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Rockin' In the Burbs: A Look Back at Corduroy Records

Ten Years After The Presses Stopped We Reflect on One of Australia’s Most Colorful Record Labels

Highett is not what you’d call ‘rock and roll’ by any stretch. Besides the Saturday night ‘Band-aoke’ at the nearby Sandringham Hotel there is a considerable dearth of live music in the area.

But from 1994–2004, the Melbourne bayside suburb was home to Corduroy Records and Detective Agency, and for a time, the Southern Hemisphere's only vinyl pressing plant.

As well as being the place where Eddy Current Suppression Ring first formed and played, Corduroy hosted wild after work parties and was visited by international guests such as Guitar Wolf, Sonic Youth, Dead Moon, the White Stripes, and the Dirtbombs who recorded live to aceate records at the factory. More unwelcome guests were the Federal Police who raided the premises for copyright infringement and illegal gaming!


The Corduroy story began in 1990 when Nick Phillips released Twelve More Miles to Midnight the debut LP for his garage band the [Breadmakers](http:// But it was a few years later when Phillips saved Australia’s only vinyl pressing plant from the scrap dealers in Sydney and trucked it down to Melbourne that things really started cranking.

By the time it shut up shop in 2005 Corduroy had pressed thousands of records from local and international artists including Shutduown 66, the Dirtbombs, Mach Pelican and Kelley Stoltz.

It also employed many local musicians including; Guy Blackman (Minimum Chips, Chapter records), Richard Stanley (Ooga Boogas, Aarght Records), Mark Nelson (The Stabs, Saucerlike Records), Conrad Standish (The Devastations, Standish/Carlyon), Shaun Gionis (Boomagates) and Brendan Huntley and Mikey Young from Eddy Current Suppression Ring.

Nick Phillips: Corduroy was a lot of fun back then. There were lots of great creative people and I think there was a real feeling of camaraderie as everyone was into similar, but slightly different stuff. As the only vinyl factory in the Southern Hemisphere we singlehandedly saved vinyl record manufacturing in Australia. We also revived the long lost art of direct to acetate recording where artists would perform in the office and we'd record them live straight onto acetate.

Guy Blackman from Chapter records first came in contact with the label in 1995 when Corduroy pressed Chapters first vinyl release, a Minimum Chips/Molasses 7”. A year later Blackman became Corduroy’s first regular employee when he began operating the presses. As production manager Blackman claims he was indirectly responsible in the creation of Eddy Current Suppression Ring when he and office manager Kim Walvisch (from PBS radio’s City Slang and local band the Double Agents) were responsible for hiring two new employees.


Guy Blackman: We interviewed a bunch of people and ended up with a very young and cherubic Mark Nelson and Mikey Young. Our main criteria were that they had OK music taste, and whether they could lift the top of the 12" press which was really heavy. Mikey had questionable taste at the time and struggled with the press, but he seemed really determined, so we gave him a job anyway. I think he was 22 or 23.

It was at Corduroy where Young met his Eddy Current Suppression band mate Brendan Huntley who joined the label a few years later. He remembers the days fondly.

Brendan Huntley: Every so often, usually on a Friday Nick would buy a slab of Coopers and order a platter of antipasto from the local deli. It was the best part of the job. That and the personalised nametags on the uniforms. It was such a rare, strange and wonderful and sometimes ugly business down at Corduroy. It was never going to be something that would last forever. It was too good and too crazy.

Conrad Standish found himself in, what for many young musicians would be, a dream position working alongside likeminded people and listening to cool records all day.

Conrad Standish: It was my first proper job. I really didn't know how good I had it. Everyone who worked there was a champ. I heard Chrome there for the first time, Yoo Doo Right by Can, Dr John's Gris-Gris, Panther Burns; so much stuff. I met Tom Carlyon there for the first time, which ended up being a long collaboration. His band Luxedo was signed to Corduroy and he'd come in now and then to pick up records. First time he came in I thought he was the most stoned person I'd ever seen, but this later transpired to be an eye condition. But yeah, Nick really assembled a great crew of people there.


Richard Stanley started in 1999, not long after moving to Melbourne from Brisbane. Dropkick, the label he ran at the time with Bruce Milne had records pressed and distributed at Corduroy, which lead to him working in the office and meeting Mikey Young who he would later play with in the Oooga Boogas.

Richard Stanley: The only record we could all agree on was Edit Frost 'Wonder Wonder'.You'd think the Velvet Underground, the Ramones or Sonic Youth might bring consensus but none of them did.

Mikey Young: Corduroy was such an educational time for me music wise. Everyone was in bands, everyone had labels, and good records were coming in and going out. I was till pretty fresh out of the suburbs when I started there and my knowledge was slim so having the opportunity to absorb all these records and other people's knowledge of records and also their attitudes to running labels and making music had an undeniable effect on me. Early 2000's at Corduroy was where I first heard Can, The Pagans, The Clean, Swell Maps, so many things that would become some of my favorite records.

On a 2004 New Zealand tour Mark Nelson (pictured above right) and his Stabs bandmate were arrested within 24 hours of landing in the country. They called Phillips to bail them out but Nelson says that Phillips generosity went beyond bail bond.

Before the tour Phillips shut down the presses one afternoon so that the Stabs could record a tour 7” with Mikey Young. Later when The Dirtbombs passed through the office the band’s Ben Blackwell who ran Cass Records saw the unpressed 7” lying around.


Mark Nelson: Nick played him our as yet unpressed NZ tour single, elevating it from self-released rush job to painstakingly crafted cloth cover single on Cass Records. The record only existed because of Nick’s insistence and how he had seized an opportunity we didn’t even know existed to snare our first international release. That was pretty cool of the guy.

Unfortunately Corduroy wasn’t all fun times and deli trays. The costs and expenses of running a label and pressing vinyl came at a price and in 2005 when the owners of the factory wanted to redevelop the building, Phillips sold the pressing machines and the business to another company Zenith.

But for ten years Highett was home to some crazy rock action.

Shaun Gionis: Corduroy to this day was hands down my favourite job. Working with the best people in a great environment doing a job you really liked is rare thing. But it wasn't just the job that made it good, it was the crew we had working there. We were all friends who genuinely liked each others company.

Nick Phillips: I can't actually recall how much a deli tray was back then but I can assure you that whatever amount we spent at the deli trays was dwarfed by the amount we spent on alcohol to wash it down! I think we pretty much kept the Highett bottle shop in business for those ten years!

Check the Corduroy discography here.

Related reading:

Holy Shit, It's Ten Years Since Eddy Current Suppression Ring Released "Get Up Morning"

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Downing Some Tubes on the Farm With the Chosen Few