Note: In Love With These Times was released in 2016, but I only read it recently.
Flying Nun is a beloved New Zealand record label, known for a string of alternative albums in the 1980s and 1990s. Legendary DJ John Peel once described Flying Nun as “the best label in the world”, and In Love With These Times is a memoir from the label’s founder Roger Shepherd about the label’s journey.
It’s fascinating how ramshackle the entire operation was. It was setup with an initial outlay of $350 – $300 for a flight to Auckland. Flying Nun was run on the smell of an oily rag – the label ran on the edge of bankruptcy for its existence. Everyone pitched in – Straitjacket Fits’ Shayne Carter’s typing skills were utilised in the pre-word processor era.
While Flying Nun seemingly existed in a state of permanent chaos, it seems clear that a lot of music the label released in the 1980s wouldn’t have been released otherwise. Some bands like The Chills and Straitjacket Fits probably would have made it to a major label eventually, but rawer acts like The Clean and Chris Knox’s Tall Dwarfs might never have been captured for posterity.
In fact there was too much [music] to do it all justice, though we did our best. There seemed to be so much good music being made and I felt we had to release it. The chances were if we didn’t, it wouldn’t see the light of day. No other label had emerged to work the same or similar territory, and this was still well before the time when artists would consider taking on the complexities of releasing their own material.Roger Shepherd
Flying Nun went off-track for a while when it was bought out by Warners. But Shepherd, with the help of Neil Finn, bought it back in 2009 and it’s still running, releasing albums by current artists like Aldous Harding and Tiny Ruins.