It was Eamonn Crudden of the Dead Elvis label – among numerous other things – who first turned me onto the Wednesday Works imprint, a small mail-order project that was run by a young dairy farmer from his front-room in Curraghmore, outside of Elphin, Co. Roscommon.
At the time – the summer of 1996 – the label was in it’s infancy and had released a mere handful of records. But, working with the likes of Paranoid Visions and The Screech Owls, Wednesday Works had a positive outlook and no shortage of ambition or vision.
I first spoke to Anthony Brennan for a Sunday Tribune piece that ran on August 25th of that year. I later took an RTÉ camera crew up there to record a film insert on the label for a teen-targetted music series I devised and produced called Popscene, which debuted on RTÉ Two later that Autumn.
I absolutely loved that series – hosted by Suzanne Duffy, Pearse Lehane and Róisín Saxe – and I also loved the cut of Anthony’s jib. In his long over-coat, sweeping mullet and serious side-burns, he cut a pretty formidable figure. The Tribune dispatched a local photographer, John Heaney, to capture Anthony at work on the farm, and an absolutely ace photograph accompanied my piece.
Myself and Pearse Lehane spent a wonderful day in Anthony’s company in Curraghmore – and a frankly bizarre evening with some local punks in a pub in Tulsk – for the Popscene insert, during which we also captured a local power-punk trio, Spacehead, going hell for leather in their rehearsal space in the drummer’s family’s shed, somewhere up the town.
I was anxious with both the print and the television pieces not to patronise or unintentionally insult Wednesday Works and, I hope, succeeded in staying on the right side of the line while capturing what was, and still is, just a really great story. Which we have re-produced in full below, under it’s original Sunday Tribune title – ‘Until The Cows Come Home’.
U n t i l T h e C o w s C o m e H o m e
There’s this theory that record company bosses, like disc jockeys and music writers, are frustrated and failed musicians. This, of course, is completely true although Anthony Brennan, a twenty-something vinyl junkie from three miles due south of nowhere, may be the exception. He’s never been in a band, he travels to Dublin once every month to buy records and to collect demo tapes and holds his ego very much in check.
Curraghmore, near Elphin, County Roscommon exists very much in name only. This is where Brennan farms a herd of sixty dairy cattle on a family farm that stretches over one hundred and ten acres. It’s also where, on Wednesday evenings, he runs a fledgling record label of peculiar all-sorts.
Wednesday Works is an independent pop voice founded on a whim in a public house in Tulsk, County Roscommon, almost two years ago by Brennan and three best school-friends and funded, directly and indirectly, by the dairy industry. The label has so far released four cracking pop records and already Anthony Brennan’s head is spinning with all manner of schemes, dreams and songs. ‘I’m essentially addicted to records, particularly to vinyl, and to good songs. I’m a compulsive listener, whether that’s listening to Dave Fanning while I’m doing the milking or whether it’s on my Walkman when I’m out working the bog-seam’.
And while geographics and penury have never gotten in the way of great tunes and killer pop songs, Wednesday Works has more primary problems than most. ‘There are no record shops in Roscommon’, they claim. ‘Well, apart from some souvenir shops up near where Percy French was born where they sell country and western cassettes down the back. That’s one of the main reasons why we’ve opted to do mail-order singles’.
But then the whole notion of mail-order releases, one imagines, fits easily with indie-pop’s purest traditions. It was a mail-order cartel, after all, that largely bound many of Britain’s most formative independent record labels in the early eighties and Anthony Brennan is well versed in pop history. ‘The best albums always seem to have no more than ten or eleven tracks on them. Patti Smith and The Velvet Underground always got out before their records got boring. And most of the greatest pop songs always run to about three minutes, although ‘Curtain Call’ by The Damned is an honourable exception’, states Brennan.
Like Setanta’s Keith Cullen, Creation’s Alan McGee and One Little Indian’s Derek Birkett, Anthony Brennan’s past is steeped in punk and industrial pout. ‘I went to boarding school in Ballaghadereen, which is where I picked up on bands like The Damned, The Fall, The Cramps, Television, Magazine and Joy Division. Back then you just loved everything and you never questioned why. There were no scenes, there were no mods and no rockers and music was your life’.
All of which sounds dead dreamy and romantic of course but then passion and faith in words and music are at the core of Wednesday Works’ whole ethos. Lifting from Andy Warhol, they favour ‘music from the life factory’ and, to date, they’ve put out a tiny stream of pop-stuffed records as if to prove their point. ‘The most frustrating thing for us’, they admit, ‘is that we have to pay-off on one record before we get to release another. When we started out we had no idea about the actual process of getting records out. We knew nothing about pressing, distribution, artwork and cutting and, to be honest, we’re still learning as we go. But as long as we keep our sanity we’ll do alright. I’d rather have a huge discography than to make lots of money and as it is I have enough to put petrol in the car and to enjoy myself at weekends. That said, it would be great to get someone in to do the milking and things while we got on with getting records out’.
Immediate label plans do not include mass production and strike-force chart-sales but revolve instead around bands like Spacehead, whose ‘Swamp Gas Fiasco’ single is a heady throb of industrial techno punk bravado that, luck permitting, will catapult Wednesday Works even half-way skywards.
Wednesday Works Discography
Serious Women 38SCR [album] WED1 CD album
ATC Stick It In [single] WORK1 CD single
The Screech Owls Pray For Rain [single] DAY2 7” single