Paul Adams
Alan Arnold

Paul Adams

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Interview date 1st January 0001
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Forename Paul
Surname Adams

Interview Transcription

Interviewer: OK, so if we start with the basics - could you say your name and spell your name please.

Paul: Paul Adams - P.A.U.L A.D.A.M.S

Interviewer: Thank you, and could you let me know your date of birth and where you were born please.

Paul: Twenty-sixth of January, nineteen forty-eight, and I was born in Coventry.

Interviewer: Thank you, and could you just tell me a bit about your background in music and your parents as well.

Paul: There wasn’t really a background in music at all. My parents always had the radio on. They bought me a wind-up gramophone when I was about seven I think, so my mother would always be humming or singing something in the house. My Dad was very interested in classical music but neither of them played anything so there was no sort of background in that sense. At school, I suppose I took an interest in music; I started buying records I think, when I got this wind-up gramophone. So, I stated becoming a record collector around about the age of seven or eight, so music interested me in that sense. I went to secondary school; a group of friends were musical and the music teacher was very good at involving all sorts of people in music and I was persuaded to play the double bass but I was about fifteen or sixteen by the time that happened. I’d also been quite interested in playing the drums and that came along about the same time but that’s the sort of musical thing and how I sort of got involved in it but it wasn’t any more than that really.

Interviewer: That’s fine so, over the years then, how did your activities in terms of music and jazz develop?

Paul: The jazz thing, I’m at the younger end of the people who were affected - if that’s the right word - by the trad boom of the early sixties. So, you can never really say why you like a particular type of music; something comes along which either you relate to or you think ‘that sounds good’ [but] you can’t necessarily, consciously always point out when it happened or why it happened. There was a lot of trad jazz played on the radio at the time, and so I was about thirteen or fourteen when I first became aware I think of jazz. I had an older brother; my brother is ten years older than me and he was very interested in jazz in the sense that he went to jazz clubs and so again, I was aware of it sort of though him. He didn’t particularly collect any records or anything though, so I’d become aware of jazz as such at that point. When I became old enough to be an underage drinker, I became aware of a jazz club in the town which the Head Boy at my school told me about. He said it was a big band and I wasn’t terribly interested in big band jazz; for me at that point at about sixteen or seventeen it was trad jazz but I’d started to think a little bit about some of the names that had been appearing you know. I’d read on an… I had an EP of Monty Sunshine and it said he played a couple of tunes associated with a New Orleans clarinet player called George Lewis and that made me interested in ‘who was George Lewis?’ you know, and I started to do that - and names like Jelly Roll Morton cropped up and King Oliver and obviously Louis Armstrong but already knew a little bit about Louis Armstrong because his records were [already] played - but that was just sort of vaguely interesting. But the Head boy at my school said to me ‘yeah well this jazz club, it’s a big band but it’s a vintage big band’ and I thought ‘OK, well that sounds a bit interesting’. So, I went along there and yeah, they played the music of McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, Oliver’s Dixie Syncopators, and I think possibly live music made it interesting.

I had gone to jazz concerts before then because in Coventry, we had a thing called the Coventry Theatre which was part of a touring circuit and you would get Aker Bilk, Chris Barber, Kenny Ball and the Temperance Seven were on this circuit and I used to go along there with a couple of friends. So, I’d experienced live jazz before then but this was the first time I started to get involved on a more regular basis and I made friends with the drummer – [John Assel?] and John became my jazz mentor. He told me everything I needed to know about jazz and told me what I liked, and I knew I’d arrived a few years later when he asked me what I liked. He also became my drum mentor and I started playing drums much more seriously. The double bass side of things, I only did a little bit of jazz double bassing but this became another strand of my music side of things was, one of the teachers at my school had a boyfriend who was a professional folk singer and he was looking for a double bass player for his group. He was professional actually and his group operated on a semi-professional basis, and he asked my music teacher if he could recommend somebody to play double bass, and he recommended me. I got the job, so I then became involved once a week in a folk club – I knew nothing about folk music at all, but one of the first guests at the folk club was Diz Disley and I knew Diz Disley from my jazz records. But Diz was also working the folk clubs and I got to know Diz a little bit. Diz also knew that I played drums and by extension, played washboard, so sometimes he asked me to take my washboard along if he was playing rather than playing the bass which says a lot about my bass playing I think. So, I got involved in the two strands of music that would become a big part of my life much later was jazz and folk music.

I went away to University in London to study theatre arts and educational drama. I started to go to the Ken Collier Club, I started to go to the Wood Green Jazz Club because I was based in North London, and I started to adapt my own playing because of John’s influence and the fact that I did sit in with the big band, which was the Dud Clews Jazz Orchestra, it was really vintage big band drumming that I was doing and I wanted to get away from that and strip it back into doing small band. I did a little bit of playing whilst at college but not a great deal, and everything else was sort of on hold really until I got a job. And again, things were very much on hold; I was listening to stuff and buying records and going to jazz clubs occasionally but not a great deal to be honest. [08’41”]

Interviewer: And how did that then develop in to a professional more over the years in to what you do now?

Paul: I went back to the Midlands and picked up where I left off with jazz clubs. There was also a small band jazz club, which featured the Tierra Buena Jazz Band which I sat in on a few occasions as well, and then I was only back there barely a year to be honest and then there was a job advertised – I wasn’t really happy in the school I was in – and there was a job advertised up here in Workington and I thought ‘the Lake District sounds a nice place to be.’ I had a friend at college who was from this area and I’d come up during one of the summer holidays to visit, I thought ‘I know the place, I’ll go up’ and I got this job here. [There] wasn’t any particular jazz going on, there were occasional things going on but there were about three or four folk clubs. I went to the Workington folk club and there was a young lady who was part of the resident group who I took a fancy to and she later became my wife. We began singing together - folk songs together. I’d almost abandoned the double bass by this time and the drums were sort of on hold at this point. We started working, singing together and again got a few gigs, and I was also singing with some lads in a sort of unaccompanied male group and we got offered a recording thing. The recording that we made with the blokes I was singing with - Linda was involved in that and a couple of other people were involved in that, it was a sort of project thing - never saw the light of day but we did become quite interested in recording cause this guy had his own recording facility at home and these were the days when there weren’t any recording facilities, for home studios; he'd built a lot of his own equipment.

He became a friend for quite a long time. I don’t think he thought a great deal of my singing because he thought I might be better off doing production but someone else became interested in Linda and myself, and in the interim we got married, and we were offered a recording contract. We in fact made two albums of mainly folk songs from the Cumbrian area, which I’d being doing a bit of research into, and we met a couple of other people as a result of that who ran small independent labels and we thought ‘this would be quite good idea to do.’ I always had a hankering for do some jazz music as well but we started Fellside recordings in nineteen seventy-six, a couple of years after we’d been married. In the early days it wasn’t especially a specialist folk music label like it is now. We did record all sorts of things, some of it… we did some dialect stuff, we did some brass band stuff, we did some jazz stuff, which was with Mick Potts and the Gateway Jazz Band, which was the big band in Carlisle at the time with George Chisholm as a guest but shortly after that, Fellside became a specialist folk music label. But I still had a hankering for a jazz label, but I still had a grown-up job so Linda, when the children were born, never went back to work; she sort of worked for the record label during the day time and I did what I could in holidays and evenings and whenever I could but in nineteen eighty-four, we decided we would start the jazz label and I made one or two tentative enquires.

The folk label generated its own recordings. The jazz label eventually didn’t do that; it licensed a lot of material and it made its own recordings. The first thing… I think the Pye record catalogue… there were various catalogues to do with British traditional jazz on the way through. There was the old Columbia Lansdowne series and there was the series that Pye had done. I didn’t realise at the time until I got more involved in it that all this was to do with a record producer called Dennis Preston and Preston was an independent record producer in fact probably one of the early ones. And he did a licencing deal, his products went in to Pye and recorded the Mixer Jazz Today series. Pye also did some recordings of their own, separate from Dennis Preston, and they had Kenny Ball for instance and the Clyde Valley stompers. Preston had Aker Bilk, Chris Barber, Alex Welsh, you know he had all those people. Preston then stopped that round about nineteen fifty-nine and did a deal with EMI for Columbia and created the Lansdowne Jazz series. Now I was quite interested in licencing that material. The Pye catalogue was actually being done by a guy called Brian Hainsworth who ran a label called Dormouse. So, I really couldn’t do that, I couldn’t get into that cause Brian had got that sewn-up. Brian sadly died a few years later on and that did open up the Pye catalogue. The EMI/Columbia thing, Preston… because they were only licensing to them, they didn’t own it, he had taken it all back and had sold it all to Polygram and eventually Universal. Universal wanted telephone numbers in royalties which were just unrealistic for the size of the market to be honest so we initially went into Decca and Decca had done a lot of Ken Collier material, there was some earlier Chris Barber material, had done some early Alex Walsh material and also had some Mick Mulligan, George Melly material. So that’s where we started, we started with some Ken Collier material… the first recoding I did of my own was going all the way back to my roots in Coventry. The Dud Clews band had folded by this time but had actually re-emerged as a vintage big band called Harlem. So Harlem became the second release that we did and it just again started to grow steadily from that point, and what I’d also decided to do, I can’t remember how conscious I was of this, but I realised that nobody was really doing British traditional jazz, so what happened was that’s what we concentrated on. Eventually British traditional and then mainstream jazz, and that provided a niche that no one else was doing. And it developed gradually from there.

Originally these were all LPs. The CD thing came along and we realised we were gonna have to move into that territory. The folk music, because it was a slightly younger age group were moving in that direction, ‘Jazzers’ seemed to be very reluctant to move into CDs, but because of their age group I think, and then they suddenly did and it was a bit like kiddies in a sweetie shop; they wanted everything that they had had when they were teenagers and they’d probably worn out by now on CD. So, this again opened up all sorts of possibilities; I was able to go back to Universal and actually they had become much more realistic about licencing their catalogue, and all of a sudden the jazz label took off. We started issuing all sorts of things, but we were also recordings all sorts of things - Phil Mason’s band was probably the biggest band that we took on in terms of sales and in terms of the number of albums we did - but we were doing all sorts of recordings by working bands but the whole CD thing made it accelerate. I’d also got to virtually a management level at school where I was teaching and this was becoming more demanding, and we got to the point there where what did I do? The day job was getting very demanding, the hobby which had been earning some pennies was now taking off at a fairy alarming rate, and something had to give, and I thought it would be the hobby, I thought teaching was much safer, a guaranteed income and everything else but my mind was changed when the school was moved over to local management of schools; the school became responsible for its own budget, and it was running a deficit, and they issued thirteen redundancy notices. Now, it couldn’t involve me because I was actually head of business studies and a senior pastoral head. They’d have to revamp the pastoral system to fewer people and they’d have to do away with business studies. Now, business studies only started at GCSE time, so it only started at year ten. Within two years, the A-level students would have gone and the GCSE students would have gone so the subject could disappear. They could revamp the pastoral system which they did after I left and I thought actually I’m quite vulnerable because I’m an expensive member of staff, I was on maximum salary and a good allowance. So, in the end we decided to bite the bullet and we only had our two children to get through University and one was about to go. Once that was over you know, something would turn up. So, you know I gave the great leap into [the] dark and did it full time.

Folk music thing was going in cycles. Every time we thought that was it, it was dying a death, something would come along. For us, it was some young musicians. The children of the people who were fronting the folk scene in the mid to late sixties and the early seventies were finding their own voice and coming on board and there was a lot of interest in younger musicians so the folk thing was taking off. The jazz was still going at quite a steep slope of sales and demand so you know it actually worked out, it worked out brilliantly. Various things happened, we had stopped performing although we had formed a ceilidh band, we ran a ceilidh band for about twenty-nine years actually. So, I was playing fairly regularly but there was never much jazz in this part of the world so I wasn’t doing that very much. But I then got involved in the Keswick Jazz Festival, and I gave them a free band and was persuaded to play and we formed the Lakes [inaudible] Jazz Band so I played with that band and developed it over the years to quite a high performing band but it really only did Keswick Jazz Festival. It did another couple of festivals on the way along but again that was my sponsorship of the festival. We met a lot of musicians, got friendly with the musicians, recorded a lot of musicians. I got involved in recording Chris Barber’s jazz band initially for Timeless label which he issued all his stuff on, so yeah by this time you know it was all happening. [22’00”]

Interviewer: And where you always in terms of how you organise things, was it mainly you and your wife Linda doing it and what roles did you all have to keep it going?

Paul: It was mainly us, yeah, we have taken one or two people on, usually young lads who are interested in doing some recording. None of them were ‘Jazzers’ they were all sort of more folky inclined or other music genres inclined but actually came to quite enjoy the jazz which was quite interesting but yes mainly I do the technical stuff, the recording and the mastering and everything else, and Linda’s back ground is in the office work so she tends to run the office side of things. We have a designer Mary Blood. She’s been with us since day one and she does most of the artwork for the albums, and that’s virtually all we do because obviously the distribution is done by a distributor based in London. Well I do the mastering myself but the manufacturing is all done by third parties so we can run it with this two and two bits sort of workload really. But yes, most of what we do to be honest is office work. It is to do with copyright things and licensing things and contracts and things like that. And we’ve had a mail order business - we’ve got an online shop and so there’s a lot of mail order stuff - and we did start to sell… initially when we started, people discovered us and said ‘oh we don’t know anyone else doing this, are there any other records about?’ and we started a little jazz mail catalogue selling other labels as well. And you know that developed to… it was probably just shy of four-thousand people at its peak, so that kept us quite busy you know. We used to mail out in April and October and it would go ballistic for about three or four weeks but ticked over very, very steadily, yeah, yeah. We just do our own stuff now; the internet has meant that people who could find and get other labels, and there was no need for us to do it anymore so we slowly got out of that, and now we just sell our own stuff, again via this jazz mail thing but we’re now down to about fifteen-hundred people which has made it a bit more manageable.

Interviewer: Other than what you’ve just described, are there other ways that you’ve used to get the message out, make connections and network with people about company over the years?

Paul: Not really, I mean obviously we advertise in the jazz magazines and occasionally we’ve occasionally had presence in the sense that we put the Lake Records Jazz Band on, we did it at Whitley bay festival, we did it at Bude Jazz Festival, we did it at [Hoyt?] Jazz Festival. We’ve sold CD’s at various places to publicise it. We’ve promoted bands in that we’ve sometimes subsidized performances or underwritten performances by the bands. But no, gradually, it has developed organically [by] word of mouth and everybody seems to know who we are within that niche of traditional jazz you know.

Interviewer: And when you were first starting out and trying to build your profile how did you go about that so people first knew to come to you?

Paul: Well when we started it was pre-internet, and it was very difficult. Again, it was though magazines and there were very few magazines. If you compare the two scenes - the folk music scene and the jazz scene, there are shed loads of regional magazines for folk music. Nothing like it for jazz and nothing like it for the number of radio programmes either for jazz. And the early days, I say pre-internet, it was very difficult and that’s why we couldn’t do it full time. It was a slow growth, it was word of mouth because there were very few ways of doing it. I mean one of the things we did do – I had a friend who was the Music Director at the Brewery Arts centre in Kendal and we ran a Lake Records weekend, a sort of mini festival thing at the Brewery Arts centre in Kendal, and actually that’s what became, at a tangent, the Keswick Jazz Festival. Because that was very difficult to run actually, to organise it and have the job and have the record labels as well on the go. But I got a phone call from John Minnion who organised the Keswick Jazz Festival who asked me if I was gonna do the thing in Kendal again and rather cagily I sort of said ‘I don’t know, why are you asking this question’ and he said he wanted to do something in Keswick and he’d approached the Council to create a tourist initiative by running a jazz festival, and he wanted to do it about the same time but he didn’t want to get in the way of what we were doing. Well I realised it was really too much hard work that I didn’t really want to do to do it so I said ‘no by all means, hand over, you take it on’. So that’s what happened and my part of the deal was I would give them a free band so I sort of sponsored it that way. So that was an early attempt at marketing it a bit more beyond just advertising in magazines or doing something. It seemed to be quite successful but it was early days; we didn’t have that many bands but we managed to put something together one way or another. But no, I mean the trouble is when something is a hobby, you don’t tend to have a business plan, you don’t tend to have a way necessarily of moving it forward, and by the time we did go into it full time, we didn’t really need a business plan it was all up and running and happening you know. [28’50”]

Interviewer: And in terms of the early days or even now have there been anything structurally or people in place that have helped you or have supported your activities, in terms of the recording or jazz?

Paul: Obviously one of the things that was of interest to me actually was when I started there were loads and loads of folk labels and I said to you, I’d met three people by that time, and it was interesting that I was the new kid on the block and I’d set up this yet another rival folk music label, but all those people were very encouraging and supportive because there were more people chasing deals than there were deals so nobody ever saw anybody as a rival. It is a feature of the folk music sense that it is very inclusive in that way and very supportive in that way. So by the time we came around to doing the jazz, the recording side of it was up and running. We did get a lot of support from the artists. We’ve had support from the people who run magazines and a lot of support from the various festivals that we’ve dabbled with. So yeah, in that sense, the support has always been here and people have almost been along the lines of ‘can we be of any use to you?’ and ‘how can we be of any use to you?’ which is rather nice and very encouraging but yeah, I mean once you get away from the scene you are dealing with manufacturers, you are dealing with printers and you know that’s just a straight business deal and it’s the best deal you can get sort of thing.

Distribution in the early days was difficult and the first time we got involved in major distribution was a company called Target. We got involved with them but eventually moved everything across to Proper Music when that started to take off in a bigger way. They I would say are better at the folk music than they are at the jazz. They probably would deny that but I think they are, but you know we get distribution. But with the demise of retailers, it’s what distribution really means anymore you know when the big buyers are Amazon and HMV and a couple of others and virtually no one else you know, I’m not sure what that means anymore you know. [31’51”]

Interviewer: And would you say there have been any particular… because that’s kind of bit of a barrier in some ways, would you say there been any barriers along the way to your activities or anything that has been a setback over the years?

Paul: Not really no, the biggest decision we had to make was having to change to CD’s. That was, for a small label, that was a real problem because [in] the early days, CDs were very expensive to produce and not very many of your customers had CDs, [or] players. You’re dealing with a type of music, which [with] the best will in the world, on both labels, sells on average about a thousand units so the idea of shifting from one type of product that was declining to another type of product which was slowly building was: ‘how the hell do you do that? How do you manage it?’ We only issued two albums, one on each label in three formats. We did have cassettes and we saw that cassettes was the answer. We stopped vinyl, virtually overnight and we used cassettes to tied us over on both labels until you know, eventually, some years down the line, we phased cassettes out as well but they were the only way we could do it. That was the real stumbling block. That was the real problem that we faced as a company, other than that there haven’t really been. The only thing you do get and again this is more manageable when you’re on a good financial basis, is an artist who suddenly gives up, or an artist who moves to another label and then promptly forgets about their back catalogue and doesn’t buy any more. That can be a problem. Again once we were on a good financial basis that was no longer a problem, but you know, we could cope with that but that is the other side of things. That can be a setback. And the other thing always is, there are no certainties in this job so you can have what you think is going to be a good bet in terms of sales and it just turns out not to be.

The problem we have now of course is declining CD sales for the particular type of jazz that we do. The age group, if you think that I am seriously the younger end of the age group and I’m sixty-nine now, so that’s a problem; they’re either dying or you know don’t have the money any more or have got everything they want. Fortunately we’ve probably issued most of the good stuff somewhere along the line but we can no longer afford to keep it going in the catalogue so overall sales are diminishing. We’re getting to the point where even big names are difficult to sell in viable quantities. So that’s the problem now. We don’t experience it in the same way with the folk music because the younger people have been coming along, it’s constantly regenerated itself. Other forms of jazz have younger people getting involved in it but traditional jazz, there are very, very few younger musicians playing it. The children of the older generation don’t seem to be doing it and so that has meant that yeah, if I was forty with two young children, I’d be very concerned about that, that my niche market was disappearing. As it is, I’m quite happy to retire. [36’22”]

Interviewer: And do you think there’s some way to remedy that, overcome it or do you think it will be something new will come through and replace it?

Paul: I don’t know. One of the aims we have is to make as much of our back catalogue available for downloads as possible, because the only thing that concerns me is that I don’t like music sitting in an archive if people can listen to it and enjoy it. Downloads [are] a bit like CDs with the older generation, they really don’t want to know about it. They are very much the ‘artefact generation’; they like something in their hand. I think the reason why they didn’t like CDs very much was they weren’t very big; a twelve-inch LP has got [a] big picture on it and lots of writing on it and everything else. They slowly came ‘round but now the idea of not actually having anything in your hand is something else again, and to be fair, I’m not sure… looking at real youngsters, you know people who are about sixteen to twenty-five, unless you are really, really organised, what happens to your downloads? Do you think they’re gonna be there forever? Well they might or they might not. I can still put my hand on an LP I bought when I was sixteen. Now, that’s another issue to be honest. I’ve been asked by various magazines and radio programmes who’ve interviewed me what I think about CDs. The decline is not as rapid as some people thought it might be; it seems to be levelling off a little bit. The resurgence of vinyl, I mean to be honest, I think that’s just a fad; I wasn’t interested in going back down that road to be honest but I don’t know, it’s still a bit of an unknown. You see, the vinyl retails at quite a high price because they don’t sell very many copies of it and I suspect that’s what will happen with CDs. CDs will become a premium product and so you know, if you want it on CD, you [will] probably pay twenty-five quid for it rather than ten at the moment or twelve at the moment.

I think the likes of Amazon have not helped music; they want to sell music as cheaply as possible and that doesn’t help the industry, doesn’t help musicians you know, this constant trying to get it cheaper and cheaper. I think… I reissued something which was on an LP and we worked out that the cost of the LP… the average wage at the time - it was a bargain LP, it was twenty-one shillings which is what, a pound and ten-pence - that was at the time a tenth of the average wage. Now, if you took at a tenth of the average wage at the moment, as the cost of buying a CD, I don’t know is that thirty quid, forty quid, is about four-hundred pounds? I don’t know what the average weekly wage is now but you’re talking somewhere between twenty-five and forty quid so the music has become cheaper. Probably economies of scale have done that but I think that’s where that will go, it will become a premium product but where the entire industry is going, I don’t know; it’s difficult to measure at the moment and you really don’t know what’s going to happen. Somebody will possibly invent something else you know and there will be other ways of accessing music. And maybe a fad; there’s been a minor fad going on at the minute for twenties music. Again, it tends to be a short-term thing but it is interesting. Will it develop or is it just something passing through? I don’t know. I bother about traditional styles of jazz. I think unless there are musicians to keep it going, it will become a museum piece. It’s also ceased to be creative. If you go back to early Humphrey Lyttleton records, Humph has writing stuff. Chris Barber has written stuff, but there seem to be a reluctance now, its falling back on a standard repertoire over and over and over again and I think that’s because again there are fewer working bands, fewer working bands means people don’t rehearse. There are pick-up bands, so a pick-up band has to play stuff it knows and that restricts the whole repertoire and that’s a bit of a problem.

Interviewer: And I mean, considering you’ve done a whole range of activities over the years, music and not music, but what is it with all these issues and uncertainties that has kept you motivated and coming back to jazz in particular?

Paul: I think it’s just a love of the music, you know I enjoy what I do, I enjoy trying to restore the music if they’re old recordings and I still love the music, and I think it’s as simple as that. Any job you do is going to have set-backs, is gonna have challenges, is gonna have days where you really don’t want to face it. I rarely get that. I’ve been very lucky; I got out of teaching while I was still on top of my game so I wasn’t getting to the point where I hated every minute of it and couldn’t wait for retirement. So that was good, that was a good time to move. I was in my mid-forties, that was fine, and I was quite happy with that. And with what I’m doing at the moment, it is that enjoyment listening to the music, trying to make something out of it and there is something very satisfying about ending up with a product that you have worked on and I still get a buzz from that so it’s those sorts of things. I mean, if I was completely starry eyed and thought you know, running your own business was going to be straight forward, I probably would have given up a long time ago. But the challenges are infuriating when things go wrong, they can be depressing but you know all life is like that and you have to be realistic about it and it certainly is in business. At the end of the day, the number of bad things that have happen to us have been very, very few and far between. We’ve had one or two ‘unpleasantnesses’ with some artists, but we've done six-hundred albums between the two labels. The number of people we’ve worked with, most of them have been fine and no problem whatsoever. [44’08”]

Interviewer: With all the artists you've worked with… have you tended to seek them out or is it a bit of both, do they seek you out? Do you go after people you find particularly interesting?

Paul: No, we’ve never really looked for anybody, people have come to us. We have sat and talked to people at festivals and thing. There used to be a number of jazz weekends run by the Ken Collier trust and we used to go to those, that was all part of the early networking thing. Actually I had forgotten all about those weekends, where we would go along and sell CDs that got us known and we’d meet bands there, and yeah I remember one band that came my way from that was the Savannah Jazz Band and we did a number of CDs with the Savannah Jazz Band, and they were one of the best of the sort of working bands but again don’t do enough work now to justify a full CD release which is a shame but you know I think… certainly as far as the jazz is concerned and it’s also true [of] folk music, people have sent us demos and things but to be honest, people have rung us and said ‘are you interested in doing this?’ Now, I don’t think we’ve ever gone out to look for anyone in particular at all.

Interviewer: So, in that sense, you’ve sort of mentioned about word of mouth and stuff like that so has that been the major driver in that?

Paul: I think so yeah, we got to a point where people began to know us and what we were doing, and therefore, you know, people who want to make a record will contact you… but again, the other side of the scene, both the… probably not quite so much the jazz scene but yeah, to some extent, artists are doing their own thing. It’s a lot easier to do you know. If you look at the device we’re recording this conversation on now, you could record a band on it. It’s digital, it’s the equivalent of sticking a stereo mic up in front of a band. So again, now, you don’t need shed loads of equipment. There has been a whole market for home studio, as it used to be called. You can now do it on your computer. A side of it for me as an engineer that people forget about is the quality of the microphones, the quality of the preamps that you’re using, and all that side of stuff that you don’t get off the computer but all our recording is done on to [a] computer but via high quality gear you know. So again, for a record label, you find fewer people are turning to record labels; they are doing their own thing. And as I said before, you don’t necessarily need distribution. If your biggest outlet is Amazon, then you could sign up to Amazon Marketplace and sell it yourself. [On] Amazon Marketplace, you don’t need to go through anyone else. Those are the things which will change. Amazon has changed the market place in terms of retail shops and I think will change it by [a] degree with people doing their own thing, and the cost of producing a CD is nowhere near what it used to be. It’s still expensive but you can do it. There are even people who do them on CDRs now and if you can get them duplicated by good quality, not do them on your own computer, but good quality, there are a number of companies that do that - you know you can produce them in tens and twenties you know, you don’t need to have a minimum press of five hundred or a thousand. So again, those are other aspects which are impinging on the whole thing.

Interviewer: And I mean in terms of… I don’t know if you have a view on this as well or not, but things like, often people say [that] ‘Rock n’ Roll and The Beatles had an impact on jazz for instance. Would you say other genres of music have impacted the market place and what’s out there in terms of jazz and folk music?

Paul: Not particularly because what you haven’t got is a boom like the trad boom was. You’ve got records in the charts. That’s why it was noticed, that’s why it changed when The Beatles came along and you know the whole Mersey scene. The scene hasn’t been anywhere near that, not even remotely near that. It’s been popular because a lot of the generation who were the teenagers in the late fifties and early sixties were part also of a scene of early retirement, so a lot of them were retiring in their mid-fifties. They had income and would go to jazz weekends, jazz festivals, so it was actually quite a flourishing but you know, in the great scheme of things, quite a low key scene. It wasn’t all sort of serious, we weren’t flogging thousands and thousands of CDs as a result of this, it was a slightly burgeoning scene that was ticking over nicely but I don’t think other music genres have impinged on it in the way that it did in sixty-two at all. The folk music thing, same really, [the] folk music scene’s very healthy at the moment, a lot of festivals, some of the people like Bellowhead have managed to get into sort of almost rock status and you know, by being a sort of heavy folky unit, not folk rock exactly like Steeleye Span or Fairport Convention were but you know, came to the attention of people outside the basic folk music scene. And a young solo artist Seth Lakeman, he did quite well and was taken up by a major label and Kate Rusby. They’re the people on the folk scene who have made it quite big and attracted major labels but again that’s quite small [when] compared to the scene as a whole and so it hasn’t been other musics getting involve. What folky things have done, has done some fusion things where you’ve got Morris dance tunes linked with African rhythms and things like that but again that’s fairly short lived to be honest.

Traditional jazz hasn’t really had that. Other things have come along I mean we’ve got a band at the moment called The Jake Leg Jug Band and they’re doing quite well, jazz clubs and jazz festivals because their music is very much like skiffle and skiffle was an offshoot of the traditional jazz scene and so the ‘jazzers’ recognise it. Now, when we first did The Jake Leg Jug Band, it was ‘well which label are we putting it on?’ Is it going on the folk music label? Its acoustic guitar led music. You know, does that go on the folk label or does it go on the jazz label? After sitting down with them and talking about it, we felt we would put it on the jazz label. We’d got group[s] like Hot Fingers which is again a guitar based… sort of guitar jazz thing, so yeah, we thought we’d go along those lines and in lots of ways, it’s paid off. So, whether other things like that… whether that will be a burgeoning thing, whether there will be more groups like that come on to the traditional jazz scene, I don’t know but again I can’t see it being very big and I can’t see it being a major influence. [53’26”]

Interviewer: And would you say that any particular types of jazz have had an influence in terms of British culture or other sorts of music?

Paul: You mean over the years?

Interviewer: Yeah, well in terms of your experience with it and…

Paul: Well yeah, one of the interesting things I’m doing at the moment is talking to a number of people because I inherited several boxes, a hundred and sixty-seven reels of tape which were recorded by a man called Alan Gilmore who was the sound man at the Dancing Slipper in Nottingham which was a jazz club, and he recorded loads and loads of bands. Now I think that it was between [the] late fifties and mid-seventies I think. Now I happen to think that that is a slice of musical history but it’s also a slice of social history because that’s what people did. That’s what people went to this club [for] as a part of this thing they did every week. Now has that scene… there are fewer jazz clubs now, but you know, is that because it’s not as popular as it was? There are actually fewer folk clubs now than there used to be but there are more folk festivals, now is that because television has stopped that? I mean, if you go back to that period of time when Alan Gilmore was recording at the Dancing Slipper, there were only two television channels, so you know, people did go out more. Quite simple, and they went to their club. Some went to jazz clubs, some went to folk clubs, some went to just ordinary social clubs, probably, you know, there was a country music scene, people went to country music clubs. There were also lots of clubs people went to on a social basis so you know, I think jazz had its place.

The interesting thing I suppose is that people tended to like one thing to the exclusion of others, so you would largely only get one style of jazz at a jazz club. You know, you’d get a trad band one week… now they might push it a little bit, and you might get a more classic style band playing the repertoire of Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, early Louis Armstrong, that sort of thing, and you might get a more Dixieland Chicago style band but that’s almost as far as it would go. You’re not going to get the equivalent of the Modern Jazz Quartet, or you’re not going to get a saxophone-based trio, you’re not going to get… they weren’t flexible in that sense I don’t think but you know they had a function socially. That has diminished considerably. There are still one or two out there but you know, very few. By the same token, most of the bands are pick-up bands so you know in some ways you get quite a boring repertoire if you’re not careful so the variety is not there anymore so I think again, the future looks bleak, it really does, with people not going out so much, and then if you think of the demographic of our niche, the traditional jazz market, they are getting old and infirm and maybe can’t get out as much you know so it becomes almost a downward spiral with the best will in the world. [57’40”]

Interviewer: Would you say staying with the social side of jazz to some degree, would you say that it’s had any sort of impact on the way that people involved with jazz scene have engaged with things like race and crossing borders and things like that because obviously it is such a diverse scene. Would you say that has had any sort of impact?

Paul: That’s a bit more difficult actually. In one sense, you would think that it ought to because essentially, it’s black music. Essentially that’s where its roots and its origins are. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered any overt racism, although I have met people on the jazz scene who can be quite extreme in a right-wing manner you know, but I don’t think I’ve experienced anything as such… the only trouble is, I wonder sometimes whether the people sitting in a jazz club watching it, actually always make that connection. You know, what they do is they watch the performers in front of them, now if there is a guest say from New Orleans or you know at one of the jazz festivals and you get one of the black musicians there, they embrace it quite happily but I think on a… if you like, on a week to week, day to day basis, sitting in a jazz club, I don’t think they think about it. And they might well be actually quite racist almost without realising it or not realising that they are listening to jazz. I think, even if you go back to some of the origins, I seem to remember, I might be wrong here, but I seem to remember Nick LaRocca the trumpet player with the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, he was quite racist and said it was white men that had made the music and he made the first jazz recording in nineteen-seventeen. But he seemed to hold those sort[s] of views. Whether the UK is more easy going than the States on this sort of thing, I really don’t know, it’s difficult to tell, it really is. Whether it has helped tolerance, I don’t know, that might be pushing it too far, because most of the actual musicians they see are white musicians you know, and that’s it really. Whether they think any more about it than that, I don’t know. Again, we haven’t seen that many black musicians touring for quite some time. Go back to the mid-sixties and people like Barry Martin and various people were bringing people like George Lewis over here and Lewis Nelson, Kid Sheik and Kid Thomas [Valentine] and people like that you know who’d come over. Chris Barber was bringing black musicians to play with his band. You don’t get very much of that anymore at all, so it’s an interesting point. I think it’s probably like I say, people don’t think about it, and so whether it’s influenced it, I think is probably quite minimal to be honest. [101’35”]

Interviewer: Thank you. I don’t know whether this applies to you or not but for some people jazz has also been linked to things like trade unions, whether it’s the music side of things, trade Union or CND has had a jazz connection. Were your activities over the years ever linked to any political affiliation or views?

Paul: No, although yeah, I think a lot of the… when something is vaguely anarchic you know which a lot of the older generation thought the jazz scene was in the very early fifties you know, they thought they were hot beds of drug taking and goodness knows what else you know, which all seems very tame these days, but you know that’s how it was perceived. And I think there was quite a left-wing element. You know, Humphrey Lyttleton was involved in the Workers Musicians Association which is quite interesting for someone with his aristocratic background and education. As far as we are concerned, no, there’s been no political things [as] far as Lake records is concerned. We have had musicians who have played at the Labour Party Conference, and in fact I was asked at one point but wasn’t able to do it. [The] folk scene is much more political in that sense and again, used to be and seems to be coming back that way you know, we have a number of artists who will do political songs on the label and be involved with either issues or… We’ve just done a CD with one of our singers and George Monbiot, the author and eco-activist and political speaker, on a thing of loneliness and they’ve done a CD together. So, we do get a bit more involved on the folk scene but the ‘jazzers’ haven’t really… there’s no CND marches anymore so they’re not doing that sort of thing anymore, so no, not as far as the jazz is concerned.

Interviewer: That’s interesting thank you. And going back then to when you first were getting interested in jazz music and folk music, were the older generation, cause you’ve kind of mentioned people used to have a certain attitude towards it at one time but when you were growing up, did you find that the older generation, your parents’ generation had any particular thoughts about you being interested in music and musical theatre and jazz?

Paul: My parents weren’t no, my mother grumbled at me for buying some records and so they would never get me anywhere but apart from that no, funnily enough they seemed to be quite tolerant. I mean one of things that I have done in a socio-music thing is to have a look at what has happened. To some extent, the original jazz revival say of the forties with George Webb’s band was a reaction against the sort of smoothness of the music scene you know. The swing bands and that sort of thing and so this rather anarchic music style came along, with people who were more often enthusiastic rather than musically capable but it was a reaction. And then you’ve got the skiffle thing coming along and the older generation complaining about that because you know they’re only playing three chords and they couldn’t sing in tune and that was a reaction to the… again the Pat Boones, the ‘How Much is That Doggy in the Window?’ sort of song, so you’ve got this brash, loud, seemingly primitive music you know. And again, that dies away. Later on, when you get to the eighties, you get the Punk thing which is a reaction against glam rock you know. So every now and again, you get these reactions to it which the older generation always seem to be offended by and seem to regard it as the end of civilisation as they know it.

It’s all fairly harmless but every now and again it’s like sort of stopping and taking account of ‘where the hell are we going sort of thing?’ you know. But I’ve been amused occasionally, particularly at Keswick Jazz Festival where some young people were getting very drunk and boisterous and the number of people tut tutting and saying ‘it’s terrible’ and you thought, ‘no, hang on, you were doing exactly the same, you’ve forgotten what you were like’ and how some of the bands were. I’ve got recordings, live recordings of bands who [were] so drunk you know it’s amazing they’re managing to stand up, let alone play their way through tunes you know, to which people are sitting in the audience getting equally drunk watching them. So there’s always this criticism, often from older people unless the older people, like me, who think ‘this is the way it goes’, it doesn’t bother me. I wasn’t particularly interested in Punk. I was very interested in skiffle, I was very interested in traditional jazz. It’s just one of those things. Even the Punk thing seems quite tame now. At the time it was horrendous you know, but you just get these reactions and the products of these reactions but they end up getting smoothed out somewhere along the line. The skiffle thing got smoothed out and became commercial… it stopped being brash and anarchic you know.

Interviewer: And when, over the years where you’ve maintained your interest in jazz and obviously in folk music as well, have you often found that your friends, your colleagues have also been involved in that or has it something that has always been a bit niche and you’ve done it separately to other people? [108’47”]

Paul: No, we have a number of friends who have got involved, a number of people who… because we were involved say with the Keswick Jazz Festival have gone along to see what that’s about. We’ve done various things with our folk artists. I do some MCing at two festivals but only one festival now which is on a folk music basis, and talking about it to people, they’ve gone along to see what that’s about, not in vast numbers. We have a number of people who will… friends of ours who will say… there’s a weekly folk programme on radio two and people will say ‘oh, I heard Mark Radcliffe played one of your records the other night’. So we have a number of people who, being conscious of us, are on the periphery of it and so yeah, I think they have been listening to things and occasionally it awakens things. I remember playing a bit of a DVD someone had filmed of my band at Keswick Jazz Festival and playing it to some people who were visiting us and they said ‘oh we didn’t know anybody was doing this type of music now’ and it’s like ‘well yeah they are, and you can find it if you go and look for it somewhere along the line’. So there are elements of that yeah, but you know, because of what we do, people are quite interested in what we do. Our accountant is probably most of his work is shopkeepers and farmers and all of a sudden he’s got a record company, it is quite interesting, and he likes our CDs and is interested in what we do but yeah, that’s the sort of direct link. It’s weird, I was asked this morning whether I was still working. I’d gone to the hospital because of some surgery I’d had done and the guy asked me what I did for a living you know he said ‘well what do you do'. Now I can be very vague and say ‘company director’ which it all sounds a bit pompous to me, but then if you say ‘well I’m a record producer’, that sounds even more ridiculous in a place like Workington and the fact that it is just me and Linda working largely out of our own house, the top floor of our house and we do have a warehouse as well but it’s a funny thing. But people are interested in it and a lot of people will know what we do and will talk to us about it and as I say, will comment that they’ve heard something. I don’t know. It’s a funny one. Whether we’ve taken a lot of people along and converted, I don’t know. I couldn’t quantify that one.

Interviewer: No that’s interesting thank you, and just looking then at how you see your contribution and achievements really then. Is there anything from your… it could be at any point in your career really, that you’re particularly proud of, or something that you would class as achievement?

Paul: The whole thing to be honest. We did a triple album celebrating thirty years, of basically Fellside but we did some stick some of the Lake records stuff on there as well and I sat back and I had to wade through all these old recordings and things. And when I sat and thought about it you know, I thought, now, six-hundred albums is frightening and it is one hell of an achievement, particularly when I recorded quite a percentage of those, probably two thirds of them, that is really something. Specific things, there are certain albums that I recorded that I was particularly proud of the sound of at the time, because that’s the other thing you see, it’s an artistic thing and if you’ve recorded something, it’s a bit of a cliché to say, but if I was a hundred per cent satisfied with it, I wouldn’t do anything else you know. And there is an element of that, there’s always striving to get a better sound, to do something in a slightly different way so there are certain albums that I recorded along the way that I’ve been very, very proud of. I think Bob Hunt’s Duke Ellington orchestra was something I’m very proud of that recording, I like the sound on it and the way it turned out. I was also very proud of the Vintage Jazz recording project which was… I’d written an article for a magazine thing, and I’d made a glib statement at the end of it, saying, it was about recording and I said: ‘but I still hanker to recreate a nineteen-thirties recording session using a single microphone, a ribbon microphone, and a valve preamp’ and of course then lots of people said to me ‘well why don’t you do it then? Why don’t you do it then?’ so we did assemble a group of musicians who specialize in that sort of music. I managed to hire a nineteen-thirties microphone and use a valve preamp and a single mic and we did that and that was a big eye opener for me as an engineer… I’d learnt a lot from it to be honest.

And then we followed the vintage recording project. I recorded a vintage big band the same way and we’ve since done a couple of things based around Bix Beiderbecke. So, those were interesting things to do. We’ve done some projects… the folk label has had more projects but I think I’m just very proud of the whole thing to be honest. Yeah, I mean if you said ‘name me your five favourite albums’, I’d name you five favourite albums but tomorrow I’d probably have a different five when I’d thought about it a bit more. But it’s mainly to do with sound because sound is my thing so it’s what sound have I got out of it and how proud am I of the sound, and what we got out of the musicians as that’s another thing. Recording cold in a studio can be quite a bland experience for musicians who tend to play safe. So again, getting a performance out of them as well as getting the sound right is something you know that takes a bit of working on.

Interviewer: Thank you and where would you say the future of your activities are in terms of recording, in terms of anything you might be interested in doing in the future?

Paul: I’m about to retire. No, we've decided forty years of doing it, yeah we are winding down at the moment. There are still one or two things to do. I think we’ve now got three and a bit grandchildren, there’s a fourth one on the way. They’re not local. Linda wants to spend more time with them as do I. The jazz thing is declining a bit, the folky thing, more artists are doing their own thing. It’s quite a good time. Financially, we are in a good place so that’s not a problem. I won’t give up all together. I’ve still got… I mentioned the tapes from the Dancing Slipper in Nottingham, I’ve probably only … of the hundred and sixty-seven, I’ve probably only gone through fifty of them, so I still want to work on that. I want to work on getting the rest of the back catalogue available for archive. We inherited two other labels. They’re folk music labels but we inherited those. That needs archiving and sorting out, so I’m going to dabble with stuff and if someone wants something recording I’m not selling all the equipment. In a sense were not stopping dead, we’re not saying Lake records ‘this time next year there will be no Lake records’, it’s just that we want to wind down and have more time to ourselves and if we end up working one day a week then we end up working one day a week. The thing that ties us, stops us going on holiday and things, because we have no staff, is mail order and the online shop. Whether we can farm that out to somebody else that’s fine. That relieves us, enables us to go away on holiday so we may wind up in the next twelve months not issuing any more physical product, but there are still things to do and things we will do. But it’s for my own satisfaction. When you start, you need to establish yourself and I remember [what] brought it home to me, I was down in London… actually I was still teaching and we’d taken a school trip to London and I’d gone in to the HMV shop in London with some of the youngsters and having a look around, and there were some of my stuff in the racks, and of course naturally, I put them to the front of the rack, that’s fair enough.

But I thought about that a little bit at the time and then thought about it more later on, that the one thing there in those racks, you've got stuff by EMI, by Sony by whoever you know. And there’s this LP of mine and nobody knows that it’s just me and Linda in Workington. It’s just in a rack with all these other things. And it brought it home to me that it’s up to me to make sure that my product looks and sounds as good as all those others. So in a sense, there is the motivation as you go along to do these things but I’m now in a situation - I hope it sounds sound too arrogant – but I’m in a position where I don’t need to prove anything to anybody. I’ve proved it you know, I’ve done it and it’s been recognised. We’ve got shed loads of awards for both labels and I’ve got [a] British Jazz award, I’ve got the University of Cumbria has acknowledged my musical activities, my own alma mater hasn’t recognised my activities but never mind. They recognised one of my fellow students, Mike Figgis, film director, we were students together and he was a jazz musician. Mike played jazz trumpet and I even sat in with his little band twice but there you go you see. I was a drama student and ended up doing music and he was a music student who ended up doing films so there you are. But no, future activities, I will dabble with music. I will listen to things, and I’ll do things. Someone has asked me if I will master their CD for them, you know. Not one of mine, and I will do that.

Interviewer: Thank you very much then.