Another sad day for local music with news that Melbourne-based distributor Aztec Music has gone into receivership after nearly a decade of hard work and sleepless nights.

The company is popular for releasing a number of Australian hard-to-finds and classic local albums such as those by X, Died Pretty, The Master’s Apprentices, Tumbleweed, and of course The Aztecs

Ted Lethborg who started the company with Aztecs drummer Gil Matthews in 2004 broke the sad news to Mess+Noise late last night saying he has “put his heart and soul into the label”.

The company never recovered after the importing arm of the business lost $350,000 two years ago from distributors and music stores closing down, resulting in their bank withdrawing their financial lifeline.

Lethbog issued the following statement:

I have spent almost a decade working at/for Aztec Music. Since late 2004, I have run (with Gil Matthews) the Aztec Music Label. I have put my heart and soul into the label: often working seven days a week, building relationships with record labels and artists alike (actually building and re-building relationships with labels, as they change personnel with alarming frequency).

I have met so many incredible people and discovered/been introduced to so much amazing music (much of which, being almost 20 years Gil’s junior, I had never heard before) that I feel truly blessed.

The brief, from the start, was to create a world-class reissue label that paid due respect to the awesome musical history in this country. Each release had to have the best sound (a testament to Gil’s mastering skills); the best liner notes (more often than not, by Ian McFarlane, but also from such notable scribes as Ed Nimmervoll, Clinton Walker and David Nichols); and the best packaging.

Also, I have had three terrific publicists (Lou Ridsdale, Adele Spence and Melanie Crawford), as well as invaluable research from the team at Vicious Sloth Collectables (Glenn Terry, Peter Stathopuolous and Ange Stathopuolous), plus Paul McHenry and Steve Fraser.

Hey, I even wrote some liner notes myself. The highs: being Billy Thorpe’s last recorded interview for Aztecs Live and interviewing my teenage crush Annalisse Morrow for The Numbers’ reissue – found after ringing every Morrow in the Sydney phone book! The low: getting Ross Ryan’s wife’s name wrong in print!

I am so proud of what we achieved.

Two years ago, Aztec Music (the importer) lost in excess of $350,000 from distributors and music stores closing down/going out of business. That’s way too much for a small company to endure and, in the end, it caught up with us and the bank had no choice but to withdraw their finance.

As to what happens to the (my) label, time will tell. I am hopeful that I will be able to either rescue or re-launch it. We have released over 60 titles (with many more to come) and we were just about to start our vinyl reissue program.

Then there was the four live shows that we presented (featuring The Master’s Apprentices, Kush, Madder Lake, Spectrum, Blackfeather, Wendy Saddington, Levi Smith’s Clefs, Chain, Billy Field, Ross Ryan, Glenn Shorrock – sorry if I forgot anyone). Awesome nights all.

It was at one of these that, while watching Jim Keays perform with/as The Master’s Apprentices, that I had the idea of producing a “garage-rock” album for him – something that came to fruition this year with the release of Dirty, Dirty. (Buy it up guys, I need the money!)

So, for now, I will take strength from all the wonderful feedback we have received over the years and remember the looks on the faces of legends like Lobby Loyde and Billy Thorpe as I handed them each reissue as it came out, and make plans for the continuation of what has been a labour of love and one of the absolute pleasures of my life.

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