New Tools For The Hunter – First Blood Records
Interview with First Blood Records founder and former Ceasefire frontman, Dan Phelan.
How did the formation of First Blood Records come about. Who was behind it all?
First Blood was started by Benji Phillips and myself. Benji was my sister Lucy’s boyfriend at the time. I named the label after one of my favourite movies “First Blood”, it was kind of tongue in cheek, but at the same time it’s a great movie and a great name.
What made you want to do a comp of Australian bands? As a member of Ceasefire at the time, did it feel like the emergence of a new era of Australian hardcore was dawning?
We were both passionate about hardcore. We just wanted to support new and current bands. Promote our bands and our friend’s bands. At the time I did a zine and a radio show too. I was just really involved in hardcore, and felt a part of something special, and just wanted to do my bit.
It definitely was a new era of hardcore. Hardcore in Australia was pretty young, the scene was pretty small. In Sydney a couple of years before there was no hardcore scene that I knew of. I’d been going to watch bands for about ten years by this stage. From all-ages shows with The Hard-Ons and Massappeal to pub shows with bands like Rollins Band, Cosmic Psychos, and then on to stuff like Toe To Toe and The Dreamkillers, but it was different, I never felt part of any scene. Then you started getting shows with Toe To Toe, Subversion, Savage Cabbage, Minute Minder, Price Of Silence and it felt like a scene. I think that Greg and the Spiral Objective distro played a big part in creating an Australian scene. Straight edge was starting to emerge on the scene. Hardcore worldwide was starting to change getting heavier with the metal influence and you also had the whole 90s “emo” thing going on. You had bands like Earth Crisis getting bigger. But metallic hardcore was pretty much a no no in Sydney. So the comp was sort of going against the grain a bit. The type of bands at shows in those days were a lot more mixed… they were more punk… and they were great, but the scene started splitting into two different scenes, hardcore and punk… as people went down their different musical paths. So the comp came out around that window in time when the hardcore and punk scene started to separate. I remember we copped shit from certain people for having a CD that was professional looking and printed in colour, as opposed to photocopied and DIY. So it was definitely the start of something new.
Can you remember when the comp first came out and if there were any launch shows or anything?
I can’t remember, it was too long ago, but we probably did put on a show. (The compilation came out in June of 1997)
What sort of selection process did you go through in deciding what bands to have on the comp?
If I remember correctly, Benji chose most of the bands and got in touch with them. I remember arguing with Benji over Pitfall being on it. Luke Dolan, Pitfall’s singer used to stir shit and a few people weren’t happy about them being on the comp. I insisted that they were on it. To me they represented a part of what was going on at the time.
Toe To Toe is the obvious omission from the comp. Were they not approached or considered too big perhaps?
I’ve never thought about it. Toe To Toe were one of my favourite bands. They are the band that really got me hooked. If I remember correctly, at the time they were huge. They were touring the country and playing huge festivals, and we probably just thought they were too big for us. I don’t think we asked them. The comp was really just for small virtually unknown bands and to help people in different Australian cities hear what was going on around the country and help us all connect. At the time Mindsnare were the biggest band on the comp by a long shot, and we were really happy that they wanted to be on it. If I did a comp now, of the greatest Australian hardcore punk bands of all time, I’d have Toe To Toe, Subversion, Minute Minder, etc etc but that’s not what this comp is.
How many copies were pressed and how did they sell?
I think we pressed 500, and they sold pretty quickly, so we pressed another 500, which took years to offload.
To get rid of 500 CDs was a huge effort. I mostly did trades with labels like Good Life etc... then sold 25 Ta Life, Morning Again CDs etc in my distro. There probably wasn't even 500 HC kids in Australia back then.
For bands like Drawback, Pitfall and Straight To A Tomb who never really had their own release (besides discography releases, years later), this compilation really served as one of their only few chances to be heard. There wasn’t really a lot of Australian record labels around at the time was there?
There was No Deal, and Snapshot and Spiral Objective that I can think of. Not sure if Resist had released anything. It really was a case of, if you want people to hear your band you have to do it yourself.
Besides the New Tools comp, what else did the label release?
I wasn’t involved with the releases after that. I think it was because Benji wanted to release stuff that I wasn’t into. My sister Lucy helped him from then on and they released The Bradshaw Figure and Conation/1984 split… not sure if they did anything else. Now here’s something I do remember, The Bradshaw Figure played a show in my backyard in Brown St Newtown, which was probably a launch.
Does it surprise you that people still hold the comp in such high regard?
I had no Idea people would have even heard of the thing, let alone rate it!
You’ll have to forgive my terrible memory… and I may have gotten a few things wrong, but this comp feels like a lifetime ago. I don’t even remember what year it came out, but a lot has changed since then.
The Bradshaw Figure at Dan's house in Newtown.
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