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DIY label Antigen continues to stray from the norm
By Benedict Kent
BBC Suffolk Blast Reporter

Two guitarists from The Waxing Captors
Antigen brought out The Waxing Captors' album, Pleasure! in May 2010

Antigen Records has had a busy year, releasing and promoting music from a diverse selection of Suffolk musicians.

The Ipswich-based label delivered intriguing albums from The Waxing Captors, Henry Homesweet and These Are End Times.

Founders Jason Whittaker and Martyn Peck have also released lathe-cut vinyl singles imported from New Zealand.

"Our remit is to find non-mainstream artists, particularly local artists and push them," said Jason.

What started 10 years ago as a hobby between friends has flourished into a label whose output ranges from chiptune, pop-punk and post-rock.

"It was a low-key situation where we were just producing a few copies for friends, from music created by friends.

"It's only over the last year that we've really made a serious stab at it."

We don't hold a contract over their heads. It's very much a way of dealing [with artists] in a way that we would have liked to have been dealt with in the past
Jason Whittaker

Antigen's first key release was in August 2009 when it brought out Palm Trance by Felixstowe artist, Henry Homesweet. It was the first record it manufactured on CD and the success funded subsequent releases.

Then at the end of the year Antigen signed The Waxing Captors, impressed by a series of "blistering" live performances.

"It just seemed incredible that a band that good were getting so little exposure," said Jason.

Antigen is also concentrating on These Are End Times, an Ipswich band with whom Roki plays.

"In some ways we're more like the labels from the mid-eighties, early nineties. Labels like Mute Records who at that time would put out a whole variety of music with some very disparate artists.

"Suffolk has always been so under-represented, it would be good to see some of the music that's being produced now to get some more national exposure and that will only come from local support."

Doing things differently

Like its choice of artists, Antigen also offers variety with its packaging. In July it put out a seven-inch record by London artist, John Callaghan, limited to just 33 copies.

Jason says these records are particularly individual because they were lathe-cut in New Zealand at the foot of a volcano and sold in hand knitted sleeves.

Record with hand knitted packaging
Antigen's last release came in hand knitted covers

"I think it's vital [to do something different] and I think we learnt the hard way," said Jason.

"There's just so much stuff out at the moment that it's incredibly difficult for an indie label without a huge budget to make any impact on the market.

"So for the John Callaghan single, the decision to make hand knitted covers certainly generated a lot more interest."

Whittaker's Warning

Jason does feel, however, that gigs in Ipswich have not been as well attended recently and fears that a drop in audiences could deter other promoters from putting on live music nights.

"I do worry that if people don't come along then promoters will take fewer chances and before you know it we'll be back to the stage where there just aren't the gigs to attend anymore."

Jason is also conscious of Antigen's limitations and realises that its status as a small, local label means it can only do so much for its artists.

Antigen logo
Antigen's next release will be with Brighton band Sealion Woman

"All we can realistically do is invest some money into them, help them record a decent quality record, give them some promotion and give them a step up.

"I'd be so happy if I could get some of these bands onto a bigger label that could properly support their music."

But one thing Antigen can offer its bands is personal experience.

"Roki plays with These Are End Times and I've played in bands before. We do understand the bands' perspective which is why we're so keen to help them out as much as possible and appreciate that they're the ones doing the hard work.

"One of the things we make sure we do with the people we work with is sign them for an album.

"We don't hold a contract over their heads. It's very much a way of dealing [with artists] in a way that we would have liked to have been dealt with in the past but unfortunately it wasn't always the case."

A passion for new music rather than financial ambition seems to drive Antigen Records and it advises others to be proactive.

"We wanted more music so we thought we'd actually try and do something about it," said Jason. "It's easy to just consume music and sit around waiting for it to happen but if you love music why not give it a go?"




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