Create to Destroy! Goner Records
Goner Records, based in Memphis, Tennessee, is a heavy resource for all you rockers out there looking for a fix! As a label, store, online distribution hub and fest/event/record swap/fun times organizers, I thought I would interview Eric Friedl of Goner out of respect for the multitude of releases they bring us and everything else they coordinate. Here he is for Create to Destroy! Yours truly, Amelia…
Tell us the story of how Goner Records started.
Loved Top 40 music as a kid in the ’70s, bought Beatles records every week, didn’t have an older brother or stoned neighbor to turn me onto “cool” stuff. My parents jammed Elton John and some Limeliters/harmony groups, but my Dad bought “Sounds of Daytona/Sebring /etc. Speedway” records and somehow we ended up with some Sparks records in the house. Heard about punk rock and new wave and was disappointed that it sounded like music once I actually heard it. But started looking for “other” music once I hit 12 or so. Skateboarder Magazine and then Thrasher had good lists of bands and records to check out. Bought cut-outs and all the cheapest records in the store, which turned me onto Funkadelic, Sun Ra, Moondog, and all kinds of dumb DIY type things that people didn’t “get.” Eventually did college radio, moved to Boston, saw tons of great bands at the Middle East, toured Europe trying to do sound for my friends’ pop band in ’89, got to see the Berlin Wall come down, came to Memphis in 1990. Started trying to jam with Oblivians, went to Garageshock and then put on a show for Guitar Wolf, they left a tape that I thought was good/bad enough to put out, or at least that I liked and thought no one else would put out. Did that and the first Oblivians 7″ and somehow had a record label. Did Reatards 7″ then LP, then got in a car crash and didn’t know what was going to happen so laid off on the label. Wish I woulda plowed ahead with second Guitar Wolf, secondnd Reatards, and a whole lot more Memphis stuff. Ah, well. I kept putting out occasional releases and did a mailorder out of my living room. Also ran a message board that was pretty popular back in the day. All this kinda stuff was simple and fun and built up a network that still exists to this day.
What’s going on with the label now?
Around 2000 my friend Zac Ives moved back to Memphis and in the next few years we were looking for some kinda business to get into. Greg Cartwright (Reigning Sound, Compulsive Gamblers, etc.) had a record store called Legba, he was leaving town to move to Asheville, NC and we just took over his store, revitalized Goner and kinda exploded it. Started with King Khan & BBQ Show and King Louie One Man Band LPs and started Gonerfest up and kept building the store up.
How many releases have you done?
We’re at 111 releases.
What are you working on now?
Trying to get Gonerfest 11 nailed down, trying to get Ausmuteants over here from Australia for that. Trying to completely re-do our physical and online stores. Trying to keep the lights on.
How’s the store doing?
Store is actually doing a little better than last year, we’re selling a little less new stuff and a little more used stuff, which is great. We have been declining for a few years, I think other online stores that sell similar stuff as us (Permanent, Florida’s Dying, 1-2-3-4 Go!) are also doing really well and there’s more competition. We like all those stores so it’s friendly, but it can get tough. Great to see more Memphians buying new stuff in the store — for the longest time we only sold used Rush and Yes albums to Memphians. Nothing against Rush and Yes, of course.
How long have you been in your current space?
We opened Feb 29, 2004, with a couple hundred records.
[pullquote]Form a band, draw some art, put on some shows — it’s a great way to meet people from all over the place and get out of your normal life. Don’t be afraid to do it wrong. Have fun.[/pullquote]
How long did it take to get out of the red?
We didn’t start with much debt but we also didn’t pay ourselves. That took a few years. And both Zac and I still have side jobs to help feed our families.
How was the recent Goner Party in Austin? Can you elaborate on what that was all about?
We’ve done actual SXSW shows but we’ve usually just done a non-SXSW show at Beerland. If we did official showcases we’d end up at Beerland anyway, so what’s the point? The days of getting in front of Seymour Stein or whomever and getting your band in the big time are over. But there’s still tons of great people and bands crammed into Austin at that time so it’s worth being there. We did a show this year with Reigning Sound, Ex-Cult, Buck Biloxi & The Fucks, Nots, Digital Leather, Golden Boys and Wesley Coleman. Was a blast.
How were Reigning Sound when they were recorded for the LP? I lived in Asheville, North Carolina for several years and have a definite spot in my heart for that band….can you tell us more about that release? How did you become friendly with them?
I met Greg Cartwright when he was in the Painkillers with Jack Yarber, then they did the Compulsive Gamblers, and that was completely mind-blowing to me — a ramshackle garage/R&B band with two guys who could really sing and play guitar and wrote killer songs. They were working through their influences, eventually I started jamming with those two and we formed the Oblivians and did our thing in the mid-’90s. Anyway, after that, Greg and I still stayed in touch and, like I said above, he had Legba Records and the Reigning Sound in Memphis before he moved to Asheville.
Anyway, We had the Reigning Sound play an show in the store that was recorded by our friends Robin & Kyle at Rocket Science Audio. The show was real fun and the recording sounded amazing. Katrina hit and we had a bunch of people up in Memphis while they figured out what to do, and we sold the Reigning Sound show on cdr as a fundraiser for our friends. People kept telling us we should put it out on vinyl, but the band had just released a live album and we thought, “Who wants two live albums from the same band in a year?” But the thing was, I thought the other album was pretty bad — or at least not as good as how Live At Goner turned out. So we eventually put it out, sold through all our copies, and just recently repressed it. I think it’s a great album and you really feel like you’re there with the band.
What’s in store for this year’s Gonerfest?
We’ve been having Australian bands come for a few years now, pretty much starting with the Ooga Boogas and Eddy Current Suppression Ring. This year it looks like we’re going to be completely overrun by Aussies and bands from New Zealand! We’re working on some classic US bands to headline as well, but we don’t want to give too much away just yet.
I got the recent Ausmuteants LP of you guys, it’s pretty addictive. When you get a hot seller like that, how many do you press? How many have you sold so far?
That’s sold better than we expected, which is great, everyone should get that album! We press anywhere from 600-2000 of a title to start — you definitely want to have enough to satisfy initial demand, but you can’t sit on excess albums. We’ve learned that the hard way. If a band is touring, they sell a lot more and we can safely press more. It’s pretty amazing how small record sales are, though.
Who do you use to press records? Who do you use for sleeves?
We use United, in general, but have used Pirates Press, Rainbow, RTI, and I think Erika? Maybe not Erika. Sleeves are from the great Hamlett Printing in Nashville.
What international distros do you go through? Do you do a lot of international business? You seem pretty friendly with Australia.
Midheaven/Revolver is our exclusive distributor, and they sell through Forte in the UK and a bunch of foreign distros. We’ve been lucky to have our friend Bruce doing Easter Bilby distro in Memphis — he lives two doors down from me — and we’ve gotten to hear a lot of the Aussie bands pressing 150 7″s or whatever. We’ve also been lucky to know Rich Stanley at Aarght! Records in Melbourne, he has been in the middle of us getting in touch with ECSR and Ausmuteants. The Australian scene is insane right now.
What is you highest selling record ever that Goner released?
Guitar Wolf’s first album sold around 5000 copies.
What about another label like In the Red’s release of Jay Reatard’s Blood Visions? It seemed like that record was everywhere when it came out and I’m pretty sure I got my copy off you guys.
Not sure how many they did of that. I think that record got into the stratosphere (at least in our little world), especially since Jay was touring so much. And it’s just a great, great record. Hard to listen to now. Miss Jay every day.
Why do all this work? What are you doing this for?
We’re making it up as we go along, which is great, scary, and fulfilling. Being able to say “we did this.” Entertaining ourselves without having anyone to answer to. We’ll keep doing it as long as it’s fun.
How can we stay up to date on Goner Records?
We’ve got a newsletter that is pretty good at listing new stuff, there’s also facebook, twitter, and the website. All of these are updated in a sporadic, chaotic manner.
How can we get in touch?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Any last words?
Form a band, draw some art, put on some shows — it’s a great way to meet people from all over the place and get out of your normal life. Don’t be afraid to do it wrong. Have fun.