Monday 1 July 2013

20 Questions w/ EasyRider Records

Welcome, followers of all things sludge, we have another amazing 20 Questions interview for your perusal today. 
Following the popular interviews with two of my favourite undergrounds labels, Gogmagogical and STB records, I’m pleased to introduce you to another amazing underground label, Easy Rider Records.
Our good friend Heddbuzz reviewed the Easy Rider Records release, Salems Pot and it was him as well as Steve from STB who first brought this amazing label to my attention.  So, having released a string of successful releases, Salems Pot, Albino Python and Red Desert, I thought because i’ve be stalking this guy on FB, Twitter and Instagram, that it would be only good and proper to get him to talk to us, here at the haven of Sludge. 

So without further ado, here is my interview with Dan from Easy Rider Records.  Enjoy and remember, support the underground, buy vinyl and spread the word.  Until next time, thanks for reading. Aaron.

Dan, 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 Easy Rider Records and your support of underground music.

Q) Where are you at the moment and what are you doing in terms of the label? At the time of writing this, you have just put out the Slow Season 7”. How has that process been? How has it differed from say, the release of Salem’s Pot? 

ER) Hey Aaron,
Thanks a lot for taking an interest in Easy Rider Records!  There is lots’ going on, so much it’s hard to keep up.  (feel free to take any of this out, I am just giving you the rundown of what is happening) and for ANYBODY who reads this whole thing its long and I am pretty sure that I will lose your interest, do me a favor and just read about the bands below and what’s going on and come on over to the site and check it out!
·      Salem’s Pot is pretty much sold out will be getting repressed in an edition of 200 with 2 different colors soon. 
·      The Slow Season – Heavy 7” is for sale now as of yesterday (Monday, 24/6/2013) .  The leather cover die hard sold out in a matter of minutes and was limited to 20 copies.  There are still a few of the limited to 50 on clear left but they are going fast!  There are about 40 of each of the other colors available too, it’s been a steady burn, I am really satisfied with the response and how it the project overall came out.
·      Red Desert “Damned By Fate” is available on Tape – Limited to 100 and there are a handful of copies left.  Jermaine Rogers is doing the art for the vinyl which will be a double LP and be available sometime in September.
·      Albino Python – The Doomed and The Damned, has sold really well and there are only a handful of copies left. David Paul Seymour is doing the art for the LP and it will be out in August.
·      SLEEP – HOLY MOUNTAIN, Easyrider records has the cassette rights and it will be the first pressing of this since 1993.  I plan to do some really super limited crazy shit that is so top secret; I can’t really talk about it.  But know this; it’s going to be a game changer.
·      Sons of Huns – Just signed with Easy Rider Records and there will be a double LP coming out as soon as Art is done (do you see a common thread here?)  This band absolutely rips and I am so excited to have them on the label.  Adam Burke will be doing the art (he did the Uncle Acid Poison Apple 7”)
·      There are 5 other pretty large cassette announcements that fit in with the vibe of Easy Rider Records that I won’t talk about yet, but I can promise that your average Sludgelord reader will probably think it’s cool. =)
The Slow Season record was a bit of a nightmare to be honest; I went through a super shady record plant to “save” some money (EKS IN BROOKLYN).  They burned me for $500 and caused major delays.  Its ok, they will get theirs one day, karma is a bitch.  It actually gave me more time to concept out the limited packaging though, so was a blessing in disguise.  I was fortunate enough to meet Jeff Haugjord (howg-yord) on instagram who is a SUPER BAD ASS LEATHER WORKER and we figured out that the art for the 7” would somewhat translate to what he does on a mass level of 20 copies.  Both Slow Season and Salems Pot were great experiences, I have actually talked to the Slow Season guys on the phone as they are from Central California so I definitely have gotten to know them a bit.  Salem’s Pot doesn’t communicate with the outside world except through email, I have no idea what they actually look like or sound like other than the recordings.  I think it’s kind of fun like that!

SL) 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 Easy Rider? When Easy Rider Records first started? Current Roster? 

ER) I have been working in music since 1995.  I got my first internship at American Records, it was a real special time at that label and I got to see a lot of really historical shit go down first hand.  It was also when the music biz was still making boatloads of money (the good ol’ days).  I finished college bounced around and started my first label in 1999 with a couple of friends.  It was a West African funk reissue label.  Think James Brown, but more African, more obscure, more psych.  That sort of fell apart and I have been working various jobs in music as life has gone on from doing in clubs to consulting for companies on music.
Fast forward to 2013,  John from Granite House sent me a link to the Salem’s Pot demo on Band camp, I was all about it!  I wrote them and asked where the vinyl was, they didn’t have any.  They emailed me back a couple weeks later saying that they had a tape going on sale in a couple days.  It sold out in 5 minutes, I grabbed 2 and then proceeded to email them and asked if I could press the vinyl for Watch Me Kill you.  This was in February, like 4 months ago.  A lot can happen in 4 months.
I started Easy Rider Records to put out Salem’s Pot, that’s it…I didn’t have my eyes on any other bands, I had no idea what would happen, it was just about making sure the Watch Me Kill you 12” became real.  Easy Rider Records is an extension of me aesthetically and musically.  I put out records that I like to listen to and look at.  From putting out that record, I started finding all of these sick ass bands that needed a “home” for lack of better words.  They are DIY, they work hard, they are nice people, and they could use someone like me to get some product out there and market it for them.
SL) What made you start the label and were you involved with bands before?
ER) I have been involved with bands my whole life, playing in them, working with them, etc.  I was playing drums with a bunch of friends on a regular basis, just jamming really but we were too stoned to get it out of the house.  It was more about the hang.  As mentioned before, I spent the better part of my 20s DJing in clubs sort of on accident but it took off so I went with it.  I played a lot of rap, classic rock, funk, etc. all the while collecting records along the way.  I am not DJing any more that part of life is over.   
SL) It is seemingly harder and harder to make a living in the music industry for bands and labels alike, bearing that in mind, what motivates you to continue with the label? 
ER) You are right; it’s rough out here in these streets.  Plain and simple…Easy Rider Records really is a labor of love.  If I wanted to make money I would not be doing a doom stoner psych label with limited runs of vinyl LOL!  What motivates me is the music, the people, and connecting with other like minded individuals whether it be fans or band members or other label types like Dave Sweetapple from Outerbattery/1939 Skates, Gerardo Martinez from Nuclear Blast, Gordon Conrad from Season of Mist, Steve from STB Records, Rennie Jaffe of Relapse etc.  I learn from all of these guys and they all inspire me in different ways

SL) So, let’s talk Die Hard versions of vinyl, what is it and what do you feel is the significance of releasing such a package?

ER) I am going to be really real with you right now.  People like to feel like they have something exclusive, I am just giving them a chance to be a part of it.  We aren’t selling music anymore…we are selling packaging.  I can prove this because if it was about the music, they would be happy with the free download of the Slow Season tunes and not click refresh a million times until the Leather Sleeves are up for sale for $44 which then sell out in 2 minutes.  $44 for a 7” is steep, but it’s an investment and its art and that’s what this is about.  If it was about the bottom line, there is no way I could sell a hand tooled leather sleeve, a screen printed cover, and a test pressing for that price. 
For me, it’s about making people stoked that they have something they paid good money for and it’s something that they want to buy regardless if they like the band.   I have tons of records I bought blindly for the art, most of the time music is cool but there are a lot of times that the music is horse shit and you just say fuck it and realize you got the art without the soundtrack.
SL) Is there a specific person or persons that you looked up to in terms of modelling your label upon? 
ER) Yes – Frank Kozik.  Mans Ruin Records was an inspiring thing to see watch grow in front of my face.  I have lived in LA my whole life and seeing him pick up bands like Kyuss, Unida, Queens of the Stone Age, Electric Wizard, The Heads, Church of Misery, the Hellacopters, etc. and having artwork that was completely outrageous and didn’t really fit the vibe of the music was and is my greatest inspiration as a label.  The only problem with Mans Ruin….too much art….not enough business.  It went under and that was that.  I hope to learn from watching things happen over the years and not make the same mistakes. On a more one on one type thing, I really dig what the guys at Relapse do with the vinyl thing…they do it well. 
I think the coolest label I have been able to experience firsthand is Third Man Records; Jack White is like fucking Willy Wonka.  I don’t like everything he has on the label (actually a lot of it) but god damnit if I don’t see all their shit and I want it.  It looks beautiful, they are innovators in the vinyl field, and they are changing the game.  He pretty much prints his own money over there.  I was fortunate to go there last month get the full tour, meet the man himself, see the full operation, the tape vault, etc.  It’s really really inspiring and nice to see someone who is successful put his money into making more great art and giving other bands a shot.  Say what you want about Jack White but the world is a better place with him in it.
I also dig Tee Pee records, Rise Above, Southern Lord, etc.  Then there are the people I consider to be friends like STB Steve, Dave at OuterBattery, Dom at A389, Larry at In The Red records and Jamie at Innovative Leisure (not a metal label) who are busting ass to make the best shit they can and doing it on a very limited staff or by themselves.  
SL) In your experience, how easy/difficult was it for you to get coverage for your debut release? 
ER) Well…to be honest…I didn’t really try because I was too busy assembling die hard packages and fixing my site (thank god for my wife).  I got real active on Instagram and told all my friends who are “influencers” within the vinyl world to buy multiple copies from me or I would never speak with them again =).  Its really hard to get press to be honest, fortunately for sites like Sludgelord it’s about writing about music you guys like and not about selling ads etc.  I read the pitchforks etc. and I realize I would be better off looking at the wall.  

SL) What do you look for in band, in order for you to say ‘hey I’d be interested in releasing your stuff?

ER) It starts with them as people, then their music has to be good, I have to like the vocals, if the art isn’t my cup of tea, we can work on that.  It’s a shame how many great musicians will never really get out there because the voice on top of their music is not desirable to listen to.  I like to think that every band on Easy Rider Records has a good singer, that’s my story and I am sticking to it.

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?
ER) Be active on social media, learn how to hashtag and search hashtags, follow people back and engage with them.  If you can’t connect with your audience, how can you expect them to connect with you?  Figure out who the editors are at the biggest blogs you can get to and try to get them to take a listen to what you are up to.
SL) 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? 
ER) I haven’t had too many except for those dickheads at EKS Records who burned me on the Slow Season Record.  Obviously it’s hard to juggle it, I don’t have kids and don’t plan to, my wife and I are very career minded and the label is fun to me…it’s a creative outlet so it’s not really “un-fun”.  I think the financial pressure can be an issue if you are hoping that selling doom and psych records is going to pay the rent.  For me, it’s about working with bands, helping people out, making and getting a shit ton of records as well as hopefully inspiring others.

SL) Where do you see the role of blogs such as the Sludgelord is in the music industry promoting/ reviewing your records? What are your thoughts on changes in the industry over recent years in terms digital versus CD/Vinyl?

ER) The blogs are important, it all starts here!  I say that with complete honesty, you guys give people their first shot (sometimes it’s their only shot) but you give it to them.  Without a place like Sludgelord, there is nowhere for people to read about stuff from like minded individuals.  We need blogs to keep it going. 

I think CDs are just a means to get MP3s into a person’s computer.  I think vinyl has turned into Baseball cards that you can listen to.  I think that tapes are making a comeback because they are cheap to get a run of 100 done and it’s much more “fun” than CDs.  God how jaded do I sound?
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? 
ER) I am not signing bands like a typical record deal (well there is one that I am talking to) but all of my deals are product deals.  I make the records; the band gets 20% of whatever I make.  I suppose if something really took off, the deal would change after some records have been sold.  That hasn’t happened yet.  If the band isn’t happy then they should split, I don’t want to work with anyone who isn’t happy with what I bring to the table, therefore…I don’t have typical contracts with any of them.  If I pay for a recording etc. that will be a different story.
I guess I could make a living doing it if I had to, but it would be a VERY different existence that what I currently live in.  When you have to start doing something to keep the lights on, it’s not fun anymore.   I am hoping that I am always able to have the label as something I work on when I am inspired and it doesn’t become a grind.
SL) Lets concentrate on your recent releases.  Slow Season!! You’ve released 4 different types of 7” vinyl, some in a leather jacket, something I have seen before.  How do you come up with the ideas for your releases and what were your aims for this release? 
ER) I take a ton of LSD listen to the record on 10 and then shit just comes to me.

SL)  Our blog recently reviewed Salem’s Pot and also a digital version of the Red Desert record.  Both records are great, how did your involvement come about and what are your thoughts on the final result in terms of both bands? 

ER) I heard the records and hit them up!  Albino Python, Sons of Huns found me, and I hit up Slow Season after hearing Heavy as well as Red Desert after listening to Damned By Fate like 20 times in a row.

SL) Why do you think the cassette making a comeback?
ER) It’s cheap and quick to manufacture, its analogue, and it feels “different” for a lot of people and it has way more vibe than a CD.
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?
ER) No, I am not reliant on the one release to make the next one.  I am constantly buying and selling records (kind of like stocks), success is I make money…moderate success, I break even, even if it doesn’t make money and loses, it’s ok.  Some guys like playing golf every weekend, others work on cars…I like to put out records, buy records, trade etc.

SL) How much input did the band have in terms of the finished product?

ER) Working with a band is a partnership, everyone has to be on the same page to move forward.  I am not spending money on something I am not excited about and a band isn’t going to promote the record if they don’t feel good.  I feel people out first before really going in with them, if it seems like there is going to be some “personality issues” I run for the hills.

Q) If you could have released any record past or present, what would it be and why? 

ER) Well…that is a great question.  I can tell you that I would love to have Electric Wizard and Uncle Acid on the label, I can tell you I would have loved to put DopeSmoker out but I don’t think anyone could have done a better job than Southern Lord that re-release was FLAWLESS.  I would have liked to put out the Melvins Senile Animal.  I love that record and I think that HydraHead KILLED that vinyl release.  I would also like to put out the new FUZZ record, it’s amazing and Larry at In The Red Records kills it!
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?
ER) For me…I don’t control anyone’s masters or publishing so if they want to give their shit away so it gets the word out and they want to come and buy vinyl from me then I am all for it.  I think it would be different if I owned the masters like a more traditional label.  Hoping that if someone likes something enough they buy something…maybe it’s a t shirt, a sticker, ANYTHING.  Recently a guy was streaming a record that is on the label and he wrote me asking permission that he was “trying to support the band” through his YouTube channel.  I think that’s cool, especially if you have a ton of reach to subscribers to your YouTube channel, but nothing really is more supportive than buying the band’s merch.  I am a strong believer in that, and my wife hates how many t shirts I have because of it =).

 SL) What are your plans for the rest of the year and 2013?

ER) I am working on a local band here in LA that when we get them unleashed, it’s going to make a lot of noise!  That deal is almost done, other than that, working my ass off to put out some cool stuff in a cool way.

SL) Thanks for answering my questions, but one final question, you got anything you like to say to people who buy your records? 

ER) To everyone who is still reading this…holy Christ!  Thank you for the support, really…the fans and supporters are the key to this whole operation.  If you don’t buy the shit that gets put out, then it’s not going to happen.  Thank you for taking an interest in what I have been working on, and thank you Sludgelord for being the first one to give EasyRider Records our first bit of press


Just like to say a massive Sludglord thank you to Dan for taking the time to answer my questions. As ever, show your support to Dan, Easy Rider Records and his roster of bands, by checking them out at the various links.  You can buy merch hereYou can read our review of Salems Pot here.