The 2nd of April 1994 was a very special day for our label, as it saw the launch of our debut release and compilation Evidence.
It was the first release of its kind in Brisbane; a compilation of local independent electronic music productions (from Blood Party, Sphere, Daniel Hack, House Guests, The Isle, Evolver and The UN). Well… nearly all local, as it also included one act from Sydney (Now Zero, who eventually moved to Brisbane anyway), one from Melbourne (SonnenSystem), and one from New York (Morgan Geist).
These were the earliest days of the Internet and we were very active on the newsgroups of the time, so around mid-1993 in addition to placing our call-for-demos poster around the record stores of Brisbane we also posted it onto groups like rec.music.industrial and others, and got a great response.
Many electronic musicians were (and remain) at the technical leading edge, and particularly in those early days the Internet was in the purest sense a place where like-minded boffins could communicate. Evidence – and indeed Transmission Communications (Trans:Com) – came into being largely out of a desire for creating community.
Dennis Remmer had been producing original electronic music with his mate Simon Reid as House Guests since 1987, and in 1992 they released a cassette album. Dennis needed a ‘label name’ on the sleeve to give it additional cred’, so he co-opted the name ‘Transmission’ from the Joy Division song of the same name, and added ‘Communications’ (because that’s what Factory did [Joy Division / New Order’s label] aka Factory Communications), and a thing came into being.
The tape was received really well among the band’s friends, and a copy was sent to Volition Records in Sydney to gauge interest. Volition – who’d already had their fill of Brisbane with Boxcar and Vision Four 5 – said nothing. Thinking that the album was good enough for a CD release, but with CDs in 1993 being a very expensive proposition, and feeling DIY-energised (rather than deflated) by Volition’s disinterest, the idea for a collective-style indie compilation was borne – because surely there were others in the same situation, and damn-it that’s what Factory did in 1978 with their Factory Sample release – and look what they’d achieved! Factory / Manchester … Trans:Com / Brisbane … there could be something in that…
So college friends Dennis & Anastasia Petrou – who liked the House Guests and then started recording with Dennis as The Isle (and have since partnered in life) – formally registered the business name in 1993 and sent out the call for demos. The response was remarkable, and we were right – there were more than a few people producing electronic music in Brisbane. We received some wonderful demo tapes (which in itself is a notable thing – it was the golden age of the demo tape, which were always carefully packaged with custom artwork and thoughtful bios). We still have all of them.
Eventually we selected a set of tracks and the bands recorded final versions in various studios around Brisbane (if they needed to since some of the demos were fine as-is from their home 4 track studios), and sent us their masters on DAT.
These we collected and took into Grevillea Studios at Albion in late 1993 for mastering, under the guided hand and ears of Malcolm Jacobson. That was a fun day and completely new territory for us. We loved the process, and the final result was fantastic. I think Malcolm was bemused by our inexperience and the indie nature of the recordings, but he understood and completely respected the DIY ethic, and that it was our first foray as a label.
The original plan was to emulate Factory and debut with a 2 x 7″ package, but local record pressing plant Sundown had just gone out of business and the price of vinyl was prohibitive, and beside CDs were the right medium for us, rather than looking backwards. Shopping around we decided on EMI to press the CDs for us, with a gatefold Digipak and custom inserts. The pressing costs were shared amongst the contributing artists (and quickly reimbursed upon release), and we also decided that – given the CDs ‘were so precious’ we should also press up a limited run of the compilation on cassette for promotional use, which Grevillea were able to do as they had the tape duplication facility. Dennis designed the artwork on a monochrome Mac SE (a challenge, given its a colour sleeve) using Aldus Pagemaker v4, and many lessons were learned, including what ‘CMYK separation’ means 🙂
The tapes came back pretty quickly, and the CDs followed up a little later (from Singapore, for which EMI tried to hit us up for exorbitant shipping costs, which was never agreed – anyway that was sorted). We had the inserts printed locally, for which we manually included into each Digipak sleeve, and for which some people only realised that they were there many years later! Anyway some time in early 1994, at Trans:Com’s HQ (our flat) in Taringa we had 500 finished Evidence compilation CDs all boxed up and ready for… what’s it called again… ‘distribution’ ?
500 copies is a minimum run, and seemed a manageable amount to deliver ourselves to indie record stores in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Indie record stores in 1994 were plentiful (remember this is way before online stores existed), so we were able to consign a handful of copies each to the likes of Rocking Horse, Kent, Skinny’s, Central Station, and many others, and for which we remain grateful for the support to this day. Without indie record stores, indie bands and labels could never exist.
But then we had to do… what’s it called again… ‘promotion’ ? We decided a launch event was necessary, so we managed to convince a venue in town (ZanZiBar – long gone now) to take us on for a night. We put up posters and distributed flyers all around town (and indeed after a conveniently-timed Depeche Mode concert at Festival Hall).
We also sent the promo tapes and a press release to the numerous music street papers which also existed at the time in all the major cities, as well as the indie radio stations such as 4ZZZ, 2SER, 3FBI, ABC JJJ and Radio National, etc. Looking back now, it was a good time for ‘real’ promotion (as distinct from modern reliance on social and on-line media). We also published the first of our ‘zines (called ‘T’), which we sent out to our mailing list. Here’s the first edition from the time of the Evidence release.
The launch was awesome, with the debut live performances from Sphere and Blood Party + The UN (who were well in advance of all of us with at least 6 performances under their belt!) and it set us on a path of many such events and releases over the years. Brisbane’s electronic music scene had grown from strength to strength – which we documented in 2014 with the BNE Project, and we’re very proud to say that we were there at the start… ground zero.
And the music… well to this day Evidence holds a very special place in our heart, and it still sounds as wonderfully original, inventive and diverse as it did in 1994. The release spans a broad spectrum of electronic music, from the trance, house and techno of Now Zero, Evolver (later 8E38) and SonnenSystem, through the synthpop and english electronic sound of House Guests and Sphere, the electro/grebo of The UN, the darkwave of The Isle and Blood Party, to true experimentation by Ghee (Morgan Geist – providing an early cameo appearance from the USA) and Daniel Hack; in most cases the debut recordings from these artists. It is a keystone in the Brisbane electronic music scene and you can find it on iTunes for streaming or download, and you might still be able to get a rare copy at one of our market day stalls.
Thanks to all the artists who collaborated with us on Evidence. 25 years ago it may be, but it’s still the future for us.