Having spoken to two of the emerging underground label of late, it was only a matter of time, before we hooked up with Granite House Records. A relative newcomer to the scene, Granite House have released 3 records thus far, Meek Is Murder, American Heritage and the excellent new release from Canadian Sludgers, Pyres. I actually have all 3 releases, so I was keen to find out more about the man behind Granite House. So without further delay, check out this edition of 20 Questions with John i.e. Granite House Records
John, How are you? I appreciate you taking the time to talk to talk to us, here at the Sludgelord. Kudos to you, as I am are big fan of what you’re trying to do at Granite House records and your support of underground music.
Thanks a lot, man; I appreciate it! Things are going great!
SL) Where are you up to at the moment and what are you doing in terms of the label? Pyres have been receiving rav reviews for their debut long player, you must be stoked about that?
At the moment I’m enjoying a fine, artisanal ale by the name of “Imperial Pumpkin.” Also hoping the Royals and Pirates make it to the playoffs in some fashion.
As far as the label’s concerned, it’s still trying to figure out what to do for 2014. Doom? Proto-metal? Psych-folk-jazz-fuzz? Either way there’s going to be plenty of solos and riffs; a veritable “major rager.”
And yeah, I’m super-mega-stoked on the rave reviews for the new Pyres! I knew they’d be getting some good words, but the overload of positive responses has been incredible.
SL) I have spoke to two other cool guys about their labels, Dan at Easy Rider and Steve at STB, I think its cool to get the lowdown on the grass roots of how their labels started. For those people who are not familiar with you or your label, could you tell us a little about yourself, your label and why you decided to start Granite House Records ? It is your opportunity to tell the world about your label? .
I guess it all started back when a buddy of mine dubbed me a copy of Spine of God; which was, what... October ’91? Around this time I became what some may call a “music snob.” Also listened to Master of Reality on my walkman during study hall, experimented with The Pod, and saw a video about dead embryonic cells.
The “Death Metal Winter” of ’92 unfolded. Obsessions over Oasis and Electric Wizard soon followed. Introductions to Atomic Rooster, Truth & Janey, and T2 snuck in along the way. S.F. Sorrow was born. The vinyl addiction had peaked.
‘Round 2009 or so, I started whining about bands that only had CDs or mp3s, but no vinyl for me to buy. The seed had been planted, but there wasn’t a catalyst at this point.
SL) What made you start the label and were you involved with bands before?
Noticed a column in Decibel magazine called Needle Exchange. Shane Mehling had reviewed a 3-way split called “Lose/Lose/Lose” that was released by Brutal Panda. It featured tracks from
Fight Amp, and Ladder Devils. It ruled. I bought it. That was the catalyst. I
began thinking of my next move. I wanted to put something out on vinyl, and on
my own! Kowloon Walled City
I never was involved with bands that much. I was a door guy at a small music club for a bit and ran into a lotta random people as an attendee at SXSW over the years, but no higher-up connections.
SL) You’re a music fan first and foremost, given that music seems to be so disposal at times, it important to offer a great package to your fans of your artists, and yet not alienate them by producing something which is not affordable. What is the ethos behind what you’re trying to do with the label? (My view is quality at a affordable price)
My ethos is one word: quality. I’d rather release a quality product and let it collect dust, than put out a piece of shit that sells out in minutes. The ultimate bummer is paying $10-$20 for a new record and it sounds like a VG+ garage sale item.
Two of my releases are at $18, which isn’t cheap, but for what you get, it’s totally worth it.
SL) What / if any bands may have inspired you to start the label or was their a specific reason you felt you wanted to support the bands you have for example ?
I wouldn’t say there were any bands that “inspired” me. Like, I didn’t listen to a bunch of Fugazi and then run out and start a label. However, there were a couple bands that I heard and thought, “Wow! This’d be great to hear on vinyl.” “Sum of All Fossils” by Flourishing and Pallbearer’s first demo come to mind.
I don’t have a deep, philosophical reason for supporting the bands I work with. It’s all about the music for me. I release what I want to hear on vinyl. I’m a selfish bastard. Maybe I should listen to more Fugazi?
SL) Is there a specific person or persons that you looked up to in terms of modelling your label upon?
Like I mentioned earlier, Brutal Panda was a big influence when I started out; I dug their simplicity and directness with their releases. Daniel Hall (who started Easy Rider Records) helped me out a ton with some initial start-up questions I had.
SL) In your experience, how easy/difficult has been to get coverage for your releases? I’m guessing press coverage does help, but does that necessarily translate to selling units?
The first two releases were a real bitch, quite honestly. Mostly because the vinyl was released after the main PR push for the CD release, I had just started the label, and no one knew who the hell I was. Definitely not bitter about anything though, and am categorizing those releases as “learning experiences.” Haha!
Pyres, however, has been a totally different experience. Even though I didn’t use an official PR firm, I was able to organize a bunch of coverage by simply asking people for it, and trying not to be too pushy in the process. I’m sure I failed in that regard a couple of times. haha! But, in general, I think I succeeded. It was kinda fun!
As far as selling units, I’ve noticed that press helps, but what really drives sales for small labels are vinyl nerds (like myself) that hang out on Instagram or in internet forums like Vinyl Collective.
SL) What do you look for in band, in order for you to say ‘hey id be interested in releasing your stuff’, specifically Meek is Murder, American Heritage and Pyres?
With Meek is Murder and American Heritage, I loved their newly-released albums (Algorithms and Sedentary, respectively) and also liked that they were working with seasoned producers like Sanford Parker and Kurt Ballou. I knew that I’d be dealing with high quality standards from the start.
With Pyres, I had six beers and randomly happened upon their demo on Bandcamp.
I don’t really have any logic behind my decisions when looking for a band. It’s always an immediate “holy-shit-this-rules” kind of moment when hearing the band’s tunes for the first time. Then I send an email. Then, on a personal basis, I find out if the band is cool with me, and if I’m cool with the band.
SL) Based on your own experience, what do you think is the most important thing for a new label to do in order to promote themselves?
Pay $5000 to a PR firm and keep the champagne chilled!
For reals though, I’d say develop your online presence/following before you release anything. That way, people know who you are, and it’ll be easier to create a little buzz for what you’re trying to sell. *takes off marketing suit*
Also, email a few labels that you’ve bought records from or industry people that you like or seem approachable and ask for a little advice. There are a lot of super-nice people out there.
SL) A particular frustration of mine and most fans of music is the cost of postage, as this cost is often above and beyond the cost of the product. What are some of the difficulties/frustrations of running a label, because there are many other commitments such as family, work etc, that perhaps restrict the amount of time you can dedicate to the band? Not to mention the financial pressure?
I can sum up the
situation for international delivery pretty easily: HATE. U.S.
I can sum up difficulties/frustrations of running a label pretty easily: Unreturned emails.
A great way to offset the financial pressure of running a label: Don’t do it for the money (at first???).
SL) How valuable are blogs and social media? What are your thoughts on changes in the industry over recent years in terms digital versus CD/Vinyl? Some label perhaps do not advocate including DD codes for example?
Shit. If it weren’t for Instagram, Bandcamp and Vinyl Collective, I know for a fact I wouldn’t have sold out of the limited versions for Meek is Murder (white vinyl) or Pyres (black and caramel swirl vinyl) as quickly as I did. Twitter’s fun, and it’s a great way to meet people and learn about obscure proto-metal, but I don’t generate a whole lot of sales from it. I think it’ll be really cool to see Google+ take off in a couple years, once more music people get involved. Blogs are cool too, because they help with the scenario of: “well, so-and-so liked it, and I trust their judgement, so maybe I’ll think about buying it.”
I think it’s great that vinyl sales increase substantially from year to year. Still a small sliver in the pie though. Kinda reminds me of the relationship craft beer has with macro beer. Some people bag on digital, but not me. Love me the Bandcamp where you can get FLAC or 320 kbps if you want! Only drawback to digital, though, is the growing trend of people only listening to a single or a couple tracks from an album, which ends up diluting the strength of an awesomely-constructed full-length piece. Because of this, I can totally understand why some labels do not advocate digital downloads. However: Your label? Your rules! I offer digital downloads, but if I work with a band in the future, and they say, “Dude. No digital downloads. We wanna be #kVlt,” then I’m not gonna automatically disagree with them.
CDs? Not really sure what those are?
Also: Glad to see that taping did not kill the music industry, as older record sleeves had previously indicated!
SL) Is there a massive cost in terms of signing the band, manufacturing the music and the promoting it? Is running a label sustainable financially and can you make a living do it?
I can’t really get into the millions of dollars that I use to acquire talent for my roster, but I can say that manufacturing is a big part of the cost. Promoting is free, when you use social media, so no cost there for me! Maybe someday there will be a cost for promoting... if a PR firm returns my emails? Running a label can be sustainable financially, yes. You can also make a living doing it! But, I, alas, do not make a living doing it... yet!
SL) Lets concentrate on your recent releases; our blog recently reviewed Pyres as many many others have done and Steve interviewed the band. Their new record is amazing and they’re great guys. How did your involvement come about and what are your thoughts on the final result in terms of Year of Sleep? Was it pleasing to see it finally released and what are your thoughts on how it has been received?
Thanks a lot for the review and the interview; we greatly appreciated that! Like I said earlier, I found the Pyres demo on Bandcamp. I emailed ‘em, got a conversation going, found out they had some new songs in the works, they had a solid timeline for when the songs would be ready for recording, and we went on from there. Final results? Excellent. I knew their stuff was good, but getting great reviews and a couple “best album of the year” nods is always icing on the sludge cake!
SL) Given that you have a number of releases under your belt, how do you measure the success of future releases, are you reliant on selling all of the record to release the next one ? Why didn’t you release Salem’s Pot yourself ?
As long as the buzz and the press coverage increase a little bit with each release I’m happy. I like to sell a good chunk of one release before moving on to the next one, but I’m always ready for a surprise. As for Salem’s Pot, I absolutely love the band, but wanted to keep my label geared more toward riff-metal for my 3rd release. I could see myself releasing stuff like that in the future, just not at the moment. Definitely stoked that Easy Rider Records put it out!
SL) Labels such as STB and Easy Rider, place a significant importance on the releases having a sense of being a collectable, with Standard and Die Hard Editions. Whilst Year Of Sleep wasn’t released in this specific format, e.g. Die Hard editions but you did have a standard release and the caramel vinyl release. What do you feel is the significance of releasing such a packages ?
My stance on die-hard editions is kind of like my attitude towards digital downloads. I could go either way. Not using die-hard editions isn’t a personal “choice,” per se, I just haven’t done one yet. Maybe for a future release I’d do one? Like I said before... Your label? Your rules!
SL) If you could have released any record past or present, what would it be and why?
Wow! My answer could change hourly! This is the hardest question in the explored universe! British Steel? Seven Chalices? Seven Churches? Dopethrone? Symphonies of Sickness? Kill ‘Em All? Definitely Maybe? Hell Awaits? Shit. My mind = blown. Can’t compute. Meltdown. Okay, fine, um, I’ll chose Truth & Janey “Erupts!” because it’s one of the best live albums of all time. So fresh. Raw. Solos. Power Trio!!!!!
SL) What are your thoughts about free legal downloads (I am referring to bandcamp) and the difference between buying a physical copy? Is that helpful to you?
I’m down for some free downloads. Who isn’t? Free downloads let you check out and absorb an album before you decide to purchase. With so much crap music out there, who can you trust except yourself?
SL) IMO Year of Sleep is your best release to date, that caramel vinyl is one of my favourites of the year. What are your plans for the rest of the year and 2014? Any exciting releases to keep our eyes on?
Thanks man! Glad you dig it!
Plan for remainder of 2013: release limited 7” which will feature two bands from the Denver Black Sky (https://www.facebook.com/DenverBlackSky) festival in December, here in Colorado, U.S.A. Speaking of die-hard editions...
Plan for 2014: Prepare for an epic release. Band unknown...
SL) Thanks for answering my questions, but one final question, you got anything you like to say to people who buy your records?
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to say a few words. People who buy my records: thanks a bunch; you make me want to wake up every day! #WPUKD
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