Get ready for an exclusive interview with Adam Cooper, the visionary behind the prestigious Heavy Soul Records! We will delve into the label’s beginnings, its well-earned reputation for exceptional releases from both emerging and established artists, and exciting plans for the future. But that’s not all! Heavy Soul Records goes beyond being just a record label. Adam also produces the highly popular Heavy Soul Modzine, a must-read magazine that features interviews, reviews, and exclusive features on artists and music from across the mod scene, independent music, and more. It serves as the perfect companion to the label’s releases. So, without any further ado, let’s get started!
Can you tell us about the origins of Heavy Soul Records and how it all began?
Yes, certainly. Heavy Soul Records started initially as ‘Rowed Out Records’ – a take on the classic 45 by The Eyes. There were about a dozen releases with Rowed Out starting back in 2006 and in 2010 I started the fanzine and thought I would rebrand the label and combine the two as ‘Heavy Soul’ – the obvious comparison is the Weller album, but it was more to do with the Billy Hawks LP of the same name as it’s one of my fave albums. Initially it was looking for a band on MySpace to release which I found in The Shake from Newbury and grew from one or two releases per year to about 15 I think at the peak. As we are approaching mid 2023 I am getting ready for release #157!
Can you walk us through the process of releasing a record under Heavy Soul Records?
At the start I hunted bands down, asked if they wanted to do a 7” or appear on a compilation CD and it has kinds been like that since. Over the years I have developed relationships with lots of bands who continue to release through Heavy Soul and I still look for new bands (Sharp Class being the best example) to keep the flame going. Nowadays I licence a lot of music to release like Secret Affair, Nine Below Zero, Edgar Jones, Revillos, Alternative TV, Times etc as I am still a big fan of these bands and don’t release anything I wouldn’t buy myself as a collector.
The artwork goes either way: Sharp Class, PH2, See No Evils, French Boutik and Deep Six supply their own art, but I make covers and labels for other releases like The Times set, Chords UK, Revillos, Smart Alec, The Truth, Reaction. The LPs and singles by Secret Affair and Nine Below Zero come from sourcing the best original copy, getting it shot and all touched up to get it as close to the original as possible. Paul Bevoir has been brilliant at putting the finishing touches to a few releases and designing the sleeves for ‘My World’ and ‘Back In The Day’ by Nine Below Zero.
What do you believe sets Heavy Soul Records apart from other independent record labels?
I think I fit in nicely with a few other indy labels like Spinout, State, Top Sounds, Rogue in that whole 60s and new band genre who are fans of the music and do it on their own without a big team behind them. I love what the labels mentioned are doing and the passion needed is immense as life, family and the boring bits take over mainly and the dedication needed to slip into the office, for me anyway, every evening to check emails, get releases lined up, admin, packaging etc is hard going sometimes, but I love it and I am sure Lee, Mole, Nigel and Jean-Marc feel the same.
To be one of the bigger indie labels I would have to probably change my music criteria which I don’t want to do either, labels like Damaged Goods and Dirty Water, Copasetic etc have done really well by sticking to their musical beliefs and signed up loyal bands, this is kinda where I am at.
Looking forward, what do you see in store for Heavy Soul Records in the next few years?
Well I’m having a garden office built to keep up and let the house breathe again so have to justify that cost with carrying on haha. I am heading more for the reissue side of things it seems at the moment, which is great but costly, but still fully support bands like Sharp Class, Deep Six, Paul Orwell’s new band The Nightfalls and any other new band with the right sound who want to get a record out.
Vinyl will always be the main format to me, but as we all know, costs have spiralled as well as waiting times to get pressed. There is a whole world of great music that either needs to be heard for the first time or maybe hasn’t been listened too for a while. I have enough in my head and from a love of new bands to keep going for many years yet….
How do you see the future of Heavy Soul Records and the independent music industry as a whole?
I won’t lie it is tough to sell music at the moment on the formats I and the bands prefer, i.e., vinyl and also CD. As I mentioned before costs for production of vinyl has gone up by at least 33% over the past 18 months and with the bigger labels clogging up the pressing plants to get Iron Maiden and Fleetwood Mac LPs into HMV it is getting harder. The vinyl revival to me has been a myth. Universal, Sony etc have just basically re-invented themselves again as vinyl suppliers due, I think, to labels like myself and the other hundreds of die-hards who have stuck with it since it’s demise twenty odd years ago and shops like HMV were on their arse and needed something to get going again and re-invented vinyl as the new wheel. A wander around HMV will see a great big section is now vinyl priced at £28+, I actually went in today and saw Beastie Boys LPs for £49.99, the Weller 3LP was £59.99). This can’t go on like this forever in the current financial climate, even my go-to online stores and labels like Juno and Soul Jazz are too expensive.
I don’t want to charge £25 and upwards for an LP as I wouldn’t pay it and I don’t think many of Heavy Soul customers would either so it’s a fine line – I barely break even on most releases as a lot go wholesale and just pump that money into the next release. If you get into this thinking you will make a huge profit simply – you won’t, you have to go into it with a real passion and be ready to count the pennies!
From my point of view there is also the added cost of licencing, PRS payments, artwork and packaging as it’s mainly vinyl. The trips to the Post Office, my own personal time and all the bloody cardboard is there too haha
What advice would you give to up-and-coming artists trying to break into the industry?
Just stick with it if you are passionate about what want to do. I will use Sharp Class as an example. They do it the right way. They gig relentlessly, have a great management team behind them and have a clear vision of where they are going. You can’t be half-arsed. They also have the right attitude to fans, promoters and media. Having the talent to create music has to be there obviously and having a different angle but with a sound that will appeal if you see what I mean too.
Obviously most of us grew up seeing great bands when there was a ‘Mod’ or ‘Britpop’ scene and it is important to try and get on with other bands of your ilk. I see many ego-driven artists and bands who feel they are better than what their audience want and try to move away from them and achieve fuck all at the end. There is nothing wrong at all with evolving your song-writing or musical style but do it with some grace and style and remember who was there at the beginning.
What has been your most memorable moment or accomplishment as the owner of Heavy Soul Records?
I honestly don’t get time to reflect, but there have been many achievements and releases that I have been very proud of. Keeping going is the biggest one! I was there at the beginning and gave vinyl debuts to The Strypes, Spitfires, Stone Foundation and more.
Meeting and becoming friends with many musical heroes has been great: Dennis Greaves and Dave Cairns stand out as just nice people who have no ego or agenda but are just seasoned pro’s who know how to treat people. A new series I am working on. “Here Comes…” has been great too with The Times, Revillos, Edgar Jones, Alternative TV done already with a few more lined up – next is The Stairs. In terms of favourite releases there have been many, about 157 so far! I’ve always pumped every penny back into the label and not taken anything out as I wouldn’t be doing it nearly twenty years later if I had so maintaining that drive is accomplishment too
How has the mod and Northern soul scenes influenced the label’s direction and choices in terms of artists and releases?
I think so, I’ve avoided the whole target, fist imagery but as I have been into the Mod thing since the early 80’s it is THE major influence in the labels and my personal life. There have been a few releases that you wouldn’t maybe see by the artist as aesthetically mod, but the sound is there: Joel Sarakula, Women of the Night don’t have the imagery but certainly have the sound, but I love both 60s and Revival sounds so anything that I would buy I try and release. Most of the previous output has had some sort of connection: Deep Six has Syd from Makin’ Time and Paul from The Threads, Tara Milton was in 5:30, Sharp Class are a stylistically Modernist band. The Beatpack, Mourning After, Aunt Nelly, Corduroy Industries, 45s, Strypes, Stone Foundation, Button Up, Speakeasy, French Boutik all play to or contain members of the Mod crowd. Then there are Secret Affair, 9BZ, Smart Alec and The Times who are genuine Mod bands. So yes haha!!
Whats your creative process in looking for content to feature in the Fanzine?
It’s basically whatever I think will be of interest to people kind enough to buy the zine. I always try and get at least five interviews per issue and the same features each time: singles and LPs looked at, eBay spy and the moniker is “news, reviews and Rhythm & Blues” which kinds covers it all hopefully.
Sources are just keeping an eye out, talking to people and digging deep. I was a big fanzine collector on my Saturday visits to Carnaby Street and always loved the way they felt and looked and just basically have something within me that wants to carry that on. It’s great that other zines and magazines like Start! And Detail are around too. Safety Pin is also good from the Punk angle
Can you tell give us an overview of the content you expect to see in the heavy Soul Fanzine?
Yep, interviews with people who have been movers and shakers within the Mod Scene from the 60s right up to now – in the past I have interviewed Mickey Tenner from The Scene club / RSG, Nolan Porter, Doug Sandon who was The Who’s first drummer, members of The Untamed, meddyEVILS, Pneumania and more through the 79 bands like The Chords, Secret Affair, Scooters, Purple Hearts and 80s faves like Makin’ Time, Prisoners as well as all the new bands.
Regular articles are new release reviews, gig reports, news and the rest is current info on stuff coming out or matters of interest. The last 20 odd issues have been A4, but I’ll be going back to A5 starting with issue 60 which I need to get my arse in gear as I haven’t done one in nearly 8 months but have the bones for it ready.
Can you tease any upcoming releases or projects in the works for Heavy Soul Records?
In terms of Heavy Soul I have LPs by The Revillos, Alternative TV, Paul Orwell and The Stairs getting ready. The pressing plant hold-ups have meant I have had six LPs delivered in a month (with a nice bill!), so recent releases have been by Nine Below Zero (2LP of pre 9BZ material), Edgar Jones comp and Tara Milton’s “Serpentine Waltz”. I have Paul Orwell’s Nightfalls getting pressed which I am distributing and there is also an off-shoot label setup releasing dance-floor Jazz 45s kicking off with Jimmy Smith’s classic “Stay Loose” on UK 45 for the first time ever, followed by Chico Hamilton’s “For Mods Only” – both big floor-fillers.
I’ve literally whilst typing this had a chat with Syd about the third Deep Six LP too so expect that and more reissues like Alternative TVs “Action Time Vision” single
What does the term “mod” mean to you personally, and how does it influence the music and artists you choose to work with?
Let’s be honest – it’s a youth cult and my teenage years were bloody great – bands, rallies, clubs, scooters, tailored clothes, records, zines etc but it stays with you. It really does!
For me it has sort of set the standards for music, clothes etc.I have children now, so I have to dress practically. Buying a pair of walking shoes took a lot of persuasion and I don’t like them, but you know… needs must. It’s the same with shirts – I cannot wear anything that isn’t button down or trainers that aren’t adidas retro style. That sensibility has kind of affected and seeped into my psyche pretty much all my adult life. In terms of what Mod music is, I feel it fits into two categories: music Mods like and music Mods make. Bands like The Chords are just as much a Mod band as are The Who – they were influenced by the current music scene but had a way of being or presenting themselves inside them.
60s bands were influenced by R&B and Soul and took it in their own direction whereas 79 bands were mostly borne out of the Punk and New Wave scene and took that aggression of the times, i.e. the politics and teen angst into their music whereas it seems to me anyway the mid 80s bands combined the two elements Soul with loud guitars and horns or organ (The Moment, Small World, Makin’ Time, Truth etc). There is always the debate on what is Mod music and it’s quite simple to me, you either listen to it or make it!
Heavy Soul started out and has continued to implement all elements of ‘Mod’ from Soul bands, some Reggae, lots of R&B and that Rickenbacker sound.It ranges from Tara Milton’s LP through Nine Below Zero, Sharp Class, Crazy Bald head, The Beat, The 45s, The Chords UK, Magnetic Mind and The Shoots so there is an electric sound that fully embraces all the factors for what I would call ‘Mod’ music.
Throw in the Jimmy Smith and the freak-beat stuff that is on Solution Records that I run with Paul Orwell and it’s all there. I really don’t have a favourite style of music as it all depends on the mood, I’m in, but I have to keep on constantly looking for new stuff, be it recorded 60 years ago or 60 minutes ago. Is Heavy Soul a ‘Mod’ label? I’m not sure what do you think?
Finally, is there anything you would like to add or mention?
To those who have supported the label over the years, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude. Your support has been instrumental in helping us grow and achieve our goals as a label. It is through your passion and enthusiasm for independent music that we have been able to continue releasing high-quality records and Modzines. We appreciate your loyalty and commitment to our vision, and I will continue to work tirelessly to bring you the best in underground and independent music. Thank you for being a part of the Heavy Soul Records family.
Images and artwork ©️ Heavy Soul Records and their respective owners