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May 17, 2010 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Label: MUZAI Records

In light of the buy-back of Flying Nun, we thought it prudent to take a look at some of the smaller labels that have existed in its absence. Over the next few weeks we’ll be profiling several smaller labels that have been in existence over the last few years. This week, we take a look at Auckland grunge outfit MUZAI Records.
—James and Kim

“I think it was just trying to get stuff we really liked unearthed and exposed a lot more. You know, the kind of people that go ‘these guys should have more attention than they’re getting’—we pissed and moaned, but we actually tried to do something about it.”—Benjii Munro-Jackson

A little over a year ago, Benjii Munro-Jackson and Martin Phillips (no, not that one) joined forces to give birth to MUZAI records, an independent label based out of Auckland that was hell-bent on getting a series of noisy bands from Auckland the exposure that they merited. From small beginnings, they now have a roster of affiliated artists that’s into double figures, their bratty youngsters Bandicoot have had their Jurassic Warfare EP mysteriously available on the iTunes store (“A serious ‘WTF’ moment”), and are about to turn one. So, it’s been a pretty good year. We got in touch with Jackson, and found out a little more on their label ethos and plans for continued survival.

MUZAI run a pretty transparent contract setup between band and label, a method of business which benefits both parties pretty well. They help with the recording of a release, take a small amount of the profit (covering costs, etc) and promote said band to no end. Of course, that’s a rough outline: “It’s different for every band. It’s more agreements than contracts—no one wins when you’ve handcuffed a band to something and they don’t want to be there anymore. With some bands we’ll do one-off releases (like with Sworn To The King), but thankfully with most of the bands on the label they’re happy with what we do, and we generally map out a plan of what they want, what we want, and what we both agree to.”

In the last year, MUZAI have released and distributed albums, splits and EPs from the likes of God Bows To Math, Bandicoot, BMX Rapists, Sherpa and TFF. They bring on board bands they personally enjoy, and have more or less managed to have their taste be appealing to the Auckland music community (I might personally omit the decidedly MOR Sherpa though). But, with only two people running promotion and distribution for a number of very active bands, there has to be a breaking point: “It’s always fun to sign bands, I think that’s the dream everyone has of running a label—rocking up to a show and going ‘Hey, we like your stuff, we think you should work with us’. You know, the ‘cool’ side of it. But when you keep signing bands, the less time you have—and that’s something I really don’t want to happen. I’m happy with the roster and as you’ve said, it is sizeable. But it’s also manageable, I can keep being hands-on with the musicians involved for the most part and not spread out too thinly. There are a few bands I’d like to sign or work with, but at the moment I think we’ll stick with what we’ve got—but who knows what’ll happen. Music is a fickle creature.”

While MUZAI may not increase in size exponentially from here, they are, along with others, filling an important gap that hasn’t really been completely filled since the days of A Low Hum compilations and tours. MUZAI have released two sampler compilations to date, aptly titled Fuck These Bands and Fuck These Bands Too, and are consistently putting on shows around Auckland, while MUZAI-affiliated bands (such as TFF) play innumerable shows around their hometown of Dunedin. With more national touring to come, including a potential MUZAI show in Wellington in the coming months (“We would love to do something big with a few bands down in Wellington. Everyone down there is just so receptive to stuff and the friendliest bunch of people.”) and a large-scale birthday celebration in collaboration with the dubious but omnipresent music.hype website, there looks to be no slowing down on the MUZAI front. One step at a time, though: when asked where MUZAI will be in a few years, Munro-Jackson’s main concern was merely survival. “I hope we’re still around in five years. Maybe we’ll have worn out our welcome mat by then. Who knows.”

Age: One
Genre: Grunge / Noise
Salient picks: God Bows To Math, Nice Birds, Bandicoot


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  1. dean says:

    yeya muzai

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