Iíve Killed My Television, Now What?
by Jesse Edelman
Season 1, Episode 2: Four Guys Less Lazy Than You Are
Everyone knows who their favorite bands are, you even know their names and what instrument each play, zodiac sign and favorite drink and maybe, just maybe you are familiar with the labels that are releasing these great records. But what do you really know about the people behind the label? Well, youíre about to find out; the first in our virtual round table series we took some time to sit down with four labels from outside the United States. Thereís Kick-n-Punch Records label genius Tommas; these guys have been putting out some of the absolute best hardcore on the planet and there seems to be no end in sight. Second is Pierpaolo at Rave Up Records stationed in Italy, probably one of the best re-issue labels to have hit the streets, ever. For our third participant we head to Germany to find Daniel at Alien Snatch! Records, a Garage and Punk label with some killer releases done to insane levels of perfections. Finally, we jump a hemisphere to Australia and bring in Rich from Dropkick Records. Dropkick is releasing the best new punk and garage as well as some killer re-issues of the best early OZ Punk.
These are some people that I personally deal with a lot, and I know they are all hardworking people and their story needs to be heard for many reasons. You should know the people that are releasing the records you salivate for every month of every year. But also, for those people that are interested in starting their own label, these are the people you want to learn from. They are successful and are doing everything for the right reasons, for the love of the music. We also know that the United States is not the center of the world. People everywhere want to get involved and itís just nice to know the similarities and differences people go though to release records in different countries.
So, please read on and learn; learn a little about these great people and their hard work and just maybe youíll learn a little about what it takes to really run a record label. At the end we will give you all the contact info we can so you can continue to learn more about these people and their fine records labels.
TB: There are some obligatory questions we have got to get out of the way, first, please tell us who you are, what is the name of your label and how long have you been releasing records for now? Oh yeah, tell the people what your home country is, too.
Alien Snatch: My name is Daniel and I run ALIEN SNATCH!, based in Germany. Iím releasing records since 1999 so I was 21 when I started. I never played in a band.
Dropkick: Richard Stanley, Dropkick Records, five years, Australia.
Kick-n-Punch: My name is Tommas, Iím from Copenhagen, Denmark and Iíve been running Kick N Punch Records with a friend of mine since early 1999. We started out by having a distro together and suddenly there was a lot of great new bands that we wanted to put out, so we started the label. Besides Kick N Punch Records I run Hjernespind Records as well. This is pretty much the stuff that Iím into, and canít release as a KNP release Ďcause Jakob (the other Kick N Punch guy) isnít into it.
Rave Up: Hello! I'm an Italian 35 year old man called Pierpaolo, the name of my label is Rave Up records. It was born in 1999, but I started to release albums since I was 25, at that time the name of my label was Reverendo Moon records. Essentially, a retro punk label dedicated to early Italian punk rock bands....such as Tampax, Waalt Disney, Gags, Dirty Actions etc...
TB: How would you categorize the music that you are releasing?
Alien Snatch: garagewhateverrocknroll, punk, powerpop
Kick-n-Punch: Punkrock. All the way from hardcore-punk to 77 style punkrock.
Rave Up: Punk Rock...I mean...
TB: What is your personal favorite that you have released to date?
Alien Snatch: Always the last till I signed the next one. Did any label guy answered that question, by the way?
Dropkick: There's a couple but if I say so the other artistes might have a cry that they're not my favourite, and I know this is very important to all of them. "Live at the Civic" by X and "Cigarettes & Alcohol" by the Leftovers are pretty special.
Kick-n-Punch: I think the No Hope For The Kids LP and CD, but itís hard to choose. The Young Wasteners LP was brilliant too.
Rave Up: Many of them, but my faves are Reactors, Lubricants, Shock, Dogs, Dennis Most and the Instigators, Chainsaw, Commandos, Corpse Grinders...
TB: What about the music that is influencing you today? I mean what are you listening to and how does it, if at all, influence what you are putting out?
Alien Snatch: Iíll buy tons of new stuff and pick up any great old record, especially 70īs powerpop/rock'n'roll records. I run a mailorder so lots of stuff is going thru my hands and since most of my friends could be filed under latent record collectors itís hard to totally miss any new killer stuff.
Dropkick: I listen to the bands I like, and I try to put out records by some of them. If I had more money, I'd put out records by more of them.
Kick-n-Punch: Well, Iím into all kinds of stuff. Mostly old obscure punkrock, but I dig more traditional hardcore and even some more crusty stuff as well at times. Iím crazy about Japanese hardcore too.
TB: How do you find the bands that you are releasing records for?
Alien Snatch: From the records they released before, and I simply wrote to them. Most bands I knew for longer and finally it worked out. There arenít bands playing live I never heard before on record (at least here), so itís rare that Iím blown away by a band I didnít know anything about before (remember there arenít so many bands here as in the US for example). If there is a great band touring, Iíll try to see them as often as possible. So mainly I decide upon demo recordings or even final recordings. If that doesnít excite me I call it off, regardless of what a great live band it is, how nice the people are or how huge they're gonna (may)be . I want great records and have a preference for bands no one heard about before. Thatís it.
Dropkick: With most of them I've bought their previous records or liked their previous bands. Being in Australia I'm not able to see all these new bands playing and I can't afford to buy piles of import 7"s every week so I'm kinda outta the loop compared to American labels. I'd love to release more Australian bands but there are fuck-all that I like. When I started the label the first thing I said I'd do would be to put out a Big Bongin' Baby album. They're my favourite Aussie band and old friends. The Sailors were friends just doing it as a once-a-year thing. I helped talk them into playing as a 'real' band so that I could release their songs. I've never been sent an unsolicited demo and thought, "Shit, I really want to put this out". When I played in a band we never sent demos to anyone because I figured bands who did sucked. Generally, I've found that I'm right. That said, I love getting sent demos, it's one of the only times I'm explicitly asked for my opinion.
Kick-n-Punch: We mostly support local bands, and since Copenhagen for some reason has had a very good punk scene for the last 5 years, itís not been too hard to pick up the great stuff. We never really searched for new releases. They just came along naturally. If thereís a hiatus again for local great bands, weíll probably take it easy with releases, cause to me itís been a great part of the fun to be able to help put back Copenhagen on the punkrock world-map, and sort of just having it to be a label to document whatís going on around here.
Rave Up: I mean that there isn't a center of the world. You can sit on your chair in front a computer with internet connection telephone and contact old punks in USA. Berlin is like Detroit, Athens is like NYC, Roma is the same than Frisco! Just have infoís, good 'hooks' and lotsía of free time to spend for searching...
TB: Have you ever passed on doing a release? Are there any records you regret putting out? Is there a record you wish you had put out and maybe even passed on?
Alien Snatch: I feel like passing on many records I initially requested. That is a very sad part, but see above. I keep that pretty secret and hope the bands find a label soon after. Honestly no, I donít regret any decision, there have been 3 albums that have sold very good on other labels and people dig it but that doesnít move me. I work for a living, and I work for my label. I keep certain styles away from the label ícause I know there are better homes out there.
Dropkick: There were two early on that I passed on that I regretted - the Hot Pockets' first LP and the Scat Rag Boosters. I had just started the label and wasn't sure about taking a gamble on full-lengths by lesser-known overseas bands. I've been talking with the Scat Rags so something might happen there still.
Kick-n-Punch: Nah, no regrets.
TB: Can you tell us what is it like to release a record in your part of the world? I mean can you walk us through what you go through from master to records ready to be shipped around the world.
Alien Snatch: Ahh, come on, ha ha. This is another chapter. If youíre native English speaker buy the book This Business of Music (Krasilovsky/Shemel) for serious instructions, or Stiffed- A True Story of MCA, the Music Business and the Mafia (Knoedelseder) for enjoyment. Even MRR had an issue about music business. I lost my copy. Iím collecting this shit, but it doesnít work as a blueprint for the theatre we are acting in so more or less itís all enjoyment. In Old Europe 45s are more expensive to press and I even sold them to your part of the world for less than the final cost price for me.
Dropkick: I get the master, wait for the band to get the artwork ready, fix up the artwork and do the labels (no-one ever thinks of them). Usually the recording hasn't been mastered so I master it at a studio in Melbourne. The bands have trusted me with this and they've all been happy with the results so far. Usually it's nothing drastic, just maximising volume and sequencing. The live Leftovers stuff took a lot of work, obviously. Then I give it all to Corduroy for pressing and continue waiting until it's ready.
Kick-n-Punch: Well, basically thereís all the hassle with the band. Getting the recordings and artwork in the right formats. When itís sent out to the pressing plant we wait for the test presses and when theyíre approved by the band and by us, we press the record. When we get the pressing, we send out a few promos for review, but we canít afford to send out a lot, so itís mainly just the bigger fanzines like MRR, Short, Fast, Loud, etc. we send to.
TB: Where are your records selling mainly? Or better yet, how do you sell your records? Are you selling them yourself, using a major distributor or something else all together?
Alien Snatch: There going mainly in Europe, USA and Japan/Oz.
Dropkick: Most sales are in Europe. Europeans like buying imports, Americans don't. There are less than 1/20th the number of Australians as there are Europeans, and sales reflect this. I used to work for Corduroy (a vinyl pressing plant and distribution company) in Melbourne and they distributed the label. Now I work for Fuse Music in Sydney and they distribute it. I've been lucky to get work with record distributors so I've always had a hand in it. Corduroy still manufacture it. It would be cheaper and more sensible to get them made in Europe but I have credit with Corduroy. Cargo Germany look after all of Europe and do well with it. American distributors take small quantities here and there but nothing substantial. People in the US continually say they'd buy these records if they were available but they can't find the records.
But then the distributors donĻt take much. I've yet to crack this.
Kick-n-Punch: We trade most of our records away, so we have a huge distro we put up at local shows. Trading is still the best way to get your stuff out there I think, but sometimes it can be a pain in the ass too to have a distro. You kind of need to put it up regularly to get in money for your next releases. We have some bigger (well, if Know Crap! is considered bigger) distro in the U.S. and a bunch of record stores that takes a good amount of records in Japan.
Rave Up: Well, the editions are limited to 500/700 copies, sometimes I do small number reprints. I have some 'big' distros who carry my releases in Japan, Germany, Italy and USA. I sell directly the rest (100 copies circa) to small distros, friends, collectors.
TB: I know that some of you release CDís while others donít. Why do or donít you put out CD's?
Alien Snatch: I do CD nowadays but I havenít before. The main reason is that I like to support the band with both formats if possible and that foreign distros request CDs ícause they have to due to extensive postage costs for vinyl.
Dropkick: If I could I'd release everything on vinyl and CD. If this doesn't happen it's purely economics.
Kick-n-Punch: We just did the No Hope For The Kids CD by the bands request. Normally we donít do CDs. I like vinyl better. It has more soul if you ask me, but I donít hate CDs. That format is great for discographies and itís a lot cheaper to send out. Donít know if weíll do more CDs. Maybe.
Rave Up: Sometimes I think to release the stuff also in CD, the main problem is that I don't have enough money to release the stuff also in this format! Of course, if I must choose between vinyl or CD's, I prefer the first.
TB: What about the 7Ē, is it still possible to make money from them or are you just breaking even or taking a loss with every one? Do they still sell well, say compared to an LP or CD?
Alien Snatch: See above. I love 45s and buy as many as there are good ones out. Iíll buy ok 45s instead of ok albums for example. Theyíre expensive but Iíll continue doing them every now & then. I lost money on all 7Ēs in the Alien Snatch! history to date.
Dropkick: Australia being so far away, it's hard to sell 7"s unless they're by Andre Williams.
Kick-n-Punch: Well, 7Ēs are selling okay for us, but it seems like itís a success if you break even. Itís very hard to make money on releasing 7Ēs. This is not important either, ícause I love the format anyways. This format is perfect for punk I thinkÖ
Rave Up: I love 7"'s but it is really difficult sell them. Distros aren't interested to carry this kind of format. I released only three singles ( Penetrators, Skinnies, Maloney's Touch ) and I used to trade them more than I would sell them.
TB: What are the usual print runs for LP's/CD's/singles for your label, and how long does it usually take for them to sell/make a profit?
Alien Snatch: Between 500 and 1000 and it depends with sales if the band is ďwell knownĒ or touring, the TB readers know that, man. You should ask different stuff, haha. Like "What kind of girls like if ya do a label?" or ďDid you ever get naked pics with demos?Ēor ,a wee bit more sophisticated... hm... donīt know. Ok, you need 500 to break through if youíre lucky to get the money from the dudes you sold it to.
Dropkick: 500 for each format. One of the advantages of working at Corduroy was that we could press the LPs up as we went along. We'd get 500 sleeves printed up, then usually start with 100 or 200 LPs, send the band their copies and press more when they sold out. This meant I'd never get stuck with a whole load of LPs that weren't selling, but the busy and erratic schedule at Corduroy meant that some things were out of stock for longer than they should be.
With the CDs it's the same as anyone else, get the 500 all in one hit. Most releases sell out the 500 sooner or later, some in three months, some in two years.
Kick-n-Punch: In the beginning we only pressed between 500 and 1000 copies of our releases. Nowadays we need to press more to keep up with the demand and keep our records out of eBay. So far we did 1500 No Hope For The Kids LPs and 500 CDs, and I figure weíll need to press it up a few more times at least. As long as people want it, I see no reason to not repress.
TB: Do you trade? How do you feel about trading?
Alien Snatch: Great! (When I dig the stuff I get)
Dropkick: I like trading for records that I like. I'll trade for an American band I haven't heard, but it's rare I'll take a punt on a European band I haven't heard. Corduroy is sitting on about 4000 shit European garage 45s and has started giving them away. I donĻt want to end up with that on my hands.
Kick-n-Punch: Yes we trade. We used to trade a lot, but nowadays we learned to be more picky. We have tons of records that we practically canít sell even though most of it is great stuff. I think trading is the best way to get your record out there, and itís cool and a lot of fun to be in contact with punks from all over the world.
Rave Up: Of course yes, but only with reissues. It's difficult for me sell new stuff...only ugly and old farting collectors buy records directly from me!
TB: How do you feel about file sharing and MP3s? Do you think it affects you label and if so is it in a positive or negative way?
Alien Snatch: Great! (When I dig the song I spent my bandwidth for.)
Dropkick: I'm all for it. I download songs and albums all the time. I realize that some people won't buy an album once they've downloaded it, but fuck it, there's nothing I care to do about it so they should go for their life and download another 1000 songs while they're at it.
Kick-n-Punch: I think file-sharing definitely helps sales, so to speak. Iím convinced that people want the real deal if they check it out and they think itís good. I definitely want the real thing instead of a file on a computer, but I donít mind file-sharing at all. Itís a great way for punks from poorer countries and punks that cannot afford to buy new records all the time, to keep up with the scene.
Rave Up: I mean that MP3's don't have direct effects on my label. People that love old punk rock music prefer to buy the albums (with liner notes, photos etcÖ) than have the music inside a computer.
TB: OK, what I am getting at what is like running a record label? What does it take day-to-day? What kind of life do you have after running the label?
Alien Snatch: It takes money each day at the post office and a good joke when people are ordering a single whacky BRIEFS 7Ē from another part of the world. My afterlife? Seems you can be lucky not to turn into a comic figure while running a label like some of my friends.
Dropkick: More than anything it involves sitting in front of a computer.
Kick-n-Punch: Itís definitely a lot of hard work. I spend A LOT of time answering mails, packing up records and sending out records to people, but at the end of the day I still enjoy doing it, ícause I can really see that our efforts helped people to discover the great scene here in Copenhagen.
Rave Up: Running a label is a funny job! After my office-time I'm using organize and see concerts, playing with my punk band (Transex), speak in a radio punk show, go to parties, drink a lot, using drugs etc...itís a good life I mean!
TB: What are the highs and lows of running a label? What are some of the best experiences you have had and what are some of the worst?
Alien Snatch: The high was receiving the Fevers recordings and kneeling in front of your stereo not believinī it, this band is all about what magic is. AND that day still has to come when Darin Rafaelli sends us songs, that would count as an all time high. The worst is getting a mis-press from the plant, #2 is doing taxes #3 seeing itís another four digit loss even that turned out to be the running gag over the years.
Dropkick: It sounds corny and corny but the best thing is seeing people dig a band I've released. The Sailors were totally unknown and it was cool to see all these people go apeshit over them. I knew that would happen. A Feast Of Snakes would never have amounted to shit in this country, but there were a small group of people here who completely lost their marbles over that EP and checked out all the other bands those guys were in. When people realize that Big Bongin' Baby were doing what Supercharger and The Mummies were doing earlier and better, I can quit. There's been nothing bad about running it so far, if I was to complain about anything I'd have to punch myself in the nose for being a pussy.
Kick-n-Punch: The good thing about having a label is that you get to meet a lot of cool people. Bad thing is you can get really stressed sometimes and feel that nobody gives a fuck anyway about your stupid little labelÖ
Rave Up: Argh, sad question!!! Well, the dark part of the business is to be sometimes out of money! The best thing is when you receive the records from the factory. The sensation is similar to that of being father, ah, ah...
TB: Have you ever been ripped off? Bands, distributors or anyone else? If you have do you want to expand on it any?
Alien Snatch: This topic should cover the existence of so many great people out there.
Rip offsÖit happens. No, I donít want to expand, that wonít make them pay me. Punk rock can be a collecting tank for sloppy people, that ainít too bad but when people turn dishonest and tricky and think you wonít recognize itÖit sucks. That happens with big guy distributors and nice guy one man operations. Just the last week I got a payment and records back after 2 years from an Italian guy who distributed my stuff. Often it doesnít make sense to go ape if you have faith in certain people. You really want to break bones when they donít even send the leftover records back. Oh well, Iím not the guy breaking bones. But there are still some ampullaís, arsenic & similar ingredients in the basement of my grandpa, he was doc in WWII. So ONCE, there will be a huge promo action. The good guys get records with white powder the bad guys records immersed in.. Oh well..
Dropkick: Some folks take longer to pay than others, and you quickly realize that no matter what anyone says, everyone is as flaky as everyone else. But I've never been ripped off. As far as I know anyway.
Kick-n-Punch: Weíve been pretty lucky concerning this. Weíve been ripped off a few times, but nothing major yet. Hope it stays that way.
Rave Up: Fortunately it has never happened! Maybe because I'm Italian MafiosoÖehm...
TB: Are you able to make a living with the label or do you have some kind of regular job that pays the bills?
Alien Snatch: No, I never tried to make a living out of my label and hopefully Iím not going to have such a foolish plan. Iíd like to keep smiling about everything. Yes, I have a regular job, working as scientific assistant at the local University. Iím living for the label for years now. How long Iím going to do it? I donít know. Itís a one man operation here, BUT I say ďWE want to release a record from your band!Ē
Dropkick: When playing in a band, I thought that the second we tried to make money out of it, the band would be complete shit. I feel the same way about the label.
Kick-n-Punch: None of us are living off profits from the label. It would be very hard to do so. Iím not saying I think itís necessarily wrong to do so, I just think it would have you work even harder to make ends meet. I like the fact that this is still a hobby.
Rave Up: No, I dislike having a regular job. I live with my records (selling my reissues and original punk stuff). Little money but freedom!!!
TB: What other kinds of things do you have going on in your life right now? Anything you want to talk about?
Alien Snatch: My cat is losing weight. My 70īs motorbike is back in action. I need a new job by September. I have three books in front of me with no time to read any them. I blew one channel of my amp (bands send MONO demos). Whereís the next Pizza to grab?
Dropkick: I sit at home and eat, read, play guitar and watch videos.
Rave Up: As I answered before I'm also a punk rock promoter here in Roma. We did many shows such Dictators, Buzzcocks, Kids, Stiff Little Fingers and many more. Anything else to talk about? Well, we can open a 'discussion forum' about food and wine. I'm a big chef and I would invite all of you in my house to taste my cooking. So, wake up American punk rockers, get a ticket to Roma and come to the Rave Up restaurant! Cheap prices and nice vinyl presents to everybody!
TB: Daniel, you have been described as extremely picky about the sound of your releases. How has this affected your label and do you think you go to far sometimes (the recent Leg Hounds LP comes to mind)?
Alien Snatch: Yes, and itís good that way. You should say Iím in a great position to have some kind of imagination of what sound I like but having no big budget to give to the bands or for improving recordings afterwards. By the way it isnít insured with money, but the chance is higher. I deny records cause of the sound, mostly ícause I think the songs would work way better sounding different or the guitar sound/drum sound lacks. There are many label people asked out there why are you shitting in your pants every time when they release a mediocre sounding record, they wonít tell ya. Itís not their fault (pressing plant/pre-mastering) there are so many factors but you need to be honest if yer product doesnít reach your expectations at the end and try to get records repressed. The Leg Hounds story is included on the inner sheet of the recordÖthe LP still sold out in a couple of days.
TB: Pier, how do you feel about the mixed reviews your releases have received over the years? Have they affected your releases at all?
Rave Up: No problem, I love all of my releases but tastes are different between the people....
Of course some volumes of 'American Punk Rock Lost Nuggets' are better than others (such release as The Dogs, Lubricants, Corpse Grinders, Chainsaw, Dennis Most, etc.), 40 albums is a large catalogue and the quality level is not the same for each issue. I know...
TB: Rich, I know this may be personal but I know you recent went through a fight with Kidney cancer. Do you feel like talking about it? How has it changed you life and has it changed the label in any way?
Dropkick: Personally, it changed things immensely for a little while, then everything went back to how it was before, minus the booze. I got used to it pretty fast and have less of a fear of death: when I'm dead I won't know what I'm missing out on, so there's no point worrying about being dead. And if there is an afterlife I'll be busy living that. I donĻt see the value of having ambition or long-term plans because it takes the fun out of life. The thing you will never hear in the media is that after hereditary/genetic factors, failure to deal with stress is the biggest cause of cancer. It's a better predictor of lung cancer than smoking but it's harder to put on a billboard. Hand-wringers can't kick up a stink about it either. In all seriousness, cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me. As far as the label is concerned, everything was put on hold for a little while but now it's started again.
TB: Tommas, I know you recently had a son, how has this changed your life? How is it having a child and how do you have time to keep up with KnP?
Kick-n-Punch: Well, Iím a father now for 6 monthsÖitís tough once in a while, cause you simply have to let go of most your personal time. Everything is focused on the little guy. Itís fucking awesome though. I love it. It really is an amazing thing to be a parent. And besides the little guy and the label, I still play in bands and actually we have a short tour coming up. This is still very important to me, to play music, so Iím lucky I have a very understanding girlfriend that supports me in this.
Holy fuck! Did you just read that whole fucking thing!?! Well, I guess we should have askedíem some lighter questionsÖI mean I know I want to know if Daniel/Alien Snatch! does get any naked pics with the demos he gets (and if heíll share them!). What about PierÖhow many bottles of wine does that guy drink in a night?Öand does Tommasí kid have a mohawk yet?
OK, so if youíre interested in more I would say visit the website for any of the above labels first and if that doesnít satisfy you, you can try and write them (but donít expect a response unless youíve got cash):
Alien Snatch! Records: http://www.aliensnatch.de
Dropkick Records: http://www.dropkick.com.au
Kick-n-Punch Records: http://www.kicknpunch.com
Rave Up Records: http://web.tiscali.it/raveup
Well, I hope youíve all learned something and next time Iíll be writing about the intricacies of stripping paint from a doorÖstay tuned!
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Portland, OR 97219
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