As a producer, Gavin Monaghan has a fine pedigree. Based at Magic Garden Studios in Wolverhampton, Gavin has produced an innumerable amount of artists, ranging from grassroots, unsigned talent to established, commercially successful outfits. Now, after over 25 years in the industry, he is branching out with a new record label, Magic Garden Vinyl. Sam Lambeth – who has worked with Gavin on a number of records in the past – spoke to Gavin to find out more.
After decades of producing, you’re now setting up your own record label. How did it come about? Was it something you’d always been keen to do?
When I first moved up from London years ago, a record label was top of my to-do list; it’s taken me this long to actually get round to doing it! I’ve been so busy making music with artists in the studio. My friend Mark Evans approached me and reminded me how long it had been, so the label isn’t a solo venture; there’s a really good team building behind it. Collaboration is always so much better than going it alone, especially when everyone has something brilliant to bring to the table.
You often work with local, up-and-coming bands at Magic Garden (as well as a fair few established acts). Will this approach and ethos be the same for the record label?
The whole point of this label is to get interesting music out there. The idea is to discover new talent at any level, then start small and grow it organically until we take things as far as we can. I love the business model of some of the historical labels like Stiff, Sarah, Mute and 4AD – they used to sign bands because they were excited by them.
Obviously, profit is a factor, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to keep on doing it, but at the moment making good music popular is our main goal right now.
Did the vinyl revival help influence you in your decision to set up the label? Do you think it’ll continue to push music purists’ love of that particular medium?
I love the look and sound of vinyl. I’ve been listening to it since I was a kid, and the excitement has never worn off. Everyone on the team feels the same way.
We’re not Luddites, though, and we’ll be providing downloads through the usual platforms, as well as promo videos, online marketing and other mediums. I’m not a huge snob about formats – I’d rather people hear the results of a great artist’s work on MP3 than not at all, but there is something undeniable about the satisfaction you get from playing a record; vinyl is definitely the main event here.
You’ve named your label after the studio. Do you feel, then, that the studio where you work has got something of a positive reputation in the world of music, hence using the name for another project?
Magic Garden is a name that’s been around as long as I’ve been based in the Midlands. It’s the place where I’ve had some success and it’s been instrumental in the germination and continued success of quite a few artists, including Editors, Jaws, The Twang and Ocean Colour Scene, to name a few. Hopefully it’s seen by people who know about it as a badge of quality, and I honestly think it’s a great name for a studio and, by default, a label. I think if I’m putting my own name on it, it shows I believe in both the label and the acts we sign.
Do you see the label as a long-term project, something that can be run alongside your production duties?
We’re all very open-minded about where this could lead. I will always produce music while I’m able, and to me this is an extension of that. If we end up putting out a few quality records or even doing a licensing deal with someone bigger, we are always ready to have those conversations.
You’ve been in production for a considerably long time now, working with countless local acts. How do you keep it interesting? And now you’ve got the label, too, are there any other mediums you wish to pursue?
My job is very interesting to me and keeps me stimulated, both creatively and intellectually. I’ve always tried to do a fair bit of A&R and development as part of my job, and myself and my manager Giles Stanley are very proactive in finding brilliant acts to work with. Our first signing, Dirty Jane, knocked me sideways when I heard their live recording, and we’re lucky to have them.
As for other mediums, I’ve been writing a book, so anyone that’s interested can expect that sometime in the future.