Three weeks ago, Grainger was signing off on the details of its digital release when a giddy notion overtook him. “It caught me by surprise,” he says with a bemused grin. “I was filling out one of these things and it was like, ‘Your money will be…’ so I was like, ‘Jesus, there actually might even be one or two monies coming in from it’. I might actually sell one or two of them, which is kinda funny. And I was thinking then I could do another one’.”
A veteran club and radio DJ in Cork city for 20 years, Grainger has been around the business long enough to know that the dream of hitting financial pay dirt is the last reason to start a record label.
But what makes Grainger’s decision all the more startling is that 2014 has been a turbulent year for him.
A shake-up at Red FM, where he continues to host its long-running, specialist soul, funk and hip-hop show, Black on Red, ousted him from the weekday evening slot he had hosted for a decade. And then, last month, the Pavilion, the Cork nightclub and live-music venue in which he was one of three partners, closed.
Against this backdrop, one would have to wonder what madness would possess him to start a record label?
Inspired in the 1990s by the transition of Greg Dowling and Shane Johnson’s from club DJs to record production duo, Fish Go Deep, Grainger invested in a drum machine and began mixing up spoken-word record samples with beats.
Life, however, got in the way and the increasing demands of radio station work, as well as raising a family, mothballed his drum machine.
“And then, I remember sitting at home one night, probably watching some documentary or reading an article, or something, about some guy who’s 85 going off to learn French or do a masters in Japanese philosophy, or whatever the hell. And I was kind of going like, ‘Hang on, here am I in my 30s and I’ve actually pushed one of my passions aside’,” he says.
And so the drum machine re-emerged, albeit this time played late at night, while he wore headphones, lest he disturb the little ones.
As a keen student of the great soul labels, Stax, Motown and Atlantic, and a connoisseur of vinyl culture, Grainger didn’t have to think too hard about putting out records on vinyl, despite the costs.
“It will probably lose money,” he says, matter-of fact, “but, at the same time, there’s always part of you that kinda looks at it not about money.”
That quality he seeks is a local legacy. Thanks to his years spent nurturing young local talent, Grainger could call upon a rich harvest of young up-and-coming producers, such as single co-producer, Ian Ring, of electro pop duo, Young Wonder, musicians such as Eoin Walsh, and vocalists such as Christiana Underwood — daughter of Cork-based, Chicago-born singer, Karen Underwood.
As Grainger continues to list out other names, he becomes intoxicated by the possibilities. “If I had someone business-oriented behind me, I’d actually be trying to get onto these people to release them all myself, but, at the moment, I’m just going to walk before I can run,” he says.