The pioneers of aviation were never lonely
Push your shoulders and hands under the surface of the water.
Who: Tome Records.
Where: London, England, EU. What: Buy and sell vinyl and tapes, some live events.
Cat No: DW-345
Can you tell us a bit about how and when the label started?
Well Tome is now a shop but it started as a label in 2006 primarily to release an artitst called Sleeping States. I put out a 7" called 'Rivers / London Fields" and then put out music by Foot Village, Caz Mechanic, Ray Rumours, Birds of Delay, Family Battle Snake.
How did the name come about?
The idea of starting a record label came to me when I was working in Chener Books in East Dulwich. Working in a book shop where you weren't allowed to read the books on the job, I had a lot of time to think and write. The idea of a Tome (as an exploratory thing of volume and density with different chapters) as a name for the record label made sense to me at the time. I started a record label in a book shop, it felt right.
It seems to not make sense to anyone else now that it's the name for a record shop. People call it "Tommy" or "Tomb" or "To Me". Which I understand. It is what it is.
Are there any particular genres that you specialise in or is it just about music that you like?
We stock nearly all genres, if not all most. We have a mixture of used (mostly used) and new vinyl and we have a really healthy cassette selection which is constantly being refreshed because we work with so many independent DIY distros. Oh we stock some zines and publications too.
You would think our specialist genre would be Punk because we are in the same building as what might be considered a punk venue, and we do have a huge punk selection but we also always have an equally large amount of Jazz records in stock and tons of Disco and also a decently stocked Avant Garde / Experimental section. It changes around. It's curated in the sense that Matt (partner in Tome) and I choose the records we want to stock but we never know what we're going to get and we're always on the look out. I tour quite a bit so I pick up records on my travels. We're a bit off the beaten track so we have to make a bit of an effort.
Can you tell us a little bit about the city in which you are based and what influence, if any, is might have on the label?
Perhaps it would be good to talk about our shop location. We are based in DIY Space For London in South Bermondsey SE15, which is a volunteer run, non-profit venue/bar/print studio community centre.
We're on an industrial estate between the recycling centre and Millwall FC. There's no "passing trade" as such. So it can't be quite tough in the days in terms of custom. It seems a few customers like it that way..it has become their secret shop I suppose. So we tend to be open a lot at later hours when there events on at the space.
Being in such a non-exclusive and alternative environment must surely manifest in what we are. I didn't want to be a typical stuffy bloke-orientated record shop. At DIY Space we had the opportunity to be free to do what we wanted and do it right. I'm proud that we've manged to do it the way we have. I also couldn't afford the massive rents and overheads of the more public facing shops and units. I suppose you can fight the harshness of London by trying to make your own corners in it. I've lived in London my whole life and I wouldn't rule out living somewhere else if that was an option but when it came to starting a record shop I refused to be defeated by my own city.
What formats do you sell?
Vinyl. Cassette. Printed matter. Some shirts.
These days every musician can get connected to their own social-media channels and Bandcamp, etc and promote and publish their own work. Do you think this has changed the role of the independent label or don't you think too much has changed as a result of Bandcamp, Soundcloud etc?
Good independent labels are like communities. Sometimes they are a strong aesthetic community like Sacred Bones that probably use Bandcamp as a useful tool and are probably better for it. Some labels like La Vida Es En Mus are such an underground force that Bandcamp might help but they would be as strong with or without it.
There's an amazing new label out of South East London called Nervous Energy. They are our favourite. Pure expression. Too quick to pin down. When they have something they dub maybe 20 tapes and while they are running they make the artwork and put together the sleeves. They DM us on Instagram to let us know they are coming in late afternoon with the tapes. When they turn up we engage in a conversation about the music or the non-music, the recordings, the artwork which is always fascinating. They cycle home to spend the rest of the evening putting them all up on Bandcamp. We Instagram and dream up the hashtags and they all sell.
That's pretty much why I wanted to do a record shop. For that energy and engagement.
Do you involve yourselves in any live events – gig showcases or DJ/clubnights attached to your label?
Yeah when we opened the shop I managed to get Freakapuss (aka Tronics) to play along with The Bomber Jackets and Ravioli Me Away.
We have also organised some film screenings and performances.
We recently put on a Delia Derbyshire celebration for what would have been her 80th birthday. We screen The Delian Mode and had inspired performances with a mixture of improvisation, experimentation and tape loop performance.
Most recently we had a Thelonious Monk screening with performance.
Basically we reside next to a venue space, so we should and do plan to do more things in it.
Swimmers Club has a focus on the state of independent culture at the moment (independent coffee shops, presses, record labels, etc). How healthy do you think independent culture is right now? How could the state of it be improved?
I'm not sure. I feel there will always be a counter culture but it can be hard in a city like London to feel a part of something. It's such a transient landscape it's hard to find a place. It's unforgiving too. There are so many chains and blatant lame exploitation of culture. It's all bubbling under the surface but the power seems like it's in the wrong hands. You know what might improve it? A Jeremy Corbyn Labour government might improve it.
We are open Wednesday to Sunday, midday - 7pm (often later for events)
We are at 96-108 Ormside Street, London SE15 1TF
check out: https://nervousenergyrecords.bandcamp.com/