Creative Selling: Hey Sholay Interview

3 Dec

Hey Sholay

The level of creativity in band merchandise is undergoing something of a renaissance at present. Cassette tapes are once again seen as a fairly legitimate way to distribute music, albeit on a small and limited scale, and the resurgence of vinyl has seen countless variations of the limited edition release. Coloured vinyl, heavyweight vinyl, multi-coloured vinyl, etched vinyl, liquid vinyl, all these and more have been produced and sold by artists in the last year. While there are only so many ways a record can be cut and produced, Sheffield band Hey Sholay is taking it to a whole new level. Not, as you might expect, by using modern technology to create something remarkably modern, but by looking to the past and recreating an ingenious piece of vinyl’s history. We spoke to guitarist Laurie Allport to find out more.

“Russian chemistry students used to get an original, smuggle it into the country and copy it onto x-ray acetate”

With a barnet that the Hair Bear Bunch would be proud of, he is the complete opposite of his rocking onstage persona where the head bangs and the hair flails wildly. In conversation he is quiet and contemplative, honest and enthusiastic, especially when it comes to the special vinyl they have made for their latest single, “My Blood”.

Inspired by the way western music would be smuggled around the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the band has produced 37 x-ray vinyl editions of “My Blood”. That’s the single produced on actual x-ray acetates that have people’s actual ailments on them, not just a picture disk of a broken foot or something. He explains how he discovered the history, ”there is a friend of mine who used to live in the Soviet Union and he is kind of obsessed with the history and things like that and he told me a story about how in the 1960s, he couldn’t get Beatles or Bob Dylan records under the iron curtain”.

“They were banned, so what Russian chemistry students used to do is get an original one smuggle it into the country and then copy it onto x-ray acetate. So you could get these acetates and you could roll them up your sleeve because it was an arrestable offence, I think the jail sentence was four years for pirating music”. And you thought people who illegally download music and get caught are harshly treated.

Hey Sholay x-rayjpg

From there the tale continues in passionate detail, including the science of how the acetates were made, ”a reverse gramophone method, so you put the input to the speaker and output through the vibrating needle”, and how Laurie set about working out if he could make one. His initial attempts at making his own lathe to turn the acetate failed but, as luck would have it, one of only a handful of wax cylinder makers in the world happens to be based in Sheffield. So, with the help of Duncan from Vulcan Wax Records (who was already playing around with some pretty out there ideas for how to shape and manufacture vinyl records) the x-ray vinyl experiment was underway.

Ultimately, while the acetate is strong enough to withstand a stylus, they are understandably not as sturdy as regular vinyl and, as Laurie admits, ” they don’t sound perfect by any means”! Each one of the 37 has been tested and each one works but they are definitely more of a collector’s item, coming as they do in a large frame and with a CD version too.

”We enclosed 500 photos from our childhood, originals that we took out of family albums and cut them up”

Making new (or in this case old) and unusual ways of selling and distributing their music is something that the band appears to enjoy, but we get the sense that it is Laurie who is driving the ingenuity. Previous releases have also tipped the needle on the out-there-ometer. The Foetus EP (another of Laurie’s ideas), was a string of five EPs each on USB and contained within five separate rubber foetus’ from stage zygote to pre-birth with a free umbilical cord necklace (because who would do something like that without giving away a free umbilical cord necklace?). As far as we can tell only The Flaming Lips have done anything even close to that with their USB in a jelly skull release, “ours was actually first” Laurie is quick to note with a smile. Hey Sholay aren’t limited to crazy vinyl or USB sticks either, there was also their first EP which was ”a pink cassette with six of our songs on. It was in a little cardboard case with brown fur around it, and a little kind of tie off with a postcard”, Laurie recalls, ”and we actually enclosed 500, we made 500 photos from our childhood, originals that we took out of family albums and cut them up”!

We have been fortunate that the majority of people we’ve interviewed over the last 15 months have been eminently sensible and, notwithstanding risking the wrath of irate parents, Laurie is no different. Hey Sholay is, he says, at an intermediate level right now and he appreciates that people are not necessarily aware of them yet. It is a fact that will be proved right later in the evening when they play to a small but appreciative crowd in Norwich, but it is not a fact that he appears worried by. He knows that not all bands can get the same level of coverage and is grateful for the chance to introduce themselves to any potential new fans.

”The most flattering thing is when people choose their own nuggets about what you do, that’s really cool”

So far critics and bloggers alike have, unusually, failed to agree on what exactly Hey Sholay sounds like. In a day and age where labels stick quicker than superglue to fingers, the fact that they are as yet without a pigeon-hole is quite something. When pressed he plays it safe, ” we would profess to write pop music because that covers the giant spectrum”. The lack of a consistent descriptor is something Laurie quite likes as it suggests a subjective connection from the listener. ”The best thing is that all these different people will give us different descriptions and I really enjoy that because, if you’re reading a good book or you’re looking at a beautiful painting or something like that, people will emotively react to different elements of it”.

“If somebody says ‘you sound like blah… really like blah’, we’re not influenced by that but that’s amazing, it’s really cool that you get that. That’s the most flattering thing you can get [is] when people can choose their own nuggets about what you do, so that’s really cool”.

Critics could well get another stab at classifying Hey Sholay in a sub-genre relatively soon as thoughts are already turning to album number two. ”Now we are demoing for the new record”, he tells us, ”[and] we are going to start recording in March […] that’s the plan”.

There are plans too for more unusual merchandise; he won’t divulge everything to us but he is keen to explore the idea of producing a puzzle disc. Something, he explains, that hasn’t ”been done since the 1920s and 30s” and involves having ”four sides of a vinyl on one side”. Again his unbridled enthusiasm is on show as he explains how it would work and even our obvious incomprehension doesn’t dampen his spirit. This is probably a good thing as he knows these experiments and projects are unlikely to make them any serious money as only the very rare pieces of memorabilia fetch the big bucks these days. Something he has experienced himself, not the getting big bucks bit, he found out first hand that memorabilia doesn’t always go for as much you’d expected.

”I did an internship at a company called Warp Films in Sheffield and I was lucky enough to be a runner on a shoot for the Arctic Monkeys live at the Apollo. They signed about 100 of these special huge, huge posters and I got one. I think it was part of a leaving present when I left, and times became hard financially for me and I sold it. I got nothing for it! I got like £40”.

He is hopeful mind you that their dare to be different attitude will help. Anyone can sign a poster after all, but not everyone can get a record on actual x-ray acetate, or 3D t-shirts, or one of only 100 “Re-Dream” CD album packages hand woven with gold thread.

If you want to own any of Hey Sholay’s bonkers merchandise, head to their online store to see what’s left.

Stalk Hey Sholay: Website / Twitter / Facebook / SoundCloud / You Tube


One Response to “Creative Selling: Hey Sholay Interview”

  1. Name not supplied December 28, 2012 at 22:14 #

    These weird and wonderful ways of making merchandise special are super

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