Not Drowning, Waving: Running Rampant
A conversation with Bill Tolson, founder of Rampant Records
by Anil Prasad
Interview date: December 30, 1995
© Copyright 1995 by Anil Prasad. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with permission.
Bill Tolson was the president and founder of Rampant Records, the label responsible for Not Drowning, Waving’s first singles and albums. This interview focuses on those early days and Tolson’s experiences in helping to get the band off the ground.
NDW was originally only David and John. It was David and John who approached my record company and we got together and started working together. Their first single "Moving Around" was just David and John, drum machines and other instruments which they played. It was an extremely low-budget recording, but had a great feel and sound none the less. I was always impressed by their feel and admire David as an artist. They sent tingles down my spine from the beginning. I consider few of the people I worked with artists. David was an exception.
I released the first three singles ["Moving Around," "Hunting For Nuggets" and "Do be a don’t be"], Another Pond, a 12" single called Little King, The Sing Sing Mini LP, The Little Desert and Cold and the Crackle. I also did one compilation album called Running Rampant that had various tracks from the artists I worked with at that time. In addition, there was the Easter single "Cheesecloth." Easter was not NDW, but Tim Cole’stheir sound manattempt at fame, although various members of NDW do play on the 7" single including John Phillips, Jamie Southall, Russell Bradley, David Bridie and Rowan McKinnon.
On Another Pond
Another Pond was released in 1984. It was later remixed and re-released, so there are actually two versions of the one LP available. Credits on the album are Rampant Studiosmy kitchen. It was recorded in the suburbs and mixed in August ‘84. As far as the recording techniques were concerned, it was recorded on my Tascam eight-track with an assortment of microphones. I was working during the day while NDW recorded, so I haven’t got much info on exactly what mics were used. It was recorded on a very tight budget. Basically, the album was recorded with few effects. We spent $500 mixing down the LP. Most of the stuff at the time was mastered on 1/4" inch tape or hi-fi video. This was before DAT. I was allowed on the album too because I owned the record company. I pretended I could sing.
Basically, NDW and Rampant parted ways around 1990 because they were getting what appeared to be better offers from other record companies. The main one at the time was from a Sydney-based label called Mighty Boy which was distributed by EMI. Unfortunately, the market for NDW’s music was relatively small and they figured that a larger company could promote them better. A new manager had a bit to do with it as well. However, we did part on good terms. David was very honest and upfront about what was going on. Also, my label was helped along through a distribution company I worked for called Musicland. Musicland was facing financial hardship. This forced me to run down my label because my main source of income came through invoicing Musicland. So, there were a few factors involved and the grass always looks greener on the other side.
NDW were probably the most committed and faithful bunch of people when it came to dealing with their record company. David is very organized and knows what he wants. Even in the mid-‘80s, he’d lay out promotional plans for the records we were releasing. My label was an independent and we took each release as it came. I didn’t have them signed to a three or six or nine album deal for example. So, basically, they were happy and chose to work with my label. Basically, most of the NDW stuff was licensed to me. When we parted ways, a financial arrangement was made and all master tapes were handed back to the management and band. NDW was a great pleasure to work with. I’m not one to dwell on the past but working with NDW was a fun time in my life. We had a good seven or eight year run together.
The Rampant days were a lot different for everyone concerned. It was a fairly idealistic and fun time. We didn’t have to consider families and children and all that sort of stuff. I think things got more serious for NDW after we parted. They went through a few management and record company hassles. With Rampant, it was like a little club and we were maybe not as affected and were more in control of what was happening. It is often frustrating for acts when they are with major labels, even though they do need them to promote, market and distribute their product. NDW later signed to the Reprise part of Warner and were flown to Wales to record an album. They have now parted from that deal.
These days, I do a bit of lecturing on publishing, copyright, management and other music-related topics. I was still managing bands up until about two years ago. I ended up finding the music business very frustrating. And on a financial basis, it’s a lot easier to earn money in other areas. The music business, as you’re no doubt aware, is very competitive and tough. I had a lot of skills and knowledge of general business through being in retail, running an independent distribution company and running my own label. So, I thought "Bugger it. I’ll do something in an easier marketplace in which I can create and develop without being dependent on bands." You can put in many years of hard work with bands. But if they leave you or split up, all that work is down the tube and you start again with nothing. So, I now own a partnership in an on-site computer repair company which I started two years ago.