NZ music manager of the year Ashley Page represents top acts, including Broods and Lorde producer Joel Little. His father, Larry Page, managed 1960s bands The Kinks and The Troggs.
1. What was your childhood like?
We were working class but until I was 7 grew up in a big house with a swimming pool in Surrey. I have videos from those early years of my sister Caroline and I with different nannies. Mum was part of bridge-playing high society life. Dad travelled for work and would come home with exciting gifts from around the world. He'd take me to Chelsea football games at weekends religiously. He wrote their anthem Blue is the Colour in 1972.
2. Your dad's relationship with The Kinks turned famously sour. Does he still talk to Ray Davies?
Dad gave The Kinks their name and shaped their look and sound. He gets on great with Dave Davies, but Ray and my dad have never seen eye to eye. I was in London last week to run the marathon and decided to see a Kinks musical on the West End because there's a character based on dad. Halfway through, I thought "wow, dad is really the villain here". It's probably a great summary of how music managers end up being portrayed. Ray had a large influence over the musical and also wrote a book blaming dad for a lot of things. Dad said to me, "if I was really that horrible, why would he ask me to manage their comeback?" I think it's petered away to dislike again.
3. Did you plan to follow your dad into the music business?
My parents' marriage broke up when I was 7 and I blamed music management to a large degree. I swore I'd never be on that side of the fence because of the huge emotional toll it's taken on my family. That was very much the end of the good times. Mum lost friends who were too embarrassed to stick by someone who wasn't the same status. Mum and I moved to Tavistock in Devon where she worked in a pub for years. Cher would call mum when she was in England and the Shadows guitarist Bruce Welch said mum was the one person who never forgot his birthday. When I was 15, I learned I had two older half-sisters by reading it in a book, Starmakers & Svengalis.
4. So how did you end up in the industry?
I was studying English literature when I got a holiday job at Castle Records as the office lackey. They were a small catalogue operation which began releasing new records and were like 'you guys deal with it'. I found myself doing international promotions with artists like Mick Fleetwood and it was exciting. Then I got poached by Korda Marshall at Mushroom Infectious Records and got to promote some of my favourite bands like Ash and Garbage.
5. Why did you come to New Zealand?
I met my wife Tracey Donaldson at Mushroom. She was a Kiwi and wanted to come home. I ended up becoming label manager for Flying Nun which I didn't appreciate the gravity of at the time. I was out to sign current bands without giving any great kudos to history and the "Dunedin Sound". The old school no doubt to this day don't love what I did. I put Kylie Minogue doing a duet with Australian band Gerling on a Flying Nun record. But I'm very proud of signing The Mint Chicks and The Phoenix Foundation to Flying Nun.
6. Why did you go out on your own?
Festival Mushroom Records went through a horrendous period where it got bought by Warner Music. Decisions were made in Australia and New Zealand bands were at the bottom of the list. I'd watched 48May put their heart and soul into a record which got spat out with no one promoting it and I didn't want our Goodnight Nurse album to go the same way, so I went home to my wife and said "I think I'm going to set up my own management company". In hindsight it was incredibly selfish but thankfully Tracey's backed me every step of the way. She still works in the music industry as a radio DJ.
7. Goodnight Nurse frontman Joel Little came with you to Page 1 Management. How did he end up working with Lorde?
I'd inquired about managing Ella after hearing her in Devonport but she was already in discussions with Scott Maclachlan at Universal. I kept thinking "how can we be involved?". A year or so later I heard she was working with other writers. I got straight on the phone to suggest Joel. There was convincing to be done. I said to Joel, "this sounds funny but there's a 14-year-old I'd like you to work with" and he was like, "that's kind of weird. I don't know if I'd feel comfortable". It took me about three months to persuade them to get together. But they just clicked. They wrote Royals in that first two-week writing session.
8. What made you think they would click?
Joel had worked with a young Nelson band called The Peasants after they won the Smokefree Rockquest. Their lead singer Georgia Nott is now in Broods. Joel managed to mould a top-40 song around all seven band members. He's brilliant at really listening to young artists, understanding where they want to go and helping them build their own identity. He's the loveliest person in New Zealand music.
9. When have you failed?
I was badly burned in a major US record deal with Kids of 88. It was quite a rookie error. We had labels fighting over us but took our attorney's advice to focus on getting a deal done with just one. Everyone was passionate and on board at the meeting. Then I got a call from the label boss saying "I'm really sorry". I said, "what do you mean? Two days ago you told me this deal was 110 per cent done" and he was like, "I'm just not sure". The whole thing fell over and it was too late to go crawling back to the others. It was one of those moments where you go from being king of the world to the biggest chump in the room. We still got a release but it wasn't the global push it should have been.
10. Have you ever had to drop a client?
I've ended relationships with artists when things have turned nasty. If they're like that now, imagine what they're going to be like with real success? I've had artists turn septic because they think what you're doing isn't working. But managers don't take artists on to fail. We invest a huge part of our lives into it. The artist-management relationship is a long-term one that has to be nurtured to maintain loyalty and trust. What's scary is how fragile it can be for managers, whether it's my dad and The Kinks, Ella and her management Saiko or Six60 leaving Teresa Patterson after she brought them from nothing to selling out the Vector Arena.
11. Was Joel's Grammy win your career highlight?
I think that's still to come. There's plenty more space on these walls. With Lorde, every glass ceiling has been broken. Joel's living in Los Angeles writing with top artists like Ellie Goulding. We've just sold 120,000 copies of a single Joel produced by Australian artist Jarryd James. It's No1 on Spotify's viral chart in America and No5 worldwide. Broods just sold out 20 shows across America. Taylor Swift, Ellie Goulding and Haim come along to their LA show. Everything we're doing now is on a worldwide level.
12. Have you made your dad proud?
Yeah, I think so. My sister and I never had a hand-up from my dad. He was always very much "that's my money, you do your own thing". I asked if I could use his Page 1 Records name and he refused so I formed Page 1 Management. But I think he's been incredibly proud of my achievements over time. He's mid-70s now, living in Australia. I bumped into Jimmy Page a few years ago and he asked if dad was still alive, so for history reasons I wanted dad to do his own biography. It's actually been written by Joel's dad Paul Little. It's an amazing book.