ELECTRIC Honey are the student-run label who helped build the careers of Biffy Clyro, Snow Patrol and Belle and Sebastian.
This month, they celebrate their 20th anniversary. On May 31, there will be a birthday bash at Glasgow’s Oran Mor, featuring current acts such as Young Aviators and Alex Hynes.
But the label’s future is uncertain as Stow College, where the students take the music business course, merges with John Wheatley and North Glasgow colleges.
Label boss Ken McCluskey, who found fame with The Bluebells, said he was in the dark.
He said: “Hopefully we’d continue because it’s a great advert for music education. But you are nervous you’ll come back after the summer and someone will be sitting in your seat.
“I’m sure we will continue because we are the jewel in the crown.
“I think it would be silly to curtail such a very popular and successful institution as Electric Honey.”
Ken, who has been running the course for 10 years, is not wrong.
Not only has the label helped some of the UK’s biggest bands, it has given students a foot into the music industry.
These include Craig Johnston, a booker for King Tut’s, and Stuart Stenhouse, who runs digital music distribution service EmuBands.
Electric Honey were set up by Alan Rankine of 80s duo The Associates, a lecturer on the course. They’re now run by Ken and Douglas MacIntyre, who also has the Creeping Bent label.
The first release was in May 1993 with Baby Chaos’s Buzz EP. The band’s 1996 album Love Your Self Abuse was named as one of Kerrang’s 100 Greatest British Rock Albums Ever.
The label’s first major success was Electric Honey’s debut album release. Belle and Sebastian’s 1996 effort has become part of Scotland’s music history.
After Stuart Murdoch recorded some demos, the songs were picked up by the students and it was agreed they would record a full album – Tigermilk.
Only a thousand vinyl copies exist and some have been sold for £400.
Ken laughed: “There’s a big rumour someone has two in their drawer. I’ve been doing detective work for five years but can’t get to the bottom of it.”
Another find was a group of Northern Irish students in Dundee. Polar Bear released their debut EP Starfighter Pilot on the Electric Honey label in 1997.
They changed their name to Snow Patrol and have become one of the biggest bands in the UK.
Ken said: “When you are able to talk about someone like Snow Patrol to your students, it’s important.
“The course isn’t The X Factor. It’s a business course with accounts, copywriting, promotion and marketing.”
Another of Electric Honey’s success stories is Biffy Clyro. Ben and James Johnston were students on the sound production course at Stow.
In June 2000, they released their debut EP through Electric Honey, featuring the tracks 57 and Justboy. Both tracks reappeared on the band’s debut album Blackened Sky.
It took them years of hard graft before 2007 breakthrough Puzzle.
Ken said: “Biffy are hard workers. It takes that long to learn your craft.”
It’s not just musicians who have benefited from Electric Honey. There are two classes with 20 students each.
The students look for the acts and pick them, with Ken and Douglas as managers.
Ken said: “We listen to five bands each week and it is whittled down. Originally the signing of the band and release of material was done in a year but we do this over two years now.”
Electric Honey Showcase, May 31, Oran Mor, Glasgow.
Tickets from http://www.ticketweb.co.uk or 0844477 1000.
by Wattie Cheung
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