“Starting a record label at any time, in any place, is a damn fool notion yet I and many others understood instinctively that great bands and brilliant songs were far more important than the logo of a major record company. Punk presented a historic opportunity for hundreds of tiny labels to stake their claim in a newly formed democratised musical landscape.”
I freely admit I have happily avoided this moment. When you are involved in the music biz you never forget and neither have I but the one thing I’ve never done is talk about it There’s always been too much to do in the now and anyway, no-one’s ever been that interested. Yeah there’s been the odd question but as soon as folks realise none of the groups I knew came to much, their eyes glaze over and they’re back to dreaming about the new series of Come Dine With Me or United beating City. It just doesn’t mean anything to them. And why should it?
Then, quite unexpectedly and out of the blue Tim Naylor, an old mucker from Criminal Damage pre-history, got in touch to write a Record Collector piece. The flame was reignited and I was off, reimagining all those brilliant misadventures and great mistakes because, if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that like so many other labels Criminal Damage was never any great shakes. It was never fashionable, never the leading light of any shitty indie micro genre and it was most definitely never going to be licensed to a major label or make me loads of money. I knew that well enough even then. Our groups released a few records, got a bit of attention for five minutes if they were lucky, and then disappeared. Yet for me, Criminal Damage was a complete way of life for a good four years. I lived it, breathed it, loved it. Shit I was it.
Maybe it won’t surprise anyone to learn that 30 years or so on I’m not in touch with any of the characters here. Infact, apart from one or two I don’t even know if their dead or alive. Yet, as harsh as it may sound, it doesn’t really matter. What I do know is that at various points, no matter how briefly, we all shared the rocky road of freedom, hope and disappointment, a brilliantly exciting, unrepeatable, great-to-be alive period of untold adventure.
To give a better feel for the times I’ve dug up some old vids of Ausgang, The Membranes, MB Hi-Power and The Jack Rubies, all filmed during their time with Criminal Damage. We’ve also added videos of Hidden Charms and The Heart Throbs filmed after they left us. And kicking it all off, who better than John Robb, still at it after all these years, talking about the continuing influence of punk and DIY culture, the reason I got into all this in the first place.