The Audacious Art Experiment has indeed lived up to its name. As well as pushing challenging and exciting music from the UK and across Europe, the Experiment also provides rehearsal space for a range of bands and artists to hone their sound and showcase their talents. With its roots in the DIY scene, TAAE is driven by the commitment and mindset of its members. It’s clear that this community-minded collective has always been more than a means to an end. I spoke to Luke Twyman to learn more.
Tell us a bit about yourselves, how did The Audacious Art Experiment come into being?
So the label was born in Grimsby in 2003 by Ben Lane, whom I was in a band with at the time. When he moved to Leeds to go to university, he took the label with him and planted it at the heart of the Leeds DIY scene, which was completely blowing up at the time. During that time he put out some awesome records like the Army Of Flying Robots/Jinn split and the classic Kill Yourself/Early Humans split. We lost Ben in 2005 and the label moved to Sheffield with me. Sam (from Wooderson and Nightflowers) and I would put on shows at The Cricketers, Red House and Stockroom with Craig from Not Shy Of The DIY. Things were generally quiet as we were just messing about with the label and keeping it going for ourselves really.
It wasn’t until 2010, when we moved into our unit in Harwood Street, that things really got cooking for us in Sheffield. A few venues we liked had closed down and we couldn’t really afford to drink in pubs every time we wanted to see a band, so a bunch of us got together and put some money down to start our own practice space, which we could open up for shows once we got some new bands going. This turned out to be the thing we’d all been after for years and within another year our membership had grown from ten to thirty.
We suddenly found ourselves running a chaotic autonomous music collective and being able to put on shows for travelling European artists every other week, using our collective rent pot and door donations to cover people’s costs. We’ve also managed to refit the whole place over the years to accommodate about seven different bands’ equipment safely, our record label and distro stock, as well as adding an electronics repair and creation lab, without any outside funding at all.
How important is it to you guys to be more than just a record label?
For us it’s really important. The label was born out of a community and was only able to survive for so long because those people within it bought and traded records from us. I guess around the time the MySpace era was coming to an end, we were feeling a real loss at how individualised independent music had become. Suddenly everybody was their own miniature record label, putting out their own numerous solo projects, which you saw take off and crash back down in a flash. The Internet had given everyone the idea that you could reach an unlimited amount of fans by just typing away and making sweet shockwave adverts, which drew a lot of people inside.
Meanwhile the major (and free) written zine publications that connected our scenes (Fracture, Reason To Believe, Play Dead) had vanished and there was a huge loss of collectivity with those involved in DIY at the time. Somewhere within those vague facts is the reason we aim to provide a physical community space for our scene to get together, meet new people and flourish once again. The record label side of things for us is mostly just a way of documenting these new moments in a kind of time capsule and having fun with making such things, as well as helping out some people and bands we think should really be heard.
It seems there are central values driving the Experiment. Tell us a bit more about this.
I guess TAAE’s core was formed in the UK hardcore punk scene in the early 00s and at that point the majority of bands we were surrounded by had something political, insightful, or heartfelt to say in their lyrics and speeches in between songs. Writing a song about something you’d had enough of and shouting it at your friends in random towns on the weekend seemed a really exciting, natural way to share ideas. The sentiment stuck and although the music styles we press or put on has expanded over the years, that level of mischievous questioning and thirst for community has remained and is definitely something that drives the group. Being in a band, performing and getting people’s attention can be a pretty fortunate situation to be in, so best not to waste everyone’s time talking about girl’s bums or your sweet life.
So, what’s in store for the future?
Uncertainty as usual but luckily we are used to that. We’ve had quite a few members shift into alumni status lately and move on to other things/towns/countries, which is really exciting to see, even if it does leave a sizeable gap in our rent pot/hearts. That coupled with the fact we’re currently dealing with a rather persistent and frustrating noise complaint situation, means you’ll have to forgive us for coming off as a bit pensive these days. The whole bloc has been up against it and it’s quite troubling but we aim to carry on as best as we can. As far as records and stuff goes we have just had a cassette/download come out by the amazing DIRDSBEAD. There’s also a new mini-CD available by ambient/drone-meister Spandril, along with the new Nope and TRANS/HUMAN LPs that just came out. The label pot’s looking pretty decent at the moment so hopefully we’ll be able to announce some more LP releases in autumn once we’ve straightened them out.
Interview by Aidan Daly.
Images courtesy of The Audacious Art Experiment.