Alternative Sounds – Martin Bowes – the man behind the 70s punk fanzine and a new series of compilation records

The Alternative Sounds team are releasing a series of albums showcasing the best of Coventry area music, past, present & future. We caught up with Martin Bowes to find out a bit more.

You know how it is. You see a post on Facebook or Twitter.

You dig a bit deeper and you find something a bit shit. Or you find something amazing.

Well, on this occasion, it was from a post from Coventry punks dragSTER that we hit on Alternative Sounds. The Coventry record label that started as a fanzine back in the late 70s and has recently released a quartet of really, really cool compilations that show off all the Midlands has to offer.

Oh, and the fanzine has been resurrected too. Grab a look at it below and then have a wander over to the label’s Bandcamp page where you’ll find a wealth of ace music.

Seriously, these guys know what they’re doing.

Over the next few days we’ll be featuring interviews with some of the bands the latest Alternative Sounds release, but first we felt we needed to introduce the label by having a chat with Martin Bowes, the man who kicked it all off.

P3dro: Where are you and what are you doing?

Martin: I’m in my living room. I’ve just come out of the studio. The Cage Studio. That’s my day job.

P3dro: Just give us a bit of a potted history of Alternative Sounds. What was the impetus behind it?

Martin: Well the impetus was punk rock. I started [the fanzine] in 1979 and I did it for two years. There were 18 issues and an album as well, called Sent from Coventry in 1980 that I’d put together.

So, it did quite well. It was about the same time as Two Tone started, but [the fanzine] was more punk and local.

P3dro: Were you doing all the writing, or were there other people on board?

Martin: I did a lot of it. But there were other people involved. One of them – Pete Chambers went on on to form the Coventry Music Museum. He’s done all sorts of writing and books, but, yeah, he started writing on the fanzine.

Then in 1981, I started my band – Attrition – not so punk and more industrial. I then stopped the fanzine.

But about three years ago the museum needed some money and a bit of support and I’d always fancied doing another issue of the fanzine, so I thought we could do one to support the museum. And then I thought we could have a CD with it full of local bands.

It wasn’t going to be just punk, but anything from [any] era. That was the first one about three years ago and since then we’ve just put out Alternative Sounds Volume 4.

P3dro: How many CDs do you press of the Alternative Sounds releases?

Martin: Not that many. For the last two we just did 150, plus a few for promos. But people can download it as well on BandCamp.

P3dro: Do you have a kind of selection criteria for the bands on the Alternative Sounds releases?

Martin: In theory, it’s open to anything, but it’s what we like, although there are quite a few punk bands on. We’re in Coventry, so we thought we’d better get a ska band on, so we have RudeSix on the previous release.

P3dro: Some of the tracks have been around for a while, haven’t they – going back 20 years or more.

Martin: Yeah, there’s no time limit on it. I actually like the idea of finding something older to go on it. I was pleased to get The Damage Manual on this one. They were a bit of an industrial super group.

P3dro: Are there any plans for another release?

Martin: Yeah, we’ll do another one next year. There are always new bands, so there’s plenty [of material].

Also Coventry will be City of Culture next year, not the best timing, but it would be good to have another one out in that period.

P3dro: Tell us a bit about your band, Attrition.

Martin: Ah. How long ave you got? Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of our first gig. Our last show was in Tokyo, last December. We’ve done about 30 albums and been everywhere. It’s industrial, dark, gothic, whatever. Although, I don’t really like that ‘gothic’ word!

P3dro: Yeah, you’ve been quite prolific.

Martin: Yeah, on the BandCamp page I went through a lot of old tapes. It’s a good outlet for remixes and live [recordings] that haven’t been put on CD. I’ve also done a couple of soundtracks for horror films; for many years, it’s been me doing that and I’m still doing it. I’m just finishing a new album.

P3dro: When will that be out?

Martin: There will be a single first. During lockdown I couldn’t do any gigs, but I’ve learned how to make my own videos, now. Well, learning! So, I’m hoping for the spring next year.

So, I’m busier than ever. I also do a lot of mastering and mixing for bands in the studio. Been remotely [recently], but that works quite well.

But then I’ve been doing that since [the eighties] anyway, sending 4 track tapes to American bands to do stuff, so I’ve always had that background. It kind of suits me.

P3dro: Recommend a band or an album you think we should be listening to right now.

Martin: Oh, I get album after album in the studio all the time. Some that I really love. I’ve just mastered a best of Coil. It’s a double called ‘A Guide For Beginners / A Guide For Finishers’. That’s just been released, so I’ll go with that.

Have a read of the latest Fanzine below.

Featured image – Martin Bowes as Attrition

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