our drummer to S Club 7 while One Direction (literally) gate-crashed my wedding in 2001. Cheeky little buggers…
Valentine Records came about purely by accident as my then girlfriend Sarah and I thought that trying to impress Tony Wilson (God rest his soul) was the official Manchester Music induction test (that and surviving a car journey with Tom Hingley and a bus journey with Mark E Smith – both of which happened during my first 6 months in the city).
We were young, naive and stupid/persistent enough to gain some traction just as the conventional record industry was dying on its proverbial arse.
What’s the guiding light behind Valentine Records? The current roster is very diverse musically.
Same as it ever was. In my humble opinion there are really only two types of music: Good and Bad. Both are (almost) entirely subjective. Valentine Records is basically mine and John’s outlet for our own personal tastes (although we do like to consult select others from time to time to keep our egos/sanity in check).
The class of 2019 are a rowdy bunch: Pandemonium and Dirty Mice are at the more extreme end of the scale – albeit completely compelling/vital and arresting, while Still Forever offers exquisite soundscapes topped with dream-pop vocals.
Val/Kyrie largely exists to perpetuate our own indulgences (plus #queerartnoise is a pretty cool hashtag and Mary Anne Hobbs seems to rather like us…
You wear a lot of hats – musician, label owner, festival organiser – what would you say are the main similarities and differences between the various roles?
Honestly – I’ve really only got two. One is a deerstalker my 6-year old son got me for Christmas, the other makes me look like Jeremy Corbyn having a midlife crisis. Which is pretty apt.
Joking aside, similarities are working with wonderful, creative people (with the occasional nightmare along the way). Differences are largely down to my short attention span and slightly autistic approach to work/life/art/anything.
With Foundations Festival I stand behind Adrian and Emily hoping some of their talent rubs off while at Valentine I cultivate an idiosyncratic personality cult on a par with Stalin and/or Jeremy Clarkson*.
*In reality I mostly make the tea.
You were also promoter of one of Manchester’s more notorious alt/electro nights. How did the club come about? You must have some interesting stories to tell!
To Amy With Love? Well, it was certainly a labour of love (laughs). For about 18 months (2003-4) we were briefly, unintentionally and hilariously ‘in vogue’ – to the extent of reportage in The Face and Jockey Slut and having the pleasure of booting out a particularly cocky Pete Doherty who was trying to claim he was more inebriated/famous/important than me. At least one of these was true – I’ll leave you to decide which.
The club came about for three reasons:
1) We were having a bit of a cashflow issue having blown the proceeds of our first wave of releases on a couple of misfires and/or a Fallowfield-based drug dealer.
2) We all enjoyed beatmatching inappropriate records (imagine a Too Many DJs tribute act comprising Stuart Price and the Tellytubbies).
3) Sarah REALLY had a thing about confectionary in club nights (and no, that isn’t an oblique drug reference).
You’re holding an official relaunch for Valentine Records, what’s the motivation behind that?
John and I had a much-needed year off to care for small children/have nervous breakdowns/get St Lucifer (our ‘day-job’ band) out of A&E – but a good itch needs scratching and there’s simply too much amazing music to share.
What are the plans for the future – releases, gigs, any great secrets you can reveal to us?
Well, the Poetry vs Noise commission at the last two Foundations Festivals really seems to have resonated with people, so I can see that evolving into something – possibly standalone – during 2019.
We’ve also got plans for a new regular DJ night and a couple more new artists to announce. Foundations has gone from biennial to annual (is that a spoiler?) while we’ve had plans for a while to reissue a few remastered ‘classics’ that have been out of print for a while.
For now, however the focus is on getting the current raft of cassette and digital releases out and attempting to cajole as many people as possible to get the new logo tattooed.
Because. We all know label tattoos are a thing.