Feature Article

Label Focus: Gizeh

By: Michael Henaghan

Initially incepted, by Glissando's Richard Knox, as a means to release his own band's music, Gizeh has since blossomed into the label we know today. Bringing acts such as Post-Rockers Detwiije and the monumental Her Name Is Calla to prominece, Knox has built Gizeh with guts, determination and desire.

An influential core of the Leeds scene, one of Europe's most vibrant musical cities, with a number of 'homegrown' bands to be found on their roster, Gizeh has spread its wings over the last year or so adding an international flavour to the imprint, with Belgian chantuese Sleepingdog and haunting Americana-Folksters Trespasser's William joining the fold.

A label not afraid to take risks, as evidenced by the forthcoming posthumous release of Redjetson's 'Other Arms', Knox tells all in the latest installment of [Sic] Mag's Label Focus.

What influenced you to start your own label and how have your values differed from your original aim?

RK: I started out basically just with the idea of releasing some early Glissando music around the time of our very first tour. We had a CD and I just wanted to put a name on it. From there it has developed a lot over the years. The principles I guess are the same, though the way it is run now is much different. The main values of Gizeh have always been to work with music we like but also to work with people we like too, people who are willing to work hard and put as much into the project as a whole as I am.

How does your label differ from others? Are there any distinguishing characteristics that give your label its own identity?

RK: Gizeh has grown into its own identity over the years, I don't set out to get artists who sound particularly similar, just music that has quality and depth. I'm not sure how we differ from others, we are still quite small but the bands get full creative control over the music and artwork, it's definitely a collective kind of environment where everyone looks out for each other to take it all forward.

How difficult was it to get your label established and what does it take to survive and prosper?

RK: It's taken a long time to get to this point. When there is very little money involved and all the work is done in what spare time you have its difficult. There are times when I've questioned whether to keep it going but I've put too many years into it to give it up and now it's at a point where I can commit more time to it which is really helping things. Gizeh is really developing now and it's nice to see the hard work paying off, the profile is increasing all the time and it's really moving in the direction I've always hoped for. It's hard to survive but it's the same as anything in life, not going beyond your means and keeping a sense of ethics and ideals is very important.

What do you consider to be your label's proudest achievement and why?

RK: That's a difficult one. I think being able to do the job I have on the Glissando record was important to me as the two things have grown side by side together over the years. To get that record back from the pressing plant and actually hold it was a proud moment. Also seeing the bands I've worked with shifting copies of their work to people who wouldn't otherwise hear it is very rewarding, seeing them play shows to people who have gone out there to buy the music and see them perform… it's simple stuff but these are certainly the things that make me proud!

When signing new acts, are there any particular attributes or factors that you look for?

RK:The main thing for me – aside from the music (which I have to be passionate about) is that the people involved have to be good people (including Her Name Is Calla, left). I have to get along with them personally before anything can happen. It's really not worthwhile at this level to be working with artists who have huge egos and demands.

If money was no object, which artist or band would you most like to work and why?

RK: Tom Waits. He's an absolute hero of mine. There is so much depth to his music and his personality that he constantly intrigues me.

With so many formats now available, from digital through to various physical products, which one do you see thriving in the future?

RK: That's hard to say. The digital world is becoming ever more influential by the day. I'm still a sucker for packaging and artwork though and I really struggle to let go of that in any way. As a label I think you have to be prepared to move with the times to a degree but you have also got to get your values in tact because the passion for the music will die and that is the main concern.

Illegal file-sharing is obviously the burning issue in the music industry. Should labels embrace or distance themselves from it?

RK: At some point this needs to stop – otherwise where do we end up? All music being free? How is that possible to sustain? It's becoming a normal thing for people to download for free and that is a huge problem. There needs to be a tougher stance on it from somewhere – be it the government or whoever. File-sharing sites need to be monitored and shut down if necessary. It's possible to track these things but no one really seems to care enough to do anything about it, especially when the world is in such a bad financial state right now. It's the bottom of the important list. Drowned In Sound recently ran an article stating that last year 95% of music downloaded was done so illegally. That's insane. Would you steal 95% of your yearly food shopping? If you did that you would eventually have to grow your own food!

What advice would you give to budding label owners?

RK: Don't go in above your head! Unless you have a big budget to start out on you need to let things grow steadily and if the quality and work-ethic is there people will see that and want to be involved. Also the music industry is all about who you know – so start making friends!

Finally, in five years time, where do you see your label?

RK: That depends on if the music industry manages to sort itself out. I basically run off the idea that if I can afford to do something I will and that won't change. So long as Gizeh is self-sufficient then we should be ok. Music is a funny thing, it surprises you and gives you hope at the strangest of times.

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