In this week's post, Maisie interviews Chris Hopkins, founder of independent record label Permanent Slump, about his career, musical tastes, and thoughts on the local London music scene.
At the Screaming Females show, I had decided to just go for it, as I’m tired of being shy and accomplishing nothing. This motivated energy got me nowhere - I lost my sought-after front-and-center spot at the Screaming Females show, and the lead singer of Rodents brushed passed me in ignorance as I tried to ask if I could play their songs on the radio back home (he was very kind over e-mail and I have since forgiven him). I still wanted to play their tracks, and got in contact with Chris Hopkins via the Permanent Slump bandcamp page - Hopkins, after catapulting back into the music world at 24, created the record label to record some of his own, and other local projects. For the record, this is the first comprehensive article that documents the chronology and quirks of skater boi Chris Hopkins’ musical life. In other words, this is huge whether you choose to believe this or not.
Like all music lovers, we lamented the lost spirit of the past (which is so overdone, but we can’t help ourselves): “the whole of Camden is like rich people playing in blues cover bands or whatever… there’s no integrity there at all.” I had been reading up on the formation of the Slits in Viv Albertine’s biography Music… Clothes… Boys…, and learned to my surprise that Ari Up (the lead singer) was only fourteen when the band started. Even a mere 13 years ago, when The Horrors started up in central London, lead singer Faris Badwan was 19 years old. Now it seems being in a band is a more financial ordeal, it has become far more expensive, Chris tells me - it is no wonder he was a “late bloomer.”
The Garage, mere steps away from where I interviewed Chris
After the interview, he had me questioning what was going on in London after all; where is the D.I.Y scene really at? I thought South London did have a scene with integrity, as high-energy band Shame and newcomers Goat Girl come to mind. Chris said there is a fine line between whether the South London scene really exists or if it’s all in the consumer’s head, just looking for a place that isn’t so wealthy that might be a breeding ground for baby rock groups. Chris is really hopeful about scenes elsewhere in the UK, like Manchester and Glasgow, where the scene seems more identifiable and cohesive. He also admires and has worked with some musicians in Australia, primarily in Melbourne, and most notably Alistair McKay of Dick Diver (pardon my French).
Rodents, who released their self-titled under Permanent Slump
For those who don’t know, Dick Diver is kind of a big deal in that they were a huge inspiration for Courtney Barnett when she first moved to Melbourne. Also in the band on bass is Al Montfort, the guitarist of Total Control (my favorite Australian band, I internally geeked out but listening to the recording of this interview it is clear I was just emotionless - unbearable to listen to). Chris explains that “McKay just happened to be living down the street from me when I lived in London, he had just moved over here.” They started to jam acoustically together as the Bin Bags, after Chris’s friend Dan left London for Sydney and subsequently their band Seeds of Doubt (Rob, the singer of Rodents, also drums in Seeds of Doubt OMG small world, kids). A disclaimer for my pal Chris: he thinks Seeds of Doubt is a stupid name and often calls it “Sod” instead. Recording the Bin Bags’ songs marked the start of Permanent Slump (name and all just “dreamt up”), which has grown to release eleven titles since.
This is so irrelevant but when I took this photo I was reminded of Total Control and that is why it's here.
Chris had always wanted to start a record label, and kept telling himself through uni that he just needed to do it. He was playing guitar in all of his spare time practically, and had been listening to numerous artists he cites as an influence: Listening to Syd Barrett, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967), and The Rebel, he began to realize this idea of “British voices beyond the Smiths [that were] being taken seriously,” a solidification of British identity that shunned Americanization (fair). Hopkins had befriended a band called Mazes, the first musicians he was friends with that was making music he really liked, that amazed him. He said they had been doing this American slacker rock sort of thing, whining “I like Pavement.” This was truly hilarious and I felt very called out, as an American who really likes Pavement.
Chris Hopkins, in the flesh.
He did really like their Slow Century documentary, and talking about this reminded him of an embarrassing encounter with the documentarian Lance Bangs. They were both at the premier of another one of Bangs’ works, Breadcrumb Trail (the Slint documentary). Chris will just talk to anyone, even at the expense of looking like an idiot, and he started to bug an already agitated Lance Bangs: “I asked him where he was from and he had said Portland. And then I said, ‘Oh, Malkmus country!’ You know, like I was knowledgeable about music geography.” Stephen Malkmus is the singer of Pavement, so you are already working why this was such a social blunder. Bangs gave him a weird look and stalked off.
That is the tale of Chris Hopkins really, in the small amount of words I have to work with. Imagine, an hour interview shrunken down to this! Your playlist for this day comes from Chris, and may even require you to explore bandcamp a bit, as Spotify does not have everything and I really am not an Apple music or Soundcloud kid.
Maisie's journey continues every Tuesday so stay tuned.