Andrew Featherstone - Battling The World
Author: Richard Thorne
As vitally important as our government-funded support programmes are, you can't sometimes help thinking that they risk breeding an expectation of ongoing state subsidy amongst musicians and record labels. The kind of ill that Don Brash recently identified with the DPB.
Fortunately, although some are handout expectant, plenty of others retain that independent ethic which, they say, defines us as a nation. A nation of self believers and doers.
Andrew Featherstone more than qualifies in the latter category and 2004 may well prove to have been a watershed year for him and his Intergalactic Empire - a storybook year for the little engine that could.
As reported in our last (Dec/Jan) issue, November 2004 saw the final of the first ever World Battle of the Bands take place in a club on Auckland's K Rd. It was the culmination of a total of 200 multi-band performance events, which had taken place over five months at 26 venues in a dozen cities and four different countries. Got that?
Almost 400 bands competed for the first World title which, almost embarrassingly for the organisers, was won by Chuganaut, who had travelled all the way from Hamilton!
The idea, and the event, was Andrew Featherstone's. His company Intergalactic Records bankrolled it in all four countries, with a little foreign sponsorship but without help from NZ sponsors, agencies or even his bank! He selected the venues, found collaborators, arranged the promotions, judged all the international finals and eventually played host to the finalists from Hamilton, Hong Kong, Las Vegas and Queensland. To do so he spent six months of 2004 overseas.
Area 51, Andrew's west Auckland studio, will record a single for the winners and Intergalactic Records will then release Chuganaut's single. After that the 2004 World Battle of the Bands will be done and dusted - and he will doubtless be seriously into pre-production of the 2005 competition.
It takes some chutzpah to name your company 'Intergalactic' anything, but it reflects well Andrew's indefatigable self belief and ambition. He wasn't even taking the piss. The name originated from trying to describe the space/rocket-themed music of his then band Hangar 18. They ended up with 'intergalactic rock' and it sat well with him.
"I've always been a space cadet!" he laughs.
Quintessentially a west Aucklander, Andrew was actually born in Yorkshire, England emigrating here with his family aged 12. A bass player (he's working on a solo album project), the 34 year-old's musical lineage goes from West Auckland hard rockers Adrenalin to Hangar 18 and then Kosher. Despite being largely dismissed here, Andrew's persistence for his bands was rewarded with some in-roads overseas, in Asia specifically. The three-piece Hangar 18 went to Hong Kong several times, even supporting Silverchair in Manila, a gig he describes as a career highlight. They came close to securing a deal with Sony out of the Phillipines' excitement, but they needed Sony NZ to sign Hangar 18 here first and...
The Featherstone Studios - now Area 51 - rehearsal/studio facility conceptually started 15 or so years ago when Andrew was living in a factory building and rehearsing there with Adrenalin. Other bands asked to use the space and typically he took his cue from there.
Three buildings later, 1151 New North Rd, New Lynn was a rehearsal space-only for four years until Andrew met engineer Mark Pavletich who became a partner in the new recording studio.
Intergalactic Records was established in 1998 and has produced 10 albums and one EP to date. Of the label's acts 8 Foot Sativa, cover stars of our last issue, have been far and away the most successful to date.
"Everything I've been involved in, in terms of releasing records, has been in the rock area until the last two or three years when I've had a good run with metal and started specialising in that. It was a bit of a hole in the market that no one was looking after. But it's not all I'm wanting to be involved with.
"The first dabble I had with it was when I released two albums, the last Friday 13th of the old millennium and the first Friday 13th of the new one, tied in with Powerstation gigs which were 13 bands for 13 hours on Friday 13th.
"I offered Roadrunner Australia that album and they advised me to find one really good metal band and focus on that. 8 Foot Sativa recorded a couple of songs in my studio and started to get a bit of airplay and DJ support which led me to sign the band. It seemed obvious to expand on that really."
He was soon knocking on Roadrunner's doors again, this time gaining an Australian licensing/distribution deal which he has since extrapolated to nearly 40 countries worldwide.
Intergalactic Live is in the business of presenting weekly multi-band shows, mostly in Auckland, for up and coming bands such as These Four Walls and naquadah. Owning a suitable PA allows Andrew to take the shows to venues that don't normally host such gigs, keeping the costs and hence door charges down to an average of just $7.
Intergalactic Tours stemmed from an association made with the former Angels drummer Brent Eccles, prior to his return to NZ. Together they formed the Goodwork Agency, booking and organising gigs and tours for the likes of Eye TV, Bic Runga, Garageland, Dave Dobbyn around the country for 18 months in 2001/2. Andrew was the man on the ground.