Manic Ears History

           In 1983 -1985, I used to produce a fanzine in Bristol called Manic. Four issues were self-published. Issues #3 and #4 had gained some underground popularity as I had worked on getting the fanzine known on the UKHC underground. This was a global network of fanzine writers, mail order distributors, tape and record labels. These small underground outlets communicated with each other by mail selling fanzines, tapes, records and promoting shows of underground hardcore music in the UK and all over the world. The phrase 'soap the stamps' aptly applies. 

From 1984, I had a tape label distributing band demos and live tapes mail order. Lethal Dose Tapes featured demos and live recordings of hardcore acts: Ripcord, Chaos UK, Disorder, Political Asylum and Ad Nauseum. I was distributing fanzines, tapes and records by mail order under 'Manic Distribution'. Lethal Dose Tapes operated in shared office space with Tim Bennett of Children Of The Revolution Records in the back of a left wing political bookshop; Full Marks Bookshop. 

Tim Bennett COR Records, Full Marx Bookshop Office, 1985-86.
During 1985, Full Marks Bookshop moved premises and we had to move into our bedrooms. I also teamed up with another Bristol fanzine writer, Mark, who produced 'Ears Of A Dead Man' fanzine. Incidentally,  it was Mark who came up with the name 'Manic Ears Distribution' taken from the titles of our fanzines and for a year we jointly ran Manic Ears Distribution. However, Mark moved on and I was left to run it on my own. Chaos UK had asked me to put out their split LP with Extreme Noise Terror (an unknown band from Ipswich) and the idea of Manic Ears Records was born.
To start an independent record label I needed some substantial finance. Manic Ears Distribution was a semi-profit making service. However, most of the proceeds went back into buying new stock to produce and sell new tapes and finance their distribution. I quickly found a careers service that helped young people set up businesses with the preparation of a business plan. The service had recommended my proposition to the 'Youth Enterprise Scheme'. The business plan and application took a year of preparation from which I successfully managed to obtain a loan of £2000 to start the label. I signed onto the Enterprise Allowance Scheme and Manic Ears Records officially began business on the 6th September, 1986. The first release, a Chaos UK/Extreme Noise Terror split LP,  came out in October,1986.

Left to Right: Shane Dabinett, Bear Hackenbush -Skate Mutie, Chaos (UK), Chris 'Beano' Hopewell - Skate Mutie & Spider ( The Sears) St Michaels Park, Bristol, 1987-88. (or Mike, Rik, Vivienne and Nigel).

1986 - 88, Manic Ears Records operated out of converted room attached to my bedroom in a house share at St Michael's Park, Bristol with Bear Hackenbush, Chaos(Chaos UK) & Chris 'Beano' Hopewell (Skate Muties From The 5th Dimension). Also, D' Arcy, a friend with smoke who was later replaced with a more desirable pop star, Steve 'Spider' Croom, vocalist of Bristol's hardcore psychedelic's 'The Sears'.

St Michael's Park was a crazy creative household. Something was always happening whether it was new Manic Ears release, a new issue of 'Skate Muties from the 5th Dimension' from Bear and Beano, or when Spider and 'The Sears' headlined the national newspapers over their 'Lightening Strike's' single about the Hungerford massacre. 

The house got rather busy. Guests included Brob Tilt (Belgium), Ron Martinez of Final Conflict (LA), Hammy from Peaceville getting pointers on starting his label, Dr & The Crippens when recording 'Fired from The Circus', Ripcord gigging with Chaos UK, Chaos UK band practice in the living room for 'Earslaughter' and Vinyl Japan buying records (just to name a few). The house may have been a little dilapidated (it was eventually pulled down to build a new Bristol University Computer Centre). We had to go our separate ways sometime mid 1988.

During 1985, Phil Vane of Extreme Noise Terror had delivered their side of the album about one year before its release. This was basically an 8 track demo for £82. I had put Chaos UK into SAM Studios in Bristol in August 1986 for approximately £400. When 'Earslaughter' was released it did not get the reception expected from the mainstream music media until at least two years later. John Peel played 'Murder' by Extreme Noise Terror from Earslaughter on release in October 1986 joking on air that someone should talk to their manager. Only two years later with the rise of Napalm Death on Earache Records did Extreme Noise become his favorite band. However, 1500 copies of the 'Earslaughter' split LP where initially manufactured (yellow label) followed by 500 more. I had initially planned two record releases to get the label up and running. The second album was a debut LP by Civilised Society? entitled 'Scrapmetal'. Civilised Society? were from Yorkshire and a good friend, Hammy, who used drum for the Instigators on vocals. He also ran a small mail order distribution service called 'Peaceville'. 1000 copies of 'Scrapmetal' were initially pressed followed by a further 500. I believe that over the years we did about 2500 of each CS? album on Manic Ears. Civilised Society? and 'Scrapmetal' received some surprising airplay from the Rock orientated 'Tommy Vance Show' and John Peel opened his show with 'The Fairer Sex' from the album on numerous occasions. 'Scrapmetal' was welcomed by the Metal press, (Kerrang! and Metal Forces) with open arms as hardcore metal crossover was emerging. 

At this point the label had nothing new to release. Finance had run low and returns from the record sales were not happening. I had a Manufacturing and Distribution deal with Revolver Distribution, who were based in Bristol, and before any returns come to the label all the cutting and manufacturing costs were recouped first. Sometime in early 1987, Tim Bennett announced the closure of his label, Children Of The Revolution Records (COR Records). He passed over a couple of his releases due out on the COR release schedule and a lot of the COR mail order service.
Manic Ears never actually took over the operation and running of COR as some people thought. Tim had decided to close his label but already had two releases planned. He passed these two onto me which I released on Manic Ears to help the bands get their records out on a label. These were the 'Digging in Water' compilation and Bad Beach's 'Cornicopia'. I thought it would help my release schedule and that the COR mail order business would generate some money to prepare a Ripcord debut LP. The 'Digging In Water' compilation was initially compiled by COR and completed by Manic Ears. Digging In Water was undoubtedly a COR LP, however, it was completed to incorporate some Manic Ears bands. This was a co-release on COR/Manic Ears. COR's mail order service came over to Manic Ears as well. 

The Arrival Of Britcore

From 1986, The Stupids (COR Records) had been making a big impact upon the mainstream music media. John Peel had become very fond of them and had recorded some BBC Radio One sessions for his show. The next band to make such a big impact on the UKHC scene and the independent music industry were Napalm Death. The weekly music press began to take an avid interest in hardcore, 'Sounds' labeled it 'Britcore' which in turn was taken up by the 'NME' and 'Melody Maker'. John Peel further promoted the music by giving bands such as Napalm Death, Extreme Noise Terror, Carcass, Heresy, Electro Hippies, Dr & The Crippens and Ripcord, BBC Radio 1 Sessions.

The Hardcore music scene was making quite an impact and this was particularly fueled by John Peel's enthusiasm for the music. The three UKHC labels at the forefront of this were Manic Ears, Earache and Peaceville. The labels utilized the music press pretty much to our own advantage. This helped get the music across to a wider audience. A lot of press was organised particularly from Manic Ears to gain attention to the music from the mainstream. The Stupids and Napalm Death had front covers on Sounds and NME further embracing Britcore and started writing weekly columns about the current hardcore music scene. John Peel was so excited by this new wave of music that he started releasing some of these sessions. Extreme Noise Terror, Napalm Death, The Stupids and Electro Hippies sessions came out on his Strange Fruit label. He then followed it up with the infamous 'Hardcore Holocaust' compilations which were compiled from tracks of the hardcore sessions. 

Manic Ears had been planning, for three years, a similar UKHC compilation. This was the infamous 'The North Atlantic Noise Attack' double LP and the first Compact Disc (CD) release on the label. During the 1986 -1990 period hardcore CDs were not physically released like 12" vinyl. However, this was to change with this release and 'Hardcore Holocaust' LP/CD on Peels 'Strange Fruit' label. 

By 1988 - 89, Manic Ears Records had firmly established itself as one of the leading UKHC labels along with Earache and Peaceville Records. The label had built up a reputable catalog of UKHC bands such as, Extreme Noise Terror, Chaos UK, Civilised Society?, Ripcord, Concrete Sox, Dr & The Crippens and Sore Throat. The Chaos UK/Extreme Noise Terror LP, Earslaughter was cited as a landmark in hardcore history by Napalm Death. The success of Napalm Death and Earache Records in 1988 citing most of the current UKHC bands plus US and Japanese hardcore influences changed the mainstream independent music industry attention towards UKHC. The North Atlantic Noise Attack compilation became another landmark in UKHC history. What made this new wave of hardcore music most appealing (particularly to John Peel) was the extreme nature of the music and its actual brevity. It broke down the conventional barriers of song writing and mutated its most extreme form. A song could be 3 seconds long and still have meaning. Another factor was at the core the of scene was the vast network of underground DIY fanzine writers, record, tape distributors and labels that were the foundation of it all. This was inspired by the US fanzine 'Maximum 'N' Roll' which provided worldwide hardcore news, reviews, scene reports and interviews on the underground. The scene was not restricted to Britain only as it was occurring worldwide in various different aspects under different political government systems. The bottom of the cover for 'The North Atlantic Noise' depicted this as a pastiche of the 'World Of Music, Arts & Dance (WOMAD)'. John Peel referred to this scene as a counter-culture in the BBC TV programme, 'Suffolk Comforts'. 

Manic Ears had received a considerable amount of press coverage in the national weekly music papers, Sounds, Melody Maker and the N.M.E. The success of Extreme Noise Terror, Ripcord, Concrete Sox, Dr & The Crippens and Sore Throat had seen the label become a pinnacle of UKHC. Earache and Peaceville Records had started moving into Death Metal. One particular event that Manic Ears was involved with in the music press was the release of Sore Throat's LP 'Never Mind The Napalm, Here's Sore Throat'. The original test pressings (25 copies) were cut which contained a track recorded backwards slating Napalm Death. The press response was create a Sore Throat v Napalm Death match with stories. The situation was totally blown out of proportion by the press so that Revolver Distribution refused to release the LP unless the record was remastered with the offending track, Can You Dig it?, taken off it.

Ripcord were another highly prolific UKHC outfit from Weston Super Mare who had I had done tapes for on Lethal Dose Tapes in the past. Their debut LP 'Defiance Of Power' came out on Manic Ears Records the same week as Napalm Death on Earache Records in 1987. At that time the line up was Buzby - vocals, Baz - guitar, Steve - bass and John on drums. Originally, I intended to release Ripcord on a split LP with raging seminal US hardcore band 'False Liberty' who were rated by Pushead, Maximum RocknRoll and the underground scene in general. They previoulsy released an EP on Seattle's One Step Ahead Records. However, I received a letter saying they split up just before recording Defiance Of Power so I turned that idea into a mini LP. Subsequently, Baz also joined Nottingham's seminal hardcore band 'Heresy'. Buzby had been sacked shortly after Defiance Of Power and Steve replaced him on vocals. Buzby's vocal was steering more in the Chaos UK direction. Baz, Steve and John probably wanted to use their heavily influenced USHC material like Septic Death, Minor Threat and SS Decontrol. When Baz joined Heresy on guitar it opened Ripcord up to a realm of possibilities in the scene by releasing their hardcore masterpiece 'Poetic Justice' on their own label - Raging Records. It took some for John Peel to recognise them before they recorded a BBC session for him. Heresy and Ripcord went onto tour UK and Europe together. Both of them recorded BBC Radio 1 John Peel sessions.

If there ever was a prominent Manic Ears band it was Dr & The Crippens. After recording 'Fired From The Circus' the label believed there would be a terrific future for this band. Their previous recording on the Digging In Water LP was not up to hardcore speeds with 'Mr Parkinson' which was dropped from their live set. Fired From The Circus was extremely enthused by John Peel who played  most of the songs from the test pressing before release week. A John Peel session quickly followed. The band were making a big impact on the UK hardcore scene with their ferocious blistering hardcore and stage antics of costumes and exploding 'on head' cabbages. They recorded 2 Peel Sessions.
Dr and The Crippens were hard and fast. They never intended to replace The Stupids although tensions between the bands overlapped due to the extraordinary humorous content style of both bands. The release of their second album 'Raphandosis' was down to the Peel sessions and extensive UK touring. The drummer, Dave Ellesmere, worked for the label for 2 years before the label was finally closed. Dave had been around drumming in previous UK hardcore punk bands since the early 80's, notably the Discharge 'Why' LP and The Insane. After the Crippens he went onto to Disgust and Brainless. Wayne, the bassist went onto Brainless whilst Nick and Tom formed Krill.

Sore Throat had released a 63 track EP on Meantime Records. Earache got very interested in them so Sore Throat, in true Sex Pistols style, took the few grand recording costs and went into a studio and produced 'A Disgrace To The Corpse Of Sid' LP for Earache Records. 101 tracks of drum machines, screaming and speeding up the tape masters was a serious assault on the ears. The album did exceptionally well and backfired on Sore Throat as it propelled them to the forefront of the independent music industry which was not its intention. They did not expect it to do that. Rich Militia wanted to prove that Sore Throat could actually play anything by doing a new grunge slow based LP. Under the name Saw Throat, 'Indestroy' was the result. Indestroy broke down any boundaries and conceptions of 2 second blast core that the band had previously been regarded for with a single track album of slow paced grungecore. The Indestroy CD featured 53 bonus tracks which was previously the Meantime EP.  

REKTUM, were from East Germany. When the Berlin Wall was coming down in 1989 and the Eastern Block borders began opening up, Rektum crossed through Hungary and made it to Bristol, England. Rektum were a highly sought after political Eastern Block Hardcore band who had successfully defected to the West. The press reports in the Independent, NME, Sounds and Melody Maker covered this event with a large amount of curiosity. Allegedly, Manic Ears Records housed them and started recording their debut LP 'Sakredanus' from which a 12" single 'Real Horrorshow' was taken. These two releases did appear, 'Real Horrorshow' on Manic Ears Records and 'Sakredanus' on the new formed Manic Ears offshoot label, PSI Records. John Peel phoned up Manic Ears HQ offering Rektum a session. I was not prepared to fool John Peel after all he had done for the bands on the label. It was eventually broken in Sounds as Rektum were not a real band but a pseudonym of the infamous Gaye Bykers On Acid. The whole story was thought up by the band so that the Gaye Bykers On Acid could produce a thrash album. They even got a German speaking actor to do a band interview for the commercial German news magazine, STERN.

I must admit I wanted out of the hardcore scene after all those years living in it from 1983 - 1991. That was nearly 8 years of starting out with a fanzine to making and selling tapes to running a fully fledged independent record label. I needed a break from it all. In March 1990 I had moved to London. I traveled to Hultsfred festival in Sweden and Roskilde, Denmark. Trojan/Receiver Records wanted me back in the company to produce some reissues from the back catalogue and supposedly to keep looking for new bands to produce and promote besides search out back catalogue to acquire. They brought me back supposedly to reboot the label and get it going again.

I certainly felt some awe working there. I was also co-ordinating Clay Records reissues and lent a hand in the Discharge Massacre Divine UK Tour 1991. I also went to the Detroit to sign the all girl US hardcore outfit Inside Out who had toured the UK and Europe in 1990 and had two previous albums on Meantime Records. I was really into new emerging industrial hardcore coming out of Wax Trax! Records like Ministry, KMFDM, Front 242 and 1000 Homo DJs in Chicago and paid their offices a visit after a trip to Detroit. When I was back in the UK, I was surprised and very disappointed, when one Friday morning the Trojan Group accountant came into my office and unexpectedly shut it all down. 

GBOA played as Rektum at the Manic Ears Xmas Party held at the Bristol Bierkeller in December 1989 along with Dr and the Crippens and Prophecy Of Doom. Shortly after the label was acquired by the Trojan/Receiver Records group.

Trojan/Receiver reissues

ACHE 001 - Chaos UK/Extreme Noise Terror - Earlslaughter  LP (Yellow Vinyl)
ACHED 021 - Civilised Society? - You were Warned DLP
ACHE 0014 - Dr and The Crippens- Fired From The Circus LP (Green Vinyl)
ACHE 018 - Dr and The Crippens - Raphadosis LP (Red Vinyl)
ACHE 020 - Manic Ears, The Hysterical Years Sampler LP (Brown Splatter Vinyl)

I was disillusioned with working in the music industry after that and a year later I was in college followed by a 3 year Bsc(Hons) New Technology: Media And Communications at the University Of East London. There is nothing more discuss as my life long Crohn's Disease flared up and has wreaked havoc on me since. An attempt at a Msc Advanced IT at South Bank University was quite unsuccessful due to this but I was awarded a Postgraduate Certicate (PGCE). Currently, I am studying for a MA Digital Media: Technology And Cultural Form at Goldsmiths College, University Of London.