Saturday 1 December 2012

Interview with Racer from Ripple Music

Today on Sludgelord I am interviewing Racer, one of the geniuses behind ace record label – Ripple Music

Ripple Music are one of the best Record Labels I have came across when doing this blog. They have sent me some excellent releases to review. Like Stone Axe, Mos Generator and Cody Foster Army.

They are highly thought of within the Stoner, Sludge, Doom Metal scene. Their releases have been acclaimed across the board.

I am pleased to say that they have kindly agreed to do an interview with me.

Fuck Yeah. Which I am very excited about. So lets get down with the grooviest record label out there.

Q1 – Hi Guys, Thanks for doing this. How are things with you today. 

Ah, Mr. Sludge, we’re doing great. Working our butts off to get the music out there, but that’s what we love. So all’s good.

Q2 – For people not in the know can you give them a brief history of how Ripple Music came about. 

We started in 2007 as a music review site, The Ripple Effect. Pope and I have been friends for 20 years and we’re both dedicated dumpster divers in dollar bins, always searching for cool music that we didn’t know about. We started the Ripple Effect to spread the word on all the great music we’d uncovered and had in our collections; create ripples. Things grew and the Ripple Effect took off. Soon there was Ripple Radio on and guests like Marky Ramone and Fee Waybill were stopping by. Then one of the bands we’d befriended over the years, JPT Scare Band – the legendary heavy acid rock band from the 70’s—wrote us and asked if we’d be willing to put their album out. One thing led to another, and soon Ripple Music, the Record Label was born.

We still run The Ripple Effect and Ripple Radio. Music is our passion, so besides putting out our own releases we still love spreading the word on work by other labels, bands, and individuals.

Q3 – What made you decide to just focus on the genres of music that you cover now. 

Ripple Music puts out what we call Heavy Rock. Some stoner, some doom, some sludge, but none of it is quite typical of any of those genres. We like big heavy riffs, thick grooves and great songwriting and performing. Both Pope and I come to music from slightly different perspectives, so this is the intersection of our musical tastes.

The one criteria for a Ripple release is that we both have to love it. I mean really love it. 100% agreement between us, that it is music that lives in our bones. With that kind of commitment on our part, we can give the band and the release the love and attention and energy that it deserves.

Q4 – I must congratulate you on your superb releases so far. You have an outstanding roster of bands and musicians. 

We’ve been blessed and really lucky. A lot of things took off when Tony Reed of Stone Axe and Mos Generator came on board with us. He’s a legend in the industry and a tireless worker and he needed a partner that’s as tireless as he his. Over all the years he’d been in the business, he’d never signed on with any label, but he liked the way we did business and decided to join us. He’s our George Martin. He’s such a great producer and technician that he’s mastered many of our releases and always gives it that ballsy heavy sound.

Lots of bands came to us fortuitously, like Grifter, who came in via The Ripple Effect where they sent their music for review. We dug em, asked them to contribute a couple of songs on our double-7” release Heavy Ripples, then asked if they wanted to do an album. To be honest, we weren’t prepared for how good the final release was gonna be. They totally outdid themselves. And they’re doing it again with their next album. And it seems that lots of bands do that for us. Although we thought they were great when we asked them to join us, the work they turn in blows away anything we anticipated. The new Devil to Pay album is another example of that. A freaking epic doom album!

I don’t know what we’ve done to deserve such great bands joining us, other than to say that when we formed we set out with the intention to be men of our words, do what we say we were going to do, and treat all of our artists honestly, fairly, and with respect. To this date, I’m proud to say that we’ve done that.

Q5 – How did you get involved with the bands on your label at the moment. They all speak very highly of you guys and the work that you do. 

Thanks. We appreciate that. Most of the bands came in one way or another through the Ripple Effect. They’d sent in releases for review, we dug em, and set out to work with them in the future. I think almost all the bands came to us that way. Heck, Woody was a writer for The Ripple Effect long before we ever heard his band, Mighty High. Devil to Pay came to us from a very dedicated, devoted friend/fan who wouldn’t stop annoying us until we listened to the band. And man, are we glad we did!! Mothership is another band that kind of came in through the Ripple Effect as well as our sponsoring of the Metroplex Heavyfest rock festival in Dallas last year. After seeing them play live and hanging out with the boys, we knew they were our kinda band. Great guys. And that’s important because if we’re gonna make noise together, we have to like them and they have to like us. They become a part of our Ripple family.

Q6 – Do you still have regular jobs to pay the bills or is Ripple Music your full time job.

Oh, someday. Someday!!! Actually, we decided to bite the bullet and start the label when Pope lost his job as a manager in a construction company when the housing market crashed. That gave us the opportunity for us to realistically have the time to devote to the label. He puts in about 70-80 hours a week doing what he needs to do on the Ripple front (no weekends or holidays off). I still work a full-time gig and add in about 40-50 hours a week to Ripple on top of that. 

Q7 – Are your family and friends supportive of your chosen career and the label in general.

We’re both married and our wives are angels and saints. They put up with us even before we formed the label (remember, Pope and I have been friends for 20 years) but now we really push em to the edge. But they’re amazingly supportive and help to keep us balanced by pulling us away from the label from time to time. As for friends, most are supportive and many have jumped in to give us a hand from time to time, like my buddy Paul who helps with the accounting or Chris who started us on the Ripple Radio Show. But to be honest, a lot of our friends really don’t understand the whole thing. They don’t get the idea of what we’re doing or the type of music or the mindset/passion. And there are always a lot of naysayers, who we ignore as if they were bad political commercials.

Q8 – Is is it a struggle running a label nowadays especially with the download culture going around on the Internet.

Yes. But not impossible. What the download culture has done has allowed the casual music fan to drop out of the equation for music sales. There are two types of people in this world; those who listen to music and those who love music. The music listeners are content with a download of a few songs or Pandora or XM Radio or what have you. They like music, but it’s not really that important to them. In the past, these people grossly inflated music sales numbers. If Janet Jackson put out an album and they liked one song, they’d buy the CD, since there was no reasonable way to get just the one song. Now, they download or steal the song. As a consequence, the sales of CD’s has plummeted.

Music lovers are different. They love music. It’s a tangible part of their lives. Some may be content with digital albums, (mostly for convenience) but many still want physical product. They love having a collection, a wall of music to look to and categorize and enjoy. They still buy CD’s and more and more they’re turning on to vinyl. Kids are turning on to vinyl too. They love the art and the size and the ability to hold the music, unlike a download. There’s also the whole ritual of pulling the vinyl out of the sleeve and laying the needle down onto the groove. A real tactile experience. And of course, the sound is much better.

The Ripple Effect

Q9 – Now you run your own blog as well. Which is not unusual for a label but you do the same sort of stuff as ourselves and other great blogs and websites. Is that hard to do as well at the same time. 

Sleep? What’s sleep?

Sure, it’s a challenge, but as we talked about, the blog actually came first, so it’s the founder of this whole madness that we call Ripple. We still love writing about music and digging through our collections and sharing what we find with others; our readers, who we call the waveriders. We wouldn't be near what we are without the help of a bunch of dedicated music crazies who help pour through the submissions and write their hearts out about the music.

And just as importantly, since we started as bloggers, we’ve been amazed and truly appreciative of how tight and powerful the music blogging community is. We’re all friends with all these great sites, like yours and The Obelisk, and Soda Shop, Heavy Planet, Captain Beyond Zen, Cosmic Lava, Core of Destruction Radio, Sleeping Shaman, Broken Beard, and so, so, so many more sites and radio sites. These are all people who love music. It’s a shared passion amongst all of us, and that passion has created a brotherhood. I dig that. Through that brotherhood, I’ve made some great friends, like Bill at Soda Shop who I vinyl shop with every time I’m in Chicago, or Lee at Sleeping Shaman, who jumped in to help us when we had website problems.

And then you get a situation like Ed at Doommantia, who had health problems, big bills and lost his home. The whole community, including many bands, pulled together to put on a benefit concert and download album, with all the proceeds going to help get Ed back in a home. That’s brotherhood. That’s what this is all about.

Q10 – Your releases seem to have received a lot of praise amongst the Sludge/Stoner/Doom Metal crowd. Bet your pleased with the responses. 

Pleased, shocked, stunned. And very appreciative. We never know how any particular release is going to be received, we just know what we like and what we believe in. To see some of the response to some albums has been beyond words.

Q11 – What are your favourite bands around at the moment. Do you listen to modern day rock/metal or do you just listen to the classic era of Stoner/Sludge/Doom Metal. 

With the Ripple Effect still running, we listen to everything. We still get about 500 submissions a month, and we accept all genres, cause we have varied tastes. We’ll listen to everything from stoner to jazz to metal to African to punk to hardcore to doom to pop. It just depends upon how well they do what they do.

As for favourite bands right now – ignoring our own bands, of course—I know Pope’s hot buttons right now are Nightwish and Diablo Swing Orchestra, Wo Fat and Katatonia, amongst others, and he lives and dies by Iron Maiden. I tend more towards the rockier bands, like Roadsaw and SuperGiant and Siena Root, and also love Maiden, but I’m more the Di’Anno years while Pope is more the Dickinson years.

And we’re both still total fans. When a band sends in a submission that we dig, we’ll both still run right out and buy the vinyl even though we have the download. I just did that with Heavy Eyes and Orcus Chylde. And the new Arkona album kinda blew me away, so I’ll buy that when I find it.

Q12 – What are your views of blogs such as Sludgelord featuring and reviewing your products, as opposed to mainstream music magazines? 

It’s amazing. Our music is the underground right now, we know that. Stoner and sludge and doom aren’t mainstream material. Some of our releases get picked up by glossy mags, like Classic Rock or Metal Hammer and of course we love that, if it’s good for our bands. But we started in the underground with this amazing family of like-minded bloggers and writers and home radio DJ’s. They’re our extended family and we definitely aim to impress the members of our own community with great music and killer packaging.

I’m not sure a big mainstream magazine would even “get” some of our releases in the way you, for example, have. C.F. A is an amazing band and a blitzkrieg of an album and we totally love that you dig it so much. Would Spin magazine have any idea what the band were trying to do? Maybe, maybe not. But you got it, and that’s what matters to us.

Now, having said all that, one thing we’ve definitely noticed since we’ve been a Label is that our “underground” music is getting more and more exposure. Lots of previously Heavy Metal only magazines are regularly featuring Heavy Rock bands now. And bands like Baroness have really helped to break down some of those boundaries. We’ve also noticed labels that would normally be more metal inclined have been picking up some interesting bands, like Candlelight picking up My Sleeping Karma. Not something we would’ve seen a few years ago. I think people are clamouring for really, authentic rock music again. Music that dominated festivals and shows back in the seventies- organic and heavy and real.

That’s what we do. We bring on that sound.

Q13 – How do you decide on which band to sign to your label. Are their bands you have turned down but instantly regretted it.

We’ve never regretted any band we’ve turned down because we said “no” because one of us had a reservation. And like we said, we both have to be 100% behind the band or it just won’t work for us. So it’s not really that we turned them down, so much as we didn’t feel we would be the best label for them. Having said that, it doesn’t mean they aren’t talented or whatnot, just not right for us. We love to see those bands go on to find success with other labels, it just confirms that we made the right decision for them.

As far as who joins on with us? It’s all about the music and its ability to capture us and fire our imaginations and hearts and souls. No band is ruled out, whether they’re new or old. All we ask is that the music really blows us away and sinks into our beings. Also, the band has to be working band, gigging, pushing themselves. No label can “make” a band, the band has to work just as hard. And it’s that partnership of hardworking band with supportive, hard-working label that can make something happen.

Q14 - I must congratulate you with your ever excellent work with the legend that is Tony Reed. How did you guys hook up with him and his great bands such as Mos Generator and Stone Axe. Plus producing Cody Foster Army excellent new album as well. 

Ah, thanks. Yes, that relationship has blown us away. As has Tony’s ever present work ethic and professionalism. Plus he’s one helluva guy. A while back, Stone Axe played on the East Coast with Mighty High. Later Tony called Woody and asked if he wanted to put out a split single together, and Woody agreed. Tony asked if he knew a Label to do it, and Woody called me right away. We’d only been a Label for about 6 months at that time. I didn’t even let him finish the sentence “Do you want to put out a split with Stone Axe and . . . “ Yes!! I yelled. 

Then proceeded to yell “yes” for the next 20 minutes even though I was no longer on the phone!! That single, the Stone Axe/Mighty High split was a killer release by both bands and really helped us to grow as a label, in that working with Tony gave us an extra focus and an even bigger desire to be as professional as possible and create something amazing. Tony’s been a great partner. We go up to Seattle every once in a while and hang at his house –he’s a gracious host—and are constantly amazed by his record collection and recording studio. He has a mancave for the ages!

Q15 - What are your future plans for the upcoming 12 months or so. Anything we should be excited about.

Oh God yes! 2013 is going to be a massive year for us. Seems each year just keeps getting bigger! New releases from Mothership and Devil to Pay are first up and they’re both killer albums. Grifter and Trucker Diablo should finish up new albums. We’re re-releasing the first original two JPT Scare Band albums of heavy, heavy psych as a 2-LP gatefold package. These albums haven’t been available in decades, and we have the first ever re-issue of Poobah’s classic 1976 album, “US Rock.” This album has been out of print for almost 40 years and sells for hundreds of dollars on ebay if you can find one. There’s always the possibility of more Tony Reed stuff, and we have two new band signings that we haven’t announced yet, but we’re really excited about.

Q16 – What are the most and least rewarding aspects of participating with Ripple Music.

Ha! Most rewarding would be working with the bands and releasing some really amazing albums. When I look at my “Ripple Shelf” I can’t believe we had the good fortune of working with some of these releases. It makes me really proud. Least rewarding, besides the accounting (I hate accounting) would be the never ending battle to get people to pay attention to some of the great music these bands are making. With so many entertainment options these days, it’s harder and harder to get people’s attention. I just want to grab them by the shoulders and say, “Stop! Listen to this!” and put on the new Mos Generator or something. If they love heavy rock, odds are they’ll dig that album, if they’d only listen.

Q17 – I have to ask this question but it has been a popular one. What is your stance with major league labels closing down blogs and websites that share links.

That’s a tough one, because I see both sides of the story. As a label, it does frustrate me when a blog uploads an album illegally. I mean, they just don’t have the right to do that. Forget us; the only people who should have the right for an album to be uploaded for free is the band. They created it. It’s their decision and only theirs. What makes it worse are some of these Russian and Greek sites that not only upload the album illegally, but then charge a fee to download it. That’s just blatant stealing from the band. And I’ll argue with those who say that the free downloading helps the band. It doesn’t. It doesn’t build their reputation in a helpful way, because even if folks get together and share the music with each other, they may live in an area where the band will not be likely to tour. So how exactly does it help the band?

On the other hand, we tend not to fight it. First, it’s way too much and too difficult to even attempt to do. And secondly, we’ve taken the stance that if the album is going to be downloaded, then we should at least use that in some way to the band’s advantage. So we pop over and leave comments and direct them to the Ripple Store in case they want the vinyl, or get news on future releases.

In the end, I think it’s more of a negative for the bands and the industry than many who download illegal music have any idea it is.

Q18 - Finally, Do you have anything to say your fans. (Well am a fan and I know a few of our readers are as well of your great label).

Oh yeah. We couldn’t do any of this if it wasn’t for those who love and support heavy rock. So thanks so much for sticking with us and helping us do what we do. We’ll keep living by our promise to try and bring you the best heavy rock we can find. And feel free to write us anytime and tell us what you’re digging. We love the back and forth and creating our releases to really connect with people

Well Guys Thanks for Doing This. All the best from ourselves at Sludgelord. Cheers. Steve.

So folks, there you have it from one of the coolest labels on the planet. Check this brilliant label from the links below: