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NIck Godfrey - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 8 / 9 / 2022

NIck Godfrey - Interview


John Clarkson speaks to Nick Godfrey, the owner of Precious Recordings of London, about his vinyl label that specialises in classic indie band radio sessions recorded in the 1980s and 1990s.

Photograph of Nick Godfrey with Pete Astor of The Weather Prophets Nick Godfrey is the owner of Precious Recordings of London, an indie vinyl label that has been releasing records on 7” since 2021. Precious Recordings specialises in classic radio sessions recorded in the 1980s and 1990s for the shows of DJs such as John Peel, Janice Long and Steve Lamacq. Each Precious Recordings release to date has been a serious record collector’s dream, appearing in immaculately presented gatefold sleeves with a photo of the band on the front cover, two 7” records within each package, sleeve notes from band members and postcards. There have been seventeen releases so far from indie acts such as Hefner, The Jasmine Minks, Blueboy, BMX Bandits!, Heavenly, Prolapse, The Weather Prophets, Marine Research and This Poison!. Pennyblackmusic spoke to Nick Godfrey about Precious Recordings of London. PB: What is your own background in indie music, and why did you decide to form a label? Were you like so many label owners and fanzine editors a committed fan who wanted to put something back into music? NICK GODFREY: I don’t really have any background at all. Okay, I wrote a one-issue fanzine when I was 18 in 1986 but that’s it, though I am a lifelong fan. I, however, can’t claim any truly altruistic motive in starting the label – it wasn’t necessarily about “giving something back.” I just liked the idea and thought it might be worthwhile. And fun…let’s not forget that. So, I contacted a couple of people I knew – Jim Shepherd from the Jasmine Minks and Duglas T. Stewart from the BMX Bandits – if they’d be prepared to let me loose on their sessions. Fortunately, they both loved the idea – though Jim warned me not to expect to break even. So, I found someone at the BBC and went through the rigmarole of licensing. Then came Blueboy, who I didn’t know at all but someone put me in touch with Paul Stewart via Twitter. Plus, of course, Heavenly – Amelia and Mathew Fletcher were old friends of mine from the C86 days. I’ve often said I’d listen to Amelia singing the telephone directory. This was all during the lockdown. I had thought about putting on some gigs but that was hardly the time, and I couldn’t really see myself finding new bands. On a practical level, I left my job at ‘The Racing Post’(I’m a horse racing journalist in my other life) after 29 years and my mum died, so I had a little bit of cash – I’d rather release these records than pay off the mortgage. In a sense, it’s a latter day version of the Strange Fruit label that released Peel Sessions on 12-inch in the late 80s and 90s – but Janice Long got there first with a lot of the artists I especially liked from that era. She never really got much credit for that and now it’s too late. The label name is directly inspired by ‘Let’s Make This Precious’ by Dexys Midnight Runners. I absolutely love Dexys and the passion and inspiration Kevin Rowland has always put into everything he touches. It’s all about care and attention to detail. Dexys have never done anything by halves and I want to produce something that any fan would covet. ‘Let’s Make This Precious’, by the way, featured on at least one BBC session — so if you’re reading, Kev, you know where to find me. The catalogue number for Precious is also significant. It’s PRE 001 and so on – a direct homage to Creation Records, who used CRE 001 and onwards. I always joke with Jim Shepherd that he may have been CRE 004 (with the single ‘Think!’) but he’ll always be PRE 001. PB: All your releases so far were originally recorded for sessions for Radio 1 night-time DJs such as John Peel, Janice Long and Steve Lamacq between 1984 and 1998. Do you have strong memories of hearing those sessions first time around? NG: Peel and Janice, yes – and even the later Kid Jensen shows. I used to go and see a lot of these bands live and bootleg them, and I still have a decent amount of cassettes. Not sure how well any of them will play, mind you. Anyway, like everyone else, I used to sit there poised over the pause button (to quote This Poison!) ready to tape the sessions. They were clearly a big deal to everyone concerned – and at the time they usually featured yet-to-be-released songs. Finding my tape box again was one significant factor in starting the label – I just thought nobody had ever released most of them. But if Jim Shepherd had said “no”, it would never have happened, so I’ll always be grateful to him. And, for that matter, everyone else who has agreed to let me release their sessions. PB: How easy or difficult has it been obtaining the licences to these recordings? NG: Relatively straightforward, albeit time-consuming and legalistic. There are significant costs with regard to the BBC, of course, but they’ve been helpful and I’ve developed a nice relationship with them. In truth, the ‘legals’ haven’t caused any major headaches. All the artists have been closely involved – the first-person essays on the sleeves are an important part of the concept – and there haven’t been any record-label issues yet as they all own their own rights. But there are a couple in the future where I’ve had to pay a label who own the artists’ rights – it’s slightly weird, because they certainly don’t own the recordings, which belong to the BBC. But the BBC won’t release them without any necessary record-label agreement, so I’ve had to pay for that permission, in effect. Obviously I also had to learn about mechanical rights and PRS stuff – my friend Martin Pike of Duophonic fame was a big help there, and a source of great encouragement – so there’s quite a hefty upfront outlay. PB: Why have you decided to put out these records on vinyl rather than CD? Were you worried about limiting your audience? How many copies do you make of each record? NG: Vinyl is the raison d’etre of the label. I’m enough of an anorak to get a little disappointed when bands say they’re releasing a single and there isn’t any vinyl. I just like them as artefacts – with specific reference to seven-inch singles, which I have always loved. I simply don’t like CDs as much – I recall I owned about 100 of them before I even had a CD player. Can’t think why – must have been a Canute-like attempt to hold back the tide. Added to which, gatefold singles suited my purpose. I could make a special four-sided package – dare I say, precious ? – where there is no A-side and B-side; like a session, each of the four songs is as important as the other. Economic imperatives, however, mean the gatefolds will have to stop as it is just too expensive, so Precious Recordings of London will be going to ten-inches from PRE 017, which is This Poison! That move will safeguard the label and means I can continue to pay for photos and give away all the extras, like the postcards that have become a staple of the series. As for limiting the audience, well it’s possible. You can buy downloads on Bandcamp, mind you. If we ever release more than one session by a single artist, perhaps CDs would be the way to go. All results are possible. Every release so far has been 500 copies – apart from Prolapse, which is 600. I did a Heavenly repress as well so that one is 700 altogether. I wanted to do smaller runs of 300 for some artists but the unit cost makes that unviable. I’m hoping it will be possible when I move to ten-inch, but as it stands, I would be locking in a loss even if the record sells out on a run of 300. PB: There is a huge backlog in vinyl releases at the moment. Has that affected things much at Precious Recordings? How often do you hope to put out new releases? NG: Time for a moan (diddums), But, yes, the backlog has affected everybody. The first Precious records appeared in March 2021 and to say things have changed massively since then is to risk understatement. Anyone trying to produce vinyl independently will know the score. Pressing plants worldwide are overwhelmed – from a six-week turnaround, I’m now being quoted eight months, and manufacturing costs have gone up by 60%-plus in an 18-month period. Throw in energy surcharges, Brexit-inspired customs problems hitting European sales (understandably, given VAT and extra charges), and it’s become even more challenging. It’s not much better at home. Let’s face it – these are luxury items and they’re hardly inexpensive… it doesn’t matter how much love, care and attention I’m trying to put into them, but people might well struggle to justify buying them amid a cost-of-living crisis. So, with all that in mind, I don’t have any precise schedule but an average of one release a month would be nice. PB: You have often released two singles at the time by the same artists, two by Prolapse, two by BMX Bandits! and two by Heavenly. Why have you decided to do that rather than stagger things? NG: I don’t know really. The first two bands I released were the Jasmine Minks and the BMX Bandits, and they just happened to have two sessions – as did Heavenly, who came soon after. It just made sense to sell them together, with a small discount. I’ve found that nearly everybody wants both – perhaps apart from the Peel fetishists, who buy only Peel. But I’ve done three Hefner; there are more Prolapse sessions but one has a ten-minute track that wouldn’t fit on the seven-inch. I’ve just released three standalone singles as well, so the schedule is a moveable feast. PB: What do you think have been Precious Recordings of London’s greatest achievements in the eighteen months or so that you have been running? NG: Getting the first consignment of 2,000 singles back from the manufacturers was a big high – I get a massive buzz opening those boxes and seeing the pristine picture sleeves. Frankly, though, whenever a band says “yes” I get excited. Releasing records by someone like Pete Astor, a longtime hero of mine, and Darren Hayman or Prolapse means a lot to me. The downside is the mountain of boxes in my basement flat in Putney! As for specific ‘achievements’, then it was gratifying how quickly Blueboy sold out. That’s such a great session, with one totally unreleased song – and Paul loves the front cover, which has the late Keith Girdler flashing a V-sign. Rather out of character with their image. I did feel the weight of responsibility with that release, given the group’s history. Fortunately, the band loved the records and Clare Wadd and Matt Haynes from Sarah also seem to appreciate it – that’s not a legacy you’d want to mess up. Mind you, that still hasn’t persuaded the Field Mice to let me release their Peel session. On the wider label identity and look, I’ve always loved record labels with a distinct identity – think Immediate in the 1960s, or Two-Tone and Factory. That’s clearly influenced our look – colour-coded according to DJ (Peel is red, Janice is yellow, Lamacq is Colchester blue), with similar checks to those I used on my one-issue fanzine thirty years ago. The only label I’ve, however, ever really collected was Creation in the early days with their wraparound sleeves. I’d buy them unheard. To some extent I did the same with Sarah, and clearly they’re a massive influence too – we’ve released Blueboy and Heavenly, two of my favourites on that much loved label. More recently, John Jervis’s label Where It’s At Is Where You Are have led the way in attention to detail and beautiful packaging – and, of course, I loved virtually everything ever put out by Sean Price on Fortuna Pop! And I must also mention Optic Nerve, who put so much love into their reissues. PB: You will be putting out a Marine Research EP in July. What other plans do you have for releases for the rest of the year? NG: Marine Research, which is a gorgeous session, was released for pre-order at about the same time as three others – a third session by Hefner, the only BBC session by Hurrah! and This Poison! (Well, nearly, This Poison! has been delayed … what were we saying about pressing plants?) If you don’t mind, I’d like to mention that all of these have some spiffing extras (though I would say that) on top of the postcards and downloads. There’s an entire BBC Sound City show on the Marine Research download, for example, and an extra song (‘The Hymn for the Cigarettes’) on Hefner that they played into Steve Lamacq’s Live Lounge directly from the Maida Vale studio. Hurrah! have signed some postcards and there are reproduction pages from the Kitchenware fanzine, plus their first-ever photo shoot. We’ve got a reproduction of a postcard Peel sent to the band in the This Poison! package. Enough advertising… the next ones coming up this year, signed, sealed and nearly delivered, are a couple of Soup Dragons’ sessions (I’m going to release all four in the end) plus Boyracer, then it’s the Orchids (x2). All of those might be out in 2022 – and in 2023 we’ve got the Bodines, 1,000 Violins and Helen Love. But I haven’t announced some of those yet. Oops. As for the ‘wants’ list… let’s just say it’s a long list. Primal Scream is the motherlode but I can’t see it happening. I’d happily settle for the Shop Assistants! PB: Thank you. Precious Recordings of London Discography PRE 001 The Jasmine Minks John Peel 17.02.86 The Ballad of Johnny Eye, Cry For A Man, You Take My Freedom, I Don’t Know PRE 002 The Jasmine Minks Janice Long 24.11.86 Follow Me Away, Cut Me Deep, Where The Traffic Goes, Ballad PRE 003 BMX Bandits Janice Long 23.06.86 Strawberry Sunday, The Day Before Tomorrow, Groovy Good Luck Friend, Girl In The Pink T-Shirt PRE 004 BMX Bandits Janice Long 09.04.87 Flipper, Rosemary Ledingham, Figure 4, Take Five PRE 005 Blueboy John Peel 13.12.94 Toulouse, Good News Week, Dirty Mags, Loony Tunes PRE 006 Heavenly John Peel 14.04.91 And The Birds Aren’t Singing, So Little Deserve, Escort Crash On Marston Street – plus extras PRE 007 Heavenly John Peel 07.05.94 Itchy Chin, Sacramento, Sperm Meets Egg, So What?, Dumpster PRE 008 The Weather Prophets Janice Long 10.10.85 Love Song No. 1, 24 Years, Lighthouse Room, I Almost Prayed PRE 009 The Weather Prophets John Peel 01.12.86 Swimming Pool Blue, Hollow Heart, She Comes From The Rain, Faithful PRE 010 Prolapse John Peel 20.08.94 Serpico, Doorstop Rhythmic Bloc, When Space Invaders Were Big, Broken Cormorant PRE 011 Prolapse John Peel 08.04.97 Slash/Oblique, Deanshanger, Outside Of It, Place Called Clock PRE 012 Hefner Steve Lamacq 15.07.98 The Librarian, Tactile, May God Protect Your Home, Twisting Mary’s Arm PRE 013 Hefner John Peel 13.10.98 The Science Fiction, I Stole A Bride, You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone, Lisa And Me PRE 014 Hefner Steve Lamacq 24.03.99 The Weight Of The Stars, The Hymn For The Things We Didn't Do, Every Little Gesture, To Hide A Little Thought PRE 015 Marine Research John Peel 18.05.99 I Confess, Angel In The Snow, Bad Dreams, Capital L PRE 016 Hurrah! David Jensen 08.12.82 Hip Hip, Saturday’s Train, This Boy, Lonely Room PRE 017 This Poison! John Peel 30.11.87 Question Mark, St. Johnstoun, Driving Skills, It’ll All Work Ou

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Precious Recordings of London (6)

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Picture Gallery:-
NIck Godfrey - Interview
Darren Hayman of Hefner

NIck Godfrey - Interview
Nick Godfrey's hallway after a delivery.

NIck Godfrey - Interview
Complete Precious Recordings off London discography

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