I decided to sit down and have a chat with Kenny Murdock, proprietor of Sick Records on North Street, just down the road from our studio, LOFT. Sick Records has been in business for around 18 months, not only growing their stock of vinyl beyond expectations in such a short time, but creating an atmosphere and growing sense of community in the heart of the city centre.
We talked about a range of subjects in depth, in this feature from favourite music and changing tastes, to how we consume media and the growth in the vinyl industry.
This interview took place in the Sick Records store, as the store wrapped up for the day with a few regulars knocking around and having a chat. I wanted to get a local perspective on the culture of vinyl buying from someone who is clearly passion led and hopefully there’s something interesting in there for everyone. Kenny enlightened me to the wonder of the Minecraft soundtrack as well so if you haven’t heard that, give it a spin while you read.
DB: So, how did you get to this point, opening a record store in Belfast?
SR: Well, as to how I got to this point? I don’t really know. I think music’s always been my passion through my whole life. Probably the first time I looked at doing something like this, I was about 19 years old, and I didn’t because I moved to England just a few weeks later. I was only there for about 2 and a half years. When I came back, there were places like Dr. Roberts and a few others that still existed, then they slowly started to die out.
We got to the point where we were travelling back and forward to the mainland to a record shop.
We were going to Manchester, to London, to Glasgow and my kids were getting a wee bit older and I suddenly started to think, I wonder would Belfast sustain this? It was just something I felt incredibly passionate about and it’s been about 25 years, my kids have grown up, they’ve moved away, I’ve time on my hands and I suppose I didn’t want to be sitting in 10 years time saying, I wish I’d given it a go.
DB: Your son helps run the store though?
SR: Matthew works here full time and I do when I can between other things but Matthew’s here five days a week.
DB: That must be pretty cool though, being able to run a record shop. Well I’d imagine anyway…
SR: (Laughing) I tried when I was 19 to work for my dad and it wasn’t pretty. From my point of view it’s great, from his point of view, you’d need to ask him.
DB: Why North Street in particular then? Obviously there’s a plethora of different businesses, you have the Lost Souls Tattoo down the street, the chippy Rihanna shot a video in, Inkmonkey, for example. Was there any sort of reason particularly going for it?
SR: When I looked at Belfast and I looked as far out as Botanic and probably what would be considered a little closer to the city centre, this place didn’t necessarily make sense when you see the lay out of it. But it made sense when I looked at the costing of starting it in here. North Street seems to be equidistant between Royal Avenue and the Cathedral Quarter. In that respect, it seemed to be pretty central.
When I moved here, InkMonkey wasn’t here, the gallery wasn’t here. (Fenderesky Gallery) Established opened about 4 or 5 weeks before I opened and there seems to be just a little upturn in respectable businesses coming into the area. When we opened and when Established and InkMonkey opened, a lot of people who spoke to us from the media were sort of holding us up, saying this was not only more respectable business coming into the area, it was more businesses in general coming into the area. This unit had lay dormant for about a year and a half before I took it and there were a few others.
DB: You’ve been opened just over a year, yeah?
SR: 18 months we’re open, and yeah it made sense financially is the best answer to that question but it’s location is brilliant. It’s funny because we began here 18 months ago with, and I’ll remember it very, very well, 546 records on the shop floor. That was brand new records. We also had quite a large, extensive second hand section.
DB: The main thing is new releases?
SR: New releases and new re presses of classic albums and soundtracks, thing like that. When I started to do my first years accounts and we started to do VAT returns, I realised that in 18 months, we’ve got 4 times the stock that we started with. So, 546 records on the floor and about 120 duplicates which we could obviously sell from the back, sealed copies. And now, we’ve over 2,000 records on the floor and that was unbelievable. For the stock to have escalated as quickly as that, I couldn’t believe that. It was for more than any targets I’d set myself. I was trying to double the stock in two years. So in that respect, we’ve done really well.
DB: Well, I suppose that kind of segues in to my next question, it’s something you’ve most definitely talked about before, but people talk about the growth in vinyl and obviously anyone can google the figures. You said when you were 19, you wanted to do this, was the timing just coincidental or did that inform the decision?
SR: No, no, I’d love to tell you I made marketing decisions but I’ve never made one in my life. The timing of opening the shop, was just, I felt there was a possibility that someone else was going to do it. And that’s been born out by the fact that another record shop’s opened since. At the time, Matthew was still at university and I had to get this place up and running. I think 2014 was the best year for releases, probably in the last 5 to 6 years which was great and it also seemed to be the year that the media started to take note of the increase in sales.
There are figures that you can throw out, like in 2012, sales of vinyl went up 28%, 2013 they went up 43%. These are great figures but what you have to realise is that before 2012, it wasn’t really selling at all. So, 28% or 43% of nothing, is nothing.
DB: Haha yeah…
SR: It still makes up less than 3% of the total music sales in the U.K. Less than 4% in the U.S. It’s still niche, it really is. Then what we do it even more niche because we don’t do those big titles. We don’t do the U2s and we don’t do The Script, for example. It’s a bit more alternative than that. I’m under no illusion that this place is going to make me rich but I just wanted to see something that exists in every other major city in the U.K. and Belfast didn’t have it.
DB: Yeah, it’s more passion led for sure. So, in terms of the way you consume music now. Again, if you go back to sales figures, think about streaming services and obviously there’s a whole generation that, for them, vinyl isn’t even a consideration. It’s either steal music, or pay a tenner a month and you can listen to whatever you want. I suppose, you have more of an affection for a physical product then, but you still use an iPod or phone?
SR: Oh god yeah. I mean I travel about an hour and a half every day to get here and home again, so without an iPod, those journies would be torturous. Everybody’s been on public transport when somebody’s got a kid on it or you get a bunch of teenagers on it, they’d be unbelievable. I need it.
But again, most of the records now come with a download code. Some of them actually come with a CD, just in a slip case so you have the physical and a download. There are still a couple of companies that are dragging there feet on the download thing. The only thing that’s happened for me about a year before opening the shop, was, I stopped buying CDs completely. With that, I’m missing out a little bit because there are still some releases which, the artists, because of what we do and because it’s so alternative and so niche, the artists have a choice when it comes to producing their product. They can either put out 500 records or they can put out 1,000 CDs. That’s still a decision. A lot of the smaller record companies won’t do both.
Robyn Shiels, for example, who’s from Belfast. When Robyn was putting out his record, he had to make that choice, CD or vinyl and Robyn went vinyl. I think he’s been justified in that because it’s pretty much sold out. I think they are probably around 20 copies in circulation as i speak and it’s done brilliantly for him. Winning the Northern Ireland Music Prize did no harm.
One of the things that reassured me shortly after we opened was the age of the average punter that we get, and again, I hope I’m not getting into a question that you’d maybe planned for later anyway.
DB: Well no, this is great, keep going…
SR: The average customer is probably 35 plus and because of that, they’ve been buying vinyl for more than the last 18 months or 2 years, when the media have picked up on this. Most of them have probably been buying vinyl their whole lives and never stopped, they just started to buy more online when Belfast didn’t have somewhere that you could walk in and walk out with it under your arm. That’s reassuring ‘cause that makes me think that in three years time, we’ll still be here. We’re not just selling records to younger kids who may grow out of it again.
DB: Has the demographic changed much since the beginning?
SR: I’ve seen the average age, probably lower a wee bit. We’ve a couple of teachers in the local schools who are good customers and they’re encouraging their pupils and we have a little group from Inst who come in fairly regularly, certainly once every two weeks. And there’s about 6 or 7 of them and through one of the teachers they’ve all bought record players.
DB: Yeah, I suppose you see the sort of Crosley, vintage things in places like Urban Outfitters that have been popularised as a result of the upturn in the industry, that are just more style perhaps…
SR: Yeah, I mean I’m dubious about some of the makes of those because anybody who’s into vinyl in a big way knows that one of the things that you pay big money for is a good needle or a good cartridge. Well, if you can buy a unit for £70 or £80, you’re not getting that. What you’ll find after multiple plays is those needles are just digging deeper and deeper. They’re damaging the records to be honest. But, it’s a good entrance point. Let’s face it, if you’re gunna go the other way, and you’re gunna buy a record player, an amplifier and a set of speakers. It’s still big money, probably £500 plus to get in at a good level.
DB: There’s obviously something to be said for the sound quality. With MP3s being so compressed, sounds being duplicated if it’s similar throughout a track, maybe losing nuances. I have friends that are buying vinyl more and more, you know when something’s released they really want to hear they’ll go out of their way for it. It sort of makes an event out of it. Even in terms of the artwork and stuff. It’s great if you’re getting a lot more of a younger crowd in….
SR: Well, I’d say under 20s still make up less than 20% of the customers but what I’m saying is in the first 6 months, they made up 5% of our customers. So that has grown probably more than any other age group. I think what you said earlier about the tangible aspect of a 12”x12” album sleeve. Some of them are gorgeous and the number of people I know who have tattoos of their favourite album cover on themselves because the artwork, especially something like Converge or Baroness, they’re absolutely stunning. (Jacob Bannon & John Dyer Baizely)
With regards to the difference, there’s probably not a huge difference with a CD recording. I’ve seen a lot of articles about whether or not there is a difference. But I think that when you buy a record and you play the record at home, it becomes more of an experience. As opposed to putting a CD on, hitting a button and letting an hour of music almost wash over you or pass you by. Sometimes your attention can wonder. I used to do it, I used to get new records home on CD and play it through and it’d finish and I’d go, ah better put that on again 'cause somewhere in the middle, I zoned out. Whereas, after 18 to 22 minutes with a record, you’re getting up, you’re turning it over...
DB: It’s more engaging in that sense. I’d say it’s probably it’s a generational thing again, attention spans probably aren’t what they used to be. Artists now are thinking of new ways to release their work as well and half the time the stuff leaks anyway...
SR: Well, with the attention span thing, it’s something that I’ve been chatting to some people recently about. What I find is, if you get a couple of kids on a train and they’ve got one iPod, they’ve got one earbud each, they get 20 or 30 seconds before they’re going oh, oh, oh, oh wait ’til you hear this! The attention span isn’t even there for a full song…
DB: Well that goes right up to some DJs now.
SR: You think so?
DB: Yeah definitely. Certain clubs, maybe not terribly good ones for that reason but you’ll hear 30 seconds of a song and it’ll be mixing into something else. Not the case everywhere but it’s very bizarre.
SR: Well, I’m 46 you know so that’s something I wouldn’t know, probably a generational thing.
DB: Some other things I wanted to touch on, the look of the shop. And you talk about there being regulars in here, have you seen a sort of sense of community build up in the past year or 18 months? Is it something that would have happened organically anyway or did you think by building it as a niche thing that created more of that sensibility?
SR: I think when we opened, I’d know a lot of the guys that are around the music scene, the guys that we’d see regularly at gigs up here ‘cause I’ve been travelling up here all my life to go to gigs. I saw them coming in to the store and they’d look through what we had in the racks and said, this is basically your record collection. (laughing)
And I’d say, yeah I know it has been informed by my own taste but that’s because the shops I favour around the U.K. like Monorail in Glasgow, Piccadilly in Manchester, Sister Ray in London. That’s what they concentrated on. There’s also a few people who would know those shops and say to me, this is like a smaller version of Mono, and it is, that’s exactly what it was. That was my blueprint for the shop. Not only in how it looked, you know to take away that cluttered, dusty, musty records shop look…
DB: Yeah, it’s very minimalist…
SR: That’s a thing of the past, that dusty, cluttered, pushing past boxes sort of thing. And it also doesn’t entice females because they smell. You know, one of the things we probably have in our favour is that we don’t do second hand records. If anyone’s ever bought a collection of second hand records, and taken it home, one of the first things you have to do, is take the plastics off and throw them away because the person before, especially if they smoked, they absolutely stink. There might be damp in there. The record itself might be damp, you know. But we don’t have that problem ‘cause we’re a new release shop.
We were open two weeks and this area, which is a staff area was the same as out in the shop, it was just white. Because that’s how it was when we got it. I was standing outside taking a phone call and I looked in and thought we were some sort of Ikea nightmare. All I could see was the whitewalls and album sleeves and it looked like we tried a little too hard and it looked horrific so that’s why we postered back here.
With regards to the community aspect, we definitely have anything from 80 to 100 who couldn’t go through their week without calling in. And some of them may be in 2 or 3 times a week. That’s possibly the most rewarding aspect of the shop. Those guys who didn’t know each other before, now know each other. Can I just stop it for a wee second? Stefano, what can I do for you?
(One of those regulars happened to pop in at this point to reserve a copy of a record that previously sold out and have a chat about a few other releases.)
DB: That’s probably a perfect example of that then...
SR: (Laughing) Yeah, that’s pretty typical. And Gary Reeves standing drinking a beer in the shop, that’s pretty typical as well. On Saturday here, how many of us were there? About 9 or 10?
GR: Yeah, about that…
SR: On Saturday, sitting in here from about 4 o’clock ’til about 7. So from 4 to 7, there’s about 10 of us sitting in here, and I’m off the drink at the minute and they just sat, and just pinted the whole time. And it was like, you bollixes. (Laughing)
GR: What are you talking about, you’re the one who went and bought it?
SR: I know I did, I buy it every week. There’s a place in New Orleans, actually what time are we on?
DB: It’s about quarter to 6…
SR: Ah I’ll stick a CD on. So there’s a place in New Orleans called Grimey’s and they do a thing on Saturday called Beer O’Clock and it’s the last hour that the shops opened. It kind of encourages regulars to come in. We started doing that at about 5 o’clock, then it got to the point where we were doing it at about 1 o’clock and we had to say, right hang on a minute here. (laughing)
DB: Haha yeah…be just getting drunk then...
SR: So about 4 now, we’ll nip round to Tesco’s, grab a couple of cases of beer and we start it from then but yeah, honestly it was about 1 o’clock some people were starting. (Looking to Gary)
GR: Some people were drowning sorrows. Football sorrows.
SR: But no, you know Mark that runs Touch Sensitive?
DB: Yeah I know of Touch Sensitive…
SR: Mark comes in and goes straight to kitchen, puts the kettle on and sticks his head out, anybody want tea? And that’s nice, you know, if people feel that comfortable…
DB: Yeah I suppose you’ve built something that’s vital to certain people.
GR: Well I’d be on street corners, you know that’s the way it’s going. (Laughing)
SR: Vital is maybe too strong a word, but how would you describe it?
GR: No, no I’m going with vital. Vital is good with me.
SR: We seem to matter, that’s the way I like to describe it. We seem to matter to people, and that’s good.
DB: Well, what are you listening to at the minute? You know, I’d say favourite record, but that probably changes all the time.
SR: Aw man. Um. What am I listening to at the minute? From 2015…uh, the Minecraft soundtrack is phenomenal. And when we got it in, I had people in mind, thinking they’re kids are obsessed by this computer game and therefore they may feel pressurised into buying it. They didn’t. Those people haven’t bought it. It’s people who are really into modern classical music. People who are really into Nils Frahm, Max Richter, people like that who have bought the Minecraft album. It is absolutely phenomenal. I actually bought a copy myself, I think it’s that good. So that’s only a matter of two to three weeks out.
The William Basinski from this year is absolutely superb. Rachel Grimes' record and the most recent one that has really caught my attention, is the Helen LP. It’s the girl Liz Harris from Grouper, it’s her band LP. It’s kind of a fuzzy, shoe gaze type album. It reminds me a lot of My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, stuff like that. It only came out on friday past there, it’s a fantastic record.
DB: So, it’s quite a diverse range of stuff that you’re into?
SR: I was a garage freak. I was into 60’s garage bands before I opened this shop. I’ve become sort of an electronica devotee since we opened this shop because that seems to be one genre that, well, the genre that’s increased the most since we opened is soundtracks. I just can’t get my head around it. I don’t really understand it. Horror movie soundtracks, when they come out, we have to have 4 to 6 sitting on the shelves because we have that many people who come in and buy them.
For me, electronica is the genre that surprised me the most. If it didn’t have a guitar on it, I didn’t listen to it a huge amount. But things like Four Tet and the Ghost Box label, those things have just completely blown me away since the shop has opened.
DB: Eoin (Emic) that’s in the studio with me, painted your shutter before you moved in did I mention that before?
SR: Well, he came round and I said I’d love it redone and he was to go away and do some sketches…
SR: Yeah, I’d love something that correlates more to us, you know and we'll sort of put our stamp on that. But yes, do mention it to him, that’d be great.
DB: For sure I will, but yes, he’s into Four Tet and electronica music in a big way when he’s working so it’s kind of funny that everything ties together again in some weird way.
SR: If you pick up something , like say, the most recent Lacquer album, and it’s kind of abstract art. Something like that, is what we’d love on the shutter. Something that marks us out as a music shop.
DB: So what’s the go to then, beyond the surprise of electronica music, what will you always go back to?
SR: Original 50’s and 60’s R’n’B and Soul is, you know, and Garage as I said. Something that I would try to get to every time it’s on, is The Rumble Club in Derry, and they play sort of high energy rock and roll, soul. And that’s my default, whenever I’m not sure what to play and don’t get me wrong, I play more up to date stuff as well.
The Reatards singles collection is never off the iPod, because it’s just noise and it’s incessant and it just blocks the world out when you’re on a train. Boris, Pink is another album that I play constantly through my headphones because it just, you can’t hear anything else, you may as well be alone on the train when you're playing that stuff.
DB: So is it the melodies and the instruments or is it the lyricism, or what draws you more?
SR: No, well I’d say I’ve a bit of a 45 (RPM) fetish for that period, sort of from about ’54 to about ’63, ’64. And again, for me, it’s things like Bunker Hill (grabs a stack of records). Actually I’ve brought some stuff, things I own and insisted in having in the shop, Eddie Kirkland, Blanche Thomas, Earl Hooker, Screaming Joe Neal. You know, these are the things that, I’ve DJ’d the Rumble Club in the past, and those are the things I’d be playing.
That sort of, 13th Floor Elevators, that period, that sound, very much informed my taste before this place opened.
Now, my taste is all over the place. Completely all over the place and the other thing is, I thought I was weird before I opened this shop. I’m so normal it’s ridiculous. The things that I’ve brought in for people or that we now stock. The horror soundtracks, I didn’t even know it existed. The minimal wave stuff which is harking back to very sort of primitive 80’s electronica. I didn’t know that anybody, beyond Depeche Mode fans still listened to that stuff, but it’s been great.
DB: I suppose when you grow up you sort of peg yourself in or attach yourself to a certain sound…
SR: Aw yeah, it’s tribal isn’t it? Yeah absolutely.
DB: But then I guess as you grow up you do find you kind of start exploring and you don’t realise that you can be into something so obscure perhaps…
SR: One of our regulars was in today and said that when he was growing up, it was The Clash or The Pistols, it was that era, he was about 17 around 1976. And he said , you had to be one or the other, you couldn’t be both. He said, how ridiculous does that sound now? And again, back to the Beatles, Stones thing, people felt the same way.
One of the things that drew me to some of the music I listened when I was a teenager was the tribal aspect of it. I grew up in Coleraine, and in Coleraine round the mid 80’s, there was a huge mod movement. And we didn’t just limit ourselves to listening to, well, you know, one of the things that surprised them because of that, the way you dress and the way you live your life aspect. If it’s different from someone else, it could be quite confrontational.
I remember being chased home, after being at a girlfriend’s house, because I wasn’t a mod, by this group of guys who wanted to beat me up. But when we actually broke down the communication barriers and talked to them, they couldn’t believe that we were listening to soul, and The Who and we loved all of that stuff. But because of the way we dressed, they thought that we wouldn’t like the stuff that they liked. But I loved the tribal aspect. I went through a period where I had a quiff that was about a foot high because I was into King Kurt and I was into The Cramps. The two bands that for me, it took a long time for people to sit up and take notice, were The Ramones and The Cramps. At the time, they were releasing records, you know, they couldn’t get arrested. Now, they’re two of probably, apart from the Velvet Underground, two of the most influential bands ever.
So, I grew up liking that stuff.I grew up going to places like the Clubfoot in London for a weekend because it was likeminded people. So I liked that tribal aspect, I liked that the music that you liked informed your dress, politics, all those things. So that’s one of the things that really grates with me about the music scene at the minute. There’s none of that whatsoever…
DB: Yeah, I suppose it’s quite diluted now…
SR: It’s so generic. You can’t tell buy the way a person dresses, what music they’re into. You know I’d have kids that walk in, and they look quite studious, very young, grade one maths sort of thing. And you think, I wonder what that kid’s doing in here. Then he comes up and says, have you got the repress of the Converge album and he’s into this really hardcore metal, or he’s into Sleep, you know, and that blows me away. All the time.
DB: Well I suppose the metal thing is quite synonymous with Belfast…
SR: Aw, when we first opened we thought we were going to be a metal shop. Because, we were doing labels that people maybe hadn’t been stocking. I think you can go into several places in Belfast and buy an Iron Maiden or a Motorhead record. You maybe couldn’t buy, Obliterations records, you couldn’t buy Goatsnake records because they were on Southern Lord label or some other label that people just didn’t take a chance on.
That’s probably the thing that we do week in and week out, is, we take a chance on something. Last week, we brought in a record called, Salem’s Pot, the band are called. The records called “Sweeden”, with some extra e’s in there. I didn’t know anything about it, I knew the label it was on, RidingEasy. it came in on Friday and on Saturday morning, we put it on, and there were two people sitting here with me having a coffee and they both said, we’ll take this. And, that’s what I like, and I sold another one this morning and that’s really rewarding.
Because, you wouldn’t have heard that otherwise. If we didn’t bring that in, where are you getting it? You’re not getting it in Belfast.
That’s something I’ve had to learn over the 18 months and narrow my parameters a wee bit. Probably more than I would be comfortable with, you know, I’d like us to be able to compete with Mono or Piccadilly but the truth is we can’t ‘cause I don’t think Belfast has that alternative of a mentality. You know, we don’t really have that big of an art school here, whereas if you walk into Mono, the number of people that come from that is unbelievable.
DB: Yeah, I get where you’re coming from, I actually went to the art college to do fine art, well, painting. They’re completely changing the art college now as well, knocking the Orpheus building down and bringing all over Jordanstown campus to York street.
SR: But, what I mean is, we don’t particularly have as much of an art’s community in Belfast. And maybe the people involved in that are going to have my head for this but I just get the feeling when I’m in Manchester or I’m in Glasgow, that they have more of an outsider sort of community.
DB: Actually, it reminds me of something a guy Sean who runs a video production company, Redcap, said in another interview on the site. He said that sort of cultural side of things, it’s runs deeper in Belfast, it’s more hidden. Whereas, you’re talking Glasgow, Manchester, it’s more in your face. It’s everywhere.
SR: It’s everywhere, it’s everywhere yeah. Absolutely. But that must be because the numbers are exponentially more. There was someone in last week, and we were chatting and he was saying you know the problem with Belfast, and Culture Night coming up, generating a buzz and stuff, maybe not as much as last year, potentially with the funding cuts. But he said, you know Belfast’s problem is that it’s a glorified city. It’s a small city compared to the places we’re talking about and that’s why it doesn’t sustain these things that are a wee different.
DB: Yeah, I think with Culture Night every year, people question why we don’t have it more often, or the idea of something more all encompassing. And well why is that? It’s probably partly to do with funding and partly to do with being a bit too small. Well, I think on of the last things I was going to say, was about any events coming up. And actually, do you see that you’ve built something here, a sense of community sort of thing, do you see it getting bigger? Where you could potentially move or do you want to do that?
SR: Aw well, when we get past Christmas, I mean we’ll have just over a year left on our lease and realistically, we’ve almost outgrown the place as it is. I’m trying to think of ways, structurally to change the inside of the shop so I can fit in more records. So we’ve got a decision to make, probably about January or February. With less than 12 months to go I’ve got to look at how we’ve done over the first 2 years and say, do you know what, it’s been really really fun, but it’s interfered with my life, possibly more than I’d imagined, or I’ve got to say, yeah, we need to take this to the next level.
Now, I’ll be honest with you, at the minute, that’s my thinking. I’m already looking around Belfast. I’ve already earmarked a couple of places that are not necessarily much bigger, they’re just more square. The problem with this is the long narrow shop, try to put a band on in here, it’s difficult. You’ve got to wedge the door open and put them down at the very front and hope the police don’t come along and complain because there’s 40 people standing in the street. One of the things about Mono in Glasgow is the racks that hold the records are on runners so you can push them out of the way and have a band. That’s something we’d love to do a wee bit more. We did it on our birthday this year and we did it on Record Store Day and we’ve done a few one offs but it something we’d like to do more regularly.
I think the problem, why we haven’t done it more regularly, is at the minute there are very few of the artists that we’ve out on who’ve okayed more than once. Robyn has played almost every time that we’ve put on something but most of the other artists have played once. And I don’t see an awful lot else out there that correlates to what we do. Maybe, the other things out there are a bit more mainstream than us. So that was something I was hoping would happen in Belfast. Or probably before I came into Belfast and didn’t know what the scene was like, that was something I was hoping to tap into. Maybe, a wee underground, kids, starting a wee movement. Unfortunately, I haven’t really seen it. I don;t know that even it exists beyond our knowledge. I see no evidence of it. And I’d love to see that. What was the last great musical movement in Belfast, or in the North, you’d have to go back to ’76 or ’77?
DB: Yeah I suppose more recently, you had bands a few years ago coming from sort of, And So I Watch You From Afar, Mojo Fury, Two Door and A Plastic Rose but it wasn’t really a movement, or an underground movement so to speak. It was collection of pretty successful bands. I don’t know.
SR: But yeah, that was a disappointing thing for me, was that there wasn’t more of a, well, I’m talking about a youth movement. There are bands like Documenta and Girls Names and The Dreadfuls, The Sea Pinks, but they’re are an older sort of. I’m not seeing those 18, 19 year old kids, you know.
SR: I blame the parents, I mean I’ve got a 22 year old and I blame myself there because he’s a fantastic bass player and he seems to just take things easy. And that’s because as a kid, 8 guitars, an X Box, a computer, 32 inch TV all in his bedroom. Everything he could possibly want. What was there for that kid to strive for and achieve? It’s something that our generation did really badly but it took another 10, 12 years for us to realise. It’s just how society is now. But it’s terrible, that.
DB: (Laughing) Well yeah, that’s a poignant note to end on there, I think. We’ve pretty much covered everything there. The only other thing was the some tees for the site if anyone wants to pick them up through this interview, but do you guys have a website or anything?
SR: Well, it’s funny you say that, one of the things we struggle with is just getting information out there to people.
DB: Aw dear, I have a real problem with that as well.
SR: They’re controlling it now…
DB: Yeah, it’s totally monetisation…
SR: I used Facebook right at the very beginning and when I put a post up to inform people that the shop was going to be opening, there’s a fella called Robert Scott who runs the Record Fairs. And I said to Robert, look I’m about to put up this post, will you share it, and he said, of course I will. So I put it up, turned my computer off and went to bed. Got in the morning and there were 600 people on the Facebook page overnight. That doesn’t happen anymore.
Our posts reach just over 10% of people now. And they just want money out of you now. When you “pay to promote” and it doesn’t get to the many people it says it will, they email you looking for more.
DB: Yeah, I’ve had my battles with it as well.
SR: Well, yes hopefully we’re going to start with a database soon of people’s email addresses and we’ll just send our new release email out every Friday to let people know what’s new in the shop.
One of the things this week which surprised me a wee bit, was someone was quite negative about another shop here in Belfast and about their pricing policy. And whether I agree with what they said or don’t agree with what they said. They put it onto the Facebook page of this shop for everybody to see and that really got my hackles up.
So I did a wee cost comparison and basically started by saying, if I spend £50.00 wholesale on records, it translates to about £72.00 of retail sales. But I compared it to shoes which equates to around £100.00 retail sales, clothes, about £130.00, food which is about £150.00, alcohol, around £175.00 and coffee which is over £300.00 of retail sales. And I put, you still think we’re overpricing for our records?
DB: Yeah, that’s crazy…
SR: And it went to over 2,000 people because it caught people’s imagination. It was telling people something that they didn’t already know, and it got 17 shares. I don’t get any shares. (laughing) Well I do, sorry I’m lying I get 3, the same 3 every week share our post every week, but this just started hitting all these people and getting great feedback.
One, it was controversial and let’s face it, social media loves that, and two, it was informative. That made me realise what I need to do when I’m putting my post up with the Friday’s new releases, just slag somebody off. Slag somebody off and they say, by the way, these are the records we’ve got for sale. And then it’ll go to loads of people.
DB: Haha yeah, it’s a good method of getting attention...
SR: Well, I prefer Twitter and I went back to it and just sort of cut the post down to just the bands. Probably, people who are in the know, when I say the new record by Helen is out this week, they’ll know what album it is. If I say there’s a repress of a Supergrass record out this Friday, they’ll know what record it is. That 140 characters does limit you a little but I much prefer it.
DB: Do you have instagram actually?
SR: No, I don’t no. Everybody keeps telling me about it but…
DB: You should think about that because, art wise, in terms of putting up a photo of a record, there’s loads of great looking sleeves. That could be good. Where did Sick Records come from by the way?
SR: Yeah, I know. (laughing)
GR: I could go and lift a record that’s sitting down there.
SR: It came with a couple of things. There’s a couple of things, there’s a Cramps record called Stay Sick and please get that right because another journalist did an article and said my favourite band was The Cranks. But it’s a Cramps record called Stay Sick and that’s what’s on our t-shirts, Stay Sick. It’s a kind of slogan.
It was that I would go to bed having, say, I started making plans for this place in January and it didn’t open ’til March, so I had a about 2 months where I had about 500, 600 names. I go to bed each night with name I’d decided upon in my head, wake up in the morning and absolutely hate it.
DB: It’s only natural.
SR: But I kept coming back to Sick Records and I just saw this branding aspect to it. Went away from it and came back, went away from it and came back to it and I just though, you know what, I’m going to stick with it.
So we got the t-shirts made and we opened 7th March, Record Store Day was the 18th of April and on Record Store Day I sold my last five t-shirts. They lasted about five weeks and that was great. We’re left with just extra large and just extra extra large.
Some people will say shit name (Laughing) But I love it now, for me it does’t really matter, a lot of people love it and I just wanted something that caught people’s imagination. Everybody just says Sick, people answer their phones when they’re in and just say, we’re in Sick.
GR: I think Sick Records is a fantastic name.
SR: The other thing was, I just didn’t want to label us with lyrics from lyrics or whatever, but I think Sick conjures up, maybe Rock or Punk, a wee bit, maybe. I do accept that, that we may do a certain type of record, a more dirty sounded record but it’s not strictly true.
DB: Well, that’s great Kenny, cheers for having me!