An Interview with John Russell – 4000 Records

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Meet John Russell, the creative force behind 4000 Records, a dynamic record label deeply entrenched in Brisbane’s artistic community.

With a humble start overlooking a scrap metal yard and a brewery, Russell’s unwavering dedication to organizing shows, managing bands, and supporting local talent has culminated in the birth of 4000 Records—an empowering platform for Brisbane’s vibrant artists. In an exclusive interview with The Venture Wheel, we had the privilege of delving into Russell’s inspiring journey and the profound impact of 4000 Records on the local music landscape.

Q: Can you tell us about the unique aspects and vision of your record label that sets it apart from others in the industry?
A: The most unique characteristic of the label is that it is almost exclusively focussed on the local Meanjin (Brisbane) artistic community. From the musical artists we work with to the visual artists and designers we enlist to create our artworks and even down to who we choose to have our merchandise created by. It’s all an endeavour to bolster the local scene in one way or another.

Q: What specific genres or styles of music does your record label focus on, and how do you discover and select new artists to work with?
A: Being a singular person operation and not having the label focussed on any particular genre or style gives me the freedom to indulge in a great many artists across eclectic sounds and vision. Our current roster consists of artists across the realms of sound design, post-punk, surfgaze, folk, ambient, experimental, shoegaze, global, progressive rock and plenty more.
I’m quite sure that every single artist I have worked with has been a direct result of me seeing them perform live, being blown away, having a chat and them coming on board. I receive demos and advances quite often and unless it’s spectacular then it’s very unlikely that I’ll be moved to action. Although I have been incentivised to go out to shows based on these submissions, they haven’t resulted in any new additions to the roster though.
The label is also very much a passion project, so I’m not driven by an artist’s earning potential or anything like that. I have to truly fall in love with the music in order to dedicate my time to them – which is precious, as I work a day job and have a young family.

Q: In the current digital age, how do you navigate the challenges and opportunities of promoting and distributing music effectively for your artists?
A:This is a tough one as the landscape is in constant flux. My list of blogs and reviewers who don’t immediately send me their price list gets smaller and smaller with every campaign. Neither the label nor the artists have any funds to put into PR so it’s simply down to me hustling and trying to build relationships with those few remaining outlets who do it for the love of it.
It’s also about keeping your ears out for opportunities like Spotify’s pitching process and Bandcamp’s editorial submissions. If you haven’t got the cash to front up then it’s down to finding blogs who cover your genre and/or using sites like MusoSoup and Submithub and hoping for the best.

But I try not to put too much weight on those things as it’s easy to get bogged down and dejected in that space of constant rejection. I try to keep returning to the local scene, the fact that folks keep coming to shows and enjoy what we’re doing, and slowly building from there.
Also growing our relationships with local record stores, community radio and other organisations who are on the ground with the people all goes towards helping build a collaborative environment for all artists.

Q: What are some notable success stories or milestones achieved by artists signed to your label, and how has your label contributed to their growth and development?
A: I take the wins where I can get them. We always celebrate if someone lands a support slot on an international touring act: we’ve had The Double Happiness support The Chameleons and Robert Forster as well as Endless Valley support Church of the Cosmic Skull.
We also get excited whenever someone overseas orders a physical item! With postage being exorbitant (from Australia), it’s really meaningful when someone pays – sometimes twice what the item is worth – that postage, and we always try to throw in a little something extra to show our appreciation!
There’s nothing really major to be honest. Just the little things like a track hitting 10K streams, a good review on a respected platform, a sold out show, stuff like that always makes us feel good about what we’re doing.

Q: Are there any upcoming releases or projects that your label is particularly excited about, and what can we expect from them?
A: We always have heaps of stuff in the pipeline which is good for keeping me on my toes and the excitement levels up. I think the most interesting thing that is coming up is the second installment of our House Keys covers compilation. The premise of which is that we ask a bunch of local artists that we admire to record a cover version of a song by another local artist that they admire. The first edition had 21 tracks and the second iteration is looking like 35 or so, which is entirely too many tracks to put on physical media (who’s got cash for a triple LP release?!). Our way around that dilemma is that we’ve decided to do a complementary zine which will feature 35 local artists showcasing one of their pieces, across multiple practices and tie it into the whole “House Keys” concept.
From that, you can expect a wildly eclectic collection of songs covering a wide range of artists, from the well known (Regurgitator, Sycco, Bee Gees, The Saints) to the underground (D-wizz, Mr Maps, Pool Shop). I’m very excited for it!

We also just started a live jazz series called Jazz in Meanjin which sees us going out to local jazz shows, recording the sets, and mixing and mastering them for release. It’s a cool way to document a bit of the scene and also get the players some online visibility as many of these folks don’t head into the studio and are content to just hit the clubs every week.
The Brisbane scene is amazing and it’s truly invigorating to be a small part of it.