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Cow Pie Productions - Interview with Patrick Hart

  by John Clarkson

published: 16 / 7 / 2020

Cow Pie Productions - Interview with Patrick Hart


John Clarkson speaks to London businessman and music fan Patrick Hart about his role in the relaunch of the influential country label Cow Pie Productions almost forty years after it closed.

Cow Pie Productions was first established by the pedal steel guitarist and acclaimed session player B.J. Cole in 1978, shortly after he returned to London from his first visit to the United States, excited by some of the country acts and bands that he had seen while he was there. Some of Cole's contacts at United Artists – which had released three albums by his former band Cochise as well as his first solo LP, 'The New Hovering Dog' (1972) – suggested to him that he start an offshoot label dedicated to British country artists. Early records by Cow Pie included singles by Cole ('Pie in the Sky', 1978), Scottish country artist Nancy Peppers ('Leaving for Better Times', 1978), Southend-on-Sea singer-songwriter Thom Fricker ('Tonight', 1979) and also a Peppers album (which was also called 'Leaving for Better Times', 1978). By 1980 Cow Pie had broken away from United Artists and had become totally independent. Over the next two years it launched the career of and released various records by Hank Wangford, the stage name for Sam Hutt, a doctor and drug-addiction specialist turned influential country and western musician. These included his self-titled debut album 'Hank Wangford' (1980) and then 1981's 'Live', as well as a cassette compilation 'Bumper Box' (1982) and three singles, 'Wild Thing' (1980), 'Cowboys Stay On Longer' (1980) and 'Rootin' Tootin' Santa Claus' (1982). Cow Pie also released two singles in 1981 by singer-songwriter and harmonica player Ricky Cool, the first with his band the Rialtos, 'Saturday Night is a Party Night', and one as a solo record, 'I've Got This Problem with Girls (They Don't Like Me)'. Cow Pie Productions folded at the end of 1982, but now Cole is relaunching it almost four decades after it closed, in collaboration with London-based businessman and country music fan Patrick Hart. The first release - on July 17th - of the revitalized Cow Pie will find Hank Wangford returning to his original label, and is a single called 'My Perfect Day' (digital and yellow-coloured vinyl), Hank's first release in ten years. It is taken from his forthcoming album 'Holey Holey', which is due out later this year on Sincere Sounds. Cow Pie is also releasing in August 'Daydream Smile', a 'Hawaiian' album by Cole. Other releases planned for later in the year include vinyl reissues of both Oxfordshire singer-songwriter Ags Connolly's third album, 'Wrong Again', which came out last year, and also South London 'urban country' duo Morton Valence's 2016 album, 'Black Angel Drifter'. The latter is a rarity in Morton Valence's catalogue: originally released also under the group name of Black Angel Drifter, the band played just one gig under the moniker and it is an album that has been little heard since its initial release. Pennyblackmusic spoke to Patrick Hart about Cow Pie's relaunch. PB: Cow Pie Productions began in 1978 and was short-lived, closing in 1982 and releasing in its lifetime just a handful of records. Why did you want to restart such a long dormant label? PATRICK HART: Has it been that long? Yes, I guess it has! For me it still makes all the sense in the world as Cow Pie is such a memorable brand and while it was introduced as a home to UK country artists, we still have the same opportunity and a bigger market. PB: You are described in your press release as "an entrepreneur". What is your previous experience in both business and with country music? PATRICK HART: I spent decades of a misguided career in blue-chip management consulting and starting up a handful of companies in IT and strategy along the way. Now I am selling records - what could be a more positive change? On the music side I dabble with a London band called East Lonesome Drifters where I am able to see a little of the state of my chosen genre from the inside. PB: Cow Pie was resurrected because you kept asking B.J. Cole to restart it, and he suggested that you restart it with him. How do you divide up your roles in it? Who does what and how well did you know each other beforehand? PATRICK HART: Having B.J. involved was always crucial — all the things you say about the hiatus and what the brand stands for is academic without someone who has the prestige and status of a music legend. As far as the day to day I handle the business elements with a steer from B.J. He is working A&R on future signings and will be available as a producer. PB: The present day Cow Pie Productions pays tribute to its past, as it is releasing records by Hank Wangford and B.J. Cole, who were on the original label. It is also re-releasing on vinyl albums by Ags Connolly and Morton Valence. They are acts that are quite different from each other and different from Hank and B.J. How do you see them as fitting in under the Cow Pie umbrella? PATRICK HART: I always joke that if I cannot support my favourite music and people on the Cow Pie label, then what am I doing it for? That said, having the historical element is fine but the music must be fantastic — and the new work from Hank and B.J. is stellar. As are these records from Ags and Morton Valence. We have a commitment to country and western and, dare I say, Americana. But you could debate what these labels mean. We think we know when the music fits our brand and that in itself is the fit, and we'll always try to be inclusive and probably eclectic as well. PB: B.J,'s album 'Daydream Smile' is apparently a 'Hawaiian' album. Does that consist of old or new material? Will it be largely instrumental? PATRICK HART: It is truly fabulous. The record is largely instrumental, with three songs, sung by B.J., Dave Eastoe and Hank Wangford. All material new and original. This music takes us back to Hank Marvin, Santo and Johnny and to the music of the Hawaiian Islands which were B.J's original inspiration on his instrument. Remember musicians brought steel string guitar madness to the United States, hugely influencing the evolving styles of American popular music at the time — blues, western, cowboy and country and western. PB: Are you releasing the Ags Connolly and Morton Valence albums simply because you feel that they deserve a vinyl release and more of an audience? 'Black Angel Drifter' in particular is something of an obscurity. Morton Valence played one gig as Black Angel Drifter and when that album came out in 2016 it received barely any press coverage. PATRICK HART: I am glad you bring up some of the history of Black Angel Drifter. This record is the epitome of urban country. And it is so timely in its moodiness today. It was really a planned side project when first released, so now we are giving it the home it deserves. I have always loved what Anne Gilpin and Rob 'Hacker' Jessett have done — I think they were the first live band I followed when I moved to the UK twelve years ago. I first heard Ags at a live show where I bought his 'How About Now' on vinyl and have been playing it ever since. What an amazing record! I have been lucky enough to spend some time with him since then and always said his music deserves to be listened to on vinyl. We are planning another project in this vein. PB: 'Black Angel Drifter' closes with 24.33 of insect noises. Will you be taking that off and keeping the hidden track which is also on it towards its end? PATRICK HART: You may have to wait on what we do with the insects (laughs). No, we will keep as much as we can fit of the insect noises on side two and keep the hidden track. We are mastering this right now. I always felt it was something artists like Lee Hazlewood and Mickey Newbury would approved of. PB: Cow Pie has stayed true to its roots by concentrating on vinyl. Could you ever see yourselves releasing CDs, downloads or cassettes or would that be total sacrilege? It is a difficult time to start a label in the midst of a pandemic. What have you got planned beyond these four initial releases and into 2021? PATRICK HART: Cow Pie is certainly multi-format. All vinyl will also have free digital downloads and Cargo Records will be making all releases available in all the digital outlets. In fact the B.J. and Morton Valence titles will be released on CD and downloads in parallel with vinyl. Who knows what the future will hold? Thumb drives? Back to cassettes? Cow Pie released a cassette of Hank Wangford back in the 80s so anything is possible. For me, music of this type sounds better on vinyl, but we want to make it available to as many listeners as we can. With the packaging and limited edition vinyl pressings maybe we will even convert some people to vinyl. Yes, we decided to restart the label basically on the days that record stores closed, but things will get back to normal some time and the focus for us is releasing material with the best possible listening experience. It is a bit early to talk about 2021, but we have exciting projects in the works with Ags and Hank and will be announcing new talent as well. PB: Thank you.

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Cow Pie Productions - Interview with Patrick Hart

Cow Pie Productions - Interview with Patrick Hart

Cow Pie Productions - Interview with Patrick Hart

Cow Pie Productions - Interview with Patrick Hart

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