It's Friday night in good ol' London town and I'm heading down to catch the much anticipated Ventenner show, but on arrival I'm bombarded with stressed musicians rushing to get their gear out of the venue. Pushing myself through a sea of rockers, I find Ventenner aka Charlie Dawe, leaning against the bar. His expression looks dark with disappointment but once our eyes meet, the gloom melts away. I ask him what happened and he explains that there was a leak in the venue, water was everywhere and the show was cancelled… Well so much for reviewing the live show of one of my favorite DIY artists in 2011. To try and lighten the mood I offer to buy him a drink. His favorite? Whiskey coke. We manage to find a booth and together with his latest addition to the band, his guitarist Rob Wacey, we get chatting. I ask him to remind me of how many records he's released since Ventenner started. Taking a sip from his drink, Charlie explains that he's released a few demos in 2007 just to get some "feelers" out and observe the reaction of listeners; creating what he like to call an "audio diary". He releases his first album 'Dead Reflections' in 2009. His second album, 'Oblivion Revised' was born out of various re-mixes of his songs from other artists who showed interest in his music, something he never expected and is obviously flattered.
So how's the DIY working out for you? Rob gives Charlie a quick glance as he seems equally curious as to why Charlie never tried getting signed by a major or Indie label. Charlie clears his throat, " Well, having total creative control is obviously important. Not all labels threaten that, but a lot do. Sure you get the promotion and the management and the big tour with a big label, but handing in an album and having it given back to you with a post-it saying "change it" must be soul destroying. Indie labels, well, they're not all bad, but a lot of them believe their own hype. I hate pretentious arty indie labels."
But did you even try to get signed? "No major labels have ever approached me but I hope they never do. Because if a major label thinks they can sell what I am making as the next big thing, then in my mind I've failed. I'm never gonna sell out Wembley. Not because my ambition or talent is weak, but if I've achieved that level of mainstream popularity I'll have probably stopped being true to myself."
There's something to be said when artists sole integrity is to create art the way they want to without plaguing their minds with thoughts of 'making it' or not, it's clear that for Charlie 'making it' isn't the number on his bank statement, it's the journey of the artist and how he conquers this journey. I ask mister Dawe how it was going with Rob, his new guitarist? Rob being rather silent on the matter gives Charlie a sly smile. Swinging his arms around Rob's neck and giving him a squeeze, Charlie says that it was going great, that Rob gets it spot on, not like other musicians he's worked with, "When you're a solo artist control freak like me, you don't want to be onstage giving it all you've got and maybe noticing that your drummer played seven beats instead of eight in that bar. That's why I've ended up doing a few solo shows."
How are you finding yourself fitting in with London's music scene? In the past you mentioned it to be rather 'close-minded'. Do you still feel this way? "Haha, yes, I've been very vocal on this in the past. It's not just London, it's England's music scene that has turned quite redundant now. Over the last few years it's become increasingly fashionable to be in a band and subsequently there's a lot of people out there polluting and diluting the music scene with utter crap. I also feel that the rock genre has lost all danger to it. There was a time in the 90's when MTV was actually cool to watch and you knew the bands epitomized the idea of rock n roll because they knew no other way to live. As artists we do what we do because we need to express ourselves, it's our air to breath. Being part of a music project isn't an act or a gimmick or a way to meet girls. That's why I love playing with bands who may not be in the same genre as me, but have the same sound. I guess that's our definition of being alternative. We're something different."
I ask Charlie how he would best describe his sound since he has been lumped in with other industrial goth bands out there. He says if people would listen closely and know music as well as they say they do, they should hear Blues and Grunge in these songs. And what can we expect from Ventenner in the near future?
"I've just finished a remix for a guy in the States called Knoxband. We've been fans of each other for a while, I especially liked his record 'Equinox'. He's releasing a remixed version of it and I did one of the tracks for it. For Ventenner I'm working on a new album, which is going to be very different from anything I've done so far. Another project that I'm working on is called Pixie Ribs with a remarkable singer, Lux, who's pure rock n roll through and through."
Charlie's third drink is coming to an end and I can see Rob is itching to get to another bar, as the scene in this venue has suddenly been swamped with 'suits' so I make my last question brief; What are your thoughts on the future of the music industry? Charlie takes the last swig from his drink and explains, "What I don't like is people hating major labels for the sake of hating, it's a waste of time. As I see it, if you wanna get rich and famous quick, get signed. But if you're serious about being an artist and working your way up, go independent. Who knows, if more artists keep turning down the labels, maybe one day the labels will be interested in investing in the actual artistry of a band or solo artist. I also think this hype to be in a band and make music, no matter how crap you are, will die out eventually and what will be left behind are those bands who survived because they did it right, because they actually have something to give."
I can only hope he's right!
I can only hope he's right!