Stuart Gili-Ross – Venn Records

By Tom Aylott

As a long term fixture in the Gallows camp and as an artist manager, Stuart Gili-Ross has been instrumental in plenty of your favourite UK hardcore bands of recent years.

With Gallows setting up Venn Records, we couldn’t resist getting the lowdown on Gallows, Venn and how they came to work with Marmozets.

As a reward for reading this article, you can enter a competition to win a copy of the new Marmozets single and a Venn Records t-shirt, so have a read and get involved! (Don’t say we don’t spoil you!)

Afternoon – how was the recent Gallows tour? Any particular highlights?

Good afternoon! The recent tour was a LOT of fun. It feels good to have the new album out there and people going off to the new stuff. Being 3 albums deep now, we play for an hour which can be brutal on our ageing bones but you get used to it, just takes an extra day for cuts to heal.

Particular highlights are hard to pick out, I really enjoyed the sold out shows in Norway ( despite the 13 hour drive through skyrim between them! ) and the London shows at the end of tour of course. Norway was great because we spent some time there in the summer at various fests and headline shows so to go back and see how that hard work has paid off with 2 sold out shows was a nice reward. Taking Feed The Rhino out with us was a smart move as it kept us on top of our game each night. That band goes in HARD.

You guys have been out and about supporting the new record, which was released through Venn recently. For people who aren’t completely in the know about the label, how did you guys take that from being an idea to a reality?

It’s something we have always wanted to do from a young age; run our own record label.

It was basically a seed planted in our minds by the team at PIAS, who are a great bunch of enthusiastic people who have been working with independent bands and labels for a very long time. Having distributed some of our favourite bands and labels for a while, when they gave us the chance to have an imprint distributed by them coupled with financial backing of our album we jumped at the chance. It wasn’t really until we got to know how they worked with their distribution arm and product management and found it really refreshing and honest that we wanted to prolong that relationship and actually take Venn Records, our imprint, on as a going concern.

After the Gallows album was in the can, we had a meeting with PIAS and sat down to discuss us wanting to release more than our own records. Wade, Lags and I kicked in our own money to get the label going. We feel that we know enough between us and have had quite a bit of experience with majors and small independent labels to avoid certain mistakes some labels make.

We have friends from vinyl printing plants, to merch makers to the bands we like to the people at press and figured that we could do them some justice and be a record label run by ‘ good guys ‘. I think we also wanted to show that there is still a way to make a record label work these days, despite what the fear mongers want us to believe.

What’s been the main differences releasing an album through your own imprint compared to a “larger” label now that it’s out there?

The main differences of course are that decisions can be made in a minute, rather than a week. Releasing it through our own imprint just meant if we wanted to do something a certain way we just had to think about the logistics, work it out and the answer was usually ‘ yep, this can be done’. On a major you have to wait for 7 people who sit next to each other in an office to email each other about an issue and usually that gets decided on cost, not practicality or how cool something would be to do.

Everyone loves being in control of their art and music and this way it meant we had full control over every little thing and i think that shows in the finished product. It’s all us and it’s why it had to be titled ‘ Gallows’.

What’s been the biggest part of the learning curve so far for the label?

I would definitely say getting to grips with things for the distributors and product managers was an area I had never had to deal with before. In my role as the label manager, preparing sales notes and compiling metadata was completely fucking alien to me. Im a bass player more widely known for jumping on heads and even in my job as a band manager for SGR, I had to learn fast.

It’s a side to the record business we previously had no interest in at all but I had a very wise and patient tutor in the form of Denis, our product manager at PIAS, and I generally understand all that stuff now. A bit. Sort of…..

You’ve recently started adding acts to Venn, the first of which was Marmozets. How did you hear about the band, and what made you want to release something by them?

We started seeing the name around on flyers early on in the year, they seemed to be being added to a lot of the same shows and fests for that summer that Gallows were on. I thought it was an interesting band name so my curiosity was piqued. We caught the end of their set at Hit The Deck this year as they played the room we were closing that night and we thought they were very cool. A chaotic mess basically. Then when we played Download festival this summer they were on our stage as well and we saw them there and were blown away.

I decided then and there backstage at download to offer to put out their record, not even really knowing at that stage that we were going to release any bands that weren’t Gallows through Venn. I spoke to Lags and Wade about it and we were all in agreement that Marmozets was a young band that we wanted to get behind. Im grateful we didn’t let it just become one of those drunken ideas that bands throw around to each other and we actually got up and made it a reality.

Why did you chose the formats you did for the ‘Good Days’ single release? Was it first choice to get something to wax or just something you agreed on eventually?

Every Gallows release we have ever put out has had a vinyl release and it’s just the format we feel most comfortable with. The records we buy are on vinyl and the records we want to put out are on vinyl. It just sounds better and we know what we are doing more with vinyl in terms of costs and amounts to get pressed. Holding a record in your hands genuinely feels like you are holding some art. Its not disposable.

I don’t think there was ever a moment when we considered doing anything other than a 7″ on this release, digital download for it was almost an after thought.

Are there further plans with the band beyond the single at the moment?

I think Marmozets are set to explode in the coming year so I would be very surprised if Venn could even get a look in on future releases! We would love to do some more shows with them and Gallows. They played before us at our last London show on the recent tour and it was amazing to watch. So energetic and passionate!

What plans do Venn have for taking on releases in the future?

We don’t accept demo submissions. Any bands or artists we release through Venn are just people who have caught our attention on the road. We have a couple of bands and artists on our radar at the moment who we would love to work with, it’s just finding the right balance for the bands and label right now.

What would be the sort of selection criteria Venn are looking for? Are you concerned with a particular genre or would you like to be flexible?

We aren’t as concerned with genre so much as we are with general quality in their field, aesthetic and mindset. if we like the music and believe in the artist, it makes no difference to us if its a noise band or an electro group. We just want to give a platform to the artists that wade, lags and I think are cool and it’s that simple. We don’t really have to consider a factor of ‘ liking to being flexible’. This is our thing and we can be flexible and do whatever the fuck we want with it. Sure we have constraints as money pit isn’t endless but imagination is often the biggest constraint.

It works for some labels to be identified with a certain type of genre or style and labels we have worked with have a loyal fan base because of that. It works for them. We may be making a huge mistake by bucking that idea but Venn won’t ever be identifiable to one genre, we aren’t just into noise or punk rock. Just quality.

Is Venn Gallows’ permanent home now?

Well we have several homes now. Because we are a global band ( literally we live all over the place now ) and play all over the world, we have a different label in each territory. In the USA we are on Bridge Nine Records, in Canada we are on Universal and in Australia we are on Shock. Venn is our home in the UK and Europe and we are still really focussed on this album campaign so until it stops making sense for us, I would say so.

What advice would you give bands that are looking to release their own music at the moment?

Do it yourself! For some reason it’s almost being touted as this new and brave idea but it’s really what the whole punk rock and hardcore movement was founded on. Bands releasing their own music because no one else would. The only difference now is bands have the intelligence and the means more readily at their disposal.

Just do your research and nothing can stop you.

So, now you’ve read Stu’s thoughts…. here’s how you win the Venn Shirt (below) and the Marmozets 7″…


Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]