Recommended // Celebrating 30 years of Fire Records


Thirty years ago, the IRA bombed the Tory party conference in Brighton, the coal miners were on strike and Sony had just introduced the first commercial CD player. Oh, and the independent British label Fire Records was born.

Founded by Clive Solomon, it quickly boasted a roster jam-packed with incendiary bands such as Spaceman 3, Pulp and Teenage Fanclub. In the Nineties, it expanded to accommodate some gems of the American underground, such as Neutral Milk Hotel, Built to Spill, The Lemonheads, and Urge Overkill, before being rekindled by current boss James Nicholls. Last year, the label released some of the unsung albums of the year with Bardo Pond’s majestic Peace and Venus, the dub-menace of Las Kellies’ Total Exposure and Orchestra of Sphere’s madcap Vibration Animal Sex Brain Music.

This weekend (May 15-18), the label is throwing a four-night birthday party to show off acts young and old and treat fans to a right old knees up. Slightly creakier than they used to be and just that wee bit wiser as well, the Fire Records story is still burning bright. And one of the label’s newest signings, Scraps, is due to kick off the party on Thursday as she opens for Las Kellies at Oslo in Hackney.

Speaking to London in Stereo outside of Brixton’s Windmill pub, Australian artist Scraps (aka Laura Hill) admits she was delighted to be picked up by Fire Records. “James ended getting a 7” I made on a small, short-lived label called Disembraining Machine,” she recalls. “He re-released it and asked me to join the label. Amazing.”

Her first long-player on Fire Records is Electric Ocean, released in March, which shows off Hill’s obsession with the dinky electronica of the Eighties. The decade’s stylistic influence for Hill is as old as Fire Records itself and has proven important to the Brisbane musician, as she freely admits: “I got my first keyboard from a boyfriend. And I quickly realised that I could make music that sounded like the Human League! Which was so cool to me – and I’ve just taken it from there.”

Her Fire Records debut is full of the risk-taking and trademark obtuse commercial decisions that have typified the success of the independent label over the past 30 years. One of the standout tracks is the mind-scrambling Mushroom Gods, chronicling Hill’s uneasy relationship with fungus. “They are not animals/ they are not insects/ mushroom gods,” she sings in a creepy deadpan chorus, referencing a story she read in a holistic magazine about a drug addict encountering the God of Mushrooms in a psychedelic vision during a trip, who threatened to kill him if he every ate them again.

“In Australia, it’s so hot that most people have a fungus living in their blood. The only way you can kill it from living in side you is to stop feeding it beer and sugars,” Hill says breathlessly. “Otherwise you become the beast. I’ve heard of an 80-year-old woman who has to keep cutting the fungus that’s growing on her face because she won’t stop eating bread and jam. Her whole body is fucking full of mould – it’s so humid. It’s a mouldy paradise. Mushrooms freak me out. But I love eating them. They are so tasty!”

30 Years of Fire Records

May 15
Oslo, Hackney
Las Kellies + Scraps

May 16
The Lexington, Kings Cross
Scott & Charlene’s Wedding + Fawn Spots + Keel Her

May 17
The Lexington, Kings Cross
Wreckless Eric + The Wave Pictures

May 18
The Lexington, Kings Cross
Guided by Voices ‘Cool Planet’ album release party + Riding the Low + others playing original sets and GBV covers. Compered by Stewart Lee