Fifteen years ago No Front Teeth Records started as a way to score free records, but today they remain one of London’s most well known small labels.
Marco NFT started No Front Teeth [NFT] Records with John Clay in 2000. When they started Marco was looking for a way to get his bands’ music out. The ability to get free records was an added bonus.
In 2015 the two-man label celebrated their 15-year-anniversary with a massive contest—one lucky fan got every 7-inch the label has ever released, and 15 winners won test pressing packs. The grand prizewinner received a total of 101 records.
“We did genuinely have to buy some records off Discogs to fill the 101 records up, because we were missing some releases, had to buy some back from shops, and go through our own collections,” Marco said.
“There are people that have more comprehensive No Front Teeth Record collections than I do.”
Marco has had fans send him lists asking if he can check dates and numbers of NFT releases, or asking how many were issued in a specific colour. Sometimes the lists sent in by fans have more information on the releases than he has himself.
There are people that have everything NFT has ever put out, but unfortunately the guys that run it aren’t among them.
“We were kids when we started this and didn’t know anything, so we didn’t even archive anything or keep any. It was like, ‘oh, sold them all. I didn’t even keep one in my collection, woops’,” he said.
“Now I at least try to archive stuff, just for myself.
“John went through all the releases and was like, you know, I’m missing like 30 of these, so I have to go and find stuff he’s missing from like seven – eight years ago, really good records.
“And luckily, I had them for him… Most of them, not even all of them. And that’s the dudes that run the label!”
NFT started with a fanzine, but that only lasted a single issue before morphing into a webzine. By 2001 they issued their first release—Suburban Life Sentence, a 30-band CD compilation.
The compilation largely consisted of American bands from labels such as Beer City, Disaster and Hostage, bands that were seeing very little representation in Europe at the time.
“We did this compilation and it did super well, so we started thinking maybe this is something we can do more of, not really with a plan of becoming a record label at all, but we certainly didn’t think that was something we’d ever be able to do,” Marco said.
“We basically did compilations at the beginning, mainly CDs… Well, only CDs, and then we became a fully-fledged label, and we’re reaching our 180th release now.”
When they first started the label Marco was in a band called the Black List Brigade. They were young and didn’t know how to go about getting a record deal. At the time it was difficult to make a CD, let alone a 7-inch.
“This was the year 2000, there was nothing like Bandcamp, I don’t even think MySpace was around then,” Marco said.
“We didn’t think you could approach someone, we didn’t know how things worked, we were kids and stuff.
The label was cranking out compilations from popular groups like the US Bombs, the Hunns and the Restarts. People immediately took a liking to what NFT was putting out.
Marco was also able to quickly get the Black List Brigade on splits with the Smut Peddlers and Inverted Knives.
After 15 years and several successful bands, Marco still uses NFT to put out the first 7-inch for every band he is in.
John handles all of the web aspects, and Marco handles all of the graphics. When it comes to assembling records and making final decisions, they do it together, but Marco said John is usually willing to work on the ideas he brings up.
“We’re known as much for our aesthetic as we are for the music and we have a certain look,” Marco explained.
“I think you can spot a No Front Teeth release from across the room, to be honest.”
Although Marco does about 99 percent of the label’s artwork, bands will on occasion ask to do it. Marco said he would never turn down a band’s art and in some cases it can be quite cool.
Sick Thoughts do their own album art, and while it may not necessarily be NFT’s style, Marco said he loved the outcome.
“I like it when other people want to do it, as well. It’s not always the same,” he said.
“I try and keep it as fresh as possible, but after you’ve done about 500 sleeves with all the limited editions of it, it’s kind like, what am I gonna do next?”
A major turning point for the label came in 2006 when they decided to make the, now out of print, Dancehall Troops Vol. 2 DVD. At the time, no one was doing anything like it, and NFT was known for their compilations. It seemed like a logical step forward for a label like NFT.
“I look back now and I think, ‘how did we bother carrying on?’ because times were quite tough,” Marco said.
“It’s all done quite well, but we didn’t become the sort of collective label we were until round about that time, so we worked on this DVD. That nearly killed us and just about finished No Front Teeth altogether.
“The money we poured into that, it was just so problematic, because we didn’t know anything about it. Again we took on this ridiculous project that was our idea.”
In order to make the DVD the two had to first go out and buy a Mac, which neither of them knew how to use at the time, then they had to go and buy a converter, so they could use American footage and video cassettes. They also had to buy a second computer, a PC with a large amount of RAM.
Finally when it came time to put menus on the DVD the companies they approached told them it would cost around £15 for every three minutes it was worked on. Marco knew making the DVD would take hours.
Luckily, the label mates found a friend willing to do the work for a reasonable price. He left it up rendering for three days and everything came out in the end.
“That was a real learning curve, and not even a very nice experience,” Marco said.
The finished product was a four hour long DVD containing unseen skate footage from the likes of Jason Jesse and Duane Peters, as well as bits from the US Bombs, the Hunns and the Briefs.
“Some of it’s quite a hard watch, but it was amazing. It really represents what No Front Teeth’s about—a lot for your money.
“So much effort put into that, and it cost a bomb to get pressed as well. I can’t believe we didn’t just jack it all in doing that.”
Every year Marco and John sit down and have a chat about needing to slow down their record production, but they never really seem to be able to cut back.
The year has only just begun and the label has almost four new 7-inches out. Marco predicts they will do 20 this year.
They have already released new 7-inches for Swiss 77-punk band, Nasty Rumors and a Miscalculations/Neon Knives split, featuring all original tracks. In a few weeks they will also be releasing Poison Boys from Chicago and the new Radio Hearts 7-inch.
Later this year the label will also reissue Zex’s Savage City, a release that’s sure to be scooped up quickly.
“There’s never a lack of stuff to release, ever. There’s so much stuff I’d wanna release if money wasn’t an object, but it costs a lot to do this, and yeah the records do well, but we have to kind of make it back before we can do another one,” Marco said.
“Right now we owe the pressing plant for four releases and that’s a lot of money. The label, for the most part, funds itself, with a bit of extra from me and John.
“It’s an expensive hobby, but in no way did we think it would last this long. I mean 15 years, that’s a long time.”
With endless bands to pick from, Marco said he’d still really love to do a Spits record if he ever gets the chance. He also said he’d love to do reissues, but doesn’t think that’s NFT’s mission.
“There are a lot of labels doing that and I don’t think that’s No Front Teeth’s kinda job to do, but I would like to do that. I’d love to do more LPs, but it’s weird, LPs just don’t do well for us,” he said.
“Although I’ve got way more 7-inches than I have LPs, it would be an album I took to my grave, if I had to choose. But I love a 7-inch because it’s pure punk.”
Oddly, while LPs do not do well for NFT, 10-inches, albums normally regarded as a career suicide type of pressing, do incredibly well.
“No one wants to do them because shops hate them, because they can’t display them, and people are like ‘it doesn’t fit in my collection,’ everyone always says never do a 10-inch,” Marco said.
“It’s weird, because they’ve always done really well for us. I guess people think it’s like a big 7-inch.”
At one point Marco had a plan to release a 10-inch every month, but the plan lasted all of three months before he decided it was ridiculous and scrapped the idea.
Most things at NFT are done from a room on the third floor of Marco’s house. If you order something from NFT, you’re getting it from him, not a warehouse.
Marco said in the past other people worked behind the scenes with NFT, but he found that it complicated things. The label runs best when it’s just him and John steering the ship.
“Me and John started it, and it’ll be me and John that end it when it’s time to end,” he said.
The label hasn’t done any of the compilation albums they were known for in a while, but if it’s possible, Marco said he’d like to do an all London one.
For more on some of the popular NFT bands Marco plays in, check back for part two!