The inside story of Hassle Records
Label boss Wez looks back on a decade which brought Fall Out Boy, Alexisonfire and Brand New to a British audience.
Hassle Records turns 10 years old this year. Over the years, they've signed Fall Out Boy, Brand New, Alexisonfire, Cancer Bats, and released albums by Rolo Tomassi, Alkaline Trio, Anti-Flag, and more recently frnkiero andthe cellabration. We spoke to Hassle boss Ian Westley, aka Wez, about the label's beginnings and the secret to navigating the music industry's choppy waters...
How did the label first come about?
“I was at a bigger independent label before – we did bands like Muse, Garbage, Zero 7, and other dance stuff. It was a pretty successful company, and it was being sold to Warner Bros, but I didn’t want to go to Warner Bros because I didn’t want to be working for people like Paris Hilton. Music has always been the key to dictating what I want to do, so I thought I’d start my own thing. And that was just under 10 years ago now, which was when Full Time Hobby and Hassle first started. As we started the whole thing we were signing lots of indie acts, but we also wanted to sign lots of rock and metal acts, so we split the label into two, and Full Time Hobby and Hassle became their own separate labels. Those two different genres have different audiences, and we wanted to serve them both.”
Did you base your model on any existing record labels?
“We grew up on labels like Sub Pop, where you knew when something came out on that label it was going to be quality. And I guess the label that’s had the biggest influence on us is Epitaph; they had Epitaph and their sister label ANTI, so you’d have Tom Waits on ANTI and then all the punk, rock and metal stuff would be on Epitaph. Nigel Adams – who set the company up with me – has got more of an indie and singer-songwriter background, whereas I’ve got more of a metal background, so we split the roles across the labels.”
**You’re obviously running a business, but is there an element of heartache when a band leaves your label?
**“Of course, yeah. When you start out with a band, the band are nothing and everybody is in it for the right reason, which of course is the music. But as things move on you need to generate money to live, because everybody’s got to pay rent. So certain bands start to look for different things and it’s hard for you as an independent to provide that, so they start to look elsewhere. And that’s when heartache can happen. We’ve had a few bands leave us, and then a couple have come back because they’ve realised the grass isn’t as green as they thought it was on the other side. The problem is when they come back it’s often not quite as exciting as it was before. What we’ve done with We Are The Ocean for their fourth album is a deal with BMG, who’ve put X amount of money into them and that’s been a really good thing for us. And we’re hoping in ten years time they’ll be a big, solid UK rock act.”
**Is this the first time you’ve done a joint venture with a larger record label?
**“It is, yes.”
And has that opened the door to take a similar approach with other bands?
“Maybe, yes. It’s not what we aspire to do – we’d rather keep them on Hassle. But this was just a way of making our relationship with the band continue, and providing them with the finances they need to do what they want to do. That’s the reality of where we are, because people don’t really like paying for music that much these days, we needed to find a way of paying for the band to tour and make a record.”