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Artefact

Press article from M62 magazine, issue no.2, July/Aug 1988.

Full text reads: Tosh Ryan, 48, has been involved in the Manchester music scene since he was 14. Playing in bands with the likes of John Mayall and Victor Brox up to 1970. Then due to the decline of the industry, setting up ‘music force’ with Martin Hannett, Bruce Mitchell and Victor Brox. Although primarily to promote and publicise gigs in the area as an alternative to the large band/large venue that was now prevalent, within six years music force had gone into the record business. Approached by Richard Boon of The New Hormones record label, they offered their services recording, producing, cutting and distributing the Buzzcocks "Spiral Scratch" E.P. in 1976, with Martin Hannett producing; which is quite a landmark. With the demise of Music Force, Tosh Ryan kept up his flyposter/promotion business to finance his Rabid and Absurd record labels, signing up acts such as John Cooper-Clark, Jilted John, Slaughter and the Dogs, The Freshies and many more. That label now defunct I thought I'd go along and ask him what his aims were then and what he's up to now. So having chased him around The Green Room where he was videoing "Five go off to play guitar" and being ravaged the following day by one of his Doberman Pinchers, I finally pinned him down to speak to me.
"What were your aims all those years ago?"
TOSH: Well The Buzzcocks E.P. whetted our appetites and we thought there's got to be something in the area that we can find which would be representative of the working class rock 'n' roll end of things. There was Rabid Records and Absurd Records, we issued about 20 singles, the intention being not to look for making money. The idea was that if we could put out records that the big five record companies wouldn't touch, it was a kick in the eye for them. In that respect it was to a certain extent anti-capitalist, we had a fairly democratic profit sharing method on the company. We weren't that interested in being a part of the music scene, we were more interested in destroying it I think. So we weren't as market aware as say Factory Records, we thought they were just an alternative version really of the way things had been marketed in the past. What appealed to me was the whole do-it yourself aspect of that time, and it was also nice to know there was some activity going on at that 'roots level'.
"But you did have some success though?"
TOSH: Yes. Jilted John's Gordon is a Moron, stunk of a hit and the radio companies picked up on it. Immediatly it started to sell. We did a deal with E.M.I, for 15% for that single after we'd already sold 30,000 on our label. So that brought in a bucketful of money which we invested elsewhere, ie. John Cooper-Clarke. We managed to get a deal with C.B.S. for John we got Ed Banger signed to E.M.I, and Slaughter and the Dogs to Decca. So we had a fair amount of success really.
Now begins the grim tale af Tosh Ryan's invlovement with The Freshies. With Martin Hannett going into the studio to record with Joy Division who Tosh was totally opposed to, he began an involvement with Chris Sievey of The Freshies. Tosh was attracted to these as by his own admission he was now pretty disgusted with the pop industry, annoyed by Factory Records slick pretension and badly thought out flirtation with facist imagary, and the Freshies were ....
TOSH: Absolutly mad, they were only in it for a laugh, so I had a bit of money at the time and I thought 'let's go for it, let's have a laugh'.
Having got "Girl at the Virgin Checkout Store" at 54 in the charts they were assured of a top 40 slot and a Top of the Pops appearance, so a lot of money was ploughed into a tour, equipment, hotels, support bands and so on, then came the dreaded postal strike, for two whole weeks and by an ironic twist of fate for a good socialist meant the loss of a chart position as only South East record returns could be used for the chart. Alas the record was only selling up north and hardly at all beyond Watford.
TOSH: We were halfway into the tour when that happened and there was nothing we could do, I lost a hell of a lot of money on that.
[Part 2]
We tried to recoup it with another single and then with an album, but I was just throwing more money after bad money. In the end that put me out of business, although I did a-lot of interesting things with Chris, making videos and such.
So a sorry and sordid tale, the demise of a good alternative to the major labels. What happened to that brave era when individuals were out firing on all guns, trying to usurp the major concerns who dictate our tastes to us. Tosh Ryan, 11 years on is still cynical of the record business, he finds it all too egocentric, music, as protest seems to be a declining industry, too many musicians seem now to be motivated only by their own success. Tosh Ryan is worried and quite rightly, why there is now a regurgitation and a nostalgic idealisation of the 50's, a time which was one of the most restricted in this century, with fascism in Europe, and civil rights being denied to the Blacks and the Communists in the United States. A time of immense hardships and very restricted channels for politics, civil rights, the Rosenburg Trails, The House of UnAmerican Activities and so on and so on. Is this a time we should be celebrating?
Eleven years on and Tosh Ryan has just finished shooting a video for Andrew Berry. Disillusioned with the record industry, he got involved with video, documenting the likes of John Cooper-Clark, slowly accumulating equipment until it had built up sufficiently to get out and shoot, come back and edit and turn out videos. He's toyed with an idea called "Red Box" where they can shoot and distribute for small video makers under compilation packets, to try and usurp the major companies yet again, but this time from another angle. It seems to me that it's all about access. So after sticking around for this long, determined to be a thorn in some fat cat's side, giving people without money or the access (that word again), a chance in the spirit of a bygone era to have a go, providing the outlets. What does he think of today's climate as the wheels of repression seem to be grinding down harder and harder, in a climate where techno-bland pop and 16 year old schoolgirls are all we seem to be offered as the main musical diet.
TOSH: I feel that now is very similar to that period in the 70's yet I don't feel that there will be a resurgence, I think that the emphasis is going in different directions. I don't have much faith something emerging. People are being sold capitalism as a popular culture in such a glamorous way. People, young people, seem to be more interested in designer clothes and what that means than anything else. It's all part of an egocentric stupidity. It's all too boring now, people are too busy looking at the 60's etc. As I've said, I find that musicians are motivated by their own success, not by any desire to change things for the better.
"I feel that the domineering attitude of the big five record labels that precipitated the spawning of so many Indie Labels can be seen today in the way news and current affairs are shown on T.V. so many restrictions are being forced through by the government, that the quality and Freedom of the output of news by I.T.V. and the B.B.C. is being eroded. The Independents should now turn to all the cheap technology around and use film and video to challenge the status quo, and put out an alternative point of view to develop topics that affect young people to get a debate going, I don't feel there is that on T.V. anymore. It should include all things - music, art, politics, rhetoric, theory. That seems to be where the challenge now lies.
Robin McMillan
Artefact added : 21st June 2007
by Robin
Big Block 454 Says –
Is Tosh Ryan still around?
COMMENT ADDED 21st June 2007
mat Says –
Tosh lives in Menai Bridge now... living the life of a retired man. Still doing stuff tho' and can still be seen in Sand Bar frequently.
COMMENT ADDED 21st June 2007
Groth Says –
Hi Robin, I'd like to use your article as a reference point in my book about the Manchester punk scene. I would like to use the first of Tosh's quotes, (Buzzcocks E.P....) and also the first couple of sentences as a short introduction piece in the book. Of course full credit will be given. Thanks, Gareth
COMMENT ADDED 19th August 2018
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