All systems Go! to keep independence

Jewish Telegraph, June 2006

LABEL BOSSES: Matt, left, and Ollie Jacob

MATT Jacob is getting nervous about the majors sniffing around his independent record label.
Matt and his brother Ollie, 30, launched Memphis Industries in 1998 as a part-time project. They only went full-time last year.
“Ollie was recording music and thought it would be a way of getting it released,” Matt, 33, said.
“He had been living in Brighton but had come back to London. He didn’t know what to do and thought it would be a way to spend time with me.”
Neither of them had any experience in the music industry, so they placed an advert in Future Music — “a techie mag”.
He said: “We got sent four demos and there was one half decent one by Blue States.
“We met up with him and it worked out quite well.”
Memphis Industries put out three 12 inch records by Blue States, followed by the 2000 album Nothing Changes Under The Sun.
“We expected to sell maybe 5,000 albums, but we actually sold 60,000 worldwide,” Matt said.
“We were signing bedroom musicians who didn’t write songs, just 15 minute epics.
“We were pigeonholed as a down-tempo chill-out label so we decided we should start signing proper bands and going to gigs.”
The label’s fortunes changed when Matt received a demo from The Go! Team.
Mainman Ian Parton had only sent the demo to four record labels as, according to Matt, he was a bit wary about becoming a successful recording artists.
The CD included a number of “soundtracky tunes and tracks that have never seen the light of day” — but it also featured Ladyflash which was to become The Go! Team’s signature tune.
“Our input into the album was to buy Ian Pro-Tools for his computer,” Matt laughed.
The album was boosted by a Mercury Music Prize nomination and has now sold 250,000 worldwide.
“Our expectations were quite low. We have got into bed with Sony because dealing with the sampling was a nightmare.
“They have paid us an advance for the second album which we have split with the band and we have been able to budget for the coming year with that money.”
The Go! Team release a one-off single, Doing It Right, in September with a new album to follow next year.
Memphis Industries — named after Matt and Ollie’s Elvis Presley fixation — has an impressive roster of acts.
The label was recommended a Swedish band called Dungen. Matt’s gamble paid off as NME — and other music magazines — named their pyscherockfolk album Ta Det Lugnt as one of the best releases of 2005.
“We assumed loads of labels would be after them, but we were the only ones,” London-born Matt said.
Matt also signed all-girl group The Pipettes despite not liking their demo tape.
“We saw room for improvement and they were pleased for our help,” he said.
The label has also just released Absentee’s new album Schmotime. The group, which features Melinda Bronstein, was recently featured in NME.
“We are delighted with the progress of the label,” Matt said. “Although if The Go! Team hadn’t happened then who knows what would have happened.
“It’s tough being an independent label. We have been offered major label deals but have turned them down.
“I’m nervous about doing such a thing but there might come a stage when we are tired of doing the day-to-day things.”
Matt, of Islington, gave up being a lawyer last year but his background does help during contract negotiations.
Matt’s family is originally from Baghdad but after being “kicked out” of Iran the family settled in Shanghai where grandfather Isaac Jacob was born. He moved to Britain after gaining a scholarship at university.
For details of the label’s roster, visit www.memphis-industries.com/

Jewish Telegraph deputy editor and arts editor. Email Mcohen@jewishtelegraph.com with your Jewish arts stories