Talking Shop: Resolution Records – Bath
Based in a former railway station in Bath, Resolution Records is run by a vinyl addict whose life in the music industry has come full circle. Gary Walker goes crate digging…
After spending more than two decades working in just about every corner of the music industry, in 2008 Mark O’Shaughnessy swapped the record-making business for the record-selling trade, leaving behind the urban jungle of Brixton for the more urbane tourist magnet of Georgian Bath.
Having run High On Hope Records with legendary DJ Norman Jay (now MBE), and the house and funk label Resolution Records, working with The Chemical Brothers along the way, while also operating his own shop in the centre of Brixton, O’Shaughnessy decided it was time to pack up and move west.
When I was coming into my teenage years, punk kicked in, and that’s when I started getting interested in the medium of vinyl. I caught the bug and I’ve had it ever since
The father of three now keeps a veritable vinyl treasure trove, collated with the kind of love and encyclopedic knowledge possessed only by true connoisseurs.
His modest wooden cabin housed beneath the elegant vaulted glass roof of Bath’s Green Park Station shopping space is crammed with around 5,000 records, from genres as diverse as soul, funk, jazz, disco, hip-hop, reggae, rock and thrash. It’s an autobiographical collection that charts O’Shaughnessy’s career in music.
“I’ve had several jobs in the music industry. I’ve run record labels, I’ve worked as a compiler, I’ve done A&R work for other labels, I’ve put my own compilations out, I’ve signed stuff in the US and the UK and put it out myself,” he tells us from behind his Technics turntable. “I had a shop in the centre of Brixton called Resolution Records, too. Because it’s so mental in Brixton, that shop was appointment-only.
You had to give me a call to come up. It was bandit country round there back then. Shops were closing everywhere and it was very rough.”
Among the customers at O’Shaughnessy’s Brixton store were The Chemical Brothers, with Tom Rowlands picking Mark’s musical brains to source samples for their first three albums.
“He used to come up to my place and we’d to sit for hours and listen through lots of stuff together and play through breaks and electronica and ‘scrunge’, as he used to call it. He’d pick out the things he wanted to use, take them away and sample them.
At one point, there was so much stuff coming through from me that I deserved a bit of a credit, so my name was mentioned on the notes for a few of their records. They used to buy a lot of stuff from me, it was good kudos.”
The birth of Resolution Records was entwined with O’Shaughnessy’s music-industry career, as regular talent-spotting forays to the United States for his labels doubled as mass vinyl-buying trips.
“I’d go to the States quite a lot for my job, touring round, going to New York, Philadelphia, Florida, California… house stuff in Chicago, Detroit… to sign stuff for Resolution Records,” he says. “I’ve been to many, many of the States. Off the back of that, to help pay for the trips, we used to forage for records.
It used to work so well that we ended up bringing back containers full of stuff at that point. It was pre-internet and there were records everywhere in the States, you could find them very cheap, bring them back, sell them, and that would finance the next release.”
O’Shaughnessy’s passion for vinyl began early in life. He bought his first seven-inch – Wig-Wam Bam by The Sweet – in 1973 at the age of nine. And he’s delighted to see that the format’s recent resurgence has brought with it a new wave of young vinyl buyers.
“I caught the bug when I was very young – 10 or 11,” he says. “I started buying records as a young lad, and when I was coming into my teenage years – ’77/’78 – punk kicked in, and that’s when I really started getting interested in the actual medium of vinyl; the variations of the coloured vinyl, the double packs, the different issues. As I say, I really caught the bug and I’ve had it ever since.
“We get kids in here as young as seven or eight buying records now, and that didn’t exist a few years ago. They’re back and people are loving it again, which is fantastic. I would have said at one time, it’s middle-aged men and hipsters and beardies, but not anymore.
“Today, we’ve had seven or eight girls in buying records, a couple of kids in their school uniforms, a couple of Japanese students. We get a lot of men still, but we get a lot of women, too. I’ve given up on saying what our typical customer is – there’s no such thing anymore.
“People are manufacturing records again. That stopped completely for a good 10, 12 years. Nobody even pressed up 100 records, now people are making them again. That’s the sea change. When my labels were running, at one point, I was shifting several thousand copies of records. That trickled down to a few hundred, and that’s when I called it off, because it was becoming just a hobby.
“That was across the board with a lot of independent producers and labels – they just weren’t making any dough. In the last four to six years, we’ve seen people manufacturing vinyl again and kids buying it, which is how it has to be in order for it to fulfil itself. You can’t just flog old stuff, you need new things coming through beyond the old stuff to prop the market up.
“The footfall here is absolutely amazing, it’s one of the principal walkthroughs in Bath. We get lots of visitors from all over the country and the rest of the world coming through, which is the perfect audience for what I do.
I’ve got a great variety of music – lots of world music, lots of jazz… which is very popular with tourists – particularly Americans and Japanese.”
“We carry about 5,000 records in here, and we try really hard to keep the standards high. Everything’s nice and clean, no rubbish. I cross all the genres – soul, funk, jazz, disco, breaks, hip-hop, reggae, rock, thrash, all the stuff that people look for – not loads, just choice pieces.”
In With the New
Sourcing new stock is a near full-time job for O’Shaughnessy, as he travels all over the UK to snap up collections, and occasionally a hidden gem will emerge from amid the dusty sleeves.
“I’ve got a good network around the country,” he says. “I was in London yesterday buying 600 albums, I was in Dartford in Kent on Saturday and I bought 500 jazz LPs. It’s a connective thing, people who’ve got collections and are looking for a good outlet for them.
I’ve been doing it for a long time now, and have got a good reputation that I’ll pay a good price and won’t mess about – it’s a trust thing.
“Sometimes, you buy a collection and you get home and find a gem in there. Recently, I bought the first Pink Floyd LP, which doesn’t sound that interesting, but it was originally issued on a stereo mix, and it got deleted quickly because they wanted to put out a mono mix. It’s geeky stuff, but it’s a very valuable record.
That record retails at £750. It came in a couple of weeks ago in a collection and I didn’t really have any idea of the value of that item. I once sold a record online for £2,500 and I sold a copy of Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left here for £700.”
Having gone full circle in the music business, from being a teenager digging through crates for records, to selling them to young vinyl enthusiasts, via running two labels, O’Shaughnessy is well placed to predict a healthy future for the industry.
“People have realised now they want something to own,” he asserts, “they don’t use want a piece of ephemera or a little space on the internet, they want something to hold, look at and read.
It’s an enjoyable physical act, and it’s something people are getting into again – thinking about what to buy, where to put it in their homes, buying turntables as furniture pieces and playing records on a regular basis.
“We get a lot of kids wanting to produce, too, buying breaks and stuff to sample, which I know backwards because I did it as a job for years. We’ll stand and play stuff on my Technics and they’ll take records away and sample them, which is great. It’s what I want to be doing.”