*PONCE DE LEON RECORDS*I've always secretly imagined one day I would start my own label and press amazingly packaged seven inches with silkscreened covers, hand painted inserts and postcards from Montana. A mystery you could piece together, while listening to the record. Seven inches always bordered into this art territory, Where once they were lowly mass produced music delivery device they now are limited rare collectibles. At the very least seven inches seem special, you could be in on a secret for a couple bucks, hear unreleased tracks, and read the messages scratched in the blank space between the center label and the track.
I still think about this dream and sometimes stumble across posts on message boards here and there about people's experience pressing seven inches, the various record factories...the horror stories.
Chad Radford is one of those people, just starting to live that seven inch dream. He has been writing about music for over 12 years, and after falling for a band 'Hubcap City' he decided 'rather than fall into the trap of the bewitched writer and fawn all over the group in the paper each week, I put out a 7-inch.'
This was exactly what I imagined those tiny labels everywhere to be. Devoted fans of good music, who are so moved to pass on that experience, to share in the discovery of interesting talent, that they go find a record pressing plant and figure out the process. Then a giant shipment of records arrives and congratulations, you're an instant record company.
Chad started Ponce De Leon, and he wrote a great article about the experience here.
I recently contacted Chad about this experience and he graciously answered every one of my million questions.
It sounds like you have a really close relationship with Hubcap City, were you hesitant to contact them at first? I guess I'm wondering how you felt about influencing music from that side, was there any kind of conflict? Instead of being an observer, now you were a part of the creative process.
Yes I did feel a little bit of hesitation about work so closely with Hubcap City at first. Being a fan of music first and foremost, nothing is more disappointing than interacting with a musician who's music you totally love, but the person turns out to be a total ass. The process of moving from just writing about Hubcap City to actually putting out one of their 7"s drove itself. it just came naturally. Being that I'm 31 years old any label ambitions that I had when I was a teenager were kind of quashed over the years, just because of the daily grind, not having enough money to seriously consider doing something like this, worrying about my credit rating and paying off my student loans. Things like that.
It's easy to watch people your age get sucked into the trappings of adulthood and becoming miserable bastards. I don't see myself ever having a huge house in the suburbs with 2.5 kids and earning $100,000 a year, so why stress over it. I've been able to sustain myself on a writer's wages -- barely -- and this seemed like the next logical step in terms of making any progress as far as my "career" and life in general. It gave a refreshing perspective on the kind of music I've been writing about for over a decade, and added depth to my plight. Not only is it an existential experience, it's participatory journalism that has definitely left me feeling a little more enlightened.
As far as worrying about damaging my relationship with HC (FB) I figured from the beginning that honesty is the best policy. Seven inches aren't very lucrative in the first place, so there's not a lot of money to sour the relationship, but anything could go wrong. Artistically speaking we did clash a little bit over the art work, but I think by dealing with it head-on and being sensitive to each others' visions strengthened our relationship. Over the years I've watched labels like Dischord Records, Merge and Touch & Go strive to maintain a sense of integrity. It's one thing to champion them from the sidelines, but when you put yourself in their shoes you get a real-time experience of the delicacy of the operation -- and a new appreciation for it all. Money can ruin everything if you let it, but so can egos, artistic decisions and so on. I'm glad that I waited until my 30s to do this, because I don't know if I would have been mature enough to handle it in my teens or twenties. And I think HC (FB) is probably the greatest band I could have picked to break me into the world of releasing records.
Conflicts? Yes. Being that I am a music journalist means that I can never write about Hubcap City in any other capacity than a press release, or something like that. I'm comfortable with that. I have written about them so many times already that I didn't have much else to say.
Do you have many seven inches in your personal collection, and are there any that stand out for you?
Yes I've always bought 7"s. I love them. I have about 6 boxes full of them -- those boxes that hold about 250 records... Tons of them are pretty special for me. When the Jesus lizard was still a new band I loved the cover art for the "Wheelchair Epidemic" b/w " and "Dancing Naked Ladies" and the "Mouthbreather" b/w "Sunday You Need Love" 7"s. I just thought the cover art was really cool. At the same time there were local bands in Omaha -- where I grew up -- like Ritual Device and Mousetrap putting out 7"s that were totally fucking cool. They were people in the neighborhood putting out honest-to-goodness records, not just cassettes. And they were good, too.
I remember on record store in Omaha had a poster up on their bulletin board that was an ad for Ritual Device's first 7." It had a quote from David Yow of the Jesus Lizard saying "It's better than the new Rollins Band!!!"
I was pretty young and didn't realize that Rollins best records were behind him already, so I thought it was pretty cool. Looking back on it, that was pretty damn funny.
Lots of other 7"s I discovered Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds around the time Let Love In came out. I was working at a record store called Drastic Plastic and we had tons of Nick Cave 7"s that were super limited and on all kinds of crazy colors. One was on metallic silver vinyl. I just started buying things up. Around the same time one of the record stores former employees from years before had developed a bad drug problem and sold tons of old punk 7"s to the store for super cheap. I picked up some really great old Bauhaus, singles, David Bowie, Television, Joy Division. It snowballed from there.
From the beginning I've looked at these things as punk rock icons.
Later in life all of the Locust 7"s and pretty much everything GSL and ThreeoneG did for a while was pretty cool. But the music those guys were doing started getting old really quickly. Packaging is great, but it only goes so far.
Table of the Elements put out a great 7" series in the early '90s that had all kinds of greet really bizarre tracks by the likes of Thurston Moore, Davey Williams, Derrek Bailey and so on.
(I went to college in Iowa City, IA and one time I found an old 7" comp of experimental bands form Atlanta that totally floored me. It originally came with an issue of LowLife Magazine. I didn't know who any of the bands were. It had no date on it. It could have been 100 years old. Who knew. It had bands on it like the Shaking Ray Levis, DQE and the Jody Grind on it. All were Amazing. At the time I had no idea I would ever live in Atlanta, so since I moved here and one day realized that I knew almost everyone on that record, it has taken on a special significance for me.
It turns out that the Jody Grind is one of Bill Taft's early groups -- Bill is Hubcap City's frontman.)
Are there any immediate plans for another release? Are you going to wait until you feel the same about another band? Could you see this turning into a full time project?
I have a handful of other records in the works. I'm going to release a live Nikki Sudden CD at some point, as well as a 7." I'm also going to do something with a couple of Atlanta hip-hop artists, namely Psyche Origami and Zano. Both are great. Zano is pretty noisy and experimental. Psyche is a trio of two deejays and one emcee. Double check the spelling of this, but the Wyszsystic is an amazing lyricist and the two deejays are incredible beat makers. (Couldn't find them....ed) Atlanta is know as a hip-hop town, but so much of the hip-hop coming out of this town is rotten. Just disgusting displays of wealth and ignorance. Obviously I come from a bit of a punk rock background and I'm attracted to grit and intelligence and humanism in music, not mysogneny and Ayn Randian posturing by folks who have never heard of Ayn Rand. I like what both of these artists do and I like the idea of juxtaposing the two of them onto one record. I'm also planning on releasing a 7" by a group called the Blue Hour.
I also have a live recording from an old Atlanta noise band, called Easturn Stars. The show is pretty legendary around these parts., It caused a small riot to break out. The recording is kind of hard to listen to, but it's a pretty amazing document. For more on this show you should watch Jem Cohen's documentary film, Benjamin Smoke.
Why the choice to run 300? Was that some kind of a break even number? Was it limited by a contract they had with another label?
The 300 number was part of a deal that United Record Pressing was offering. Plus I didn't know if I'd be able to sell more than 300 Hubcap City records. it's pretty close to selling out now, and I'll probably do a repress in about a year.
What pressing plant did you use, I've heard of United Record Pressing, mostly bad things, but what influenced that decision, and how was your experience?
I stuck with United in Nashville because its close to Atlanta. It was cheap, too. I see a lot of records getting pressed in the Czech Republic and to me that's punk rock globalization. No different from an American corporation outsourcing it's facilities to Mexico or India because of cheap labor and cheap land. Fuck that. It's embarrassing when corporations do that and it's embarrassing when indeed labels do it.
Sure I understand the appeal of outsourcing, but I like to look at the big picture. Spending money in America helps the economy in America and will ultimately foster better products. I had no problems with United. A lot of the beef's I've heard regarding United seem to fall more in the hands of the people sending in the records to get pressed. Maybe they didn't understand the mastering process and things like that. There are tons of quality control steps in the process of putting out a record and if you pay attention along the way you can minimize the bumps in the road. I could call them any day during the week to pester them with questions and to follow up to see how everything was coming along with my record. I have a feeling it wouldn't that easy to call a plant in the Czech Republic.
Have you seen any copies of the hubcap city 7" on ebay yet? Do you have any feelings about this secondary seven inch market?
I have seen it on eBay. Someone from Michigan posted it on eBay. I posted it there as well. I buy a lot of records on eBay. I sell a lot of records on eBay, too. I'll stop there before I go off on a tangent about how it has impacted local record stores.
Are you affiliated with Rob's House records? Or were they another inspiration along with saddle creek, or are you going to be fighting over the next Connor Oberst.
I'm not affiliated with Rob's House other than Trey and Travis are my bros. Trey has done a great service for Atlanta. There's a great music scene here and since the national market is not really looking at Atlanta it's really stayed pure. Rob's House has done a great job of documenting some of the brightest bands around here. My goals are slightly different from what Rob's House is doing.
I do see other labels around here getting pissy about a group doing something with Rob's House while at the same time as doing something with another label. But come on, man. This isn't a football game. My Hubcap City 7" came out at the same time as Rob's House did the split with HC and Deehunter. I think having them both out at the same time helped to generate a buzz and we've both sold a lot of records as a result. It's good for the bands, good for the labels and good for people buying records.
Do you have plans to produce as well, and is there a website in the works?
No plans to produce other than from just the point of offering ideas. I have no technical skill when it comes to the studio. There is a website in the works. It's at www.poncedeleonrecords.com but it not up yet. Soon though.
Hubcap City "Five More Minutes" b/w "Sally" 7" out now. The records are avialable at Wuxtry, Wax and Facts, Criminal Records, A Cappella Books and most fine shopping establishements in and around Atlanta. Records are available directly from the label for $5. ppd. Contact email@example.com for payment information, or to place orders.
Chad is awesome, make him have to press another run from Hubcap city, and email him....I'm jealous....it just makes me want to hurry and catch up...Chad 1, Jason 0.
Here's another article about Ponce De Leon....because you can't get enough.