Publications > Scream City > Scream City Issue #5 > 33°52'38.29"E / 151°13'05.79"S by Matthew Robertson
32 33°52'38.29"E / 151°13'05.79"S
by Matthew Robertson
by Matthew Robertson
Matthew Robertson, author of FAC 461 Factory Records: The Complete Graphic Album met with Andrew Penhallow, erstwhile head honcho of Factory Australasia in Sydney, Australia.
So you came from the UK originally?
Yes, in 1975. I traveled overland spending six months on the Hippy Trail across Afghanistan, Iran, India and Pakistan. I'd been a graphic artist in London doing typesetting and layout for all sorts of magazines, advertising, and television. I worked in Charlotte Mews just off Goodge Street three doors up from Twiggy and Justin de Villeneuve – it was swingin' London.
What made you stay here?
My eldest brother was here. I hadn't seen him for five years and I thought it was a great opportunity. He'd been living in Darwin when Cyclone Tracey hit. He saw his whole house swept away around him with his two kids and wife under the table! Had you been part of the music scene in London? My other older brother, John, used to manage Fairport Convention. He was good buddies with two of the guys in the band and he'd organise shows for them at the local youth club. He'd borrow £5 from me so they could hire a hall in Golders Green and put the band on. They'd make enough money to go to the Chinese restaurant afterwards.
John took me everywhere just to carry a guitar case. I went to places like the Speakeasy and the Electric Garden in Covent Garden and saw all these amazing bands. I saw Robert Plant's Band of Joy before he joined Led Zeppelin. Then I saw Led Zeppelin's show at the Hornsey Tavern.
I'd put on a Mod suit and go to the Manor House Pub being under-age. I saw Cream's second or third gig there, Jimi Hendrix, the original Fleetwood Mac – it was just one of those times. My Mum took me to the Beatles Christmas show. My other brother took me to the Rolling Stones with Brian Jones on guitar. I had this incredible upbringing amongst the most influential bands from the mid-60s onwards.
So how did you get into the scene in Australia?
Well after a few years I went back to England and saw The Cure at the Rainbow Theatre. I came back and wrote a review, sent it to Australian Rolling Stone and they published it. Soon they asked me to do some album reviews including the first Pretenders' LP.
Then they gave me a really big slab of space – about half a page or so. I was hanging out in import stores and buying loads of stuff from the UK. There was also a girl at Rolling Stone called Glynis, she was an outright Punk, and she was buying the same. I'd drift into the office to give them a review and we'd just start talking about all this stuff. Soon, with the explosion of music coming out of the UK, Rolling Stone gave us a singles page every issue. I ended-up reviewing about a dozen releases every issue.
Did you have to buy these singles?
Yeah. There was a smattering of local promos, but I'd say at least 75% of them were imported 7-inch singles from shops like Record Plant and Anthem Records.
An English picture began to emerge with all these different labels: Factory, Korova, Mute, and Rough Trade. One day I was talking with Paul Gardiner, the editor of Rolling Stone, and we came up with the idea of releasing this music locally. 33 Factory Australasia sticker Paul knew the CEO of EMI Australia really well and he was sure he could get us a deal. So we had a think about what we could release. One of the writers for Rolling Stone, Bruce Elder, was living in the UK and we'd catch-up whenever he was in Sydney. We ran the idea past him and he brought on-board another Australian in the UK, Arnold Frollows, who had just finished working for Virgin. He joined the dots for us and soon we were in contact with Geoff Travis at Rough Trade and Daniel Miller at Mute. We came close to a deal Korova but lost them to Warners. Rough Trade came on-board and we also did something with Mute.
Arnold got in touch with Tony Wilson to licence Factory. Tony said speak to Rob Gretton because he handled that side of things. Rob was very laid-back and said 'Maybe'. I don't know what convinced them but we did the deal. We didn't know what we were doing – we just liked the music. In the end we did the deal and paid them an advance.
But it was really weird – Paul got $10,000, I got $10,000 from my then mother-in-law.
Then Paul got another $10,000 from his 34 wife's ex-husband who was a brain surgeon. We pulled together $30,000 and set up GAP (Gardiner and Penhallow).
What albums had Factory released at that point?
Joy Division Unknown Pleasures (Fact 10) which we released and The Durutti Column Return of... (Fact 14) from memory.
Had you heard the Fac–2 sampler prior to that?
Yeah, but it was Transmission that completely flipped us over. We just had to get Factory and represent them after that. The first two GAP Records releases, manufactured and distributed by EMI Australia, where Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart (SFA 406) and Closer (FACOZ 1001). Both went Top 20 in Australia.
We released some great Rough Trade stuff including Cabaret Voltaire, The Fall and Pere Ubu and Swell Maps. But it did not really work out for us. I think they were looking for a broader licence deal but we decided to call it quits. It was around this time I remember asking Rob and Tony if we could have the licence for New Zealand because they'd done a separate deal over there.
We followed really quickly with Transmission (SFA490) and Unknown Pleasures (FACOZ1003). They had come out before and once things settled down after Closer we released them. We did it the other way around.
Where these on the mainstream or independent charts?
Mainstream – it was huge! We wanted the local media to get the big picture so we put together a 20 or so page booklet of clippings and interviews from the UK press. A huge amount of press came through after Ian Curtis died – it was extraordinary. We knew a lot people in the region had never heard of Joy Division. So this publication was designed as an introduction and it worked! Then Rob sent me the clip for Love Will Tear Us Apart. It had been recorded in the rehearsal room but the sound was really poor and he wanted to know if we could do anything with it. So I took it into an editing suite in North Sydney and we recut the footage and added better quality sound. It got a lot of airplay here and we ended-up sending it over to England. I believe it was on Top of the Pops! Apparently there were three versions of that video.
The last time I saw Tony he'd just done the Joy Division documentary and wanted to know which version of the track we'd used – it was the original 7-inch single. Yeah, there are 3 versions of that clip because they redid it for Substance. Two of them have different musical endings. We got real mileage out of that clip.
I believe that Australasia was the only territory to release the albums using the materials specified by Peter Saville.
Yeah. In those days you'd go into the import stores and find the quality of the sleeves on overseas releases was far superior to packaging done here. We saw a big difference between the generic white board offered by local printers for Closer to the stock Saville had specified. So we sourced a very similar stock that was a bit heavier which made it more solid. Then Unknown Pleasures came along and we used the same stock. We also did The Durutti Column The Return of... (FACOZ 1002) on the same stock as Unknown Pleasures. New Order's Movement (FACOZ 1007) was printed on a heavier card as well.
The company we used, Bookcraft, were fantastic and could find the right paper stocks for us. The guy who ran it was great and he'd say 'Yeah I can do that!' 'I can find that stock!' and 'I can do this!'. He did it and it was brilliant! 35 Factory Australasia letterhead detail Imports were the hottest things coming into the record stores and we had to match them. Everything that Factory dropped came into these stores and went out the same day. The record stores were selling shed loads. Soon we got in touch with them all and told them we where doing the label here. We explained that we'd keep as close to the release schedule as possible and they should deal directly with us from now on. It was crucial that the packaging was good too.
So I got onto Factory and told them we planned to release everything at the same time as them. We did not want to lose sales to imports that came out months ahead of us. Once the stores saw what we were doing they agreed to wait for our release instead of selling parallel imports.
Then we changed our deal from EMI to CBS and they saw me coming. I had arguments with their printing division about the covers. They where resistant but I showed them what Factory had done in the UK. They finally got the message and realised they could do quality work if they put their minds to it. We even did Low-life (Fact 100) with the tracing-paper.
Most labels would just send over film negatives with a colour proof for printing.
But Factory sometimes sent over the proper artwork from their designers. I remember receiving the original marked-up artwork for New Order's 1981-82 (Factus 8) with transparencies. It was fantastic for me coming from a graphics background.
Was Factory Australasia a full-time job for you?
I did full-time for two years at the very beginning. Then Paul and I realised it was a lot tougher than we expected. We really liked and released some of the other Factory acts but it was not easy. We would make money on one release and lose it on another. It was like being on a see-saw all the time.
Paul decided to quit and I continued to run the label. But I had a part-time job in a record store to pay the rent. Then Blue Monday came in the post followed by Power, Corruption & Lies and it went through the fucking roof!
How did you deal with the artwork for Blue Monday (Fac 73)?
I looked at it and realised it would be really difficult to do here. I was aware that some stores were getting imported copies. They were flying out the door of one store in Melbourne. So I rang them and threatened to get my lawyer onto them because I had the licence for this territory. I managed to get most of the import stores on board. But Blue Monday was such a huge track and some stores continued to import it.
So I told them it was in production, it would be out soon and not to import more otherwise my lawyer would get involved. It worked and they stopped. But we couldn't afford to do the full cover. I think we did the centre hole and may have done the side clip. But we did not do the two holes at the bottom or the silver inner sleeve.
We did a cassette here which I don't think anyone else did in the world. I remember telling Rob that everyone was buying cassettes for their cars and we should do one for this single. Blue Monday went to number 12 on the mainstream singles chart. Power, Corruption & Lies (Fact 75) went to number 28 on the album chart.
New Zealand was going crazy for New Order and we got a gold record over there for maybe 5,000 or 10,000 copies sold.
Did you consider touring Factory acts other than New Order?
I recall a conversation with Mike Pickering about Quando Quango and another with ACR's then manager. We even talked about touring The Durutti Column at one point because they where going to Japan.
But it was only New Order that really got it together thanks to Rob. He was fantastic in seeing the value of taking the music to every part of the world.
Obviously Tony did as well.
New Order toured here in 1982, 1985 and 1987. I think it was during the '85 tour that Rob told me about their plans to record True Faith (Fac 183) with Stephen Hague.
We released Brotherhood (Fact 150) in 1986 and it charted at number 15. Bizarre Love Triangle (Fac 163) went to number 5 on the national chart which was extraordinary then True Faith went to number 3!.
Rob and Tony felt that this was a strong territory for them. We officially became Factory Records Australasia in July 1985.
We did things our way which would have been very different had they gone directly through a major label. It was pure naïvety on our behalf at times and we approached things with the same attitude as Factory.
But it was another territory and we could give it our own twist. I think they liked that each region being so distinctive – the idea of Factory US, Factory Benelux, and Factory Australasia doing their own things.
In 1984 you established Volition, Australia's first electronic/dance music label. How did this come about?
A local electronic scene had emerged by then and I was receiving loads of demos. I became a magnet for this type of music.
There where two Sydney acts, Scattered Order and Severed Heads, who had been around a while and where doing really great stuff. So I decided to invest in these acts instead of the some of the other Factory bands who I felt had a limited appeal here.
It worked out for us.
We ended up selling 2-3,000 copies of the albums. We made our money back on these releases which enabled us to do more. The first Volition release was Scattered Order's A Dancing Foot and a Praying Knee Don't Belong on the Same Leg 12- inch EP (VOLT 1). Not long after that we did the Severed Heads Stretcher compilation (VOLT 3).
I met a local DJ called Robert Racic whilst working in the record store in 1983. He used to come in all the time. Anyway we got talking one day and he realised I worked with the Severed Heads. He said 'Oh, you work with Severed Heads?' I said 'Yeah, we put their album out.' and he said 'I really like them. They're really bent.. I wanna do a re-edit.!' So Robert came on board and did a re-edit of Petrol and he ended up establishing a mastering suite. He did most of our work.
He remixed New Order's Paradise which appeared on the True Faith Remix 12-inch (Fac 183R).
He did a remix of A Certain Ratio's Bootsy as well.
Yes! Robert was a fucking genius. He was on the same level as Arthur Baker, Chep Nunez, David Morales – his beat editing was unbelievable. I ended up managing him as well. The fact he was working with us was really great. He was a fantastic audio technician. The Bootsy remix was an Australian only release (Fac 166/12). He also did the Severed Heads remix album Retread (VOLTCD 32) which redefined things for us.
So how did Robert Racic's Paradise remix come about?
I sent over Robert's remixes for Severed Heads. Later I spoke to Rob about New Order remixes, I suggested Robert have a go and he agreed. I asked Robert to choose a track and he wanted to do Paradise. So Rob sent him the parts – it was great.
Was there any prospect of Factory taking on any Volition acts in the UK?
We did discuss it at some point. Tony expressed some interest. Tina Simmons who did the international licensing at Factory asked us to send stuff over. Rob mentioned it as well when Robert was doing the remix.
I think they had plans to release a lot more stuff from overseas especially around the time we where working with Boxcar in the late-80s. They where a band from Brisbane who where heavily influenced by New Order and Tony wanted to release them.
Robert Racic did their production. They where remixed by Arthur Baker and Francois Kevorkian. 38 One of their first singles, Freemason, went to number 3 in the US Billboard dance music chart. So they asked us to send over the Boxcar stuff, the Severed Heads stuff – but nothing happened.
But you managed to get IKON, the sister video label of Factory, to release the Severed Heads' Kato Gets the Girl (IKON 20)?
That came through Ink Records in London who licenced Severed Heads in the UK. I think they got in contact with Mike at IKON. We ended-up licencing the video to both of them. We imported a lot of the IKON videos. We'd bring in 50-100 units and get them in the stores – there was not shortage of stuff that we did with Factory.
And there was an audience lapping it up?
There was and the audience was bigger than anyone anticipated. New Order were a major band in Australia by the time we released True Faith and Substance (Fact 200). That is probably why Tony felt that this was the strongest territory outside of the UK.
I believe you also negotiated deals for Factory in South East Asia?
Yeah I did, in 1987. The CEO of EMI New Zealand moved on to become Regional Head of EMI throughout South East Asia.
He was a big fan of Factory when we moved distribution to EMI in NZ, so it really followed on from that. After he'd taken up his new post in Hong Kong, I figured it was worth meeting up again to see if we could work something out for that area. He was very keen to do a deal because the Pet Shop Boys were breaking out around the region. New Order, Joy Division and I think also Durutti Column and Happy Mondays were released in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Philippines.
After going to Hong Kong I went on to China and had a meeting with one of the party faithful in charge of the Beijing Record Company. I presented him with the New Order 'Substance' album on vinyl and a Durutti Column album. His office was like a set from a spy movie – very austere in a big old building, no frills, just one desk in the middle with a chair either side. I remember it was freezing cold and he was suited up like Chairman Mao.
I remember speaking to Tony about it, he was excited about the prospect of a release in China, however it didn't happen, but South East Asia did and he was pleased with that. I think we were the first Australian based label to do a distribution deal in that part of the world.
Tony Wilson told me that Factory owned the Factory Australasia building in Sydney.
No. Our offices were in Thomson Street in Darlinghurst. We looked into purchasing the property with Factory's earnings. So instead of sending the money back to the UK they could have the building as an asset. But it was all a bit complicated and never happened.
Then things took a turn for Factory Australasia in the late-80s?
It was around the time of New Order's Technique (Fact 275). It was a fantastic album. Peter had sent through all these fucking wild graphics with the psychedelic cherubs and stuff like that – it was really cool. But it did not do as well as it should have. I was actually making more money from Volition. All our earnings from Factory were going back to the UK and everything we had done previously in terms of advertising, promotion and packaging was no longer profitable. In the end it was not so good for us and something needed to be changed. It was really hard to keep everything going.
Things had really started to slow down, but I was still travelling to Manchester. I met with Tony and we made plans to move Factory over to a major in Australia. This would mean signing a whole bunch of new acts and expand the label in a different way.
That was the impression I got anyway.
Tony came over to Sydney and the two of us met all the major companies. We met with Festival Records and they pulled out their cheque book straight away. So we switched from Sony to Festival and Factory Australasia came to an end in 1990.
Festival Records really got behind the label and I took up a caretaker role. I'd go in for meetings every week to see what they were doing. There was a lot going on at this time with the Happy Mondays and World in Motion. They re-issued everything we'd done and started releasing the new stuff like Revenge, Northside, Cath Carroll, The Wendys, and The Adventure Babies. A lot of this stuff was unsuccessful here.
Festival also imported a load too including the Factory Classical releases.
Within a year and a half it would all come crashing down.
WelI I actually visited Rob and New Order while they where recording Republic in Bath. Tony was having conversations with them about about the situation around then.
Then I saw Tony again while he was doing the second In the City music convention and we spent some time together. Rob was concentrating on Robs Records with Rebecca Boulton who still looks after New Order. I remember going out for drinks with Factory's accountant and he told me how bad things were.
They did an brilliant job of building this label and putting everything back into the town they loved. They had the new headquarters in Charles Street but when the bottom fell out of the property market they were left with bugger all. It was a number of things. When you run labels you go so close to bankruptcy so many times. It's up and down, up and down all the time. I reckon every independent label has been on the edge of disaster at some point. The labels are saved by majors coming in and buying 50% or more. It's classic stuff.
But Factory had really overstretched itself. But I got the impression that Tony was taking it all in his stride, like he'd achieved everything he wanted to do with the label and maybe it was time to move on. But obviously it was upsetting for all those involved.
Did the collapse hurt anyone over here?
Not from my point of view. By then Festival where fully in control of the catalogue. I had meetings when things started to look bad and it fell apart soon after. I don't remember this period with much fondness.
How where things with Volition in comparison?
There was an avalanche of music in the late-80s/early-90s. We had a whole bunch of bands like the Boxcar, Falling Joys, Itch-E and Scratch-E, Single Gun Theory, Severed Heads, Southend, Swordfish and Vision Four-Five.
Southend where playing to raves up and down the east coast of Australia to 2- 3,000 people and everyone was going 40 Andrew Penhallow bonkers. We released their single ... The Winner Is (VOLTCD094) which went into the top 10. Then we realised where we were going with the label.
Volition had a licencing deal with BMG but Sony made me an offer that I could not refuse. They gave me total freedom to do whatever I wanted including marketing budgets. They gave me everything and it was fantastic opportunity. But it was kind of ironic: this multi-national company basically admitted it was dinosaur and wanted to go into the nineties. So we had creative freedom and support – it was fantastic.
What happened next?
Volition under Sony grew and grew and grew! But things started to change around 1997. Everyone in the industry over here started freaking out about the influx of CDs from South-East Asia undercutting the locally manufactured releases. By then I had about ten acts on Volition and all the major labels were having problems. It was all getting too hard so I wound down Volition and took a year off to revitalise.
It was fantastic to be involved in that whole era. People have very fond memories of the Factory and Volition days in Australia.
They were exciting times! There where some really important milestones for me.
But you cannot get too nostalgic because its all about moving forward and looking out for what's next!
Just like the title of the Volition compilation Full on for the Future?
Yeah! (stamping the table).
With thanks to Andrew Penhallow and Matthew Robertson for images.
Issue 5 index
- A Factory Trip Around the World by Andrew James
- The Absence Of The Object Becomes A Presence You Can Feel by John Cooper
- Shadowplayers: The Rise and Fall of Factory Records by James Nice
- The Distractions by David Quantick
- Closer, Karamazov and K550 by Ian McCartney
- 33°52'38.29"E / 151°13'05.79"S by Matthew Robertson
- Our Man in Germany by John Cooper
- Factory Over America Part 1 by John Cooper
- Factory Over America Part 2 by John Cooper
- Looking From A Hilltop... at Lytham St Annes by David Nolan