“The time we’re in now with people voicing their opinions and daring to stand up, things like Julian Lestrange’s Wikileaks and the rioting in London over the government’s decisions, the next couple of years are going to be mad,” states Ash Hopkins. “People are finally beginning to realise that they need to take control of their own lives. It feels like for the past however many years, people have been neglecting the fact that you need to manage yourselves, not leaving it to someone else.” It’s this acknowledgement of self-management and the belief in a better place in which to exist, by Ash Hopkins and Rich Metcalf, that provides the foundation for their independent label PAYPER TIGER RECORDS.
We sat down with the founding force in a dimly lit corner of an open-fire-warmed pub, comforted by the idea of music without boardrooms, demographics and financial obligations. This is a label that comes from the bottom of the heart. Step inside.
With a philosophy that delves a little deeper than most, the pair admit that their way of thinking is influenced by watching stacks of documentaries by the likes of John Pilger and Adam Curtis and learning about the power of ‘choice’ in Edward Bernays’ propaganda methods, and ultimately fighting against it. The name comes from the former Chinese communist leader Chairman Mao’s description of US imperialism in 1956, where he said it ‘resembled a paper tiger – something which at first seems ferocious but could easily fall apart.’
“If people get self-organised and build their own communities then you can build your own world,” said Ash. Payper Tiger and these lofty views are not two separate things, they’re one and the same – Ash and Rich’s means of taking control of their lives and offering a choice to music fans in Liverpool, for now, and eventually elsewhere. This is an indie label with inspiring aspirations. “In the music industry there’s a lot of people who want to jump through hoops, so we just wanted to create something that was our own, where we had control over our own things,” they explain.
Payper Tiger began (and still resides) in the living room of Rich and Ash. Two years, one accidental masters course and a living space that resembles Steptoe’s yard later, the tiger is ready to bare its teeth. “Last year, I saw an advert that said ‘Do you have a good business plan? If so, send your ideas to the following address and you may be awarded £3000 for each person in your business.’ So at 4am of the morning the plan is due in we finished this little plan,” laughs Ash. “Basically, we had accidentally enrolled on a part-time business masters degree so we’ve spent the last six months handing in essays.”
It’s this DIY attitude mixed with the ideology of something far greater than placing an album with nifty artwork in someone’s hand that is the beauty of Payper Tiger Records. The pair recall nights of hand-stamping track-listings on their debut free release Dead Sound (500 with another 500 waiting to be issued because of high demand) incorporating assembly lines made up of friends, and using Ash’s hand-made printing press which was made from a few bricks, some wood and tape. It’s this idea of going into the unknown day after day purely for the passion for the music that champions the ideology of an indie label. They take inspiration from Dischord Records, created by Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye nearly 30 years ago – “It’s become one of the strongest independent labels in the world,” enthuses Rich, “It shows what an independent label can be.”
In terms of sound, the label refuses to tie itself down, preferring to attach itself to artists that share the same ethics and where relationships can be built and maintained, working on the basis of trust. “We both know what we like, like when it came to The Loud we both knew we wanted to release something with them,” explains Rich. The Loud will be Payper Tiger’s first official release – a 7-inch single followed by a 12-inch six track EP. “Joe and Greg who were in The Rascals have done an amazing remix of The Loud’s Amy’s Gonna Get You under the pseudonym The Arkestra, so that’s going to be the B-side for the single. We’re really looking forward to that.”
If Payper Tiger Records have their way then they could be at the forefront of a genuinely exciting time for Liverpool music and, eventually, beyond. As Ash said, “life could get a little crazy soon,” just watch Payper Tiger run along with it, soundtracking the journey. Long live the indies and those who are fighting to give us a choice in what we hear and see.