Garfields Birthday
By Ronnie

First off, I love the song, "Garfields Birthday" from the GARFIELDS BIRTHDAY album, "Peepshow". Its easily one of my fave albums this year. And if the two compilation albums from Pink Hedgehog Records are any indication of the Dorset scene - I think I've found power-pop heaven! I talked to Simon - the man behind the band AND the Pink Hedgehog record label.

E.C.: I read that you had your own bedroom recording studio. Is this how Pink Hedgehog Records was started? And is this how you met the rest of the future members of GARFIELDS BIRTHDAY?

Simon: Yes, I call the studio "The Dream Centre" and it's really just an old 8-Track cassette recorder with a mixing desk. The 8-Track was a few years old when I bought it back in 1993 I think, and I've recorded over 500 Songs on it. I'm amazed it's still working, but I don't really want to replace it until it falls apart. I started Pink Hedgehog the following year, with the first release being a cassette EP for a band called Akimbo I was playing in at the time. Garfields Birthday started in 1995 when James and his friend Tim asked me to record a bunch of demo's for them. It all began there really.

E.C.: You had played in several bands before GB, such as "Blend", "Redwood" and "Popism". Is GB the perfect pop vehicle for what you are trying to achieve?

Simon: GB is exactly the sort of band I've always wanted to be in, musically speaking. Good melodies and harmonies is what I enjoy listening to, and that's the sort of music I'd been wanting to make.

E.C.: Elaborate on the genesis of Garfields Birthday? How was the band named, after the song of the same title?

Simon: Well, James and Tim played me all the songs they had been working on and my favourite was "Garfields Birthday". James wrote the song about a party he had gone to, although the name Garfield was made up. I'm not sure who's party it actually was, but I'm sure there would have been cake and everything. So the song came first, and worked better as a band name than any of the others. I suggested we joined forces and record a demo album, but I guess it wasn't until we started gigging that it really felt like a band.

E.C.: Is Garfields Birthday mainly a recording band? Is that how you feel the most comfortable getting your music across?

Simon: We started off mainly as a recording outfit, but soon developed into a gigging band after a couple of initial changes in line up. We have probably done between 25 and 30 gigs so far, James and I also play as an acoustic version of the band, which we enjoy doing. So we are not the most active band on the live scene, but we can certainly do it when feel like it.

E.C.: Have you thought of releasing any live stuff? Will there be a tour? Or does running your own record company (Pink Hedgehog Records) limit you?

Simon: I'd like to think we could get in a few more gigs in the near future, but I have taken to falling down in public places quite a lot recently, which can often take the fun out of it for me. We have yet to make a decent live recording, although there are a few tracks in the vaults that occasionally get listened to behind locked doors, with the curtains pulled, and the lights off...... Pink Hedgehog is suprisingly time consuming, but that wouldn't stop us from gigging when we get the urge.

E.C.: The band bio states that you "continue to churn out pop classics by the truck load." When can we expect another release from Garfields Birthday?

Simon: I am putting together an album of our acoustic material at the moment, and I can predict another GB band release later in the year. We would love to venture back into the studio and record a single for release on another label, possible outside the UK, but our previous experiences with record deals and labels has been,,,,. unsatisfying. I do believe the best is yet to come though, seriously. Meanwhile James is also working on an album with his other band Marlowe and I'm hoping to do more with the label, whilst working on some new material of my own. So there is defenitely plenty more to come!

E.C.: I wanted to ask a few questions about Pink Hedgehog records. What is the ultimate goal of the label?

Simon: Simply to give people the chance to hear some good music that they would otherwise not have come across. And to help promote my local music scene and other bands that really take my fancy.

E.C.: You seem to have had a very "hands-on" approach to the first album, "The Pink Hedgehog Incident". You wrote alot of the songs and played on several of the tracks. Did you take a different approach with the second album, "Ear Candy"?

Simon: That wasn't really by choice or desire. I put the first compilation together very quickly, when I was diagnosed with ME back in 1996. I wanted to release an album to raise awareness of the illness and to make some money for a charity that helps sufferers. I chose some of the better tracks that had featured on previous cassette releases, together with some newer contributions from a few local bands, and then filled up the gaps with demo's that I had recorded for different projects I had been working on. In retrospect, I should have waited until I had a stronger track listing. However there are some real gems to be found if you look for them (The Lucky Bishops and Cheese for example), and the CD did make money for the ME Association so I guess it was worth it. The new compilation "Ear Candy" is a vast improvement, I think it's a great album and I'm very proud of it. In fact, the CD is now available from Not Lame Recordings in the USA for $10.

E.C.: The Pink Hedgehog compilation albums have tons of great groups. Have there been any groups that you have rejected? Who makes the decisions on what is released?

Simon: Well, the majority of music I have released over the years, was by bands that I have approached myself and offered my services. In many cases I have recorded them, especially if they didn't have the money or will to go into a studio themselves. I guess most were bands that I've seen live and enjoyed listening to.

E.C.: Have you been happy with the recognition that the label has received?

Simon: It's only recently, since "Ear Candy" that the label has started to attract attention outside of my local scene. I think a lot of that has been down to the internet, now that I have a web site. The label has a much higher profile these days, and I have started to receive demo's in the post quite regularily. So, I think the label is beginning to change, and I hope to start working with bands on a national and hopefully international scale in the future. Certainly all the feedback I have been getting from the last couple releases has been extremely positive and very encouraging.

E.C.: Most importantly, when can we expect another Pink Hedgehog release or compilation?

Simon: The next release is likely to be an album for the power-pop band Cheese, quickly followed by a couple other things that are nearing completion, and then perhaps another compilation of stunning pop music from around the globe! Who knows? Cheers.

Click here to visit the official GARFIELDS BIRTHDAY website
Click here to visit the official PINK HEDGEHOG RECORDS website