This feature is taken from our Glasweek special.

Considering we've had an article worth of introductions already, we'll keep this brief. Our first major feature of Glasweek is an interview with Gus Stephens, the founder of Glasgow-based independent label Number4Door.

Though he comes from Carlisle, Stephens has taken to releasing primarily Scottish music of the alternative and underground persuasion, most commonly in the form of cassette tapes. And, well, the interview fills in the rest better than we ever could. So sit back, relax, maybe make yourself a drink, and sit down to enjoy the first of five days' worth of Glaswegian content.


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First of all, how are you? Good day so far?

It's been pretty good, thanks! Just found a venue for a zine launch I am doing and I've been putting that together.

Let's get the most boring question out the way first: what's the story behind the name?

Okay so this one goes pretty far back... when I was four or five years old I lived with my dad in a bedsit. His flat/room was #4 in the building. If we went to the shops or went out or something, I would set up toys I wanted to play with when I got home and then pretend that it was a TV show with the walk back up the stairs to the door being the titles. The theme tune would culminate on reaching the door and the line "what's behind the number four door?" and then the door opens to reveal the toys I had left out. And this was all in my head of course. So many band names and label names and whatever else seems to be a reference to something like popular culture or a certain sound so I figured that if I was going to be referential I was best off being self-referential when naming something as personal to me as my label.

Why does Number4Door exist? What do you try to address that you felt was previously missing?

Number4Door exists for much more selfish reasons than filling some need, at least to start with. I wasn't happy with how my life was going; I hated being at university, I hated being in the city I was in, I had just been through a bad breakup and I generally didn't feel like I was doing anything productive. So that's when I started the label, with a lot of encouragement from Kevin Greenspon whose label Bridgetown Records is what I modelled N4D on. Pretty quickly I decided that the label could be more meaningful than just me making tapes in a bedroom in Carlisle. Number4Door would be a way for great people, who happened to love making music, to release music physically. I wanted to help there to be as much music existing physically in the world as possible and for it to be available to people at a reasonable price.

I think I'm too modest to say that I am filling a void but I'd definitely like to think I am doing a good thing for the community with this label, both in Glasgow and globally since I release with artists from all over. I'm not the sole contributor to this but I think it's important to be sincere as a label because not every label is. There's too many who feel the need to be seen as cool or edgy or being quick to champion the next big band. I'd rather just be nice and continue to love what I do and I think that shows through in how I run the label and I think people appreciate the sincerity.

I also like to encourage the sense of it being a community in Glasgow as much as I can. I organise something called Cessnock Pizza Club - a monthly pizza party for lots of my friends to come to at my flat. We all order takeaway pizza, those of us who drink get drunk and we hang out in a context other than that of being at a show. It's a really friendly and relaxed environment for everyone and quite often it leads to creative people meeting each other and doing more creative things because of it.

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"Nobody really cares if people elsewhere don't take notice, we'd rather concentrate on building a strong community that's welcoming to everyone."

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You're based in Glasgow, is that because you feel there's something special going there? Is it a more creative place than most?

It is definitely an exciting time in Glasgow right now. You will hear people who have been around the scene for a lot longer than I have who will tell you that right now is the most exciting time they have witnessed for Glasgow. The makeup of the people here is definitely part of that, with a large student population including the School of Art. The reason I moved to Glasgow is just that I fell in love with it. The people are so friendly and the music community is really strong here. There are new bands starting here every day it seems and they all have pretty similar aims for how they want the scene to be. The musical potential for the city seems limitless right now. Nobody really cares if people elsewhere don't take notice, we'd rather concentrate on building a strong community that's welcoming to everyone and free of cliquishness and generally people being arseholes. Everyone needs to be good to each other and not attribute importance to themselves or carry internalised hierarchies of the people within the scene or think they are better than anyone else. Every single person is just as important as the next to making this community great and I'm so glad and so excited to be a part of it.

What we know about the scene so far is that it's very DIY and there's not a lot of money in it. So have you been able to make running this label a full time job or is more of a hobby? Or is that beside the point?

Running the label as a full time job is just not something I have seriously considered because I don't feel like it would be possible to do it how I want to do it and uphold a certain level of DIY and still make enough money to live on. I briefly thought about the ways I could do it but they all required a lot of capital and a lot of compromises that I wasn't willing to make. I'd much rather keep doing it the way I'm doing it and barely breaking even with each release. I started off funding everything with the last of my student loan, then with wages from working in a supermarket and now I'm unemployed so I have to fund each release with the money I make from the last one and the sales of older releases. I wouldn't say it's beside the point but making money just isn't the point of why I do it, personally. From the start I have always said that I would break even and then give any other money to the bands and that's never much money anyway. It is a hobby and it's the thing I'm most passionate about in the world. I just love doing it.

Were you to meet someone looking to start up a new label for independent artists, is there anything you'd encourage them to do, or advise them to avoid?

First off, I would encourage them to do it. Without the encouragement of Kevin Greenspon or Soft Power Records I never would have been able to have started Number4Door so I think it's really important to be encouraging to anyone wanting to start their own label. More specifically I would advise people not to outstretch themselves or work with anyone who might take advantage of them and most of all I would tell them to BE NICE - if you're going to do anything, whether you succeed or fail, I think you should try to be a nice person while you do. I think it's a good idea to release music made by your friends but also not necessarily limit yourself to that. Also don't release with just anyone, don't do anything that feels uncomfortable and try not to make anyone else feel uncomfortable. Another big thing is to be conscientious of the make-up of the artists you're releasing with; by running a label you take on a social responsibility as someone who is informing what music is put out into the world. As such DO NOT only release male artists, there is no excuse for 75% or more of your roster to be guys. You should be aiming for 50% OR LESS of your roster to be guys. I don't think I'm personally at 50% or less but that's what I'm aiming for.

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"They have to be doing what they are doing out of love rather than trying to get rich or be the next Franz Ferdinand or whatever."

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What does Number4Door look for in an artist?

The main thing is that an artist needs to be thinking similarly to me and have similar aims and ideas. It's hard to put a finger on it but sometimes you can really just tell when someone understands what I'm doing and luckily there are a few people like that out there. Most of all they have to be doing what they are doing out of love rather than trying to get rich or be the next Franz Ferdinand or whatever. Again it comes down to them being nice people as well. I wouldn't want to work with anyone who isn't nice.

And, related to that, do you generally see yourselves as a platform for artists to get themselves out there by putting on gigs and releasing their music, or do you try and nurture their talent as well?

I feel that potentially they might not get released if I don't release with them and sometimes they go from releasing with me to releasing with a much bigger label and achieving some big things. I don't really think that success and growth of the artists is down to me though, it's down to their own hard work and their talent and their passion for it. As far as nurturing, there are bands that I picked up on before having anything really to go on in the way of recordings or any live shows. For example, I gave Sharptooth their first show before they had anything recorded, and they have gone from strength to strength since. But I kind of see myself as being alongside the bands during that rather than the driving force. These bands have elevated the label as much as the label has elevated them. I knew Sharptooth were going to sound great if I booked them because I could just tell. I later released Sharptooth's first cassette and it felt quite personal that I had been there with them the whole time, but again I think them being as good as they are is entirely down to them and not me. It would be nice if all these bands I release with and who I become friends with could keep releasing with the label forever and ever but there is a limit to what I can do and so a band like Amanda X will release their first tape with me and then sign to a legendary label like Siltbreeze because that's a label that can make their LP and that record was my favourite of 2014, not only because it sounds great but because I feel so much pride for what they achieved.

What are the realities of organising shows, in Glasgow and elsewhere?

I'm pretty new to booking shows in Glasgow but it's a lot better here than when I was doing it in Carlisle purely because people actually come to the shows and the local musicians actually support each other by showing up. In Carlisle it was like pulling teeth to get people to come to anything so the day before I moved away from there I had one final gig there as a way of saying "thanks for not giving a shit" and it was an amazing show with a bunch of great bands. Naturally not many people showed up.

Glasgow has lots of venues and that is helpful but almost all of them are just bars who put on shows to make money or sell alcohol. That's the same as most cities but it'd be really nice if we had at least one DIY space to put on shows. I think that's something we can work towards.

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"If an album is 60 minutes long and I make 50 copies of it then it takes me 50 hours to hand-dub them."

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We're interviewing two Glasgow-based labels this week, you and Winning Sperm Party, and one striking similarity is that you're both committed to releasing your music on cassettes as well as digitally. The interesting thing about cassettes right now is that they're unfashionable - as they're probably at the bottom of the existing physical format hierarchy - yet also increasingly fashionable because many independent bands are gravitating towards them. So what does the format offer that others - including digital ones - don't?

Cassettes give me the opportunity to be personally involved in the process of every single copy; vinyl or CD manufacturing is usually a matter of sending away for them and only seeing the final product once it's all wrapped in plastic. You can, and people do, take this route with cassettes as well but I personally only buy blank tapes and then record the music to each copy myself, one at a time at real speed. This means if an album is 60 minutes long and I make 50 copies of it then it takes me 50 hours to hand-dub them. Cassettes also give me the most scope for having control over the artwork and the package as a whole since I can go as simple or as creative as I like. Cassette packages can come in so many different shapes and sizes that I have a separate place for storing all of the tapes that don't fit in with the others.

One final question: what have you got planned for the future, and what are you most excited about?

I just released an EP with FROTH (The band from Glasgow not the one from the US) [ed. Froth are now called Strop] and it sold out really fast so I'm gonna do a second edition of that really soon because I love them. Beyond that I have plans with Larks, SMUT, The Daddyo's, Noun/Verb/Adjective, Breakfast MUFF, Grand Pricks, Ramona & The Phantoms, Nyla and then a compilation with a zine by a French artist called Marie Jacotey.

I also launched a zine at the end of February called DON'T BE SHIT - the basic idea is that I want the zine to encourage people to do creative stuff who aren't usually encouraged as much, so this is people who suffer from mental health issues or people who aren't necessarily straight white guys who frankly already get enough encouragement, myself included

I am most excited about continuing to do lots of amazing things with my best friends. That's all I ever want to do for the rest of my life.


[This interview was conducted in February 2015 via email.]