I know Daniel Lupton through mutual Japanese hardcore record collecting friends we share out of North Carolina. Daniel has always carried the best new releases, including demos, with his distro and label through Sorry State Records. Recently he opened a record store—but that’s a whole other Create to Destroy interview to come! Here is Daniel Lupton of Sorry State Records…
How did you start Sorry State Records and what was the first record you released?
Sorry State really started with the label. The first record I released was the Nuclear Tomorrow EP by DIRECT CONTROL in 2004. I actually got together the money to start a label a few years before that, but it just sat in a bank account while I waited for something awesome to happen, and DIRECT CONTROL was that thing. It’s funny, I’d been going to shows for almost ten years when I first saw them, but I had just been a spectator. I went to tons of shows—usually a few a week—and bought tons of records, but DIRECT CONTROL is the band that made punk come alive for me. When that band started punk went from something I did a few nights a week to something I lived 24/7. They were so passionate, so explosive, and just everything I thought that punk should be but never really had been before. I owe a lot to that band and the guys in it.
DIRECT CONTROL were a pretty hyped band at the time, so the EP went through a couple of pressings pretty quickly and I had money to put out another record. I’d sort of randomly come into contact with Carl Snow from KORO and I offered to reissue their 7″ and their unreleased LP. Of course those releases did really well too, and from there it just kind of kept growing. Then once DOUBLE NEGATIVE and my first band, CROSS LAWS, started I had a local scene to focus on and things started feeling really real.
How has being from the South influenced you?
Deeply and profoundly. I grew up on a farm in rural Virginia, and that really shaped who I am. I was raised in a town with a population of 600 and my nearest neighbors were a few miles away. That’s probably why I’m an introvert. From a young age I knew I wanted to get out of that environment, and I savored any scraps of punk and alternative culture that I could glean from TV, Thrasher magazine, and random record-buying at mall chain stores. When I moved to Richmond, Virginia, for college in 1997, I thought I could finally become a real person and not some backwards hick.
During college, though, I also got introduced to Southern literature and started to realize that the South has a culture, that that culture is not all bad, and that it is mine. Yes, there are some very bad things about it. In particular, racism in the south—particularly the rural south—is not an abstraction or some hidden danger; it’s something that you confront every day. It’s hard, for instance, to come to terms with the fact that your family members whom you love and care for have some pretty fucked attitudes. Still, there are so many things I love about the South. I love Southern food. Southern hospitality is a real thing and it rules. We’re all extremely polite… the only places outside the South where I’ve felt truly at ease are England and Japan, probably because of the emphasis on social graces and/or politeness in those cultures.
Daniel playing with DEVOUR
Any thing specific to North Carolina punk that makes it special?
The bands here are weird, and I really like that. There aren’t a ton of shows, so bands just practice and practice and practice… the songs get weirder and more complex, and the playing usually gets tighter and faster. It’s really frowned upon to follow trends, especially national and international trends, and since there is necessarily a lot of cross-pollination between scenes the bands tend to be unique. I can’t imagine BRAIN F≠, JOINT D≠, DOUBLE NEGATIVE, STRIPMINES, WHATEVER BRAINS, DEVOUR, or SHARDS coming from anywhere else. All of those bands have or had really unique sounds, and they all play(ed) like they mean it.
What was the scene like when you were coming up?
Well, I started going to shows in 1995 in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Virginia, and then I lived in Richmond from 1997–2002. I suppose there were things happening—there was the big late-’90s straightedge revival, and I went to tons of shows with bands like BLADE CRASHER and COUNT ME OUT, but I didn’t really feel part of the scene. I went to those shows and bought those records, but the music I really cherished was late 70s punk and early 80s hardcore.
Stop aping Discharge. Break up your new “skinhead HC” band. For god’s sake, please stop drawing skulls.
I moved to North Carolina in 2002 and it was quiet for a while, but in 2004 or so everything just blew up. DIRECT CONTROL started, and even though they were based in Richmond, all of the members were from North Carolina and they played here all the time. They played with RATTUS in Greenville, North Carolina, and that’s where I met my friend Matt, with whom I started CROSS LAWS. DOUBLE NEGATIVE started around the same time, and then there were just so many bands—CROSSED EYES, STREET SHARKS, THE OBTRUDERS, etc. Shows were mostly at houses, and they were just EXPLOSIVE… so many people you couldn’t move, sweat condensing on the ceiling, bodies flying everywhere… just a total release of energy. We also started to make connections in the national and international scene, and when our favorite bands would come to town—bands like WASTED TIME, FORMALDEHYDE JUNKIES, BRAIN HANDLE, GOVERNMENT WARNING, RABIES, etc.—we busted ass to make sure the shows were wild and everyone had a great time. There was virtually never any violence, and the scene felt like this small yet diverse group of real freaks. It was great.
What local distros and record labels do you remember as a young punk?
Living in Richmond, I bought a bunch of stuff from Hardcore Holocaust, who I loved because they were always getting in rad Japanese stuff. It was like Christmas when the Tribal War Records distro would come to town, and I handed over my fair share of money to Rick Ta Life’s traveling bootleg emporium as well. I always knew I’d score some good stuff when Felix Havoc was driving a band too. I was always on the lookout for foreign hardcore and obscure early 80s stuff, and those were the distros that had the goods. I also lived just across the street from Plan 9 when I lived in Richmond, and to this day a significant portion of my record collection is from that store. I do miss the pre-internet days when I took chances on random interesting looking used stuff all the time, like when I scored a GOD’S WILL 7″ for 99¢.
Did you model your label after a specific label/distro?
Early on, X-Claim and the early Dischord catalog were my key aesthetic touchstones, but mostly I just made it up as I went along. Sorry State, No Way, and Grave Mistake all got going around the same time, and Alex, Brandon, and I were always helping one another out. For the past few years, Toxic State has been the most inspiring label out there… a total game changer that proved without question that punk can still be radical, confrontational, and original in the present day.
In terms of the record shop, my favorite stores that I’ve personally visited are Double Decker in Allentown, PA, Vinyl Conflict in Richmond, Heaven Street in NYC, Joint Custody in DC, Armageddon in Boston, and Discourage in Portland. I would love to have the selection those stores have, but that’s a lofty goal.
What’s your advice to punx who want to get in the game?
Just do it. Start small if you have to: a tape, or a 7″. However, don’t do something just to do it… do it because you really believe in the project itself. Sometimes it’s almost too easy to say, “Oh, this band is cool and I have some extra money so I’ll put out a record.” However, the records that really mean something are the ones that you have an insatiable, burning desire to be a part of and to make every aspect of it as great as it could possibly be. Those also tend to be the records that do the best. Even if they don’t do that well, though, you can still be proud of having been a part of it.
How is doing this rewarding?
The most rewarding aspect of Sorry State is working with and supporting talented people. Seriously, my friends are geniuses who consistently blow my mind. I also love making cool stuff, particularly putting out a record that is an all-around powerful package, like the new JOINT D≠ LP. I love when a new record comes through the distro and blows my mind, which happens all the time. It could happen more, though. Stop aping Discharge. Break up your new “skinhead HC” band. For god’s sake please stop drawing skulls. Listen to LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS and DAWN OF HUMANS. Be a true freak if you can, but if you can’t (I am an avowed square) recognize and support the true freaks.
How is it frustrating? Besides the ever-rising postal costs…
The postage costs do suck! The thing that frustrates me most, though, is when good bands send me stuff and I can’t put it out, either because I don’t have the time/money or because I just don’t think I can sell it. As many labels as there are out there, and as many records come out these days, there are still great bands that aren’t being heard. Speaking of which, it’s also really frustrating feeling like great records aren’t getting the audience they deserve, particularly the stuff I release. I was raised to be self-effacing and humble almost to a fault, and as such I am terrible about hyping my own releases. BROKEN PRAYER should be one of the biggest bands in the punk scene. MANIPULATION should be headlining fests. WHATEVER BRAINS should be on TV. I wish I knew how to do a better job getting those bands’ names out there, because I think they’re really important and deserve to be heard.
Sometimes I’m also frustrated when administrative tasks like bookkeeping, packing orders, buying office supplies, responding to emails, etc., take away all of the time that I could be using to help make cool art and music happen. I try to be as efficient as I can with those tasks, though, so that I can concentrate on the more important things.
How can we stay up to date on Sorry State Records?
I’m pretty much addicted to the internet, so if there’s a social network the label is probably on it. The hub of everything is www.sorrystaterecords.com, though. I also do a ridiculously lengthy monthly email newsletter that outlines label happenings and distro updates, wherein I write short, original, typo-ridden descriptions of virtually every punk record that crosses my desk. You can subscribe to that on the web site too.
Any last words, punk?
I’m opening a record store in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, and I’ve barely mentioned it! Well, the official Sorry State shop opened on October 26! We’re located at 317 West Morgan Street in Raleigh, North Carolina. The store is currently filled to the brim with new and used vinyl and tapes, and hopefully I can keep it that way. If you’re ever in Raleigh, North Carolina, come check it out. And thanks so much for the interview Amelia!