Just like JT bringin’ sexy back in the noughties, one local legend – John Russell – is making cassettes cool again, minting Brisbane bands on tape and vinyl via his record label Valley Heat Records.

An avid music lover with eccentric taste, John is a friendly enigma who’s spent years working tirelessly behind the scenes in various iterations, including a stint running a management and booking agency (Earshot), cataloguing Brisbane’s music history (Brisbane Music Graveyard) to his latest beat: Valley Heat Records (VHR).

Combining an enthusiasm for vinyl and cassettes with a passion for eclectic sounds, VHR was born in February 2016 when John and VHR co-founder Brian L’Huillier were unable to find a suitable label for Brian’s band, The Francis Wolves,’ debut album. Fast forward three years, and what started as a DIY solution is now one of Brisbane’s most respected local labels, with 17 releases to their name.

“It’s been so humbling to work with such incredibly talented artists,” said John.

“As a Brisbane label working exclusively with local acts on small run releases, our focus has always been on what’s happening in our own backyard and helping our favourite neighbourhood bands get their wares into as many ears as possible.”

Some of the musical outfits to grace the VHR roster include funk and soul quartet Soul Mechanics, jangle-rock merchants Elder, shoegazers Local Authority and many more. John says his top three pinch-me moments so far include pulling the first copy of The Francis Wolves’ record out of the box (VHR’s first official release), selling out their first run (The Double Happiness’ City cassette) and receiving kind words from artists on his roster. For John, working in a scene he loves, with music he adores, is a priceless reward.

“There are so many things I love about our local scene. The fact that I, a music fan, was welcomed and supported so openly when I decided to start my various projects is testament to what our local music community is all about. I also admire that most artists here genuinely want each other to succeed – everyone goes to each other’s shows, and if you need help or advice someone is always willing to offer it. You’d be hard-pressed to find any scene as genuine as ours.”

The community that John has served so passionately will be out in force this Saturday, 4 May for VHR’s Third Birthday at The Bearded Lady which features record stalwarts Cloud Tangle, The Double Happiness, The Holy Rollercoasters and The Dollar Bill Murrays (who are coming out of hiatus for the momentous event).

In preparation for the spectacular shindig, John has curated a VHR Sampler 2019 which features a song from every artist the label has worked with to date. What better way to celebrate the love of local music than by sharing local music you love!

“My love of music is what keeps me going – music makes me happy. Work with the music you love and people will feed off your passion for it.”

Three cheers for our May Muser Of The Moment, John Russell, and all that he does for local music through Valley Heat Records. Listen to VHR’s Sampler 2019 HERE, and head along to their third birthday shindig this Saturday, 4 May at The Bearded Lady to say g’day! All event info HERE.


  • Valley Heat Records Sampler 2019 available for free download via Bandcamp.
  • A limited run of VHR Sampler 2019 cassettes are available for purchase via Bandcamp.
  • 10 limited edition VHR USB’s featuring the VHR Sampler 2019 along with bonus VHR artist content are available for purchase via Bandcamp.