Thursday, September 20, 2007

Actionboy records! - four fifty six

A while back I heard about this four fifty six release from Actionboy, and after a little research I came across this listing about the band:

Four Fifty Six was one of several Louisville, KY, bands involving bassist Todd Cook, whose first high-profile gig was with local scene stalwarts Crain. After Crain's breakup at the end of 1996, Cook went on to collaborate with the cream of the Louisville indie scene: Slint's Brian McMahan and David Pajo in the For Carnation, Pajo again with Papa M, Rodan's Tara Jane O'Neil in Retsin, and Rodan's Jason Noble and Jeff Mueller in the Shipping News. He also played concurrently with Four Fifty Six, which performed on a mostly local basis; their lone release was a 7" single on the Actionboy label. ~ Steve Huey, All Music Guide

With a resume like that, I had to track this down, it was right in the middle of that whole scene, a missing piece of the puzzle, not to mention his band mate Will Hancock, who actually wrote the instrumentation for four fifty six I found out later.

I shot off an email to actionboy who had made their way to myspace and Billy wrote me back, I requested the 7 inch at other music and asked around a few other places, but Billy was kind enough to send me a copy. I had reviewed the tracks on their page. The flip side was equally as good and it's a shame there wasn't a proper full length released.
Being in the center of all things Chicago in the 90's I had to ask him what that was like running a label....really just starting it up by yourself, and saying 'I have a label, let's put out a record'. Maybe that's what vinyl symbolizes, that kind of DIY spirit that I have loved about the music that's on these labels. Billy's label was Actionboy and he recently answered a few questions I had about his friends projects, his own bands, and Steve Albini.....

I saw that your first release on Actionboy was with your own band Hubcap. Did Actionboy start as a way to release your own stuff, or did it have aspirations to become a business?

Both really. it really was DIY. I figured I could put out my own record and do pretty much whatever I wanted with it. but I always wanted to put out my friends stuff as well.

Do you currently work in the music field?

I do. but more from the fan's point of view- rather than being in a band or putting out records, I am a buyer at the local record store.

Did you deal with promoting the bands and releases? Or were they just sold at shows?

It was everyone involved mostly. I did ads in things like punk planet, mrr, etc etc, and the bands sold stuff at shows. but oddly, most of the releases sold just by word of mouth in Chicago.

Hubcap members went on to play in Dianogah and Braid among other things... were the other releases on Actionboy bands you guys were friends with? Or did you approach people to release their records?

In Chicago in the mid-90s, it felt like everyone was in each other's band. Jay Ryan was the first bass player in Braid for mere moments before joining Hubcap. Bob Nanna (of Braid) also played drums in Hubcap for awhile too. (as well as Ryan from Gauge/ Euphone.) I went on to
play in The Traitors and Haymarket Riot. Andy, the drummer, moved to Portland, OR and is an English professor.
Yeah, pretty much everything that came out on Actionboy was because the bands were friends of mine. and things like the Four Fifty Six single was actually given to me via Kip of Dianogah. So yeah, Actionboy was like a cult of friends I guess.... I did approach bands too.

Do you still keep in touch with anyone?

Yeah, since they are all my friends.

What was the name: 'Actionboy' from?

The true real meaning behind the name came from a co-worker who called her boyfriend "Actionboy." You can figure out why. the matrix on the Hubcap single was actually "Honky 300" - a lame reference to an old high school joke that only me and the drummer of Hubcap would find funny. So Actionboy sounded better.......

How big of an operation was actionboy? Were you mailing out 7"'s from your apartment by yourself?

It definitely got bigger as more releases came out. All the handmade stuff was pretty much me and my roommates screening and stamping everything on our floors all night and stuff like that. But everything else was all done by me. Jay Ryan did a lot of printing too. friends
who know friends who know friends....... the post office was never fun :)

A lot is made out of the Chicago scene at that time, with Jim O'Rourke, David Grubbs etc...and their multiple projects. Was there something special happening in Chicago, looking back?

I think so- but I also think that because I feel that I was "that age" where everything was so magical and new to me. I was young. I ate it all up in the music scene. Things are constantly happening here in Chicago.

Is there anything you've noticed like that happening now?

There are tons of new little labels, older labels that have become something quite substantial, tons of bands and it's crazy trying to keep up with it all!

Or is there even anything to a particular sound having anything to do with an area of the country?

Maybe. Some people used to say that Chicago was known for house music- then the whole Wax Trax thing, then of course liz phair, pumpkins, wilco, ministry, alkaline trio, rise against. etc etc -- There is so much music everywhere that it seems harder to pinpoint music to a
certain place.

(I also saw you recorded with Steve Albini, and have to ask how that was, any stories, or were you old friends from elementary school.)

I've recorded with him a number of times. I always love working with him. He was extremely helpful to me with Actionboy as well and I was a giddy school girl when he gave me an exclusive Shellac song for the Ground Rule Double comp. He is a awesome friend.

Have you been involved in other music projects since hubcap? Are you currently?

Hubcap ended in 1996. I played in Orwell (with bob nanna from Braid) in 1995-96. The Traitors from 1997-2000. Haymarket Riot from 1999-2002. Deminer from 2001-2004. and finally Whaler (with Francisco from Traitors) currently. Whaler is two goofballs who just play noise until their heads hurt. It's pure comedy! ha! I have two drum sets and my guitars in my basement and sadly, I just let them sit there until a Whaler show pops up.

Did you see Actionboy taking over your life? Is that why it ended? Would you do it again?

Actionboy was really fun. It just became very expensive.

Any words of wisdom to someone thinking of starting a seven inch label? Anything to avoid? Good experience, or headache?

It's a great experience and quite fun-- you should do it because you want to, for the love of it. unfortunately it will also cost you a shit-ton of money.

Do you see seven inches going away anytime soon?...I keep reading articles about the huge increase in sales in the UK, and turntables outselling guitars in you think something like actionboy can survive today?

Maybe- but that's if everything was still in small pressings and handmade and would still sell by word of mouth. the underground part of it is very exciting. there certainly is a glut of 7"s filling landfills right now, and they seem more like novelty or promotional items, but 7"s
are still cool! BIG HOLE 45's !!! the coolest!

Was there something about 7"'s for releases on actionboy? Was that a specific choice?

BIG HOLE 45's - for the dream of owning a jukebox one day (never happened.) plus, all of them were handmade. I wanted it to be like an art project kinda.

Thanks Billy.

A lot of the actionboy stuff is still in print at insound, all the links are on the myspace page. I don't think he's getting a piece of this action he just seems like a great guy and I appreciate that he took the time to answer some badly composed questions.

(I have that dream also of putting all my 7 inches into a jukebox, I look at machines on ebay and try to find ones near me I might be able to go and get working. Then someone told me the needles are really shit and will just ruin your sub pop palace record and then guess what, there are only 1299 left. Nice going, all because you wanted to be cool.) Take that Jeff

I'm one more interview closer to sinking some money into a few hundred seven inches of my own. Start the countdown.

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