LARRY HARDY AND IN THE RED
Ya' see band interviews all the time. We've got The Fuse! and Jay Reatard
and the Ponys and and and already by our second issue. But I got ta'
thinking - the above (and tons more, like the Dirtbombs, Clone Defects,
Piranhas, Mystery Girls, Reigning Sound, The Hunches, the Deadly Snakes,
etc.) are all tied together by one guy - Larry Hardy of In the Red Records.
I've had some "conversations" (email) over the years with Larry, and chatted
with him for a bit at last year's Chicago Blackout, but I really can't say I
know much about the guy. I thunk, "this is the person who is contributing
the most to what I like in music right now, but he's so behind the scenes
few know what he's like." There didn't seem to be any interviews I'd come
across, so I asked him about it. Apparently, there's never been a "proper"
English-language interview, and he graciously (though reluctantly, at first
- nobody's more humble and less spotlight-chasing than Larry) agreed, so
here's how it went...
Terminal Boredom: I once heard a guy mention that you lived down the street
from him as a kiddie, and that he was introduced to tons of great stuff by
hanging out with you. Were you the guy with all the cool records growing up?
Larry Hardy: Yeah, I was a complete record nerd at a very early age. I was
fortunate enough to know some older people who turned me on to a lot of cool
music so I was buying a lot of odd ball stuff when most kids my age were
into Kiss (who I detested). I found out about punk rock real early on and
was spending every dime I could earn on records as they came out, so yeah, I
was definitely they guy with all the records when I was in middle school and
high school. You talked to someone that lived down the street from me???
TB: Nah, some guy posted it on a message board (who's the nerd here?). What
were your first real eye-openers, in terms of bands (live or on record)?
LH: The first major eye opener on record for me was the Rolling Stones. I
was hearing most music by way of babysitters (my mom was single and dating
so I had them frequently) and I heard stuff like Black Sabbath, The Beatles,
Led Zeppelin, etc from them when I was 8, 9, 10 years old. When I heard the
Stones I really flipped out - I thought they were better than anything else
I'd heard...I started buying all their albums and a record collecting dork
The first concert I went to was Iggy Pop at the Santa Monica Civic in
November of 1977 on the "Lust For Life" tour - I was 13 years old and it
really blew my mind but I knew that I'd missed him at his best with the
Stooges (the Stooges were, by then, pretty much my favorite band). The first
concert I saw that totally opened my eyes, mind and soul was the Cramps at
the Whisky A Go Go - it was their first trip to the West Coast and they were
opening for the Runaways. They were AMAZING and they are still the band by
which all others are measured as far as I'm concerned.
TB: I think my first "real" concert featured Triumph, and I have no idea how
I got from there to the Pagans. Do you think there's anything special in
your upbringing/formative years that you think made you gravitate towards
this type of music?
LH: I have no idea...probably the exposure from older people. I spent a lot
of time around the babysitters as I mentioned. When I started going to
record stores I'd get to know the people working there who were always
turning me on to cool stuff. I used to read Creem magazine religiously - I
found out about a lot of music there too.
TB: Have you ever been in a band? I know that I play guitar like a Mongoloid
with mittens, and it's one of the reasons I put out records instead of
ruining people's evenings out.
LH: No, I was never in a band and I never wanted to be in one. I've never
had the desire to get on stage in front of people - in fact, the idea turns
my blood to ice water. I have a guitar and amp that I screw around with at
home for my own amusement, but I'd never want to play it in front of
anybody. I'm much happier putting out records by other people rather than
trying to make my own music.
TB: Moving forward to the early label years, how did that first Morlocks 7"
come about? Why did you decide to take that step? Did you see ITR becoming
what it is today, or was it considered a one-time deal at the time?
LH: The band that inspired me to take the step to start putting out records
was the Gories - they were the first band I contacted and they agreed to do
a single with me. Unfortunately, the Gories took over a year to get the
material to me for the single and I became impatient and started looking for
something else to put out. I loved the Morlocks "Emerge" 12" on Midnight
records - I thought it was a real brutal blend of Stooges and 60's punk that
wasn't goofy retro shite. They had just released a single that was really
good so I got in touch, but they weren't together anymore though they did
have two outtakes. I agreed to put them out, but I was disappointed when I
heard them. Looking back on it I should've just waited on the Gories. At the
time my goal was to put out 10 singles and call it a day, but things just
snowballed. It's now been 12 years - I never would've thought it would last
TB: It's been said (don't look at me!) that In the Red is the closest thing
to a Rip Off or Crypt right now, in that there are a good amount of releases
that are consistently considered "tops." The only difference I see is that
Crypt and Rip Off had a pretty consistent aesthetic, while you release
disparate bands like Lost Sounds, Hunches & Reigning Sound. Do you stick to
any aesthetic built up in your head, or do you just go with whatever you
dig? Also, do you feel ITR has a definable aesthetic? Would you ever avoid
putting out a record by a band you personally love?
LH: Originally I had an aesthetic - I wanted all my stuff to be really crude
and raw. After a while I decided to have a broader range of things on the
label - I don't see the point in having everything be in exactly the same
vein. I basically just pick what I like. I do still adhere to the idea that
all the releases are quality rock n' roll music. Then again, it could be
argued that bands like the Country Teasers and the Piranhas aren't even rock
n' roll bands so...
TB: Have you rejected bands/releases?
LH: Yeah, I get finished records and demos pitched to me all the time and I
can't even do all the ones I like so in that sense I've rejected bands or
records. As far as bands that I'm already working with, I've never rejected
TB: Out of all your releases, which remain your favorites? Any regrets?
LH: I honestly can't really name favorites. I feel really, REALLY lucky that
my roster reads like a list of my favorite bands. I guess most label people
feel that way.
TB: Well, most label people would feel lucky to have one Reigning Sound. You
said in an interview some time back that Lost Sounds were the one band you
really wished you had on the ITR roster, and then they phoned you up after
seeing that quote & you got 'em. Are you feeling drunk with power? Are there
any other bands that should give you a ring?
LH: Right now my roster's pretty big so I can't really handle taking on
anything new at the moment. I do plan on doing some stuff with Miss Alex
TB: Well, I've heard through the grapevine that the Hot Machines will be
doing something with ITR in the near future. Is this true? I love that band,
and they'd be a perfect addition. You don't get teenage gals as talented as
Alex every day, and I think Ponys fans would be more than happy.
LH: Yeah, I haven't even talked to Jered or Matt about it, but I would like
to do their album if it's not already spoken for. I agree with you about
Alex White - she's an amazing talent. I recently met her when she was
visiting out here and she was really cool. I will certainly be doing records
with her. The first one we have planned is a live LP of her with Chris
Playboy - it will, obviously, be a bit of a tribute to Chris.
TB: I'm glad to hear that the Alex/Chris record will be coming out. I don't
think much more needs to be said (at least not from me - check out this
link). How do you keep up with new
bands? I know that you talk to bands on ITR, who they like playing with and
so forth, but do you read anything in particular, or is there a network of
folks you trust? Have you ever picked up a band on the strength of a demo?
LH: I keep up with bands by hearing about them from bands I work with,
reading around on the internet and getting demos. There've been a couple of
instances where a demo is sent to me and I put it out, but that's rare.
TB: Would you say you're as enthusiastic now in hearing a great new band as
you were 10 years ago?
LH: Yeah, definitely. There were a few years there in the mid/late 90's
where I was starting to think that good rock n' roll bands were beginning to
dry up, but lately there's been loads of great new bands popping up. When I
see a great live band like the Hunches, for instance, it still makes me as
enthusiastic as I was when I saw the Germs or the Cramps as a teenager.
TB: Speaking of that, how does the live thing factor in, in terms of you
picking up a band?
LH: It can factor in a lot, but it's not necessary. A real wild live band is
always a great thing, though.
TB: I've never heard a band that's had a release on ITR make a negative
peep. And, with all the joyous internet bickering about, that's gotta be
unheard of. Why do you think you tend to have great rapport with your bands?
LH: I usually become friends with the people I work with so we can usually
work out any differences without resorting accusations and name calling.
I've never ripped anyone off either - that's gotta help.
TB: What is the Birdman connection? Is there ever any crossover, in that you
both are interested in the same band? And are there other labels you work
LH: I help run the day to day operations of Birdman records for my friend
David Katznelson who owns the label. Dave's an awesome guy - one of my very
best friends. We like a lot of the same music, but our labels co-exist very
peacefully in that we never go after the same band. There have been
instances where a band has approached me (ITR) and I've liked it but thought
it would be better on Birdman - the Warlocks and the Cuts, for example.
David and I, along with Revolver USA president Gary Held, do a re-issue only
label called Sepia Tone that's been going for the past several years. We all
get to pick things we want to re-issue. Our latest release is a re-issue of
the DMZ album on Sire - this one was my selection and I'm REALLY proud to
have done it.
TB: How is LA right now, in terms of bands/shows?
LH: It's getting better. For years I felt strongly that LA had one of the
worst music scenes in the country, but lately there have been a lot of cool
local bands popping up. There's a compilation on Revenge records called
"Let's Get Rid of LA" that showcases some of the best ones.
TB: More LA - Have you ever considered moving, or have you lived elsewhere?
LH: Yeah, I used to threaten to move to Seattle because I love gloomy
weather, but I thought better of it. I'm from Southern California (Orange
County originally) so I figure I should stay put. John Waters once said
everybody should remain in their home state and do whatever it is they're
going to do in life from there - I would never disagree with John Waters.
TB: Huh, so that's why I'm stuck in Green Bay? The Dirtbombs have a song
about how nobody in Scandinavia likes them. I know ITR is fairly well
received in Europe, so how do you keep up with all those countries and their
idiosyncratic tastes? Any oddball stories?
LH: I don't even try to keep up with anyone's taste but my own. Europe has
always been fairly receptive to the stuff I've put out and to underground
American rock n' roll in general. I've always been of the impression that
Europeans understood good rock n' roll better than the majority of
That Dirtbombs song was inspired by a magazine in Scandinavia called
MOSHABLE which is now defunct. They'd always been big fans of Mick Collins,
but they didn't like the Dirtbombs and gave them really negative reviews.
That song was Mick's response.
TB: How did the In the Red showcase at SXSW go?
LH: It went really well. It was sold out by the time the first of the six
bands played and all the bands were really great. I was very proud that
TB: This is probably the most important question I'll pose - would you
rather be a Viking or a Pirate? Certain people in Wisconsin would be
fascinated by your response.
LH: What??? Is this a sports question of some kind? If so it's over my head
as I am very proudly completely sports ignorant. If you're asking me
literally I would certainly rather be a Viking - plundering European
villages would be much cooler any Pirate activity you could care to name.
TB: Even buggering and keelhauling? No, it's just a litmus test we've
designed because we're stuck indoors for 5 months out of the year and have
nothing better to do with our time. Thanks much for being such a good sport,
by the way! And finally, the promo spot - what's your favorite online zine
that debuted in 2004?
LH: TERMINAL BOREDOM, of course.
In the Red Records has lots of stuff on the horizon, including new albums by
Reigning Sound, the Mystery Girls and the Hunches over the next few months.
Check it all out here: www.intheredrecords.com
Also, check out the Birdman Group of Labels: www.thebirdmangroup.com
Interview by Todd Tricknee
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