Ishikawa Records is a new trans-Atlantic record label, founded earlier this year by a pair of York-born musicians. The label will celebrate the launch of its first release – Dorothea’s Boat by David Lawrie – tonight, with a gig at The Harlequin Cafe on King’s Square. We caught up with the masterminds of the nascent venture, David Lawrie and Mikey Donnelly, to find out more about Ishikawa Records and tonight’s concert.
Tell us a little about Ishikawa Records – who are you and what’s the dream? DL: I am a music producer who works in popular music and sound design for film. I’m originally from York, and I still do a lot of my work in England, but I now live in Nevada County, California. Outside of my production projects for and with other people, I am also pursuing a solo career.
I initially came up with the idea of Ishikawa Records as a simple way of releasing my own music, without having to rely on other labels’ release schedules. It was only when I spoke with Mikey [a singer-songwriter and producer best known to York musos as the driving force behind acoustic project Epilogues] about the idea that we decided that it could be something more. We decided to collaborate, and have worked very hard over the past year to conceptualise something of a co-operative record “community” - not just a label. The dream is to be running a community whereby our family of artists can pursue meaningful careers in the music industry, whilst knowing that their endeavours will reach an audience of people who truly appreciate and support art and artists.
Tell us about the label’s first release – Dorothea’s Boat by David Lawrie
DL: As I said earlier, the original idea was for Ishikawa to simply be an imprint for my own music, so why not make the first release a David Lawrie one? In-keeping with the community-based approach, I turned to crowdfunding to finance the physical release of the album, and I am quite hopeful that some of the people who pledged on the campaign will be in the audience tonight so that I can personally thank them.
The album itself is very energetic, but for the intimate space and relaxed atmosphere at the venue, a stripped back, honest set is in order. I will be accompanied by J W Greenwood, an outstanding guitarist who has become an integral part of how I realise my music live. I will be playing a lot of Hammered Dulcimer. I haven’t played live in quite a while, so I am excited to be able to do it again.
You both cut your teeth on the York music scene. How do you think it’s going in the city at the moment? Are you hoping to bring some local acts to a wider audience?
MD: The York music scene is one that always baffles me: it’s a rollercoaster of great rewards (in the venues and bands that pop up and surpass nearly any that I’ve come into contact with elsewhere) coupled with dear losses of these very venues and bands on a regular basis. That being said York’s music scene has always maintained a unique and exciting cultural presence that we absolutely hope to champion either through the label itself or through the community we’re building.
What led you to decide upon The Harlequin Cafe as the venue for tonight’s show?
MD: Well I first came into contact with it playing at Oxjam Takeover Festival a few years back as Epilogues. I loved the space but completely forgot about it until I was upstairs in the lovely Attic bar on a mad one a month or so ago - I had been struggling to find a decent space for the gig and was struck with a drunken epiphany: THIS IS IT!
Could you tell us a little about the label’s ethos and business model?
DL: Yes. I do actually struggle to think of Ishikawa as just a “label,” even though our name will appear on the back of releases. The idea is for us to work with artists to help them forge meaningful careers. We want our artists to be taking the majority share of any profits, and we also want to work with artists to keep their spending down. We don’t want anyone to be continually in debt, so we think that crowdfunding is an excellent thing - it is also a great way of researching an artist’s target market. We think that artists should be as independent as possible, and in control of their own artistic vision. Basically Mikey and I sat down together (6,000 miles away from each other, over Skype) and discussed what our ideal record deal would be, and then tried to see if we could get it to make business sense. I suppose we will find out if it does with Dorothea’s Boat!
Do you have any advice for local musicians hoping to get picked up by a label and make it in the music industry?
MD: Our advice is generally to make music your job. Live it. Obviously there are day jobs and bills and all the rest to wade through, but the things that make artists successful are an absolute passion and commitment that shine through despite all that. It’s about being mint, unique, and looking like a bloody professional while you do it.
It seems like Ishikawa Records has made a strong start. So what’s next?
DL: I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised about the really positive response to Ishikawa so early on. Even before we had a release date for Dorothea’s Boat, people were taking notice of our ideas. I know that Mikey has done a great amount of networking, and the response from that point of view has been very insightful and, for the most part, reinforcing of our own convictions. I think the next step is to follow through with turning the initial concepts into a reality, and work with other independent artists. Hopefully 2015 will be a great year of growth for Ishikawa.
Why should people reading this article come to the show tonight?
MD: This show is the launch; the first; the birth! We fully expect the excitement to continue throughout all of the events we put on but there’s always something super special about the beginning of something. It’s also the launch of David’s new release, AND if that’s not enough reason the line-up is exquisite. A big part of what we think will be special about the night is the escapist atmosphere we’re going to create. So, yeah, you should come.
The Ishikawa Records Launch is taking place at The Harlequin Cafe, tonight (20/03/15) from 7.30pm, and will feature performances from David Lawrie, Epilogues and Rory Welbrock. For full event info, head over to the event page on Facebook. Listen to Dorothea’s Boat by David Lawrie.Ishikawa Records website.