A Journey Through Sound Waves
“Northern Star goes from strength to strength. I might be naive but I’d like to think its because I’ve stayed true to my soul and put out the best music I possibly can whilst maintaining honesty and integrity.” - Scott Causer, mastermind behind the label, Northern Star Records.
Scott Causer - Electric Mainline
Not sure the exact moment I came across Northern Star Records, but I do believe it went something like this. See, about the time I came across them, it was a very eye opening time for me, in regards to music. Already a traveler of bands like Brian Jonestown Massacre, Warlocks, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, I was always wanting MORE. Back in the Myspace days, when it was really fun, I would spend hours trolling around listening to all these underground and up and coming bands. A lot of it was garbage, but every now and then you’d come across something pretty great. It was summer 2005 when I came across this band out of Austin, Texas…the Black Angels. After seeing them a couple times, I was hooked, and made sure to visit their Myspace on a regular basis. Early in 2006, I started seeing posts about them being on a compilation album, from some unknown label out of the UK. So after a few times of seeing this, I thought, I should really check into this. See, to me, compilations can be sort of a drag. Making your own compilations is just way more fun! So I checked it out, and was I surprised. Along with a few other bands I knew and loved, like the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Dolly Rocker Movement, The High Dials, Bavarian Druglords, and Vandelles, this compilation, Psychedelica 1, was a two disc behemoth. When I first got it, and played it front to back, I was blown away. Not only bands I loved, but loads of bands I had not heard of before. I started telling people about this, and spreading the word as much as I could by sending friends links, posting about it and writing blogs about it. Scott caught wind of this, and messaged me to thank me for all the effort. See, Scott was so confident about this venture and this album, that he had a bunch of copies pressed, and they weren’t selling as well as he had hoped. And of course, me not understanding how that was possible, stepped it up to spread the word more. Today, Scott has no problems selling albums, having gone from just compilations, to both comps and full length releases. He’s quickly, and maybe not as quickly as he would have hoped, become one of the best labels in the UK.
Christian Bland and Stephanie Bailey - The Black Angels @ SXSW 2006
Shortly after Psychedelica 1 was released, Northern Star was trying to set up gigs to help promote the compilation, and the bands on it. They were not having much luck in London, so they turned to the USA. “The first ever Northern Star shows took place in the USA during March 2006. We couldn’t get a London show. As we were unheard of and most of the bands were from the USA, no promotors would take us. So I thought ‘fuck them’ - if someone tells me I can’t do something I always go bigger and better so we did. We organized 2 shows in New York with the help of Jason from The Vandelles and Charles from HeadQuarters. We booked our flights. We had been trying to get something going for SXSW. 2 weeks before we were due to go the SXSW line-up all came together. We had already booked to go to New York and would have been traveling over when it was on. We couldn’t change our flights and were forced to miss it! The Psychedelica Vol: 1 launch in SXSW evolved to become the Austin Psych Fest the year after.”
Members of Brian Jonestown Massacre and the High Dials @ SXSW 2006
Unfortunately having missed the SXSW shows with Anton Newcombe, The Black Angels, The Lovetones, The High Dials, The Quarter After, HeadQuarters and the Vandelles, they were still rewarded with the original New York shows they had set up. “We did get to see the New York shows and they were amazing - The Hiss had been on tour with Oasis and were playing this comparatively tiny venue in New York especially for us. Dedelectric opened the show and I loved them. The Vandelles stole the show on the night though, it has to be said. HeadQuarters had set up the 2nd show. That night a band came on and blew me away like I’d never been blown away before. It was the first time I’d ever seen The December Sound and they’ve been on every compilation (bar one) since.”
The December Sound
After they returned to London, they were offered many shows. Just months before, no one wanted anything to do with them. Now things were starting to buzz a bit more. That summer, work was started at compiling for Psychedelica 2. It was this time I had been exchanging messages with Scott and he was telling me that many many bands were sending songs. Scott doesn’t just take any and all bands. He likes bands with personality, with some originality. He want’s this to be the best. He strives for nothing short of that. In March 2007, Psychedelica 2 was released, spending almost everything they had to get the album pressed and out. And I never thought it possible to beat that first one, but they did. I was very amazed at the quality, and the effort put on these. He really wasn’t in this to be “cool”. He was in this, for the right reasons. Passion for the music, and wanting to get it out to everyone possible. It was also shortly after this, when he split ways with his original partner, Andy. Scott and Andy started the label with the same thoughts and ideas, but over the course of the year or so, things changed. “Shortly after the release of Psychedelica 2, I realized I was no longer prepared to compromise. I had a distinct idea as to how Northern Star should sound and the bands we should be showcasing. We were both pulling in very different directions and each had their own idea of how things should be. I missed out on a couple of opportunities due to this and wasn’t prepared to again. Andy left to form The Third Wave Collective and I continued Northern Star.” He’s been at the helm ever since.
Following the release of Psychedelica 2, it was a bit longer for volume 3 to come along, compared to the year between releases of 1 and 2. It wasn’t until November 2008 before Psychedelica 3 was released. Another 2 discs filled with amazing bands from around the globe. With bands like the High Dials, Black Angels, Dolly Rocker Movement making repeat appearances, there were loads of new comers. One of which, Youngteam, would eventually be the very first band to release a full length release on Northern Star. But I’m jumping ahead a bit!
After Psychedelica 3, Scott decided that he had to do something about the many bands sending him stuff, which didn’t really “fit” under the Psychedelica platform. This is when he started on a new project. A compilation which would take a little from all types of music. “For Rockers, Ravers, Lovers and Gazers”, he would name it Revolution in Sound. The first volume was release in September of 2009. And although Scott was very nervous about the release, it was received very well. A single disc compilation of 17 tracks, instead of the 2 disc sets he had been doing for the Psychedelica series, it was a great mix for everyone. It again, mixed some Northern Star veterans, with some very interesting up and coming bands, like the Manhattan Love Suicides, Maribel and Delicasession.
Psychedelica 4 was released in May 2010. Again, another 2 discs worth of amazing music, which started with one of the best songs on the Psychedelica series, Singapore Sling’s, Godman. One thing I always love about Scott’s compilations, is he thinks like I do. If I were creating these, I would put these songs in the same order. They flow very well from one to another. And we all know, a good compilation needs flow for it to work properly. As a whole, it works very very well. To date, in my opinion, Psychedelica 4 is the best of the series.
The Nova Saints
It was then that Scott signed his first band to the Northern Star label. The Nova Saints. It would be a while before they would release their first debut. The first band to actually release a full length on Norther Star, was Youngteam. “The first band I signed to Northern Star was The Nova Saints. However before this, Youngteam handed me their debut album and demanded it be released on Northern Star Records. When I played it I knew it had to be on Northern Star - it couldn’t have possibly been released on any other record label. Can’t explain why, just a real gut feeling from the deepest, darkest recesses. So I went with it and I was right - it sold out on pre-orders alone.” The Youngteam album was officially released in February 2011.
This would start a very productive year for Northern Star Records. In the Summer of 2011 the Nova Saints would release their full length debut, Newfoundland. In the Autumn of 2011, Revolution in Sound II was released. And it was marketed and distributed by the Cherry Red Records label. A very large accomplishment for Northern Star Records. I know Scott was very ecstatic about this. Again, another 17 songs on a single disc, it was “For Rockers, Ravers, Lovers and Gazers”. This would also be the first album I would review for Scott officially . I had a small hand in reviewing the Nova Saints, but most of that never saw the light of day, due to some unfortunate circumstances.
The Lost Rivers
The first band I reviewed for Scott, was the Lost Rivers, which released their debut album in the late Winter of 2012. It just shows you the ear for talent this man has. The Lost Rivers are an amazing band out of Germany, that everyone should really check out. They throw a WALL of sound at you. This was also the first vinyl release for the label. It didn’t go as planned, with some scheduling conflicts at the pressing plant, but the records did make it.
Asked about important milestones, Scott replied “I see every release as a milestone. I learn something new with every release. The Lost Rivers was the first time I pressed vinyl and this represented a whole new learning curve in itself. Plus each release gets to places I can only dream of at the time of conception. The latest compilation Northern Lights was compiled for a vinyl only release to celebrate 5 years of Northern Star. A Russian magazine Stereo and Video loved the idea and offered to put it out as a covermount cd. A couple of minor changes and it went out in the April edition to an audience of over 87,000 people. There is always something new with running a label - its a total rollercoaster of a ride, there’s always up and downs and turn-me-arounds, but its a passion, a vision and a belief and thats why it continues to fire me up. It drives me crazy at times and its not for everyone, but I’d be a liar if I told you anything other than I love every single minute.”
The Electric Mainline
Starting back in the summer of 2005, when Scott first started compiling bands for Psychedelica 1, up to now, it’s been an up and down crazy ride for the label. I’ve watched it from afar, and rode the ripples of the ups and downs. I know Scott puts his heart and soul into every decision regarding the label, the bands he promotes and even the music he creates himself with the Electric Mainline. He’s one of the good guys. He’s not out trying to screw anyone over. I know he’s not in this for the riches or the fame (although, I’m sure he’d be OK with those). He’s in this for the truest of reasons…something I share deeply with Scott, and that’s the love of the music. I have to thank Scott for helping me in my own personal musical journey. He may not have directly introduced some of the bands I have come to know and love over the last few years, but I know without his influence, I may not have found them to begin with. A musical journey, like a spiritual journey, are our own, and many influence us along the way. My only hope is, I can somehow pass this on, and help others on their own personal journey.
Keep an eye out for a few exciting projects in the near future, including Psychedelica 5 which Scott tells me he’s got a few nice surprises in store for us. I personally look forward to it all! I have no plans of getting off this ride anytime soon.
The Nova Saints
The Lost Rivers