Label of Love: Vicious Vinyl
Written by Grace George on 6th March 2020
Brought to you by record collector and DJ Grace George, Label of Love is a series that tells short histories of music labels & their legacies. For this week’s Label of Love, we head down under to hear the story of one of Australia’s most acclaimed & enduring dance-music indie labels, Vicious Vinyl.
Vicious Vinyl was formed in the late 1980s by friends & aspiring producers Andy Van & John Course (later Colin Daniels would join as the final piece in the triumvirate) in Frankston, a suburb south of Melbourne, Australia. The label would go on to be one of the most successful & long-running dance-music indie labels down-under.
The Antipodean rave culture in the early 90’s was bubbling away in its own atmosphere, rivalling that of “Madchester” & the UK acid-house & pill-guzzling scene. In a Red Bull article about 90’s Melbourne rave culture, editor Jim Poe explains; “It may have been isolated and relatively small, but the Melbourne rave community was world renowned for its intensity, passion and forward-thinking creativity – it attracted many of the leading lights from techno capitals like Detroit and Berlin to spend time and vibe with the people.”
Disco, rock & even Balearic were major genres in the Aussie clubs & radio airwaves in the early 90s, driving the house-heads underground. Club access was strict & drug-policing even more so, with some venues taking the handles off the bathroom taps to stop the punters from getting free water for their pinger-parched mouths. However, always ahead of the curve, the LGBT+ community at Gavin Campbell’s Razor & then the infamous Tasty club-nights (Australia’s Stonewall of ’94, read more on the Tasty nightclub raid), were early adopters of house music, where dancing was the focus & flamboyant fashion was encouraged.
In the early days, of VV, acid, techno, & IDM were flavours of Melbourne rave scenes. Technology was enhancing & psychedelics were flowing. Large-scale “cyberdelic” visuals & the World Wide Web were becoming a major part of these raves, with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange even helping to configure the code & lay the cables for one Melbourne rave, where the crowds could sit at a computer terminal and communicate with people worldwide through a “text-based chat software…” (We recommend the short Thump docco on Melbourne’s rave scene to absorb more, sadly no photos of a raving Assange from this party…)
Vicious Vinyl took the cash-rich road from the underground to the mainstream at the turn of the millennium. Label founder Andy Van formed dance-duo Madison Avenue with singer Cheyne Coates unleashing their track “Don’t Call me Baby” in ’99. A commercial hit that stayed in the US Top 40 for the year 2000.This track was the predecessor of other major Australian electronica acts, such as Avalanches (their “Since I Left You” LP with its 900 samples arrived at our shores in 2000 on the Aussie Modular imprint). Illegal raves still existed but now people were turning up en masse for the super-clubs, in their “100,000’s every weekend” according to club-owner Simon Page who ran Home in Sydney on Darling Harbour, (still open today) where its “no-phone” policy was met with punishment if disobeyed…
Today Vicious continues to release music commercially under its original imprint & its 5+ subs, including work from the late great Avicii in the mid-2000’s. Whilst VV has steered far from its rave roots & trance sounds, its on-going legacy & survival as an indie electronic label can only be admired.
Vicious Vinyl early sounds:
Ground Level – Dreams of Heaven (Spiritual Lust) – 1997
Pendulum – Coma – 1997
Vertigo Hypo – Hypo Rhino – 1992
Please get in touch if you have information to share about this label – we are keen to correct any misinformation given & to learn more.
Billboard Magazine – 24/11/2001