UPDATE: Leaving Normal: Southern Records’ John Loder: 1946-2005
An Obit by Crass’ Penny Rimbaud
John Loder: Sound engineer who founded the legendary Southern Studios
Friday August 19, 2005 The Guardian
I first met the sound engineer and record producer John Loder in about 1968. He was on an acid trip and seemed to be talking out of the top of his head. The next time I met him he was straight and made a lot more sense. We soon found that we shared. a common interest in Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, John Coltrane, and KarlHeinz Stockhausen. When we got bored with them, we would play birdsong forwards and Bach backwards.
By 1970 John, who has died aged 59, and I were working together in Exit, an avant-garde outfit. I was the percussionist, playing an amplified bicycle wheel, and he was using an ancient one-track tape-recorder discovered in a friend’s attic; primitive, but it was the beginning of what was to become John’s lifework.
Financed by a brief spell as a mini-cab driver, by 1972 John had cobbled together an innovatory multi-track sound system, first used as a part of the wildly ambitious avant-garde International Carnival of Experimental Sound (ICES 72). By the time Exit disbanded in 1974, John had accumulated enough equipment to build a recording studio in the small garage of his north London home.
During the next three years we lost touch, but by 1977 he was recording advertising jingles – which he didn’t enjoy – and I had cofounded the band Crass, which I enjoyed thoroughly. From then on the ball started to rock and roll. As “the ninth member of the band”, John became our recording engineer and financial manager:
the music was bad and so was the money, but it was fun.
Within a couple of years Crass albums were dominating the alternative charts, and John’s garage had become Southern Studios. In 1979 we created Crass Records and, despite marketing our first single for 45p against John’s warning that every copy would lose us 3p, we made money.
We were in business, and from the outset it was clear that the music industry was not well pleased; John was a maverick, a DIY champion who didn’t play the game. In his philosophy, beautiful came before big: to the last he drove a wreck of an old van, and never considered moving his garage studio to a more “desirable” location.
Likewise, attempts to buy him out failed, just as media attempts to denigrate Crass had no effect on its growing popularity. Crass Records became the label that every aspiring punk band looked to, Southern Studios their destination, and John their engineer of choice.
Throughout that time, with scores of bands being released on the label, no contract was ever signed and no paperwork ever thrust in faces. It was all done on trust, a principle that John held dear throughout his life. And it was John’s managerial, production and engineering skills which were to assist the likes of Crass, Bjork, Chumbawamba, Fugazi, Shellac, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Slint and Babes In Toyland into the public domain,
Born near Plymouth, educated at a boarding school that he didn’t like, John studied electrical engineering at London’s City University. Details of his early history are brief because he didn’t like talking about himself. John was one of those people who appears to have been born on their 20th birthday.
For every band that made it on to Crass Records, 10 were turned away. Crass’s ideology was uncompromising and, as John felt, many good bands were losing the chance of public exposure. As a response, in partnership with his artist wife Sue, he created several labels and Southern Distribution, to ensure that they found a market. Aided by a small team to whom John was devoted, Southern grew into the international force that it is today.
John resisted many attempts over the years to rein him in; as other independents collapsed, Southern survived, as majors conglomerated and became increasingly bland, Southern remained a vibrant voice in the wilderness. When bands got too big for their boots or managers began to burn his ears, John would suggest they go elsewhere. In the truest sense, Southern was a cottage industry, it placed people before profit.
Media requests for interviews with John always drew a blank, he displayed a reticence which extended even to his closest friends. For that reason very few people were aware that during the last 18 months he had been battling with a brain tumour which finally killed him.
But just as John’s studio has become legendary, so has his insistence that quality of product should come before quantity: his angle, small is beautiful, was the big idea.
He is survived by his wife, Sue, and daughter, Natasha.
John Loder, record producer, born April 7 1946; died August 12 2005.
originally from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/news/obituary/0,12723,1552086,00.html
Crass, The Subhumans, UK Decay, Fugazi & Dischord Records to Jesus & The Mary Chain and many, many more, from the late 70s, early 80s punk, post-punk and indie etc. and beyond; London’s Southern Records was instrumental in documenting and promoting great uncompromising, off the edge, of the map music which has enriched many of us.
Last Saturday, August 13th, the label’s mainman John Loder passed away. Read a statement from Dischord Records:
“On August 13th we lost our dear friend and business partner, John Loder.
John ran Southern Studios in London and has worked with Dischord for the past twenty-one years overseeing the manufacturing and distribution of many of our releases. Without John and Southern, Dischord would have never been able to have done so much in that time.
While his brilliance with computers and distribution was unquestionable, John’s first and foremost love was music. He operated a studio out of a garage behind his house in the Wood Green neighborhood in London and recorded a number of Dischord releases there including Fugazi’s Margin Walker E.P in 1988 (these songs appear on the 13 Songs CD). He also engineered and produced records for Crass and bands that appeared on their label, Corpus Christi, as well as many others including The Subhumans, Babes in Toyland, Shellac, Ministry, PJ Harvey, and Jesus and the Marychain.
John spent the last year battling the effects of a serious seizure caused by a brain tumor, but his condition worsened in the last month. He died peacefully and with loved ones early Saturday morning.
Further thoughts about John can be found here; johnloder.blogspot.com