People from the era tell their stories.

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» Dave Massey

» Dave Cohen

» Ken Lintern

» Martin Elbourne

» Pete Webb

» John Stapleton - Def Con

» DJ Derek

» Mick Freeman

» Richard Burley

» Seng-gye Tombs Curtis

» Mike Darby

» Chris Martin

» Sapphire

» Simbarashe Tongogara

» Dan Ratchet

» Bunny Marrett

» Buggs Durrant

» Soultrain

» Rob Smith and Smith & Mighty

» Steve Risley

» Chris Scott

» The Hot Bear Club - 1977

» Daddy G

» GBH Studios / Andrew Peters

» Simon Edwards

» Cavan (Kev) Saunders

» Tony Dodd

» Andy Batten-Foster

» Dick O'Dell

» Chris Damico

» Steamers Mod Club 1980

» Popsy Curious

» Joshua Moses

» Chris Brown

» Dave Fisher & Thabiti

» Shoc Wave with Gene Walsh

» Andy Allen

» Tony Orrell

» Tim Williams

» Tim Williams (Story No. 2)

» Andy Leighton

» Martin Elliot - Bristol Beat

» Jerry Underwood

» Jimmy Galvin

» John Shennan

» Punk in Weston - 1977-79

» Shane Dabinett

» Beezer

» Reuben Archer

» Dennis McCalla aka Dallas

» Jamie Hill

» Tony Wrafter

» Mike Crawford

» Roy Hackett


Shane Dabinett


Shane Dabinett


When and why did you get into punk rock? Did you actually grow up in
Bristol, and how did you find the scene there?

I got into punk when I was thirteen; I grew up near Yeovil in Somerset, and used to hang outside the local indie record shop at weekends with The Mob. It was all 1977 stuff then: Sex Pistols, Damned, The Clash, The Stranglers, The Buzzcocks, The Skids, Generation X, Sham 69, The Police and so on. I used to go to Taunton with a punk girl called Christine, who moved to London in ‘79 and formed a band in the early Eighties called Bikini Mutants with another Yeovil punk girl called Debbie (in 1990, I found Debbie backstage at Reading Festival; she was playing in My Bloody Valentine!) We used to see bands like Sham 69, Buzzcocks, Richard Hell and John Cooper Clark in Taunton and Exeter; I saw the Stranglers several times at various venues in the West Country, including Bristol with The Dictators. We used to go to a lot of The Mob gigs in the early days (including once when they supported The Fall) and then, about 1979, Mark of The Mob heard about Crass and they all moved to London. I moved to Bristol in 1982 and met up with Amebix, Disorder, Chaos UK and Lunatic Fringe etc. and set up a gig in Bristol with those bands and The Mob for the Squatters Action Group.


Were you in any bands of your own?

No… sorry.


When and why did you decide to start your own label? Who else was involved
in the very early days of Manic Ears?

I was doing a fanzine from 1983 to 1985 called Manic, inspired by the Children Of The Revolution fanzine that Tim Bennett, who was also involved in the Bristol scene, was doing. We shared an office in the back room of Full Marx bookshop when Tim started his label C.O.R. with some inheritance money; he kicked off his label with Chaos UK’s ‘Short Sharp Shock’.

I started doing a tape label then too, so me and Tim were working out of this back room in Full Marx; he was running COR and I was doing Manic Fanzine and the Lethal Dose tape label. I was very inspired by what Tim was up to, and he started to make good headway when he put out the Stupids EP, followed by two Stupids LPs.

Then Full Marx changed premises, and Tim found some really old office space at the top of this run-down building. It was at that time that I met a guy from the other end of Bristol called Mark, who did a fanzine called Ears Of A Dead Man; it was not so popular as Manic or COR, but Tim had stopped his fanzine due to his record label commitments… he was doing eighteen hours a day on the label at that point. So I got together with Mark and started a mail order distribution by fanzine networking, and Mark came up with the idea of calling it ‘Manic Ears Distribution’, using the ‘Manic’ and ‘Ears’ part of our fanzine names. However, Mark did not put a lot of effort into the distribution, and I was working up in this shitty old office space with Tim, running Manic Ears mainly by myself. In the end, Mark just said he wanted out of it and left me to do it all. Tim lost that office space and we moved our separate operations into our bedrooms in our homes; I had a little room off my bedroom that used to be an old kitchen at some point, and I converted it into an office to run Manic Ears distribution and the tape label, and later Manic Ears Records. Tim was in another house running his label out of his bedroom.

It was at this house that Bear [Lunatic Fringe] and his brother Beano moved in, with Chaos from Chaos UK. They started up a fanzine called Skate Muties From The Fifth Dimension, and Chaos UK approached me to put out their new LP; they wanted to do a split LP with a band they liked from Ipswich, Extreme Noise Terror. I didn’t have the money at the time, but went to Revolver Distribution and asked about starting a label; I got a bit of a brushing-off at first, until I said I had a band to kick the label off with - Chaos UK - to which they responded, ‘Oh, oh, okay, come in and we will discuss a manufacturing and distribution deal!’


Manic ears records


To what extent did your participation in the thriving tape trading underground shape your approach to running a label?

What are your fondest memories of that time? Tell us a bit about your relationships with all the Bristol bands, Chaos UK in particular...

That was the point in time I decided to try to get the money together to run a label; it took a year of planning, and at the time Extreme Noise Terror had come over to Bristol with their master tapes, as they had already recorded their side of the LP - for £82! I was thinking up ways of raising the money; I went to a business planning group who had a link to getting grants from the Prince of Wales Trust fund, which then changed to the Youth Enterprise Scheme. After a year of planning, pulling a business plan together, I managed to get a grant of £2000 plus a bank overdraft facility of £500. There was also this scheme for the unemployed in place, where the government paid you £40 per week to live on, plus housing benefits, for the first year of running your business; all you had to have was £1000 in your account and a business proposal. So, after a year of having Extreme Noise Terror’s masters for the LP, by 1986, I had got all the funding in place and was set and ready to get going setting up a record label. I got Chaos UK into SAM studio in Bristol to record their songs for the split, and had been discussing with Hammy an LP by his band, Civilized Society? This was also recorded and studio paid for. I was living off the £40 per week provided by the Enterprise Allowance Scheme for the first year, and using the grant money to fund – or pay back - recording costs for Chaos UK, ENT and Civilized Society?

So I had two LPs to kick off the label with; I went back to Revolver and was ready to go, signed their M & D deal and Manic Ears Records was born. I stopped the tape label and concentrated on the records, and on 6th September, 1986, the Chaos UK/Extreme Noise Terror ‘Earslaughter’ split LP was released.

Needless to say, living in that house with all those punks, and all those things going on around me, was pure fun and absolutely chaotic. Most of the Bristol bands were close by; there was Chaos in my house, my label was based there, Skate Muties was based there, and Chaos UK used the living room to practice in! So, it was very chaotic; also, Spider from a psychedelic band, The Seers, who were our friends, lived in the room across from me, so there was so much activity going on in that house. The Seers had signed a deal with Virgin Records, so things were taking off for them after they put out an indie single about the Hungerford Massacre called ‘Lightening Strikes’, which received a lot of press attention and got them a major label deal.

I was also promoting gigs at the Tropic Club in Bristol. It was a busy time with bands from all over the world staying over at the house. Also, people just showed up out of nowhere and stayed. So much partying went on, so many bands called in, so many people stayed over. However, Manic Ears was not getting any press attention, a situation I later managed to rectify. John Peel played ‘Earslaughter’ in 1986 and he said that Extreme Noise Terror should see their manager! A year later, when Napalm Death hit the shelves, suddenly Extreme Noise Terror became his favorite band! He overlooked them at first, and many have said that ‘Earslaughter’ was out way before its time, but don’t forget ENT recorded their stuff a year before it was actually released!


Shane Dabinett


‘Earslaughter’ was obviously a very major turning point... were you aware just how important an album it would become as it was being recorded? Could you
believe what was happening as the buzz around ENT went through
the roof?

I think my fondest memories were making so many friends in the hardcore scene, especially Pushead who was very popular at the time writing for Thrasher mag, doing Septic Death and his label. Also, the phone calls that I would suddenly get on a Sunday morning from John Peel about the latest test pressing I sent him, especially Dr And The Crippens; he went barmy over them. I met him several times at gigs around the country too, especially Extreme Noise Terror shows, and doing the BBC sessions in Maida Vale studios with the bands was extremely fun. Other fun memories were the wind-ups Rich Militia came up with - Sore Throat against Napalm Death - which I leaked to the press, as by that time I got to know some journalists personally. And finally the Gaye Bykers On Acid ‘Rektum’ scam; that was so funny, the press all fell for it, hook, line and sinker… like I really took in some band from East Germany, who escaped through Hungary to Bristol, and was helping them put out a record! Even John Peel called me up offering a session, but I had to tell him the truth: it was a GBOA scam, not true John… bless him, may he rest in peace.


What are your favourite - and least favourite - of your earliest releases
now, with the benefit of hindsight?

My favourite band was Dr And The Crippens; I had to mould them into a hardcore band, but they had their special British humour which really helped. I pushed that band as far as I could, ‘cos I thought they were the new Stupids in a sense; they did well, but after Manic Ears closed up, they couldn’t get a decent record deal, so really they were a Manic Ears band through and through, and that is where they belonged.


People at Bristol suspension bridge


Likewise, which were the best- and worst-selling releases for Manic Ears?

The best selling was the Chaos UK/ENT, albeit three years after its release; Ripcord later on as well, and Concrete Sox, and Sore Throat. Civilised Society? did not sell that well, although they very good. Dr and The Crippens sold about 3000 of each release, still not a great deal. The best selling LP/CD was the compilation I did, ‘The North Atlantic Noise Attack’, which was out the same time as the Peel sessions ‘Hardcore Holocaust’ collection; it did over 5000 copies.


What was the deal that went down between you and C.O.R.?

Now, I must set this straight; people think I took over C.O.R. Records, and that is not the case. All I did was take over his mail order and take two releases – the Bad Beach LP and the ‘Digging In Water’ compilation and put them out on Manic Ears. I did not take over C.O.R. at all; it was still Tim Bennett’s label, and he still did the deals with the distributor etc. over his label, even though he stopped putting stuff out. All I did was take over his massive stock of mail order records and put out the two LPs he had lined up for his label before he decided to call it quits.


When did you realise that you might be able to make a living from the label
or was that always a possibility in the back of your mind?

It was when I started working with Gaye Bykers On Acid that I saw that what I was doing - the whole label deals - were wrong; I should not have done 50/50 profit deals after recouping costs with the bands, I should have done a 10 - 12% deal on retail price of records sold. However, that was how we punks operated, but it did not work out; I was losing money, although some people thought the opposite due to all the press coverage, and I was in deep trouble with the VAT man etc. The press coverage was just me getting to London and meeting journalists and getting to know them, and leaking stories to them; I thought it would help sales, and it did in some cases but not all the time.


How do you regard the musical legacy you helped create?

Whoah, what a statement! I hope I made a mark on the hardcore scene as did C.O.R. and Riot City before me. I think ENT got the recognition they deserved although it was belated; it should have happened when the split LP was put out in ’86, not three years later! I do regret selling the label; I was forced to by Revolver really; I owed them money too, and they wanted it back. I was 26 years old by then, and naïve to business strategies, and looking back I could have worked a strategy out and resolved the issue but I stupidly listened to Revolver and sold it, but we live and learn… Manic Ears was sold to Trojan, who later sold it to Sanctuary, who even later sold it to Universal. Now the Manic Ears master tapes etc. are sitting in a box in a warehouse somewhere, and no one knows about it; I have tried to contact them to get stuff reissued to no avail, as they don’t know what they have. Most of my records have been re-released by the bands all over the world anyway; I don’t mind at all, I was surprised to see them out in Germany and Italy and such places on new labels. I wrote them and asked for a copy for myself and wished them luck!

I even helped Epistrophe Records in Germany put out Saw Throat’s ‘Indestroy’ LP on CD with Rich Militia again… I really don’t care; it just means the stuff is still appreciated. I don’t own Manic Ears anymore; I wish I could get hold of the company who now own it and do some label management and reissues with some sleeve notes, but finding someone in the company who cares is impossible as they don’t know what they have!


Earslaughter Back cover


What have you been doing since the label folded, both musically and otherwise?

I went back to university and got two degrees in Information Technology, but the past ten years I have been very ill; I always had Crohn’s Disease, and that has set me back now, and I suffer tremendously with that disease. So, I have to look after myself health-wise these days; I am on disability benefits and have been in and of hospital having major surgery three times in the past ten years. I can’t really get back into the work place as my health won’t let me unfortunately. That’s it really, nothing too exciting at all… except for a failed relationship that has left me with wonderful son who is currently ten years old and thinks the world of me! Right there, that’s my real legacy, my son, Zane Dabinett!


Copyright Cherry Red Books and Ian Glasper

The unedited version supplied by Shane Dabinett