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777 Facts about the Number 7

A Brief History of Pumf Records

Those observant folk amongst you will have noticed that there are gaps in the Pumf catalogue numbers sequence. Explanations follow:

"" by A-void (PUMF 7, 1984), There is a Fountain Filled with Blood by Of Sound Mind (PUMF 14, 1984), Rotting Fish and Happy Hedgehogs by The Howl in the Typewriter (PUMF 28, 1985), More Of What You Like Doing Most by Sign Language (PUMF 35, 1985), The Frontal Lobal Shock Therapy by The People's Temple (PUMF 42, 1985), and Toucan Misadventure by Henry's Farm with Henry (PUMF 63, 1987) - all these albums are no longer available.
The best bits from the six releases were compiled into a 90-minute collection titled In the Beginning there was Shite (PUMF 280, 1997).

PUMF 21 was a 1984 compilation cassette, All Things Weird and Wonderful, which sold out quite quickly.

PUMF 77 was a 1986 VHS video titled It Ain't No Sin To Take Off Your Skin And Dance Around In Your Bones by Howl in the Typewriter. It was superceded by the inexorable march of modern technology in 2011.

PUMF 84 was a 1986 cassette album titled Deviations of the Impulse by Cyclic AMP. In 2011 it was retired and put out to stud.

PUMF 119 was a 1987 7" flexidisc titled Bedrooms and Knobsticks with one track each by Howl in the Typewriter (Close) and the Ceramick Hobs (The Stoat Rides Out). It sold out in 2010.

PUMF 126 was a 1988 compilation cassette, Pumf the Magick Dragon (More Things Weird and Wonderful), which sold out quite quickly. 

PUMF 133 was a 1988 cassette album by the ceramic hobs titled Disturbing 'Boxing-Ring' Fantasies. It was deleted.

PUMF 147 was a 1989 cassette album titled Oollamixy by the Japanese artiste Yximalloo. It was reissued as part of the Brown Paper Bag series after selling out in May 2003, and acquired a new catalogue number, PUMF 448.

PUMF 168 was a 1992 cassette album titled Mouldy Roll by SWANC. In 2015 it sold one more copy as part of a large order going to Italy, and went out in a blaze of glory.

PUMF 182 was a 1993 cassette album titled Designer Brain Damage by Magic Moments at Twilight Time. Twilight turned to darkness for this release in 2015.

PUMF 231 was a 1995 cassette album titled Fainting Memories of Lancashire Hotpot - it was a sampler featuring Crayola Summer, Treewirehead, Shrinkwrapped Genious and The Colgates, all from the Inner Psyche label. In 2015 it was discovered to be suffering from a combination of dry rot and rising damp, and had to be humanely destroyed.

PUMF 266 was a 1996 cassette album titled Bring on the Coincidancing Horses by Orange Sunshine. It was deleted.

PUMF 273 was a 1997 cassette album titled Invite you to Chew on your Yeasty Bits by Treewirehead, which suffered immensely from silliness. In 2015 that silliness had progressed to full-blown psychosis, and unfortunately it had to be admitted to a psychiatric institution on a permanent basis.

PUMF 308 was a 1997 7" vinyl 4-track EP by Ceramic Hobs titled 72 Hour Drink Binge - Alcopop Madness. It sold out, but the four tracks thereon were re-issued on PUMF 511.

PUMF 322 was Ceramic Hobs 1998 debut CD album, Psychiatric Underground. It sold out in 2oo9, but was re-issued as PUMF 609.

PUMF 336 was a 1999 cassette album titled Sonic Wallpaper by Acidfuck. In 2015 it sold one more copy as part of a large order going to Italy and went out in a blaze of glory.

PUMF 343 was scheduled for an October 1999 release, and was going to be a CD single titled Savant Guard by Flake. It was going to contain the tracks 'And So . . .', 'Exactly Fazakerley', 'Harold's Birthday', and 'Winter Hill (part 2)'. Here at Pumf we'd obtained MCPS clearance and had the pressing plant on standby . . . if only the lazy bastards in the band could have been bothered to get their shit together, this would have been a fine release.

PUMF 385 was a 2002 cassette album titled Four Hundred Rabbits by War Drum. In 2015 it sold one more copy as part of a large order going to Italy and went out in a blaze of glory.

PUMF 539 was a special limited edition artefact, the 77th Pumf Records release. To find out the whole thrilling story, click here.

 - Introduction to a review feature by War Arrow, Sound Projector #8, 2000
Older readers may remember I reviewed a CD by The Ceramic Hobs last issue, and took the opportunity to vent my spleen on the subject of Pumf flyers. Pumf being the label run by Hobs chap Stan Batcow. At one point In my life a thousand tiny photocopies advertising Pumf clobber would fall from every envelope or parcel I opened. Anyway, shortly after that issue of Sound Projector hit the streets, or at least those with weirdy record shops, a parcel turned up from Stan containing a letter which opened with the entirely accurate prediction "bet you fuckin' SHIT your pants when you saw the return address on the back of the envelope". No truer words. After a bath and change of underwear, I waded through quite a lot of Pumf flyers, and read the rest of the missive. Despite a few pretty disparaging remarks on my part, Stan, much to my relief, recognised the fact that I'd actually enjoyed the CD, which is nice: some people seem to expect nothing less than Kamikaze pilot levels of unquestioning devotion for their mighty works. Within the ocean of flyers now over a foot deep throughout the flat, I came across a Pumf catalogue offering cassettes that were not only dirt cheap, but sounded kind of intriguing.
Pumf has been going for quite some time and so it seems, has stuck to its commendable DIY ethic of doing one's utmost to not rip people off. The cassettes are cheap, recorded on good quality tape, with readable informative covers. The actual music depends entirely on your taste, but of the 38 listed Pumfworks comprising cassettes, a few records, one CD and a VHS video, there seems to be a pretty eclectic range of stuff, and while the recording quality isn't always of the kind that might satisfy Pink Floyd, it's clear that every effort is made to produce something which is as good as it can be . . . and frankly, of the following, I've heard a hell of a lot worse. I should mention that Pumf also produce numerous oddly shaped zines (one of them is round!) collecting Stan's thoughts on just about anything from the internet (of which he's deeply suspicious) to dentists (he approves) or even Toilet Humour For Dogs, as one particularly weird piece of shit is entitled. Like with the tapes, it may not be up everyone's street, but there's usually something that'll get you going hidden away in there, and you can't help but admire the spirit in which it's done, remaining underground without being wilfully obscure or succumbing to that vile self-important cliqueiness which seems to have killed off independent comics. I'm sort of regretting that I didn't investigate this geezer first time round, but never mind. Don't be a twat like me, check it out y'all. No-one ever died or lost their job through sending off for Pumf stuff.

 - Article by Robin Duke, Evening Gazette, Oct 2002
Classic record labels come and go - look at Stiff and Immediate - but Pumf goes on forever. Alright, it's not as big as EMI and not as old as RCA but Pumf has come of age and is 18 years old. Its owner is a few years older than that and operates the label from his base . . . That would be Stan - as he's known when releasing products by the likes of Howl In The Typewriter or The Def-A-Kators or Michael Aspel's Flying Saucers. Or Stan Batcow - as he's known when publishing the likes of Blip! My Life In A Child's Imagination through his Stanzine Publications outlet. Or Mark Standing - if you discover his birth certificate or pass him the gravy over a family Sunday lunch.
But against all odds, Stan and Pumf have released 55 items - first cassettes, followed by a video, a 7" flexidisc, a 7" single and umpteen CD's. Earlier this year, the three-part Brown Paper Bag Series of CD-R's was released with the promise of further releases every couple of months at £4 each. Pumf Records and Stanzine Publications went online before last Christmas and features catalogue listings and reviews of its products plus other information about its bands, plans and ideas. There is also, for some reason, a page of 77 facts about the number seven! Almost unbelievably, [Pumf Records] material has become collectable - the Psychiatric Underground CD is virtually sold out and the single, 72 Hour Drink Binge - Alcopop Madness was a single of the month in Record Collector.
"I've just kept chipping away over the years," says Stan, "If you throw enough stuff at the wall some it might stick. I've never made a living out if it - if I break even I'm lucky. It's a very expensive hobby." And when he not Pumfing irony, Stan is an arts & craft community worker and one of the backbones of the Blackpool School of Samba. Food parcels and business plans to Pumf Records HQ.

 - Interview with pStan Batcow by Phil Smith, Landlord blog, May 2008
pSTAN BATCOW BLACKPOOL ’SCENE’ INTERVIEW
I’ve mentioned pStan on here many a time, I’m sure. He is in the Ceramic Hobs. He has been in other bands from Blackpool before & is in other bands as well now. He runs Pumf Records and makes stuff. He also does umpteen other things.
Phil: Where were you born and what schools did you attend?
pStan: I was born in Manchester, and moved to Blackpool when I was the tender age of three. Infant and Junior school education was at Roseacre, secondary was at Highfield High, then I did ‘A’ levels at Collegiate Sixth Form College. All these schools are in Blackpool. The whole educational experience was horrific for me; I am not an academic person and have always had difficulty fitting in to an authoritarian framework. I did miserably in my exams, although I did get my maths 'O’ level in the fourth year, and got English as well. Who needs more? I then spent two years at sixth form to end up with three 'F’ grades in my 'A’ levels. (Qualifications are vastly over-rated anyway).
P: What is your first memory of Blackpool?
pS: Old ladies in my parents’ newsagents shop giving me money because I was cute. I had extremely bright red curly hair - Little Lord Fauntleroy eat your heart out! I had a little pedal car that I used to ride on the pavement in front of the shops, and one of the old women used to give me sixpence 'for the parking meter’. When I saw her coming I used to shuttle the car backwards and forwards next to the wall, 'parking’ it, just so she’d remember.
P: Were there any places in Blackpool that held a particular resonance for you as a child?
pS: I remember spending time on the beach and the sand dunes (my parents’ shop was close to the beach) - also the network of roads behind the shop, and a small patch of waste ground under the bridge next to the railway. When I was (nearly) 8, we moved into a house a couple of miles inland behind which there was a great field that I spent days and days in, climbing trees and setting fires. There were also loads of winding 'country’ roads in the area to wander along and explore on bicycles.
P: Are there any memories of the famous Golden Mile or other Blackpool seediness that stick in your mind from childhood?
pS: Not really . . . I don’t recall going there with my parents, and I only drifted through those areas sporadically when I began to go places on my own (or with friends) as I grew up. There wasn’t much attraction for me in all that hurly-burly (though I did spend lots of time on the Pleasure Beach, wandering around soaking up the atmosphere - rarely went on the rides though, I never had much money to fritter).
P: Blackpool sees some rum sights on its streets. Whether it be part of a George Formby convention or a local eccentric, what is the strangest sight you’ve ever seen out and about here?
pS: I think you probably get quite immune to strange sights living here. The first thing that sprang to mind upon reading this question (not to say this is the strangest thing, but it came to me unbidden) happened a couple of years ago. Whilst driving slowly along the promenade, stuck in a traffic jam, with hordes of people thronging the pavement, I observed a totally naked man edge slowly backwards out of the crowd into the road, then walk forwards into the crowd again. This is probably the norm for Blackpool these days.
P: Can you run down your musical interests from 0 to 18? I guess I always think of you as a punk & presume other people do, but you still seem to hark back to the Beatles a lot, so I guess they must figure big. Anyone else? How did you get into punk? Did you have favourite record shops / punky places to hang out?! Who is the earliest punk pal you hooked up with & that you still have contact with?
pS: I have two brothers, 7 and 8 years older than me. As I was growing up I was exposed to their musical tastes, so listened to the Beatles and 60’s pop through to 70’s rock - Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Status Quo, Jethro Tull, Genesis, Yes etc. As I grew up I was listening to chart music of the time, so Slade, Sweet, Gary Glitter, Suzi Quattro, T. Rex, Mud, Alvin Stardust and the like all featured big. My musical tastes now go from the Beatles through to the present day (though less and less of the present day . . . I’m becoming much more intolerant of dross). I think everybody at some point needs to find music that’s 'theirs’, rather than just liking what’s been played to them by other (older?) people, and punk for me filled that requirement. I can’t really remember how I got into it, but it certainly made me step into different social circles, for better or worse. I met a lot of new people, some of whom with hindsight were total idiots, untrustworthy and unreliable, and a few who were likeminded, positive and inspirational. There were a few places to hang out, names of which escape me - a couple of records shops and cafes were always likely to have friends mooching round there. As for the oldest punky friend, I guess that would be Boz, who was the singer in the first proper band I was in (A-void). I met her in 1982 or 1983, and these days we’re both doing similar arty-based work projects in which our paths occasionally cross.
P: As the Sophie Lancaster thing proves, people still get loads of stick for looking / acting differently, but did the Punks in Blackpool actually have to be fighters? Any fisticuffs with metallers / soul boys etc?
pS: I remember being in violent situations many times, but I rarely got beaten up as I have always been good at talking my way out of trouble. I think I have always been able to see that the different factions (mods, skins, rockers etc.) are all desperately trying to live up to the image, which is portrayed in the media as one of constant conflict with those outside their kind - they’re fighting because they think they ought to, without really wanting to (apart from the occasional psycho, examples of which I’ve usually managed to avoid). It often doesn’t take much to make them leave you alone. Having said that, there were quite a few occasions where I was unceremoniously dumped on my arse.
P: Can you remember the first Blackpool venue you set foot in for music that you felt comfortable in / good about? What was it like? I’m sure they weren’t all your favourites, but do you remember / have any good stories about the clubs of the time? - The Adam & Eve, Jenk’s at Rumours, The Tache, the Galleon, The Bizness, the Lemon Tree, Trader Jacks, Norbreck Castle, Mardi Gras etc.
pS: I went to the Norbreck Castle to see bands many times, and always felt comfortable there. There was also the Vinyl Drip Club (upstairs at JR’s, Victoria Street, above Boots), a weekly live bands event peopled by folk 'just like me’, which was great apart from the odd occasion when non-punky types wanted to come in, too. Of your list above I used to frequent Your Father’s Moustache, Adam and Eve’s, and The Galleon - though I think all those were later in the '80s. I remember going to the Bier Keller for gigs a lot in the early '80s, Lucy’s Bar to socialise . . . there must have been other places but names escape me.
P: Can you remember some of the bands that shook you awake live early on? Were there any Blackpool scene characters at the time who were a big influence on you either to do punk stuff or later on, more experimental stuff? What was your first active involvement with the Blackpool music scene? Was art always a factor at the time too?
pS: A few of the bands I saw in Blackpool during my teenage years: Theatre of Hate, The Rezillos, The Fall, Wasted Youth, Modern English, John Cooper Clarke, Attrition - there are probably loads more, but those came to mind first. Also loads of local bands, all of whom really proved that anyone could get up there and do it for themselves. I don’t think anyone specific influenced me to do it for myself, rather the whole 'scene’ of people was the stimulus. Creating more experimental music seemed to come naturally to me, probably from listening to any and everything. My first involvement with the Blackpool scene was being the compere / occasional DJ at the Vinyl Drip Club in 1980 / 1981. Art came into things in a small way - creating backdrops, making clothes etc. (the concept of 'performance art’ has always been there though, I suppose - creating a spectacle at live events rather than just playing the instruments).
pP: Do you perceive drugs as having been a major factor for other people in the Blackpool music scene at that time (when you were first going to events)?
pS: Not really, I don’t think . . . people seemed to be there for the music. Alcohol was drunk freely, and the odd spliff smoked, but that was about it. Lots of the people I associated with ended up doing the drugs because they went hand-in-hand - media image again, I suppose. There were one or two who use drugs as a tool toward creativity, but far more people simply screwed themselves up.
P: Obviously people will have done demo tapes & the like, but were you the only real tape label in Blackpool in the eighties or is there loads of forgotten stuff from that time? Was it difficult to get venues / gigs with yr more experimental stuff in Blackpool then (& when did that become an interest for you) or was it just a case of booking a room yrself or getting on with punk bands etc, like now?
pS: Laurence from Sign Language (nowadays Ceramic Hobs bassist) put out a few cassettes as well as doing his fanzine 'Inside Signs’, though I’m not sure if he thought of himself as a tape label or not. I can’t remember any others (which isn’t to say there weren’t any). I started Pumf Records and stuck with it, for better or worse . . . bands I was in were seen as experimental, I reckon, because even though they might not have been as 'out there’ as many other bands of the time away from Blackpool, it was light-years away from the other pub rock bands most venues put on. There were a couple of venues who would book us to play, but mostly it was a network of people (including myself) who hired rooms and organised the events ourselves. Like now.
pP: Were you a festy type in the eighties (bring out the dark secrets!) & were there any festies of any consequence over this way?
pS: No, I didn’t like festivals. I went to a few, mostly just for the day when the bands I wanted to see were on. I never saw the attraction of rolling round in mud and rain (and shit, judging from the stereotypical state of festival toilets) amongst drunken / out-of-it idiots watching loads of bands, 90% of whom were tedious crap. On the occasions when I did attend for more than one day it would simply remind me why I didn’t attend festivals.
pP: I asked you this before but . . . who is the biggest band you’ve headlined over & who is the band who has played below you & gone on to the biggest things?
S: The Boo Radleys supported us several times (we took them out of Liverpool for their first out-of-town gigs). Blur also played before us in London one evening (though, to be fair, I think they were just getting on any old stage to play a short showcase for a specific audience, i.e. A&R men). That would have been about 1990, I think.
P: What is the best band you’ve ever seen from Blackpool that you WEREN’T in? Best gig in Blackpool full-stop?
pS: Tebbit Under Rubble (oh no, actually, they were from Leicester. And I saw them play in Leicester). Vee VV were one of my favourite Blackpool bands . . . The Fits were always entertaining and punky, as were Sign Language. Best gig in Blackpool? Hmmmmmmm  . . . maybe too many to choose from. I saw Gary Glitter at the Norbreck in 1982 - now THAT was a good gig. What a showman.
P: There was a great Higgins piece in Max RnR that ran down the Blackpool scene since punk & he identified the early eighties (punk bands) & nowish as the best times for the scene. Any opinions on the ebb & flow over the years? Was there a real buzz in the early eighties with the relatively high number of punk & post-punk bands or later at the time of Dandelion Adventure?
pS: Yes, the early 1980s were inspirational in terms of the number of bands around - every week there would be a new band to see, or an incarnation of previous ones re-born. There was a real sense of creativity, activities weren’t just limited to music - fanzines thrived also, people were making their own t-shirts, stickers and badges, painting designs on leather jackets, making clothes . . . it was great to be a part of it, to be able to feel like you 'belonged’ in some way. I have a theory that all those people sank into real life as the scene dissipated (or probably more accurately, the scene dissipated BECAUSE those people sank into real life), and after their kids had grown up and they’d paid off most of the mortgage they started to hanker after those youthful experiences. In search of them, they started going out again - hence the re-emergence of the punk scene, and the reformation of hundreds of old punk bands who play once more to the same audience, twenty years down the line. It’s the modern-day equivalent of cabaret singers for your granny. When I was playing in Dandelion Adventure, we most definitely weren’t a Blackpool band and I don’t think we were associated with the Blackpool scene. We were based in Preston, with one member living in Manchester and one in Blackpool. We played in Blackpool about three times only, I think.
P: The town gets a lot of stick for being in decline. Are there any major ways in which you think the town has improved? Any new favourite features? You always seem fairly happy to be here & have an admirable belief that you can do creative things here just as well as anywhere else.
pS: Blackpool has cleaned up a little (unless that viewpoint comes from staying on the town’s periphery) and is making efforts to regenerate run-down areas, which is a nod in the right direction. There’s also some thought being given to the local environment, for example the promenade areas - which, although still large expanses of concrete, are now more pleasant areas of concrete and with large artworks on display. (There are also smooth expanses of promenade for long distances making my roller-blading trips much less bumpy, more glidey). As for being happy here, I’ve been to a lot of places over the years and never found anywhere that cried out to me as a place I really wanted to live; I think I’ve ended up here by default. Everybody has the “I hate (insert name of your town here), it’s crap, there’s nothing to do” attitude after leaving school, and people simply leave one crap town and go to another just for the sake of it. At the time in my life when I should have been doing that, I was playing in a band doing regular gigs to the extent of spending more than half my time touring the country and Europe. I used to come back to Blackpool (where I always had a flat) to escape, for some peace and quiet: visit my Mum, collect my mail, run Pumf Records, write the fanzine, etc. Sometimes the separation from a bustling metropolis can be a good thing in creative terms. It’s far too easy to become so wrapped up in the promotion of oneself as an artist that one forgets to be an artist, forgets to be true to what matters most.

In 2022 Floating Mill Records in the USofA released 'Parsnips Under My Feet', a retrospective compilation album of songs released by Pumf Records between 1986 and 1998. The publicity for this album produced some reviews and an interview, as follows:

 - Review by Jennifer Kelly, Dusted webzine, April 2022
Jethro Tull and Robert Smith of the Cure come from Blackpool, but very few musical acts go there. The seaside resort town is too close to larger scenes in Liverpool to the south and Manchester and Leeds to the East. And so, Blackpool has always been a home to eccentric, home-grown, DIY musical endeavors in musical styles from metal to grime to home-taped bedroom punk. Pumf Records was surely one of the oddest of these, a tape-only label headed by a mad visionary named pStan Batcow (the “p” is not a typo), who wrote, performed, recorded, designed and promoted everything the label released. Parsnips Under My Feet collects 14 scrappy, hissy, punk-into-pop tracks recorded by six different bands, all featuring pStan Batcow in some form. It’s like a cross between a Messthetics regional comp and that scene from Being John Malkovich where everyone in the restaurant has the same face.
Not that it isn’t enjoyable, if you like this sort of thing. Why not start with the Def-A-Kators? One contemporary reviewer described Batcow’s lo-fi punk foursome as “a cross between the late lamented Voidoids and Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound in a motorway pile-up.” But the compilation’s “Theme,” is a surfy, buzzy instrumental that lopes along in a gloriously carefree manner, and “War’s a Bore,” is just-contained chaos, its frenetic punk slash and strum framing blotto political posturing like “Ronald Reagan was a bastard, let’s all go out and get plastered.”
Def-A-Kators were a band. Rrrrrrr was a pre-internet file trading project, where Batcow and an unnamed collaborator would work remotely on fuzz-crusted bedroom pop. The acoustic “Rasputin” traces the myriad, unsuccessful attempts to murder the Tsar’s favorite shaman, poisonings, gunfire, strangling, fisticuffs and finally drowning in a river. It is unhinged and obsessive and close to beautiful, with its raspy guitars and echo-shrouded vocals.
Batcow’s solo project Howl in the Typewriter gets the most attention here, accounting for four of the disc’s cuts. This outfit’s “Close” is new wave dipped in corrosive acid, its quivering synth riffs hemmed in by raging guitar. The other groups on offer include BILE!, Troll and Gravelin, though in his notes, Batcow admits that they are essentially the same band, with different supporting members drifting in and out.
The disc is uneven. Howl in the Typewriter’s “Heeby Jeeby Insect Wriggle” seems a bit undercooked, and the bonus, “I Hate You,” is too raw and dissonant to be much of a bonus. Still, in this day of music industry consolidation and domination, it’s a kick to hear one person make so much noise. So, here’s to the oddballs in off-the-map towns armed with minimal equipment and maximal confidence making their own, then and now. It’s Pumf’s world, too. Make some room. 

 - Review by Destroy//Exist webzine, April 2022
Parsnips Under My Feet is a collection of six acts and fourteen songs drawn from seven different Pumf Records releases between 1986 and 1998. All of the tracks on this record include the unconventional musician pStan Batcow as a member of each of the bands assembled. All of the songs on this compilation were also written and recorded by pStan.
An accomplishment of lo-fi musicianship, oddness, and punk ethos, the compilation has an expected cohesion on the whole, as all songs were penned from the same creative mind, but there are distinguishable character traits in each of the different acts which differentiate themselves from one another, such as The Def-A-Kators' more clear and simple punk melodicism, Howl in the Typewriter's psych approach, and the rawness of BILE!, Troll and Gravelin which pStan considers to be different monikers for the same 'band'.
Every song on the album is original and intriguing, and everything exemplifies a genuine DIY spirit which has been embraced by many musicians since the time of those songs' initial conception, particularly as bedroom productions have grown in popularity quite significantly.
Unquestionably an unappreciated prodigy in underground post punk, noise rock, and lo-fi pop, pStan Batcow has a curious talent which seems to be independently functioning like an alternative rock jukebox, and he is an undeniably prolific creator.
In his own words: "Way back when, in-between running away from rampaging tyrannosaurus rex and hungry velociraptors (or maybe they’d already extinctioned by then, Year Zero, 1984, and I’m just recollecting memories of strange times), I started a tape label because nobody else wanted to release my music - I knew loads of other people and bands who were in the same situation and reckoned I could release a stack of DAMN. FINE. MUSIC. And, heck, tape labels were Way Cool, Daddio!"

 - Review by Rosy Overdrive blog, April 2022
Since 1984, Blackpool, England’s Pumf Records has (and continues to) release loads of music via cassettes, CDs, and digital downloads, frequently in the form of compilations of songs by their regular stable of bands and artists. Even though Pumf is still active, the team-up with Pittsburgh archival record label Floating Mill makes sense, as this is a label that has long excavated similar artifacts of lo-fi and post-punk persuasion. Parsnips Under My Feet collects fourteen songs from seven Pumf-associated acts, although all of the “bands” on the compilation feature Pumf Records founder pStan Batcow either alone or with a group of backing musicians. Parsnips Under My Feet starts with two songs that emphasize the “pop” side of Pumf: the Def-a-Kators’ giddy instrumental “Theme” opening things up, and Howl in the Typewriter's perfect lo-fi pop tune “I Am the Horse” right after - contemporaries The Cleaners from Venus would be the recognizable point of comparison here.
Although several more songs on Parsnips Under My Feet are catchy, the rest of the compilation casts a wider net - we get sloppy political garage rock (“War’s a Bore”), cold post-punk (“Retentive-Anal Schoolboy (Loves His Mother)”) and frightening sonic assaults (“Heeby Jeeby Insect Wiggle”). Nearly half of these songs are instrumentals, and oddly enough, they’re some of the most accessible moments on the compilation (other than the aforementioned “Theme”, there’s the bouncy post-punk of “Walk Like a Pedestrian” and the flanged reverb-pop of “Flamboyance”). At some point in Parsnips Under My Feet - maybe it’s at the genuinely confusing “Jaw Meal Terror One”, or at the oddly compelling six-minute history lesson of “Rasputin” - you begin to understand why Pumf were never destined to become the next Factory Records. By the end of the compilation, though, you understand why pStan seems to wear that as a badge of honor.

 - Interview with pStan Batcow by Jesse Locke, Aquarium Drunkard website, April 2022
Few people take the concept “create your own culture” to the extent of pStan Batcow. Since the launch of his label Pumf (Parsnips Under My Feet) in 1984, the musician, visual artist, and zine publisher from Blackpool, England has burrowed down into an unfathomably deep rabbit hole. What sets Batcow apart from other sub-underground dwellers is that he performs on the majority of the label’s hundreds of releases, using a variety of absurd aliases for each different project. As he writes on the Pumf website, “we are eternally dedicated to the task of continuing to find and release the strangest music on the planet.”
If Pumf’s decades of output sound daunting, Floating Mill Records are here to offer an entry point with their new compilation, Parsnips Under My Feet. Beginning with last year’s excellent reissue from the Stick Figures, the Pittsburgh-based label have made it their mission to unearth obscure pockets of post-punk, new wave, and weirdo rock from around the globe. This collection features six of Batcow’s bands (The Def-A-Kators, Howl in the Typewriter, BILE!, Troll, Gravelin, and Rrrrrrr) plucked from seven different Pumf releases from 1986 to 1998.
In a rare interview, Batcow shares the story of the label’s origins, describes some of their very strangest releases, and explains his obsession with the number seven.
Aquarium Drunkard: When the punk / DIY movement began in the late 1970s, what kind of impact did that have on your ways of thinking? Did it inspire you to take production into your own hands with your fanzine and later the label?
pStan Batcow: Absolutely. Prior to that I’d been into the music you could hear in the Pop Music Charts - faves being Slade, Sweet, T Rex, and others of that ilk. I have two brothers, seven and eight years older than me, so I was also listening to the music they liked as I grew up - Beatles, 1960s generic pop, plus loads of prog rock - Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes, Led Zeppelin, etc.
When punk happened it was something new, something I’d discovered for myself (yeah, I know, just like thousands of other kids!), something where you didn’t have to have a music theory degree and years of practice in your chosen instrument to be able to play - you just had to have the attitude and self-belief. You didn’t have to rely on a manager, or be sold by a record label; you could simply get on with it on your own terms and deal directly with the people who wanted to come to your shows, buy your tapes, read your fanzines.
I published fanzines from 1982 alongside other poetry / art / comic book-type publications, and still dabble nowadays (though it’s seldom and irregular). The music zine tailed off in 1999 with a final issue after about 10 years - and, to be fair, by that time it had very little to do with music. It was more opinionated, quasi-political, and nicely balanced (it had a chip on BOTH shoulders).
AD: Did Pumf begin as a home for your many different musical projects, or did you have other initial goals in mind for the label?
pStan Batcow: This follows on nicely from my answer to the previous question, really - yes, Pumf was intended as an outlet for the recordings of A-void, the band I was in at that time, although I was clear in my mind that I would release other music as well. From the get-go I was spreading my musical activities around many groups of people and always willing to have a go at collaborating with anybody. 
Over the years I’ve been in many bands, but only a few of them played live. It was often just recording projects, with the resulting multi-layered music / sound being too complex to recreate live. Having said that, there were a few live shows that relied on using elements of pre-recorded material on tape alongside whatever instruments or beatboxes etc. we were able to utilise to recreate the songs in a live setting. 
My solo act Howl in the Typewriter is a case in point - I originally tried to make all the songs I wrote playable live. Typical performances would include drum machines, guitar, and bass played alternately (with the other one possibly feeding back lying in its case), tapes and loops, sound / noise generating boxes and occasionally a TV, usually tuned to static, which I would sometimes sit and watch for a while with my back to the audience. 
As I progressed musically (I use the term ‘musically’ loosely, you understand) I found it harder to recreate live the songs I’d recorded by multi-tracking rhythm and lead guitars, bass, keyboards, other sound sources and vocals - though I often tried my best. There came a natural divergence in what I was recording and what I was playing live. I did one Xmas show that got round this problem by having the entire set on a backing tape; there was a mannequin wearing my clothes on stage with my guitar round its neck, and I was dressed as Father Xmas going through the audience giving out gift-wrapped squeaky toys. I always tried to bring an element of the theatrical to live shows.
Pumf released music by other bands as well over the years, though the emphasis was always on releasing music I’d been involved in creating. Three ‘albums’ were released which were the collected recordings of songs produced by myself working with a multitude of different people at various times and places. It seemed to make sense to collect the songs together, each time enough had been recorded to make a sizeable enough album, and give each album a band name, though the songs didn’t really come from a specific ‘band’ as such. That trilogy of albums were by BILE! (1986), Troll, (1988) and Gravelin (1997), though arguably they’re the same ‘band’, in whatever free-form improvised experimental time-spanning framework you wish to place it.
AD: You play with all six bands featured on the new compilation. Do these projects feature other collaborators, and how has that changed over time?
pStan Batcow: Those six acts give quite a good cross-section of Pumf inasmuch as they demonstrate different ways of working: Howl in the Typewriter is my solo project, running from 1985 to the present day (I doubt I’ll ever split up and cite the usual ‘musical differences’ - unless the split personality disorder really runs amok, or course!)
The Def-A-Kators were a band formed specifically to play live, and the other two members of that band also cropped up in a variety of other Pumf acts over the years. We didn’t play that many gigs - only a handful between 1986 and 1988. We only had two rehearsal sessions before the first gig. The first album was released on Pumf in 1993, though the recording of the songs on that album happened in two sessions in 1987 and 1988 - they were quite accurate renditions of what we attempted to sound like when we played live. I can’t quite remember why there was such a long gap between recording and releasing the album.
After having a rest for about 10 years we got back together in 1996 and wrote and recorded another batch of six songs; we felt they were not live material owing to the multi-layered nature of the recordings - though, to be honest, I bet we could have had a go! We continued getting together sporadically and the last batch of recordings happened during 1997 and 1998. These songs were definitely not live material, with much of their content being studio-technology-based. After having another rest for about ten years we got round to mixing and mastering those songs in 2008 and 2009, and they, along with the six songs from 1996, formed the second album (from the laziest band ever).
Rrrrrrr was a collaboration between myself in Blackpool, North West England, and a chap living 240 miles away in London, Southern England. We never met in person*. We would each record a part of a song on a multitrack cassette and post it to the other person, who would add a layer and send it back (then repeat as often as necessary). It was a fascinating way of working, nothing immediate about it whatsoever, with lots of time between layers - by the time the tape came back, I’d forgotten completely what stage the song was at. That level of remove from one’s collaborator made for some interesting, unexpected results.
* I tell a lie – I’ve just remembered that he came to see a show I played in London a few years after the Rrrrrrr album was released.
BILE!, Troll, and Gravelin I mentioned previously. Those albums contained the results of my working with loads of different folk over long periods of time. From memory I’m fairly sure all those recording sessions took place with whoever was involved at the time in the same room - some were almost like rehearsal / jam sessions, others were specific recording sessions.
AD: How does your songwriting process typically work with this many different incarnations and aliases for your musical output?
pStan Batcow: It varies. The majority of what I now do involves working alone, and even though I work solo as Howl in the Typewriter (whose musical style varies wildly from song to song), there are times when what I’m producing doesn’t feel like Howl material and I feel the need to create another alias. 
Most recently that has been the recordings I’ve released under the name Quougnpt (four albums so far). When working with other people, sometimes we’d sit down together and work things out from scratch, other times one of us would have an idea as a starting point and the other people would contribute from there. There have been many recordings throughout Pumf’s history that have been spur-of-the-moment, either improvised there and then or spaced over time (rather like the Rrrrrrr recordings I described earlier).
AD: How did you connect with Floating Mill Records for this release? Do you feel kinship with what they’re doing?
pStan Batcow: Floating Mill approached me, as they were aware of Pumf (from whence, I know not) and interested in releasing the retrospective compilation that has become Parsnips Under My Feet. From what I gather they’re releasing long-forgotten music by bands / labels who might have been virtually ignored at the time and no longer exist - so maybe that makes Pumf some peculiar evolutionary throwback akin to the coelacanth, because although the music on the compilation is from way back when, we’re still alive and kicking . . .
As for feeling kinship, in the words of Stan Laurel, “why, certainly!” - in my dealings with Cullen he’s struck me as a massively enthusiastic person, passionate about spreading the music he loves to a wider audience. I know he’s putting a huge amount of care and effort into Floating Mill, and the detail he strives for is commendable.
AD: Is this compilation a good introduction to your work with Pumf, or does it only highlight a small segment of what you do?
pStan Batcow: A tiny fragment, I’d say. Returning to the evolutionary comparison, some of the music on the compilation could be seen as Neanderthal Man banging a few rocks together (with recording equipment dating from that geological time, it may seem) whereas these days the recording processes and equipment are much better. Regarding my material, the actual songs still come from the same place deep inside, although they’re now being excreted with nearly 40 years more experience - so there’s bound to be a huge difference . . . that difference is in the ear of the beholder, however. And there are always new artists surfacing and becoming part of the Pumf family in some way.
AD: Your website states that “We are eternally dedicated to the task of continuing to find and release the strangest music on the planet.” Was that the goal from the very beginning?
pStan Batcow: Yes, I could safely say that - although back in the early 1980s I think everyone was attempting to create strange-sounding music, or anti-music. The actual wording you’ve quoted above came much more recently (10 years or so, perhaps?) but I think it was just a summing-up of what had come before. A mission statement, if you like.
AD: What are some of your very strangest releases from over the years?
pStan Batcow: The Amazing Ron Brewer - Donkey Man by Barbara Dwyer was a quite peculiar album. Barbara Dwyer consisted of two brothers (who lived about 120 miles from me, in the English midlands) and myself. They came to Blackpool in 1985 or ’86 and we recorded the six songs that were featured on the BILE! album, but for the next recordings they just sent a batch of cassettes as source material for me to work with. I describe it on the Pumf website as a ‘dadaist surrealist avant-garde mishmash’.
There were a couple of albums by HITT, which were some of the recordings created to be used as backing tapes for Howl in the Typewriter shows. Each album featured two 30-minute long pieces.
There were also a few ‘found tape’ releases, such as The Desperate Accountant Tapes (featuring a love letter, interviews, discorporeal answerphone messages, a monologue and a play) and Movement and Drama 2, a series of radio broadcasts aimed at getting 9 to 11-year-olds to move and exercise whilst using their imaginations.
Then of course there was the Treewirehead album Invite you to Chew on your Yeasty Bits, which was completely hatstand. One of the songs on that album was a recipe for raspberry buns. And there are always tracks on the compilation albums that stand out as strange, for one reason or another . . .
AD: Can you tell me a bit about your other creative pursuits in visual art and publishing? 
pStan Batcow: The publishing side of things was a natural progression from my having produced the fanzine, and I still occasionally release bookthings under the Stanzine Publications imprint. Over the years I’ve published short stories, poetry, comics, collage art pieces and loads of other ephemera. I create booklets regularly as well, of course, to accompany album releases.
Making art is something I’ve always done, so Batcow Artworks is the outlet for my 3D artwork. I generally use recycled materials to make welded scrap metal pieces, smaller soldered copper wire sculptures and the like. I’ll also re-purpose materials into other creations, and I also carve soapstone into small sculptures.
AD: How did you become interested in the number seven?
pStan Batcow: Seven has been used in many ways over the years, in all aspects of what I do. A seven-pointed star is the closest thing I’ve ever had to a logo, which is used across all my activities. The Pumf catalogue numbers are all multiples of seven. In the early days all the product prices had a seven in them (all the tapes were initially 77p).
I created a section of the Pumf website that featured 77 Facts About The Number 7, then found that I’d collected another 77 facts so created page two, then found that people were e-mailing me with their own facts about the number 7, and suddenly I was up to page 10. I realised it was turning into a Frankenstein’s Monster, so decided to call a halt at 777 Facts About The Number 7. Although even that got overshadowed, and I had to put another secret page up there with a bonus 77 Facts. But that’s definitely it. No more.
AD: What else do you have planned for the future of Pumf?
pStan Batcow: I’m still releasing volumes of godspunk, a compilation album series I started in 2003 and which is currently at volume twenty-three (it’s at the pressing plant as I write, in fact, and should be released in March 2022). It has a roughly 10-month cycle, meaning that volume twenty-four should be released at the start of 2023.
It’s a co-operative project where all contributors pay a percentage of the manufacturing costs, then get a percentage of the finished CDs to do with as they see fit. It struck me as a good idea because it’s quite a task to distribute 500 albums single-handedly - I realised that if each band distributed their own quota, the potential audience would be that much wider / diverse and the task itself much more manageable. It’s worked well - so much so that the last two volumes have been double albums.
I always have recording projects in progress, and at present there are no less than three Howl in the Typewriter albums underway - one virtually complete, two in gestation - as well as the fifth Quougnpt album (although that’s only in a contemplative state at present). There are no plans for Pumf to quit anytime soon. Whether that’s a good thing or not is negotiable.

Other Stuff

pStan Batcow is always busy; one of his previous projects was photographing and researching the Post Boxes of Blackpool, England. To see the results please click here.

 

Over the years we've had a right good old laugh or two, with people sending in Pumf Records-related jokes.
Here they are - control your mirth.

Q: How many Pumf Records artistes does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: One to change the bulb, and another six to make the number up to seven.

Q: How many people does it take to make up a Pumf Records artiste's gig?
A: The members of the band plus enough audience to make the numbers up to seven.

Q: How many chickens crossed the road?
A: (Do I really have to answer . . ?)

(If you've got a Pumf Records-related joke, why not send it in for inclusion?)

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