Create to Destroy! Katorga Works

12 02 2014

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I met Adam of Katorga Works Records in Brooklyn while he was living at 538 Johnson, helping with shows and being all around good punk. Now he lives in my old room in Bed-Stuy—small punk world! Anyway, he has a pretty stellar music blog too — icoulddietomorrow.blogspot.com …go check it out. He’s released some pretty solid stuff from the WANKYS to AVON LADIES to WARRIOR KIDS. Cool, right? Read on…

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How did you start Katorga Works? Is the name a reference to anything?
I started Katorga Works in 2010 with my close friend Colman Durkee with a desire to release, well, music we like from friends of ours. The name “Katorga Works” is a reference to a form of Soviet penal servitude. Both Colman and I are fascinated by Socialist history, but it would be a stretch to say we chose the name due to anything other than we thought it unique and “dark.” I think we both regret choosing a name that is constantly misspelled and mispronounced, seeing as it’s already a (mis)transliteration that neither of us can properly pronounce, as well. Also, neither of us are particularly dark and brooding, ha!

What was the first record you released?
I guess technically, the first record we released was the WANKYS/LOTUS FUCKER split 7″. Dan at SPHC held our hand through the process, as did Chris Donaldson at Drugged Conscience when we split the MERCHANDISE (Strange Songs) In the Dark LP with him. We very much still appreciate their initial help! I can’t speak for Colman, since he has practical skills that I don’t, but I’d have been lost without their guidance.

Fortunately for us, both of those records sold out incredibly fast, as most of our first ten releases. I know we were incredibly lucky in that regard, as it allowed us to release music at a pretty furious pace.

How has being from New York influenced you? Are you from NY?
I am not a New York native, though, lately, many have been confusing me as such. I suppose I should be both insulted and flattered by that, haha. I am from Gaithersburg, MD and split my time between there (the DC area) and the Baltimore area. Divorced parents. Being from the DC area has definitely shaped who I am, but I’ve also lived here (NYC) for seven or eight years, so there’s that. Either way, being from these large east coast cities have made me paranoid and distrustful, as well as a bit too abrasive for my own good, but oh well, I guess that’s part of the “charm” of it all.

How has being based in Brooklyn affected your label?
Being based in Brooklyn has been essential to the development of the label. We started right before everything around here (namely, various punk scenes) began to coalesce into one greater scene. As the label grew, it was very much due to our ties with the local hardcore/punk scene here, not only through releasing records of local bands, but also through extensive show booking/touring, etc.

It has also affected us in more concrete ways, as well. We have become one of the main ways to find out about the local bands here, as we try to distribute local bands widely. In addition, we do the Toxic State mailorder. We used to be based out of the DIY venue/punk dorm of 538 Johnson and are now based out of Heaven Street Records, where I work. We’ve pressed a majority of our records at EKS in East New York and, while some people have horror stories about them, they’ve become good friends of ours and without them, I doubt I’d want to press as many records. What other plant could turnaround records for us in two weeks? They might technically be inactive/closed right now, but Will Soc (the man who put out the first EPMD and Jay-Z records!!!) and co. will be back to press everyone’s records in the sketchiest way possible.

In a way, Brooklyn is intrinsic to the label and I do not believe it could exist in any other city, at least in the capacity it does now. Also, “We Make Money, Not Music” is the NYC punk motto and fits very much in line with the Katorga Works motto of “Profits Before People.”

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Any thing specific to Brooklyn punk that makes it special?
At the risk of sounding too masturbatory, I would say there are many things that I think make the Brooklyn punk scene special! I’ll keep it to a few, so as not to bore the readers. Most importantly, the quality of the bands has just been astonishingly good for the last four or five years. Aesthetic is also a huge part of why NYC stands out, which is due in part to so many very talented artists existing within these various bands. John at Toxic State screens all the beautiful covers for his records, Alex Heir at Death/Traitors screens amazing shirts and posters/flyers, plus every band has like two amazing artists in them.

I also believe that the scene itself is very self-sustaining, which is important. It’s the same people (often, native New Yorkers or outsiders, such as myself, who never plan on leaving) starting band after band and has been that way for the last seven plus years. Also, in addition to the large amount of bands, there are many of us lending hands in other ways, through the various labels around here (TOXIC STATE, BURN BOOKS, etc.) and through the almost-dozen folks who book quality shows. Speaking of shows, they can have up to four hundred attendees based much off of the local bands alone. I don’t know how many other American cities can draw that many people. Granted, NYC’s population is drastically higher than other cities, but I digress…

What was the scene like when you were coming up?
I didn’t really start going to shows until I was about seventeen years old. I spent much of my youth in the suburbs consuming media, namely music and film, but especially plenty of video games with my best friend Greg. I was never too interested in live music until, admittedly, I began to desire connections with people based on the music I was falling in love with: hardcore. The DC scene was pretty welcoming. Pretty PC compared to the NYC scene, also more straight edge and vegan, both of which I still am. I’m one of the few straight edge people going to punk shows in NYC, but I was but one of many in DC. I’m not sure I actively listen to many of the DC bands I heard a decade ago outside of, say 86 MENTALITY, but I appreciate that they were formative for me. I feel like I’m also much more PC in the way in which I speak than many of my peers in NYC, due to my upbringing in NYC, but I’d like to think it’s more out of respect than just fear of using words not appropriate for fest workshops/cupcake raffles.

What local distros and record labels do you first remember?
I don’t really remember much outside of bigger labels around the time, especially since I wasn’t really big on vinyl yet. It just wasn’t something I paid close attention to until later. I do remember a friend of mine at the time starting a label to release our other close friends’ band’s (a pre-HOUNDS OF HATE band, haha) 7″ and, as terribly cheesy as it sounds, it had a pretty big impact on me in that it was a very direct and personal example of friends helping each other out and “doing it themselves.” Now, all I want to do is put out records for my friends and make them happy.

Did you model your label after a specific label/distro?
I wouldn’t say we modeled ourselves off of anything specific. We were certainly influenced by most of the active hardcore/punk labels out there, but we also wanted to put out other styles of music, as well. No matter what style of music we release, we’ll at least retain the punk ethics of the labels we’ve been indirectly influenced by. In terms of our distro, we carry whatever records we like in the distro and not too much that we don’t. Usually, the stuff we don’t like is from friends we can’t say no to haha.

I’d say the only thing we can name as a specific influence is Toxic State. We both developed around the same time and have split records together, etc. John is one of my best friends too. It’s almost like we’re influenced by each other in that we don’t try and do what the other is doing haha. We’re sort of viewed as the most professional of the two labels, particularly with art, since their covers are beautifully hand-made. I guess by “professional,” people mean not as good haha, since we have nothing on Toxic State’s packaging.

What’s your advice to punx who want to get in the game?
Don’t think about it, just do it. Nothing comes from over-thinking things. I know all too well, I’m a lazy bastard who loves to over-analyze. Also, make a point to try your best to only work with people you know, at least at first. Working with friends and loved ones is one of the greatest rewards to doing a label, at least for me, and is often infinitely easier than working with strangers, specifically strangers who might not have the same ethics as you.

How is doing this rewarding?
Well, aside from the monetary rewards (which makes it easier for me to release records, order delivery online), I just really enjoy being a part of records that I love, as well as helping friends get their music out there. People seem to pay attention to what we’re doing, so I will exploit that ill-placed trust in our taste to help our friends succeed and be able to tour painlessly, etc. As I stated above, helping friends and loved ones is the best part. I hate to admit that, but it’s true.

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How is it frustrating? Besides the ever-rising postal costs…
I would say the only thing that gets frustrating is the actual mailorder itself. Dealing with customers can be a real hassle sometimes. Granted, we’ve had a few big batches of orders that took 6–8 weeks to ship for various, stupid reasons that were entirely our fault, but people were actually pretty understanding and accepting of the circumstances. However, it’s the random shit (like how I just got a PayPal claim for a $7 order placed six days ago that I sent out) that really kills it for me. I guess mailorder is just frustrating because it makes me hate myself more than I already do haha. I should consider myself lucky that I’m doing mailorder through an online store/distro to patient folks and not Discogs, because I deal with that at work and MAN those people comprise of the most entitled assortment of herbs and punishers I’ve ever had to deal with. *Shudders*

I guess watching certain records I love sell poorly compared to other, more hyped releases of ours is pretty frustrating. I think RATIONAL ANIMALS is one of the best bands of our time (I must be the only one), but man, are they a difficult sell, while I could have sold 5,000 HOAX 7″s if I really pushed it. Fortunately for all parties involved, we stopped at 2,000 — haha. I think that’s a common label complaint, though haha.

What was your last release?
Our last release was the debut WARTHOG 7″, Exterminate Me. That was in on January 14th. We only released three records in 2013, which is depressing, but 2014 will be about five times more productive and this 7″ really kicked things off to a great start for us.

Any upcoming releases?
We have so many releases coming up, actually. Our next release is will be the GOOSEBUMPS 2nd 7″, Scared to See a Doctor. After that, the debut DARK BLUE 7″, the DEFORMITY 2nd 7″ (a split with Toxic State), the CASANOVAS IN HEAT Belvidere 7″, as well as records from VANITY, BLOTTER, GLUE, FACE THE RAIL, WEED HOUNDS, plus a bunch more I can’t let slip right now!

How can we stay up to date on Katorga Works?
I’m not sure there’s a best way. I guess keep refreshing our webstore, haha. We deleted our website because we realized we didn’t need it. Sorry if we’re difficult. We have a discogs page with an updated catalog!

Any last words, punk?
Peace to the East New York, perverted monks, and Mike Tyson.

February 12th, 2014 by Amelia


Create to Destroy—news! Koo Koo Factory fire

9 02 2014

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I met Pauli and his bird, Mr. Willis, when I first moved to San Francisco in 2011 and they have been a rock in my life ever since. I went through a rough break up a year later that involved a brief stint of homelessness and his doors were always open. I know may people who have used that space in a pinch, myself included. When I wound up in the warehouse in a back alley in the Mission District, I instantly felt like I was in a weirdo haven and everything would be OK. San Francisco is rapidly deteriorating and we’re always losing spaces like this. True punks and weirdos are being pushed out as tech nerds take over with their money, absence of culture and vapid interests. Pauli turned his home into a haven for many events, including Yoga Punx and other healthy lifestyle alternatives. The warehouse additionally was a space for many recovering people to heal. Pauli has been involved with the DOPE Project OD Prevention and narcane awareness for years as well as doing work to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS or help those who have already contracted the virus. This ties into the Homeless Youth Alliance that is a sister organization to the San Francisco Needle Exchange. After this lengthy intro, it is to my disappointment to tell you that this magical space burned down on January 23rd. I am posting this to solicit support from the community in San Francisco and donations: www.gofundme.com/6fh8t4

(And for an update on the Homeless Youth Alliance, they are still homeless but you can stay updated and get involved here.)

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What was the Koo Koo Factory? How did you come to occupy that space?
The Koo Koo Factory was a warehouse space in the Lower Mission area of San Francisco. My mentor Steve Gleason lived there for many years and during the last few years, he had a meditation/discussion meeting on Mondays. It was always a space for get-togethers, dinners, parties, music, spoken word, meetings and more…

Stevie got sick with that awful Agent Orange cancer as he was a Vietnam vet. He was sick for a while and was a beloved, spiritual man. He had no desire to be a guru or anything at all like that. It went against his nature. He was amazingly well read, spiritual, artistic and sarcastic. He was my friend and mentor. He knew my family and I loved him more than I can tell you. When the cancer progressed to a certain point he asked me to move in.

Can you give us a history of the space?
I know that it survived both earthquakes (1906 and 1989) and has a lot of stories of the history. For example, it’s said to have been an early Hells Angels HQ type place.

Did you model the space after a space you had as a young punk kid?
I didn’t. Steve set up the place. He was an eclectic artist and the place was full of his and other’s art—all of which was very interesting. The space was filled with strange artifacts.

Did you have any safe spaces growing up?
When I was growing up I had my room with my head between the speakers and the volume all the way up…

Why do you think people felt so safe at Koo Koo Factory?
It just had this vibe…It was also really easy for people to speak from the heart there. We didn’t care what you said or how you identified. There were such cool old antiques and bizarre things everywhere like the barber and beauty shop chairs from the ’50s, Texas license plates from the ’40s, the original Needle Exchange posters, African masks, art by Steve and others like Glenn Fox, a cow skull, a lot Buddhist flags and stuff from the Yoga Punx, Altars, and a lot of other stuff. One of those quotes written on a chalk board was from Mary Howe of the Homeless Youth Alliance, “Heroin: Gateway drug to cigarettes and coffee.” It goes on and on. And the vibe was unmistakable. Outcasts felt comfortable there and the thing was that all kinds of people felt the same.

How do you feel punk mentality and DIY influenced Koo Koo?
It was all about that. It was all DIY every single bit of it. And punks of all ages were a big part of it. It was one of the last real artist/tenement style warehouses in San Francisco.

How did the fire on January 23rd start?
According to the fire inspector, these guys were building a recording studio next door and didn’t dispose with chemical rags correctly. It says on the can that if not stored right they can spontaneously combust. Well…boom! And the first living space it hit was my wall. There were several of us whose places were devastated.

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Mr. Willis: hero

 

What happened? Was is a close call?
I was asleep and my bird woke me up. He was screaming and beating his wings on the cage. At first I said, “Mr. Willis (aforementioned bird) shut up buddy!” He wasn’t having it. The wall behind my head was hot but had no idea there was a really hot chemical fire on the other side! The bird got in my face and then I smelled smoke. I think the fire was already through the wall by then but I didn’t notice because I was already running down the stairs.

As soon as he woke me up, Mr. Willis was outta there! He flew downstairs and hid under a low shelf which was about the only place not covered in thick, acrid black smoke. It was amazing and terrifying. I’m one of those people who stays calm in situations like that and loses it later. I had company and I got them out and heard where the bird was cause he was chirping so I could find him. I did and he gave me this, “Um…can we go now?”-type look. I screamed for the guy who has been renting the upstairs room and didn’t get a respond so I thought he must be outside. My friend, Mr. Willis and I made it out into the street and ran to my car. We were yelling to alert people of the fire. I put Mr. Willis in my car. By the time we made it out, the whole place was enveloped in that smoke. When I got back to the building I looked and the guy who I had been screaming for wasn’t out there after all. I put my shirt over my face and went back in. People were yelling “Don’t go in there!!” and someone grabbed at me but I went in anyway!

The thing was that I didn’t have time to explain I wasn’t going all the way in but just ten feet and up his stairs. I was screaming, “GET THE FUCK OUTTA THERE NOW!!!” at the top of my lungs and he opened the door. We made it back out. Poor dude was absolutely hysterical outside.

What was ruined?
Everything basically. The worst part was that I lost all my songs. I had piles of notebooks of songs I’ve written over 30–35 years. They are all lost. My amps, some of them vintage were soaked and smoke damaged. I got the acoustic and steel guitars out and I don’t know what the damage is yet to them like the pickups, etc. But they are playable. My 1970 Gibson Les Paul and 1968 SG were at the rehearsal space and not there, thank God! It was devastating.

How did the community respond?
It was and is incredible. I have a lot of friends. I am loyal like a fucking dog to my friends and it came back. People raised a lot of money for us. It took four hard days to dig out and I had a crew each day for that stinky, smoky work full of loss. It was amazing. Of course we had some gawkers and some people politely scavenging but they were the few. Another friend, Jack didn’t have money to pitch in and started an online fundraiser for me that I wasn’t even aware of for awhile. It made a lot of money and I am humbled by the depth of kindness of so many. I am lucky beyond words.

You are a very loyal friend. What are your future plans?
Umm…well, going to keep rocking! One of my new bands, The Dicks of Hazard is playing Feb. 21st at 50 Mason and the other new one, Shot in the Dark is playing there the next month. I’ve been in the White Trash Debutantes for a long, long time and we’re still rocking too. I play some country on the side. I’m going to keep doing Harm Reduction work like Needle Exchange, Hep C Groups and Task Force, the PROP program for MSM who do speed and OD Prevention for the DOPE Project Importantly, a solid group of people are working hard to keep the Koo Koo meetings and Yoga Punx going until we can find a new space. So many people created something very special there and we want to keep it going. Any help with this is welcomed.

"This where I was asleep. My head was on the right. The bird got me outta there about a minute before the smoke and fire came through the wall. You can see where it did that."

“This where I was asleep. My head was on the right. The bird got me outta there about a minute before the smoke and fire came through the wall. You can see where it did that.”

Where are you staying now?
With friends. I’ll figure something out. I have to leave it up to the Universe and let go of the results. I’m on the run with the bird. When cops have lost a suspect they say he/she is “In the Wind”. That’s where Mr. Willis and I are now. it sounds cool to tell people that anyway. We’re just traveling around in my car and being basically inseparable. My Navajo friends have told me he is a spirit guide animal and they’re right. How many birds or other animals fly towards the fire to save someone? Animals run or fly away but not him. So I am very determined that the two of us are OK. Makes my heart swell when I think that he wouldn’t leave without me. He got me out of there JUST in time and I could get others out so, by proxy…he saved the lot of us. Doing your best and letting the Universe drive is easier said than done but I am trying.

Where do you work? Have you been able to go to work?
I mentioned the DOPE Project OD Prevention which I’ve been doing since 2004, the other work I do actually full time is for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation where I have been an employee for 15 years. I get to do a lot of service to others. All the above things mentioned are under the umbrella of the AIDS Foundation. The salvage/move took hour grueling days and I went back to work the next day.

How is the current economic situation in San Francisco making it
harder to pull yourself up by your boot straps?

It makes it pretty scary. I’m trying to not think about it. It’s so in your face messed up. I have to take one thing at a time. But you know, it’s not as scary as escaping death by a minute.

How can we help?
If you hear of any cool meeting spaces for us let me know. Living spaces too. Um…keep spreading the word about the community in such a wide format and keep rocking DIY Maximumrocknroll! Oh my God that is so cheesy. Oh well!

How can we stay up to date with the status of Koo Koo?
There is a Facebook page called Koo Koo Faktory Klub. It’s great. Please join us.

How can we best contact you?
I’m on Facebook as well. Those of you who know me and know my number: text is best. I’m still overwhelmed and not answering the phone.

Any last words, Pauli?
Keep Rocking in the Free world. Be good to others and to animals — they might save your life. Since the fire I’ve had times of being really shaky and emotional so please excuse the corny parts of this. Oh yeah, and keep real San Francisco alive. Support the local artists and businesses and places that are real and unique like this city is supposed to be. That is the SF we fell in love with. Fucking fight for it as much as you can.

February 9th, 2014 by Amelia


Create to Destroy! PORK magazine

5 02 2014

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UPDATE: Please read the comments section below.

PORK and I have interviewed a few of the same punks of interest, including Weird Luke and WHO KILLED SPIKEY JACKET? Since great minds think alike, and rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic and lifestyle are my thing, I thought I’d interview the person behind this dirty rocker rag for all you knife carrying, denim vest wearin’, good for nothing hooligans out there looking for a good time and a good read. Here’s Sean Äaberg of PORK magazine…

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What do you mean by “PORK”?
Well, exactly, right? PORK is pig meat, PORK is to fuck, PORK is a play by Andy Warhol about Brigid Berlin starring Jayne County, which was a secret spark for the bombs of glitter rock and ultimately punk rock. PORK is a four letter word and it is a way of life.

How do you feel about the pigs?
KEEP KOPS KOSHER! The first thing that comes to mind is “Fuck the pigs,” but this is too easy of an answer. Police are a necessary element of any society and like anyone or anything wielding power and authority over others, there are issues with this. I dislike anyone telling me what to do and trying to lord bureaucratic power over me, but it’s a part of life I don’t see ever going away, so I just try and make sure to stay on their good side you know? I’d like to have enough money to pay them off one day.

Where do you exist?
We are currently located in PORKLAND, OREGON. We started PORK in Eugene, Oregon of all places, but we are from Oakland, California. PORK thrives best in the dirty streets between Chinatown and the Ghetto.

How do you afford to leave free, large sized newspapers at choice locations all over the USA?
All over the WORLD darling! You can find PORK in Mexico, Japan, Afghanistan, China, Japan and even exotic Canada! PORK is paid for by our generous and cool, small business advertisers and our wonderful contributors donate their talents to us for a taste of PORKING THE WORLD.

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Tell me more about your distribution.
We rely on a grass-roots network of true-believers who make sure that each issue of PORK gets to where it needs to go. We have PORK ARMY members who place it directly into the hands of those that need it most and we ship directly to businesses and stuff that want to PORK their customers. I hand deliver PORK in the Pacific Northwest and Katie’s dad does our Bay Area distribution.

Well, you most certainly have fans in the Bay! Tell me more about what PORK stands for, if anything.
Rock & roll, weirdo art, bad ideas. Balls to the wall trash culture, freedom and freak out the squares!!! Banzai!!!

How long have you been doing this?
This is PORK’s third year coming up! It’s wild! But I’ve been doing punk zines since I was 12, and my wife and partner in PORK, Katie, has been doing zines for almost as long. We’re in it for the long haul and we’re in it to win it.

Who are your partners in crime in the USA? Canada? Europe? South America? Japan?!
Our partners in crime are too numerous to mention, but you will know them by the spirited look in their eye, the rattle of chains, the shine of studs, the smell of unwashed denim, the clomp of boots and the dirt under their fingernails.

How do you fund your mission?
PORK is an independent family business. We work our asses off.

Have you been sued for any stabbings and related deaths due to your distribution of comb knives?
Of course not, but we were ordered to stop selling them in the PORK SHOP because paypal has some stupid rule against selling weapons which is un-American, anti-freedom and just plain lame.

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That’s ridiculous. It made a great birthday present for my girlfriends. Shame we can no longer get our girl gang weapon of choice on your site any longer! Tell us about your web store.
The PORK SHOP (porkmagazine.bigcartel.com) is the best store in the world! We are inspired by the sleazy smoke shops and dime stores of years gone by, and by the Johnson Smith catalog ads in old comic books. We try to mix a childish obsession with fun and intentional indiscretions, feather ruffling and rule breaking just to upset the pencil-necked geeks out there. Ultimately this is a fucking way of life and the stuff we sell helps to flesh out this whole world that we are developing.

How can we support Pork?
Live free or die trying! Shop at the PORK SHOP!!!

Should we join the Pork Army?
If you have the crazed desire to shoot fireworks out of your bottom, to upset people just for the sake of upsetting them, to be a part of a gang of cartoonish desperadoes that drink in public, scare the squares and inspire admiration in the people, have shop-keepers follow you around the store, to wear a denim vest year-round and have little kids want to be like you, you should! If you like Motörhead, Robin Hood, old street gangs and the Road Warrior, you’ve got an army!

Any last words, punk?
We are living in one of the craziest, most fucked up, most important periods in history and it’s time for people to wake up and start living, fighting against the system and standing up for what’s right. It’s time to put aside our petty differences, unite and smash the system. People who are not elite members of society are being phased out, to be replaced by robots, but this is gradual, so in the mean time they are keeping us castrated, declawed and entertained, milking us dry and they’re gonna grind us up as organic top soil. So now is not the time to be a yuppie, now is not the time to obsess over bullshit petty squabbles, now is not the time to hide in your fucking internet cyber-holes, now is not the time to be entertained by the system’s bullshit, now is not the time to be a wimp, now is the time to be out on the streets, every day and take back what is rightfully ours!

Best.

Sean Äaberg
PORK Magazine
PO Box 90296
Porkland OR 97290

internetpork.com
541-556-5778

February 5th, 2014 by Amelia


Create to Destroy! Video Disease Records

22 01 2014

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I met Brandon trough Adam of Katorga Works. I remember him getting my contact in order to see if he could release my old band’s first 7” and the process of working with him was seamless. He executed our wishes impeccably and was a very good label to work with so I thought I’d find out more about this man and his label for Create to Destroy! P.S. This man loves cats and records as much as me. Here is Brandon of Video Disease Records

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How did you start Video Disease?
I started Video Disease in 2009/2010. I just contacted a few bands that I really liked and asked if I could release records for them on a new label I was starting.  A few were very excited to be a part of it.

How did you know releasing records was how you wanted to leave your mark on punk?
I didn’t go into it thinking I wanted to leave my mark on punk. I guess I’ve never thought of anything I do as leaving a mark on punk. I started releasing records because I love new music and new bands. There are always bands coming out with new ideas and new takes on punk. I really think in the ultra-digital/tumblr/blogspot age, it’s easy for younger people to only focus on one facet of punk or hardcore or whatever micro-genre they want to attach themselves to; so I think people get jaded when it comes to newer punk and hardcore. What I want to do is try and find bands that people don’t necessarily know about and expose them to a wider audience. I want to get people as excited as I am about new bands and new music.

What was your first release?
The first record I did was a limited 7″ for a Chicago hardcore band called RAW NERVE. I contacted the band about doing a release and they were interested, so we just worked it out from there. I’m really happy with the way things turned out, and the few times I’ve been to Chicago, I’ve managed to hang out with the guys in the band. It was nice establishing a new friendship with great people.

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How many copies are usually pressed when you do a release? Any limited colors? Cool etchings?
I press anywhere from 200-1000 copies; it just depends on what the bands wants. Sometimes, we think 200 people will want a record, and sometimes 1000 people will want a record. It all just depends on what the band wants, if they tour, how often they play, etc. As for limited colors and cool etchings, it’s really up to the bands. I give the bands I work with 100% creative control when it comes to packaging, colors, and etchings. It’s their vision that I am trying to help get out.

That was our experience and your really turned our vision into a tangible record. What’s the fanciest thing you’ve ever done with a release?
Probably the most elaborate thing that I did was for the FRANCIS HAROLD AND THE HOLOGRAMS The White Bull Weeps From Valhalla 12″ EP. We pressed 500 copies of a one-sided 12″ all on clear vinyl, and I screen printed all of the B-sides. It came out great and everyone loved the way it looked! Though I like to think that all of the releases I do are special, sometimes a band really wants to get elaborate. I do my best to make it happen.

How do you think message boards and sites like Discogs have change the nature of releases?
Things like message boards and other various blogs can help releases that normally wouldn’t get as much exposure. There’s two sides to the coin though: although it can help bands and people get their various music and projects out there, it can also create an unnecessary hype around releases. If a certain blog or webstore that’s deemed as cool by the internet community is advertising a new release or is distributing a new release, many people latch on to it and say how great it is just because of who is advertising it. The herd mentality has never been so alive and well in the punk community than it is in the year 2013. Most of the releases that are hyped up are honestly so sub par and uninteresting that they hardly show up on my radar, and if I do end up listening to it I always say the same thing to myself: “Why do people like this shit?”

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Well, you gotta sell the records you release so how do you “hype” your releases?
I advertise for my releases on a website for the label, post on various blogs and message boards, and occasionally advertise in MRR. I send out copies to review to places like MRR, Razorcake, Terminal Boredom, and a handful of college radio stations. I try and keep things within the DIY community. I suppose using the internet isn’t necessarily DIY, but in the year 2013 the internet is a necessary evil that you have to use in order to help get the word out. I’ve been approached by people like Vice for review copies, but I refuse to give in to them because I don’t want the label or any of the bands I work with to be associated with any sort of corporate backing; however, they’ve still managed to get their hands on a few releases to advertise them. I really think most people are willing to sell out any ethics or beliefs they have to get 15 minutes of fame in some sort of faux hipster bullshit magazine like Vice, or to get a write-up on Pitchfork, and all of it just leaves an awful taste in my mouth. Although a lot of people in the punk community stay true to DIY ethics, there are a handful of other labels who sell out to PR companies or try and have some sort of management, and it all just reeks of desperation.

How do you figure out what bands to release?
I am always on the hunt for something new. I always try and look for demo tapes from newer bands or ask my friends what they’ve been listening to lately. At this point, a lot of my friends and the people who have been on the label have been involved with some really great projects, and they usually just send it over because they know I am interested in hearing it. If I hear something that I fall in love with, I get in touch with the band immediately and see if they have any plans to put anything on vinyl.

Do bands get in touch with you? I know you got in touch with my old band.  Adam from Kotorga told me you wanted our contact and I knew what was coming—it was a real honor being approached like that.
I’ve had a handful of bands get in touch with me, but for the most part I end up turning stuff down. I do appreciate it when people think of me as being suitable for a release, but at this point I really want to focus on working with my friends and more bands based in Southern California that I know personally. I am glad that you felt honored being approached like that. Most bands get pretty excited when someone takes an interest in what they’re doing.

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What are your upcoming releases?
There are quite a few things coming up on the label, not all of which I can talk about at the moment because I am still working out some of the final details. In the beginning of 2014, I will have releases out from STERILIZED (Olympia band, D-beat with USHC influences!), IRON YOUTH (Austin, TX band, really depressing and hate-filled USHC), and SIMFUCKERS (dumb as all hell Punk/HC from Australia, an unholy racket!). I have a lot of plans for 2014, but I don’t think I will be taking on any new releases anytime soon.

What problems have you run into having a label?
I think the biggest problem is having the finances to keep going. I work a full time job and the label does well enough, but it is still hard to keep putting money back into it. I’m not doing it to make money though, so it’s not really a big deal. I just like helping bands out and carrying things in the distro that people can get excited about. Distribution has taken a very big turn since the increased postage rates, and everyone is feeling the sting. Orders from international destinations have dropped dramatically, and it seems to only be getting worse.

The rising postal costs have caused a lot of punks all over the world a lot of headaches over the past several years. I avoid ordering now from certain countries just because the postal costs are so ridiculous, although Poland has been surprisingly reasonable with their shipping costs. What do you want for the future of your label?
I am probably going to slow down a bit in the future and not take on as many releases. I love putting out records, but working 40+ hours a week and coming home to more mail order has really worn me down. I took a bit of a break over the summer while I was on tour and it was much needed. It helped recharge me and helped me get back into the swing of things. I want to keep the label going; releases might be a bit fewer and far between in the future, but the high quality will be the same!

Your favorite release thus far?
I can’t say I have one release I hold above any others. I’m extremely proud of all of the hard work that went into each one of them. There are so many memories and stories behind every release, that it would be impossible to pick just one favorite. I think something I released this year is just as good as something I released when I first started. The label has only grown and become more eclectic since I started it back in 2009, and it will continue to grow and thrive in the future.

How can we stay updated on Video Disease?
The best way to stay updated is by visiting my website: www.videodiseaserecords.com.

I am going to try and revamp the site in the near future, but I do all of my news updates there. You can sign up for the e-mail list that will keep you up to date on new releases and distro updates when they happen.

Thanks for the Interview, Brandon!

January 22nd, 2014 by Amelia


Create to Destroy! Radiation Records

15 01 2014

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I went to Rome the summer of 2011. I knew no one except Italian Agi punks, mostly in Northern Italy. So, I used the internet to search for record stores and Radiation Records came up several times. Then I decided to use the MRR distribution page to see if MRR was distributed in Rome, and Radiation Records was listed as the MRR connect in Rome! I was about to become the distribution coordinator at MRR, so I decided that I was meant to go to Radiation Records as I had some ties already. There I met Marco who took me under his wing with band mate Andrea from ANTI YOU and showed me an amazing time in Rome. I also bought a lot of good Italian punk records and was very impressed with Radiation Records. So, here’s Marco!

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How did you decide to open a record store?
I didn’t really decide. I was already working in it! When I first moved to Rome from Palermo, Sicily, I started working at Goodfellas, which is the main distributor in Italy for independent music.They were friends and they distributed my small punk rock label Gonna Puke back in the early ’90s, so when I got here they offered me a job. I was mainly working at the distribution but also helped at this little store they had, which was displaying basically all the distributed releases and not much else. In 2004, they moved the store to a bigger place, but it did not really work for them. So, in late 2005 I bought it myself, changed the name to Radiation Records, and that’s where the store started.

The label, the Radiation Reissues series, started few years after that. In less than four years, we had over 30 releases out, mostly punk classics including CONFLICT, 4 SKINS, CHAOTIC DISCHORD, BLITZ, VARUKERS, CHANNEL 3, DISORDER, RED ALERT, DEMENTED ARE GO, CHAOS UK, KLASSE KRIMINALE, and a lot more. Not to mention, there’s a ton more we’re working on! I also started other labels and buying licenses for vinyl reissues on non-punk stuff. It’s good business and a lot of work but a lot of fun too.

All those releases were pretty amazing. The BLITZ early singles and demo LP was a real gift to punk! What were you doing before?
I studied biology in college, and I graduated right after I moved to Rome. But I had been playing in bands, releasing records, and booking punk shows since I was like 15, so somewhere in the back of my mind I knew biology was not really going to be my main interest in the long term.

Where is Radiation Records?
It’s located in the heart of the Pigneto neighborhood in Rome. Not really super-downtown, but well connected. Pigneto has been the “hip” neighborhood for the last few years in Rome. A beautiful place as it is still looks like it did in 1965. 10 or 15 years ago, the total lack of services and the older condition of the neighborhood resulted in affordable rents and decent life conditions (at least compared to other neighborhoods in the city) and students, artists, immigrants started moving there. People started opening bars, venues and all that. There’s always plenty of shows in the area, and that makes it easy for people to stop by the store and then go some show or band members to stop by right after their sound check and then walk back to the club in time. It’s a cool place for a record store.

Who owns Radiation Records?
Me. We are three people in total working on it full time.

When did you open officially as Radiation Records?
In December 2005, even though we did an inauguration party in February 2006. The AVENGERS were playing in town and Penelope Houston did an exclusive acoustic show in the store for the occasion. People showed up in hundreds and that was the perfect launch for the store! I’m still grateful to Penelope for what she did that day.

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Where did your original inventory come from — buying other peoples’ collections? Your own collection?
90% of the store’s stock in the beginning consisted of consignment stuff from the distributor I worked for, of course. Then, step by step, I started importing new records directly from other distributors, and yeah, of course I started buying used private collections in bulk. Used records and CDs nowadays are probably 50% to 70% of our stock, but we still do well with new records, both new releases and reissues. We still do well with CDs too, which seem to be dead abroad. Of course, used records are an important branch of our business, but you must think of the used records market here as something not quite like the one you have in the US. It’s very unlikely for someone to show up at your door trying to sell his “dream of a lifetime” record collection for two bucks a piece. Quite the opposite actually, this is why I travel a lot to buy stuff: mostly to Sweden, the UK or Germany. Wherever I go on tour with my band, or if I just take a weekend off with my family, I try to arrange a deal with some good store or dealer and ship a couple of boxes back home. This is how I keep the average quality level of our used records stock very high. I also pay good money for used records at the store, and this is why there’s a good number of local collectors, small record dealers and people who hunt for good records 24 hours a day (which I don’t have the time to do) who know they can count on me if they need some quick cash or they just decide they simply need to move part of their stock. But if I just stayed there, waiting for someone to come in, our used section would probably be just crap.

Do you carry Maximum Rocknroll?
Sure I do! I don’t sell crazy quantities, but it sells OK. I’m happy to carry it as nobody else does in town, so the ones who are interested know that they can find it here. I would carry it even if it sold 0 copies though: having my store mentioned in the distributors’ page is definitely worth a lot in terms of promotion. Sometimes I have the feeling it’s way more valuable than the profit you guys can make off the few copies I sell. I’m grateful for that.

Maybe we wouldn’t have met if you had never distributed MRR! What is the “punk scene” like in Rome?
It has always been very vital. It has its ups and downs of course, and this is probably not the best time. But this is a big city, there’s room for everything and everyone, so the punk scene goes in cycles. There’s times when the scene needs mutual support, reaching as many people as possible, communicating clearly with the youngsters and the outsiders, usually followed by times when the big crowd tends to separate into smaller scenes, as if they became mature to follow a road of their own. That’s when music genre differences become extremely important, the communication gets cryptic, and the scene becomes elite. It goes on and on until the small scene becomes too small, or the scenesters too old, and everything goes back to the big picture. These dynamics seem very clear to me, having grown up in Palermo, far from everything, a small-town scene, where we grew up together against the world, where in 15 years I probably booked the same amount of punk shows that I booked in Rome in six months. Sure, I miss the warmth, the fun and the friends that I had back then, but on the other hand, if you’re remotely interested in many aspects of punk and “counter-cultural” music as I am, there are literally more than 30 shows a month worth going to in Rome, and I love it for that.

I think your assessment of the punk cycle of life is pretty accurate. What bands are you in?
I play bass with ANTI YOU. We just had our second LP out on Six Weeks in the US, and Agipunk in Europe and we will be touring a little in the West Coast in January.

Bay Area’s very own Six Weeks Records… So, any good new bands in Rome?
The glam-punkers GIUDA are the best thing happening to Rome since a long long time, they’re getting big and I wish them the best of luck. GAS ATTACK are probably the most active hardcore band in town right now, and they’re totally worth checking out live. LEXICON DEVILS just had an awesome 7″ out, I dig those guys.

What other projects are you involved with currently?
I just became a father of a beautiful 15-month-old daughter. That takes a lot my energy and time so I am not doing much else than the store, the labels, the band, and being a full-time daddy.

I can’t wait to have you guys here in January! How can we stay up to date until then?
Our website at www.radiationrecords.net and our Facebook page.

January 15th, 2014 by Amelia