Photo by  Kees van der Wiele.

Photo by Kees van der Wiele.

Ten years. I'm 31 years old, so that's fully a third of my life. Take away the boring bits of childhood and it's more like half my active, adult life. That's how long Xtra Mile has been a thing, and I'm proud to say I've been there since day one. The label began with Million Dead and Reuben, and we celebrated the birthday with gold and silver discs for two of my albums. It's been a massive, crazy, unexpected journey, and it's a long way from over.

There are a few reasons why I love Xtra Mile. Partly it's the history - they've been there every step of the way in my solo career, and indeed before that. It's the people - Charlie is also my manager, Anthea and Dani are my friends. It's the roster - who wouldn't love a label with Chris T-T, Ben Marwood, Larry & His Flask, Against Me, and so many others? But mainly it's the attitude. 

When I was a kid, I fell in love with what I like to think of as outsider music - first metal, then grunge, then punk and hardcore. And it's pretty chicken-and-egg as to which came first; did I fall for outsider music because I didn't fit, or did I start not fitting because of the music I loved? Who knows; who cares? That's what I wanted though; a refuge, a safe haven, somewhere I could ignore the bullshit pressures of fashion, peer pressure, social norms, whatever. Somewhere to just be myself.

Photos from Xtra Mile 10 Birthday by Ben Morse.

I guess I settled mostly for punk rock in the end, but it's a far from perfect place to land. There's still a fair bit of fashion and groupthink, snobbery and judgment, in the punk scene, which saddens me, but then nothing is perfect. I'm still chasing that idea, though, of a place where you can just be yourself, unjudged, and enjoy the music you enjoy.

This is where Xtra Mile comes in. Watching Ben and Chris play the birthday party in Camden the other night, I looked into the audience and saw normal people. Not the cool, haughty, fashionable set; not the self-consciously "different" goth or hippy types (well, maybe a few, but everyone's welcome, that's the point); just normal people. And the only common thread I could find among everyone was that pretty much everyone was singing along with the songs with unadorned, unvarnished joy. And that, right there, is what I was looking for. A room full of people who are different, awkward, succesful and failing in equal measure, from all walks of life, all ages, who are just there to lose themselves in rock'n'roll music, and shut out all the bullshit that always lurks outside. And I felt like I'd come home.

I always hated the word "scene" - it seems forced, artificial, cliquey to me. But fuck it. This is a scene, and it's my scene, and I love it. Here's to 10 more years.

Photos of Algiers, Chris T-T & The Hoodrats and Ben Marwood.