Tonight, Albuquerque-dwelling oddball Jen Olive, pictured left, will play her first UK show at The Victoria in Old Town. Her mesmerising new album Warm Robot was released late last month (see p5 for CD review), on Andy Partridge’s Swindon-based APE label, and she has finally started getting the recognition she deserves, so it seemed like the perfect time to talk to Andy about what has been going on in the Ape House.

Q: Hi Andy – for the uninitiated, what exactly is APE?
A: APE is my very own big fat record label that I run with a few pals from Swindon and a couple of other out-of-the-way places around the UK. My aim is to bring people music that thrills me, and dress it in beautiful artwork; music that is a bit sideways and odd, but still makes the hairs on the back of my tongue stand up.

Some unkind souls have said that it’s only a vanity label, but aren’t all labels really just vanity to a large degree? As in, if you don’t please the boss, you don’t step across. It would also be nice to make my money back though (ha ha).

Q: Jen Olive’s gig at The Vic will be her first performance in the UK, which is a huge milestone for any artist, but do you think it will be a pivotal moment for both her and APE?
A: No, of course not. It’s just a little gig where she’ll get to stretch out a bit and the great unwashed will get to see a wonderfully intimate musical show. A pivotal moment would be if someone struck oil in the Vic during her performance. She has come a long way so I hope she gets a warm Swindon welcome.

Q: Apart from Jen Olive, what other artists do you currently have on your roster?
A: “Let me see... there’s myself, Brighton’s luscious Milk and Honey Band, Canada’s finest Veda Hille, Monstrance (which is a trio of improvisers consisting of Barry Andrews, Martyn Barker and yours truly), The Irish Beatles themselves, Pugwash, and Old Town’s Wizard of Odds Stuart Rowe under his guise as Lighterthief. Oh, I nearly forgot! There’s a few albums from Swindon’s scintillating sons of the sod XTC, both as themselves and as their psychedelic alter egos, The Dukes of Stratosphear. Isn’t that a good bunch to be kicking off with?

Q: Are you always on the lookout for new bands to work with? What do bands need to have to grab your attention?
A: Actually, I don’t ever intend to find artists, they sort of end up tracking me down... but for me to be struck with them is quite a tricky list to... um... list.

They need to have magical songs, which are recorded well (there’s no excuse for them not to be in this day and age) and that certain something which is basically indefinable. I don’t want to use the phrase X Factor but that’s a pretty close description.

Maybe most importantly they have to have a drive; a crazy, belief in themselves and what they do; a battery in their back that won’t allow anything to get in the way. That’s much more important than musical ability.

Q: You’ve obviously dealt with record labels in the past. Have these experiences with labels changed the way you run APE?
A: Definitely. I have been scammed and ripped off so many times, so I could never inflict that on any artist under my care... I like to sleep at night.

Everyone on APE gets a really good deal and doesn’t get bullied where they don’t want to go. I don’t do the classic record company thing of sign a band who sounds like ‘that’ and then expect them to sound like ‘this’. That’s so stupid and counter productive. If you love ’em, you love ’em for what they are.

Q: With the music industry facing a minor crisis due to people not buying CDs anymore, how do you think independent labels like APE need to adapt to the conditions?
A: The whole record industry is a dying beast and there’s a lot of panic out there.

The crisis reaches every level. You may have noticed that there are hardly any record shops left, or studios, or pressing plants... or even labels.

Things are undergoing a radical shift which may see recorded music become about as important as, say, lapel badges or posters, you know, the periphery kind of clutter.

Live music seems to be the only way to make money from music these days, the complete opposite of 20 or 30 years ago. So don’t start a label, kids!

Q: Finally, does APE have any other releases planned for the coming months?
A: The new Pugwash album and The Clubmen’s album, and hopefully some XTC re-mastered and expanded back catalogue.

The new Milk and Honey Band outing... an album of sculptural electronic sounds inspired by the sci-fi art of Richard M Powers... and a few secret things, tee hee.

Just make sure you keep your fingers hovering over the keys that’ll send you to APE’s website ( and you’ll be able to catch up on all good things!”