By paul

PAUL: Please can you reveal your name and position within the label?
MILES: Miles Hackett, one half of Deck Cheese. The other half being Eugene Butcher (editor of Big Cheese).

PAUL: How and why did Deck Cheese form? Please can give you us a few details about the label’s history?
MILES: The label started as an idea in the pub (as all great ideas do!). We decided to do a compilation of various bands that’d been featured in Big Cheese. We had friends at Fat, Epitaph, Burning Heart etc who donated tracks which was half of the album. The other half we did UK bands, some signed & some who’d submitted demos. After doing 2 comps (Deck Cheese 1 & 2) we did an entirely UK album (Beast Of British). This prompted Vanilla Pod to get in touch, they were after a new label & asked if we were interested, we said yes & they were our first signing. After that it kinda became a proper label.

PAUL: Why the name Deck Cheese?
MILES: Mmm, bit stupid really. The ‘Cheese’ bit was taken from the mag & the ‘Deck’ bit was to represent record decks. Plus it sounds rude if you say it fast enough. Told you it was crap, ha ha.

PAUL: Submitted by Fred: What do you look for in a band? I know this is a very general question but with bands like Not Katies, Sick On the Bus, No comply, Stories and comets and Phinius Gage signed to your label.. it’s hard to notice that not one of those bands sound similar at all.
MILES: Basically we sign bands we like. Both our tastes in music are quite varied & I think thats reflected in the roster. Though we seem to have developed a tag as being a ‘pop punk’ label which I’m keen to dispel. Variety is the spice of life as they say. Personally I like music with big hooks, the type of band you hear or see once & the songs stick in your head for days.

PAUL: Also submitted by Fred: Do you find it hard to tell if a band are going to be a good investment or not?(ie making you enough money)or do you even consider that question before signing a band?
MILES: Signing bands can be a gamble. Just ‘cos you like them doesnt mean everybody else does. At the end of the day we have to go with our gut instinct. Recently as the label has grown other factors have to be taken into account, like ‘is this financially viable’. For example its hard to consider a band who are aged about 15, no matter how good. If they can’t tour to promote a record it just won’t sell. Unfortunately records do not sell on merit alone, as we have found out.

PAUL: You have released records by foreign bands that probably haven’t done as well as the British bands. Has this put you off releasing records by non-UK bands in the future?
MILES: No not at all. The ratio of UK to foreign will always be the higher but we’d consider anything that could work. The foreign bands are a more on going project. Both Sommerset & 5 Cent Deposit will be back to tour before the end of the year, which will re promote their respective releases. We are currently sorting out another overseas project as we speak.

PAUL: Some ‘punk’ labels are very strict on making their bands sign contracts while others are happy to have verbal agreements. Which do you prefer to do and are you happy with the way these work?
MILES: We don’t hold contracts with any of our UK bands, although we do hold licensing agreements with the foreign ones. It’s all done by good old punk rock handshake. I’d like to consider our bands part of a family or friends I can go down the pub with. The only danger is some major coming along & stealing someone. In the current UK music climate I think it’s unlikely. If someone did want to leave however we wouldnt hold them back, we’d wish them all the best.

PAUL: Submitted by Wes: How difficult is it to know which band to give more of a push to and dedicate more label time/resources to, what are the factors which decide which band that is, and are you happy having to make those decisions?
MILES: In the earlier days we had fewer releases & bands, so every release got equal attention. Slowly this awkward situation is beginning to arise. It’s coming more with the bands that are now established. For example No Comply‘s album is our biggest project this year & we’d be fools to not give it the push it deserves. They are the most popular band we have & are likely to be the biggest seller so ultimately we have to dedicate more time/resources to them. That’s not to say other bands will suffer though. We are just having to find extra to cope. Say we hire a PR person to promote a certain release, that doesnt stop us self promoting others the way we always did. As this thing grows, harder decisions will come to light I imagine. Factors like what effort the band put in i.e. touring may well influence our approach. Not something I’m looking forward to as I know it’s going to be a bit of a gut wrencher due to relationship we have with our bands.

PAUL: What is the most rewarding thing about running a label and what is the worst part?
MILES: Rewarding. It’s great to see the bands do well. Personally the watching as Fletcher took 2002’s Deconstruction by storm was a pretty big high. The worst part is when you get back disappointing sales figures for a release that you were proud of & was convinced it was going to do well.

PAUL: Would you recommend running a label?
MILES: If you wanna be skint & have a lot of stress, then yes!

PAUL: What three tips would you give to potential label owners?
MILES: – Get distribution. It’s pointless without it. You’ll just have boxes of CD’s sitting in your garage otherwise. Unless you got a band who tours 366 days a year & can flog them on the road.
– Keep costs down i.e. recording costs.
– Sign a decent band!

PAUL: Submitted by Cyclone: You must get so many demos, how do you listen to them all?
MILES: What I tend to do is wait until I have a pile, then one Saturday afternoon I kick back with some beers & give them all a listen, one by one. The ones I like I put to one side & listen to them in more depth.

PAUL: Submitted by Fred (again): Does the sound quality of a demo matter to you?
MILES: To an extent. I know at the end of the day it’s the songs that count but I think bands who have put a bit of time & effort getting the best sound they can make more impact.

PAUL: Submitted by Got Audio: You have a rather small roster compared to the other major minor (if you understand) uk punk labels, and personally i think some of your stuff is by far superior. Do you put more time in to honing each band or just not like everything you hear?
MILES: We are very choosy about what we sign & release. I think that old anecdote ‘quality not quantity’ is an ethic we work by. If our hearts aren’t into a band 100% then we wont do it, cos if we’re not then its likely other people wont be. Sometimes we’ve ummed & aahhed for too long & lost a band to someone else. Thats the way it goes though!

PAUL: Another Fred question: With most up and coming bands being very inexperienced in alot of areas, do you take on bands with a hope to help them learn and develop into being a great act? Or do you expect a certain amount of experience before taking them on?
MILES:As they often say in job ads, ‘experience preferred but not essential’. After all it is down to the music. We provide most of our bands with a sort of management type umbrella where we help them any way we can. At the end of the day its in each of ours interest. If a band we were considering has already done a lot of groundwork themselves, be it gigging, recording or self promotion that would be an influencing factor in us signing them. Ultimately as a band goes along & gains experience they will develop to be better & better.

PAUL: Which release are you most proud of that DC has released?
MILES: Well, I’m very proud of every record we’ve released. Each one has its own great attributes………the politicians answer, ha ha…

PAUL: If there was one band you wish had signed to DC, who would it be?
MILES: Adequate 7 I reckon. We did ask them but I think they felt they’d be more at home on Household Name.

PAUL: Another Fred submission: Do you ever see other UK labels as competition? For instance do you ever find yourself fighting over the signature of a band?
MILES: I think the only competition between UK labels is a healthy one, its not rivalry or anything. On many occasions we’ve teamed up with other labels for tours & stuff. We know each other & we’re all mates. As for fighting over bands, nah. We were interested in Adequate 7 as I mentioned earlier, it was no fight though.

PAUL: Are there any labels that you admire and look for inspiration from, be it ethically or the way they do their business?
MILES: Well people like Fat & Epitaph are cool, they helped us at the start. On the UK side I think Lil & HHN, Steve Beatty & Golf are an inspiration to us all. They’re passion & determination have built them great labels.

PAUL: Submitted anonymously: Do you think the ‘punk’ attitude, that people help each other rather than look out for themselves, is dying or is it just me?
MILES: There’s elements of both about in the scene today. I try & help people where I can but often I just don’t have time as I’m busy with our stuff. There’s little doubt that a lot of the US bands get preference over home-grown talent. For example Fletcher toured with Lagwagon & were billed below the Halo Friendlies & consequently paid a third of what they got even though they had sold considerably more records here than them. That’s fucked up.

PAUL: Submitted by Sam: You’re very public about slagging off the Darkness, but do you not think they are doing something good for the state of music by getting rock into the charts? Would you honestly rather have the charts filled with pop idols?
MILES: I assume you refer to remarks in Big Cheese about the Darkness. Personally I can’t abide them. To my mind they are a cleverly marketed major label machine that isnt a million miles from Pop Idol. You’ll probably find the same people who bought Westlife or Dido are buying the Darkness. Rock is back because of people like us & you that have kept the flame burning in the underground. As soon as dance started to fade the majors look for the next thing to exploit thats making waves…you guessed it rock. They’ll milk it, kill it then it’ll go back underground. It’s recycled crap, go check out Whitesnake they were far better.

PAUL: Submitted by Barney: How do you manage the obvious conflict of interest in having a magazine intending to have credible reviews and articles of their own artists? Is it an issue in the offices? Do you really think that the first Not Katies album is a 5 out of 5 record? (I think it got that and I can ask that now their vastly superior new EP is in my hands).
MILES: I won’t deny that in the early stages of the label reviews in Big Cheese took a biased slant toward our releases & yes I agree with the remark about Not Katies. About 18 months ago this conflict of interest was something we decided to address. From that day on Deck Cheese releases have been submitted to outside contributors to review. This is to gain as much of an unbiased opinion as possible. For example Tim from Mass Movement was given Fletcher to review. If you’ve read his zine you’ll know they’re not his typical band. However he gave his opinion on the record & the review was published unedited. If he’d slagged it the review would still have appeared. In the round up of the albums of 2003 you’ll notice it features no Deck Cheese releases & both mine & Eugene’s personal top 10’s reflect that too. This was deliberate as we considered it biased. On the matter of articles about Deck Cheese bands, they are conducted in exactly the same way all the interviews are in the mag & I dont feel there is an issue with them.I also dont feel there is too much overkill of DC either, I won’t deny it is useful to use Big Cheese to promote our artists, thats natural. I’ll think you’d find that if P-Rock was running today that Sonic Boom 6 videos would be on heavy rotation. Would that be a conflict of interest?

PAUL: Submitted by that man Fred: How many bands can you see yourself signing this year?
MILES: We’re on a bit of a signing buzz at the moment, suddenly got this urge to expand the roster. I dunno, 4 maybe 5?

PAUL: How many releases do DC intend to put out this year and are there any details you can give?
MILES: There’s four definates :
Not Katies – Repeat, Repeat EP (Feb)
No Comply – With Windmills Turning Wrong Directions LP (May)
Stories & Comets – Album (June/July)
Right Turn Clyde – Album (Aug/Sept)
Plus a hot new US band that’ll be all over the place soon & whoever else we hear & sign.

PAUL: Submitted by Cal: At the end of the day, do you sit down at home with a brewski and feel proud of what you have acomplised for A) yourself, B) the bands on your label or C) the UK punk scene, or rock scene in general.
MILES: I often kick back at home with a brew thats for sure. I’m not one for self back slapping but I am proud for our bands that do well, they deserve it. If we’ve helped the scene then great. I just love what I do.

Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]