It’s so refreshing to speak to someone who has such an infectious love for what they do that, like Martin Bashir, I sometimes want to weep. The enthusiasmOllie Jacobat Memphis Industries has for the label and the bands on it; as well their development is a great thing for lapsed optimists everywhere.
Ollie ended up moving to London, and along with his brother Matt, started a record label in 1998 as a way to release his own music. He christened it Memphis Industries, “after a brief fascination with Elvis. I also looked like a fat Elvis. Women, mainly old women, would come up to me in puns and tell me.”
But a ‘fear of rejection’ led to him setting up MIand releasing other people’s music first. Not quite confident enough with his own work to let other people hear it he instead released Blue States debut 12” “Blue States Forever”.
Before this though Ollie was a music promoter in Brighton. He was involved with the Essential festival between 1995 and 1996 when the likes of Goldie, the Prodigy and Tribal Underground played. He left in 1997 because he “likes music too much. Being a promoter meant concentrating on anything but the music. You have to worry about things like health and safety.”
Back in London Ollie decided to, “try out MI on other music first. Blue States snowballed from there. It began to develop really quickly from there. After their 12” we decided to do an album.”
“Blue States got good. It was getting Single of the Week and Single of the Month. We realised that something was going on here. We realised we had to stop treating it like a hobby,” Ollie says excitedly. “We shipped out a thousand copies of Blue States album without knowing if anyone else would like it. But then slowly we ended up shipping out over 30,000. It developed nicely though, mainly through word of mouth.”
I ask Ollie if there is any kind of MI aesthetic in regards to the people they sigh to the label. “We sign people whose music sounds like it would be in our record collection or the person behind the music sounds like they have the same record collection.”
“When you get a demo and you end up signing the person behind it is a joy. It is exciting to see these people go from their first demo, to their first 12”, and to their first album.”
“The first three albums were similar in their influences. But theSquire Of Somerton has 60s psyche-rock influences, whereasBlack Neon are more electro. The Go! Team are quite bouncy. When we got The Go! Team demo we knew within ten to fifteen seconds that we wanted to sign them. MI isn’t eclectic. Everyone’s coming from the same area. We’re a musical label; we don’t care about genres. We don’t have an audience in mind when we release records.” Ollie is now on a roll. “The only thread that links together what we sign is whether we like it or not. It’s an eternal surprise when you sell some records and realise other people like it as well. We are informed by a pop sensibility. We see the melodic side, we always look for the fucking tunes.”
The release of the “Estuary English” is the end of part one for MI. They are moving further away from where they started. Funnily enough Ollie hates most compilations, especially chill out compilations. Although he admits without chill-out MI might not have got as far as it has. “Chill out was a backlash against Big Beat. It was trying to calm things down and inject a bit of musicality into dance music. Chill-out helped us out at the start. We were never a part of it but the stuff we released were being put under the Chill-out umbrella.”
As MI became more successful Ollie and Matt began to encounter certain difficulties but nothing that would prevent them from continuing. “There are no problems, only challenges,” Ollie jokes before admitting, “last year I didn’t think that we would be about in six months. We are now more able to plan ahead. It’s a shock that anyone likes what we put out. I ask myself, ‘is this good enough to release?’ it’s just my say so ultimately.” After four and a half years things are looking better than ever for Ollie and MI. He is even going to restart his own musical project, La Mouche, because “the kids want it”.
How do you feel about the ‘music industry’ and pop music right now?
“I don’t really feel that we are part of the music industry. It’s got nothing to do with me. A label like Domino Records informs what we’re doing and inspires us. Music, generally, is still great. It’s the music industry that has gone down the pan. Things ain’t what they used to be when I was,” Ollie chuckles down the phone. “I found my first grey hair today, so I’m feeling a bit old.”
Memphis Industries is proof that something positive can come from people with large record collections. With the release of “Estuary English” MI are now able to move ahead for at least another four and a half years releasing wonderfully esoteric pop music.