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"To me, it's really dangerous as
soon as you see current rock and roll
as something happening in a certain
region. It keeps you from things that
are happening all over. I don't see the
Flaming Lips (of Oklahoma) on
I.R.S.'s 'Cutting Edge.'
'In the '60s there was less hap-
pening. It was much clearer to people
on the majors that 'these three or four
bands are spear-heading a
movement.' Today it's much more
fragmented. There's nothing
representative of the whole
culture...When it gets to the point of
'we've gotta check it out, it's in
Athens...' What if you had a record
from Anchorage Alaska?
"Husker Du was signed (to Warner
Bros.) because of the amount of atten-
tion lavished on them as one band in a
movement. The movement itself is
non-existent. There are different
people with different ideas."
Cosloy thinks many of today's in-
dies won't last.
"A lot of the smaller indies haven't
taken the time to learn how to get
their records around. I wish some of
the people who are putting out their
own records would do some research
before they wonder why they have a
basement full of records.
"I do see certain things happening
where indies will make an effort to
make even larger record sales, like
'why stop at 20,000 or 30,000 records?'
To me the real interesting thing isn't.
indies competing with each other or
indies competing with majors. To
me, it's bands putting out records for
people who would otherwise be bored.
It's not a case of indies wanting to
become the next I.R.S. Half will die
before they do and the other half won't
be doing anything interesting
Curt Kirkwood - Meat
Puppets / Guy Kyser - Thin
What do artists have to say about
the benefits of being an indie? Says
Meat Puppets' Curt Kirkwood "We're
able to put out records that are com-
pletely untouched by anyone except
us, for one thing, and sell them,
too...Although they don't make us a
great deal of money we do make a
living between it and touring."
On the other hand, he says of SST's
limited funding "The problem is that
only really big towns get our stuff,
mostly places where there are
"Our following has still got a lot of
variety to it," Kirkwood added, "a
real varied audience. We get a real
good response where we get noticed."
Not every artist thinks they have
the potential for mass popular appeal.
Says Thin White Rope's Guy Kyser of
his debut LP's 7000 sales since its fall
release, "They could throw it out into
every record factory in the world and
it probably still wouldn't sell any
more than it would now. It's not just
the money (of major label support).
You also have to convince all the new-
wavey people that this is good stuff to
Lee Ranaldo-Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth are moving among the
indie labels, now. Although the New
York band has been allied with
Homestead Records, their next disk
will be coming out on SST.
"Homestead is a much younger
label," says guitarist Lee Ranaldo,"
they aren't infiltrated into people's
consciousness...SST has a power over
distributors. Once you've got steady
sellers you (can use them) to make
distributors take the newer releases,
too...But it's not like we're 'leaving
Homestead. It's just that we're doing
our next record on SST."
Would or could the band ever
gravitate to a major label?
"Of course we would consider it,"
he says, but "There's no way we
would consider altering what we do,
which of course excludes us. Some
major labels have shown interest.
They'd call Ranaldo based on reviews
in The New York Times, ask for the
record, then give it a listen and won-
der if it's the same record.,,
"Majors take bands which have
really proven themselves, like Husker
Du," Ranaldo stated, "At the point
where majors take on a lot of bands,
in some cases it could be where it's at
the end of their creative career (I'm
not saying Husker Du is like that).
The best bands to work on majors are
at the beginning of their career, like
the Talking Heads on Sire."
Greg Ginn - SST Records
SST Records of Hawthorne,
California if you haven't gathered by
now is a relatively strong force in the
underground rock industry. The
brainchild of Black Flag guitarist
Greg Ginn, SST was launched in 1978
as a vehicle for his own band. In time,
they began contracting other acts like
The Minutemen, Meat Puppets,
Husker Du, and Saccharine Trust,
recording their projects for a few
thousand dollars. Today they can
boast a history of 55 records, a staff of
8 including a booking department, and
considerably high sales for an indie.
Black Flag's Damaged LP for ex-
ample has sold 80,000 copies. Most
larger SST acts sell 25-50,000 copies
and new ones sell around 5000, accor-
ding to Ray Farrell, who works in
record promotion. But this is a
healthy indie figure - as a major
label release would be a disappoin-
tment with such sales.
So what's going on out there? How
do indies compare to majors and how
do indies compare to each other? I
asked Greg Ginn;
"There's not a lot of radical activity
in the industry. On the independents
there is some. The mechanisms are
sidetracked into narrow areas such as
hardcore. Narrow things not into
having an impact on the culture. SST
has interests in a broader impact on
the culture, finding a little niche we
can crawl into...I'd rather shake
things up on a continuous basis."
"It's a conservative time and that's
reflected on the independent scene as
well. Certain people are trying to
fight it . like the whole
'roots/Americana' image, the type of
thing Springsteen is doing.
"Music is sold under a liberal name
but under a conservative ideal.
"To me, that's a lack of realistic
thinking. A global view is in order.
Someone can send a bomb across the
whole world.. . people who come on with
'America - 'our country' are not
thinking of the rest of the world. I'm
not into it. The whole Bruce
Springsteen, cowboy thing doesn't
On a lighter note, Ginn add:
"I'm not against any style of music
it's just when it reflects a basic
cultural mood. I'm not down on
anyone who wears a bandana, it's just
not viable philosophically."
So what does SST do?
"We're not going to ignore the
culture as a whole, but we're not going
to kiss its ass, wither. I don't want to
react to the culture, either. I love ZZ
"We do this 'cause we like this
music and Warner's isn't doing it. If
they were they'd have been at the first
BUT INDIES don't have to just be
considered as national forces.
Lots of local artists are churning
away, like Map of the World, Alien
Nation, Domino, Surreal Estate, and
Vertical Pillows - all have made
their. own records. Ann Arbor-area
band It's Raining is just one of many
artists who have done what Greg
Ginn did eight years ago. In late 1984
the band released their 4-song debut
LP Radioland on their own Certain
Records label. The effort cdst them
roughly $2000. In retrospect,
guitarist/vocalist Matt Smith says,
"We'd been playing around Detroit
for a long time and not accomplishing
anything. People weren't paying
enough attention and there was no
real audience out there that was
easily accessible. (Making the
record) was an effort to do it without
any assistance from anyone else.
Basically to prove myself that I could
do it without any music industry
assistance." Smith is also looking
towards expanding the possibilities of
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Certain Records as more than just an
outlet for his own band. A potential
SST of the Midwest?
ALREADY, the Detroit area can
speak of Touch and Go Records
as a prime example of a living
breathing indie of its own. The label,
which was formed in 1981 by Corey
Rusk, originally served to release rec-
ords by local bands. But in time -
and due to what Rusk theories was
partially the bands dropping off and
amount of local talent running low -
the label became more national in
scope. Today; Touch and Go artists
include, The Butthole Surfers,
Killdozer, Die Kreuzen, and Angry
Red Planet - only the last of which is
Rusk isn't sure how much of Touch
and Go's success is due to college
radio, as stations' reports vary, but he
does consider touring to be a positive
factor for his acts. To date, the label
has released 21 records by about 10
artists,and the latest Butthole Sur-
fers' album - released in November
- has already sold 8000 copies.
No doubt, Ann Arbor is certainly
one of the places to be if one wants to
be in tune with the latest sounds.
While underground bands might very
well have many fans who aren't
students, college towns will always be
one of their strongest areas for
gathering support. Says WCBN's
Gretchen Lindensmith, "If you like
music and you're in college to learn
things, you're probably there to learn
things about music as well. I'm not
saying this is true of everyone who
comes to college...but you tend to be
more open to things if you are lear-
ning a lot of new things at that same
time. There's more of a concentration
of younger people who go out to clubs,
and if they'll see a band they've never
heard of before and like it enough to
buy their record, that's the whole
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10 Weekend-January 31, 1986