Category Archives: Interview

Interview: Joey Cape (Lagwagon, Bad Astronaut, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes)

Why bother hiding it, the 15 year old in me is freaking out.  I got to chat it up with Joey freaking Cape.

I have been a fan easily for over 20 years now with everything Cape has done.  From Lagwagon to his solo material, I have always appreciated what Cape has brought into the music world.

Recently I heard about a new project Cape has created called One Week Records.  You see, Cape decided to turn his home into a studio where he….you know what?  Let’s just have Cape explain it.  Trust me, it is a hell of an idea…

One Week Records

BHP: Let’s talk about your all new project called One Week Records. To my understanding, this is a label you created where you invite an artist to your home to record an album in a week, right?

JC: Yes. That’s it.

Where did you come up with this awesome idea?

It is an idea I had a few years back and have been considering how to do it since.  It stems from my love of the honest production and approach of demos. Also, I am not a fan of the fact that albums and their romance are pieced out into single tracks falling into the shuffle of a chosen device. I believe an album should be heard as a whole and in the intended sequence of the performer and producer. That is why we sell them as one event and the reason we do not own certain mainstay editing tools such as pitch correct plug-ins.

How does your family like you turning your home into a bed and breakfast of sorts?

Haha. Yeah, My girls are cool with it. It allows me to be home with my wife and daughter and also marries my 2 very different lives, Home and tour. For many years I did not enjoy the thought that my wife did not know so many of my long term friends and my daughter may never know them. One Week allows me to bring these people to my home. They have meals and morning coffee with us and it is exciting for my daughter especially. She doesn’t know the difference between Chris Cresswell and Iggy Pop, so in her mind these famous people are coming to stay. It’s sweet. I’m careful not to invite anyone I do not know well enough of course. So far so good.

That is great.  Is One Week limited to just one artist at a time?

Yes, but some people choose to bring accompaniment

Cool.  So is the goal to record a song a day? Would you ever surpass the 7 song mark or would that defeat the purpose?

It’s actually 10 songs in 7 days with a One Week Record and 5 songs in 3 days with something we are calling a One Weekend record. The limitations are purposeful. There is not enough time to second guess everything and because of this there is a more raw and true outcome I think.

Brian Wahlstrom’s session is absolutely amazing. In fact, I encourage anyone reading this to go out and download it right now. I know he was part of a side project you worked on called Scorpios that sadly went on a hiatus due to the loss of a great man (RIP SLY). Did you pick Wahlstrom to debut on your label because of this?

Brian is a very close friend and incredibly talented. He is my latest musical soul mate. We work on everything together now. We co-wrote much of his record and he even worked with me on the new Lagwagon album. I knew he would make a great one week record first because we had such a great report. There was little pressure and plenty of chemistry and I love the idea that One Week gives me the opportunity to expose songwriters that many otherwise would never hear.

Chris Cresswell also released an album through One Week that is just incredible. How did he become involved early on?

Well, I have toured with Chris a bit with the Flatliners and I played an acoustic show with him and loved his voice and songs in that setting. Chris is one of the kindest and sweetest people I have ever met. I can think of no one more pleasant to be around. Honestly, I was just as excited for him to meet my family than to record but, yes, I am very proud of his record. He is such an amazing song writer and has an exceptional voice.

Do you have anyone out there in the music world that you really want to record?

The list is endless. I have a sort of faith that these people will come to me like in Field Of Dreams. “If you build it, they will come”. Hahaha. I’m really biting my tongue and hoping for some of them to reach out. It’s better that way. I don’t ever want to solicit them because as friends it puts them in a position where they might feel they are disappointing me if they are not into it.

So how does someone become considered in being a part of this project?

Well, I have to really love the music. Otherwise, I don’t feel I would have much to offer other than engineering and that results in a poorly produced album. I met a few of the people I am doing records with on the road. For example, Brian and I ran a sort of contest. Don’t like that word. We chose a person in each city we played over a year to join us on stage during our set and play one of their own original songs. It’s better than an opening set because often people are not in the venue earlier to see the performance. This guaranteed them and their respective cities to meet. I loved each and every night we did it. People submitted YouTube videos and this was in the end a cleverly disguised and more so unintentional sort of scouting for One Week. So far I am recording three of the artists I found this way. I just finished a record with one of them, a guy named Jo Bergeron from Quebec City. He is amazing I think.

Hell yeah.  I can’t wait to hear what is created.  So, who is behind the artwork on each of the releases?

Each artist is asked to draw their own cover. Black sharpie on white paper. For better or worse it continues the emphasis on the individual personality of each record. I love it. If I every did one it would be really bad. I can barely write my name. Haha.

Ha. Will this strictly be online or do you think maybe one day you might put some of these songs on vinyl?

Each artist is allowed to print vinyl with anyone they choose. It’s kind of a joke but the contract reads that the artist simply has to give One Week one copy if they press. I collect vinyl and love it but I really just want to focus on the creative side of things and not physical manufacturing or the marketing of those things.

I like that idea. Win, win. So I have to ask… What happened to My Records? I was a huge fan of the only release on that label.

Wow. Well that was something completely different. I just found it to be too painful trying to distribute physical merchandise though the channels. too many middle people and when those people didn’t respond to the albums the way I did it was sad. One Week Records is B2C (business to customer). No issues here. If somewhere here’s a song streaming or whatever, they just buy it and again, they have to buy the entire record which is nice for both the artist and consumer I think. The events are inexpensive due to the low cost of producing them. I’m certain there is and will be many more labels doing this sort of thing in the near future.

Speaking of Nerf Herder, any chance Parry Gripp be recording anything with you soon?

He just might be on my list. Hehe

Do you have long term expectations with One Week Records or will you just take each week as it comes?

The latter. I have learned to simply enjoy the process and not set your self up for disappointment by having goals and expectations. My only goal is to make great records with great people.

I have the feeling that is going to happen over and over… So, what’s next for Joey Cape?

Lagwagon has a new album almost complete. So lots of touring I imagine and One Week Records in the in between tours whenever possible. Still, have my day job. Haha

Joey Cape is currently in the middle of recording and all new Lagwagon album that should be dropping later this year.

Check out One Week Records.

Check out Cape talking about his project:

Chris Cresswell and Cape cat:

Interview: Chris Stowe (A-F Records, White Wives, Worlds Scariest Police Chases, etc…)

Chances are if you’ve heard of Pittsburgh political punkers Anti-Flag, you’ve heard about their label A-F Records.

For the longest time, I thought A-F Records was just a fading memory as I did not see a lot of releases coming from the  independent label.  In fact, the label pretty much stopped putting out releases about 8 years ago…until recently.

A-F Records have gone through a huge overhaul and have reinvented themselves adding multiple artists to their roster in just the past year alone.

This said reconstruction can be credited to Mr. Chris Stowe who has been working hard the last couple of years to make the independent label even bigger.  He’s the label manager / jack of all trades.

Last year alone, Stowe was the man who added All Dinosaurs, Worship This!, and Worlds Scariest Police Chases (WSPC) to the roster.  This year he will be releasing his own solo album on the label as well as look for more well-deserving bands to add to the A-F  family.

As if busting his ass for the label is not enough, Stowe has a solo project going on, rocks out with White Wives, and is also a permanent substitute of sorts for WSPC.  Needless to say, he is a busy, busy man.

Recently, I was able to catch up with Stowe who was still in heavy celebrations for signing himself to the very label he represents.  Check out what he had to say:

Chris Stowe

BHP: Hey man, thanks for taking some time to chat with me today. What have you been up to recently?

CS: No prob man.   Lately we’ve just been laying the ground work for our 2014 releases we’ve got planned and just trying to be as prepared for that as [soon as] possible.  We’ve made some moves to expand this year and i’m stoked about that.

I am sure many can agree with me that A-F Records has revitalized themselves over the last couple years. Word on the street is that you have been pouring your blood and sweat into the label. How did you happen to fall into this role?

Blood and sweat huh?  To be honest, I’m not really sure how the hell I ended up doing this.  A few years ago, I joined White Wives [and] then got to know Chris and Chris [#2] through being in that band with them.  Then Anti-Flag needed someone to drive/tour manage them for Warped Tour two summers ago and they asked if i could do it.  Since I’ve never experienced anything like that, I jumped at the opportunity.

We talked a lot about label stuff while we were out there and how it would be cool to be able to put out records.  When we got home, the dudes decided they wanted to make that bacon shaped picture disc thing and all of a sudden we had relaunched A-F Records and I was managing it.

Just like that?  Crazy.  To someone who may not know of the indie label A-F Records, can you give them some history?

Yeah sure.  Anti-Flag started A-F Records in 1997 to release Their System Doesn’t Work For You and then they just grew from there.  They put out a ton of classic punk records.  Reagan Squad was amazing, The Unseen, etc.  In the early 2000s, they continued to grow with the boom of the record industry and put out a ton of great bands but eventually fell prey to the great collapse in 2006 and then eventually went dormant around 2008 until we relaunched it last year.

Some of these hand-picked bands on the current roster are top-notch in my book, but also seem to challenge the former A-F  alumni. Would you agree?

Hmmmm, not sure what you mean by “challenge” here? I’m thinking maybe you mean that they’re not necessarily in the same genre of political punk rock as some of the old A-F Records bands?

Yeah, I meant the political punk rock.  Sorry about that.  Can you tell me when you say you hope to move A-F into a less genre specific label that you might try something completely different, say like gangster folk? I kid about that of course but not really.

Gangster folk.  That sounds terrible, so probably not. But I mean, I’m not opposed to anything as long as it’s awesome and the people that made it are awesome.

My end goal with the label is to put out great records that are pieces of sonic and visual art, and that’s it.  I feel like we’ve done that so far with our new bands even though they don’t necessarily live within a specific genre, and that’s how i think it should be anyways.

Ideally in the next few years, I’m hoping to move A-F records into being a less genre specific label and we’ve got a bunch of stuff coming out this year that we hope challenges our core group of hard core fans and also brings some new faces into the family at the same time.

Speaking of new faces… Who would win in a street fight: Worship This! or World’s Scariest Police Chases?

Police Chases obviously, as they will have zero problem fighting dirty. pepper spray, dick punches, purple nurples, etc.

I appreciate the detail in that answer.  

When A-F Records started, social media was barely existent. These days though it is almost impossible to not be emerged in. How are you taking advantage of social media to better the label?

It’s definitely got its good and bad elements, but mostly the key to properly utilizing all of the various social media outlets is to just keep your crowd engaged.  The best response we’ve had I feel has come from the level of personal engagement we have with people that follow our bands and buy our records.

Anti Flag celebrated their 20th year as a band last year. I was 17. How old were you?

I was 8.  That’s over 2/3 of my lifetime that these dudes have been together…it’s really amazing.

You were 8?  Holy shit. I feel old now. Thanks dude. Seriously though, that is beyond amazing. You are living a punk rock dream.

Yeah, 8 years old. There’s a John Waters quote, and I’m paraphrasing, that goes something like, “if you want to do what you love for a living, plan on interning for yourself for at least 20 years”,  and I feel like that definitely applies in music.  Just don’t stop doing it, no matter how hard it gets, and eventually you’ll find that you accidentally made a job for yourself.

Anti-Flag - 20 Years of Hell 7" VinylThat was deep dude.  Well said.  So, whose idea was it for the 20 Years of Hell subscription series?

That idea kind of evolved from a combination of a bunch of different ideas, so no one person was responsible for it i don’t think. We mostly just wanted to kind of create a platform to engage people in a new way, which i think we did with the subscription website. Ultimately, we did the whole thing as a project of love for the real hardcores, ya know?  I can’t tell you how hard it is to die-cut 3000 record sleeves…

How’s the response been so far?

Really great.  I feel like my favorite part is that, since it’s mostly just myself and Josh Massie – Anti-Flag merch guy / most helpful dude ever – communicating with the subscribers, I’ve been able to develop a cool personal relationship with a lot of kids that I wouldn’t have otherwise come in contact with.

A-F  seems to be leading in throwing contests lately. Can you tell me the current contest that is going on?

We just wrapped up the Anti-Flag “Power To The Peaceful” cover contest, which was awesome.  We got so many really good submissions for that, and they’re all up on our YouTube page.

Our next contest is going to be really cool and involve some rad Anti-Flag gear. Stay tuned on that.

Being a musician yourself, how tough is it to pack up all the A-F  orders, mail them out, and then play a White Wives or WSPC show let alone focus on your solo stuff?

I’m not sure how many people know.  It can definitely be a challenge to get everything done sometimes, but it’s also such a blessing to be busy doing shit that you love you know?  I mean, basically my dream was to one day be doing music constantly, and I’ve somehow pulled that off so that’s cool.  And it’s not just my music, it’s my solo stuff, White Wives, WSPC, plus all the A-F bands we’re working on this year.  It’s a dream job dude, for real.

Hell yeah.  So when is your solo stuff supposed to drop?  Anything Wives related you care to mention?

I can’t really speak to Wives stuff, but I’ve got a record coming out on A-F this summer as Chris Stowe.

Chris StoweHow’s it feel to be signed, a rock star, and have your own material coming out on wax?

It’s not that cool dude. “Hey Stowe, you wanna sign this Stowe guy?  Sure Stowe, if you like it I’m all for it.  Well sounds good, Stowe,  you’re signed!” It does feel good.

I believe that.  So I noticed the pre-orders for your solo release have posted to the A-F site already.  Charlie Brown yellow may be the most unique color I have heard of in a while. Is there any reason behind this?

I just love the peanuts man, always have.  Plus I like to come up with cool “inside” names for our vinyl colors like Forest County green.  Forest County is a magical place in PA that I go camping with my buddies every summer and a lot of my record was inspired by that part of the country.

So how were you suckered into WSPC? I will not lie, they are currently one of my favorite bands right now and it has nothing to do with my bromance via instagram with DeLucia.

Well, DeLucia, in real life, became a mailman. and he couldn’t play Fest last year, so I learned all the songs and played in his place – although my head blew up after just 1 song so I didn’t end up playing Fest really… Then I played some more out of town shows with them, Detroit and Asbury Park…then they tried to kick me out, but I got real sad about it so they let me stick around.  Now there’s too many guitar players.

Tell me about A-F Records and Turnstyle Films. I might have heard a little something something…

Yeah we’ll have to keep the kids in suspense on that for a little while longer. I will say that we’ll be working heavily with Turnstyle this year on a ton of projects, which i’m excited for. They are amazing at what they do.

I credit A-F for making Cleveland and Pittsburgh friends again. What city do you think you will swoon over next?

I love Cleveland. A lot. And Pittsburgh. A lot. I’m not sure I can take credit for them becoming friends again, I feel like they always have been. We’ve both got amazing music scenes and live in the same economical climate for the most part, so it only makes sense to me that we should combine forces as much as possible.

What is next for Chris Stowe?

Just A-F Records stuff, solo stuff, maybe a secret band no one has heard yet….all the stuff. ALL.

What about A-F Records?  Seems like the label has built up a ton of momentum as of late and isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

Yup, just forging ahead. Going to put out some great stuff this year and see where that takes us. the future is bright.

Head on over to A-F Records site and secure your copy of Stowe’s upcoming release of Hallow.  The album drops in late June.

For more info on everything else A-F related, check out the A-F Records website.

Interview: Chris McCaughan of Sundowner / The Lawrence Arms

A couple of months back, I remember getting an email from the good folk at Fat Wreck Chords stating that Chris McCaughan of The Lawrence Arms would be delivering another installment of his solo material, also known as Sundowner.

I was beyond stoked to learn of this as I was a big fan of McCaughan’s last Sundowner release and maybe dig The Lawrence Arms a whole lot.  Hopefully there are a few of you out there who can agree with me on both statements.

Anyways, Neon Fiction is just an amazing release and I can not stop listening to it.  I have not had time to do a proper review of the album on there here website, but I was asked if I wanted to chat with McCaughan about it.  Of course I said yes to that.

Chris and I were able to catch up on the good ol’ Internets and he was kind enough to talk about his new release.  Check it out:


BHP: So the last time we chatted about 3 years ago,  LeBron had kicked Cleveland in the nuts and you just released We Chase The Waves. I guess what I am trying to ask is, what the heck have you been up to?

CM: I remember. Nice to chat again. Not sure I can condense the last three years of my life into a brief synopsis of what have I been up to? So, let’s just say I’ve been livin’, man. L-I-V-I-N.

I heard you no longer live in Chicago these days.  Is that true?  What prompted the big move to the West Coast?

True. I was born and raised in Chicago. So I take that place with me where ever I go. And, anyone who knows me knows how much I identify with and love that city. But I was ready for something in my life to change and felt like a new surround would be good for me. Also, my girlfriend is from the West Coast and, after having lived in Chicago for several years, she was ready to be closer to home and out of the harsh winter. So that was part of it. But, having toured and traveled extensively in my life I wanted to know what it was like to actually live in a new place. It’s an entirely different experience. I still spend a lot of time in Chicago though, so I feel a bit like a habitant of multiple places.

You just dropped an all-new release on Fat Wreck Chords titled Neon Fiction. Care to tell me about it?

Neon Fiction is the culmination of songs I was writing somewhere in the span of Fall ‘11 into the Spring of ‘12. It’s hard to remember the exact time frame. I didn’t write this with specific intentions or deadlines or ideas about how it would all come together. It may sound ridiculous, but I really was just writing the songs I write. I’ve gotten questions over the years like how do you know when it’s a Sundowner song or a TLA song? And the truth is I just don’t think about it in that way. Or, perhaps, a bit more accurately, I just know innately. This is, simply, me and these are the songs I write. Some people ask if this is more than a side-project now and, again, I don’t think in those terms. This is part of what I do and my goals are to try to write great songs and make cool records. That’s the part I can control and that’s what Neon Fiction is to me.

I guess, in some ways, I feel like I’ve had this record in me for long time, but it took certain conditions in my life to write it. Part of that was letting go. There was definitely a time when I felt like no one would ever hear any of this and that didn’t bother me at all. I was completely at peace with that.

But, when I was finally ready, I fronted the production so we wouldn’t have to make hard decisions on the front end. We could focus on the songs and the work. We tracked it at Atlas Studio in Chicago. As usual, I teamed up with Neil Hennessy on the record. The goal was to try to make an awesome album, with cool sounds. We consciously tried to shift the perspective from the previous Sundowner albums. I felt like that was essential. We wanted layers and different kind of landscapes for the songs, and for each song. I wanted to challenge myself but work within my range. I wasn’t trying to reinvent anything.

I feel very fortunate to be working with Fat Wreck. And it meant a lot to me that everyone over there liked the songs and the album. I’m so grateful for so many people in my life who have made this possible and who have continued to be supportive over so many years. So, it’s been an amazing experience and I’m so stoked it’s out.

Does the title of the album have any hidden meaning behind it? Sounds like a typical Vegas adventure to me.

For me it just captures the nature and vibe of the collection. That was the primary goal of the title. Admittedly, I struggled naming the record. I asked my friend Ben Pier, who is a photographer living in NYC, to shoot a bunch of stuff for the album. Once we chose the cover photo it started to all make more sense to me. It’s a city record. The songs are heavily influenced by my sensory perception and how I specifically interact with environments. So lights and sounds are heavy contributors to the overall landscape, the lyrics and sonic qualities. And, honestly, I just like the way it sounds. That’s a hugely important factor to me in a title. Also, Neon Fiction has some origins for me. It’s a bit of a tip of the hat to Chicago writer, Nelson Algren, who wrote a book called Neon Wilderness. And it’s a bit of a play on Non Fiction, as the record is full of half-truths.

SundownerSo when did you start writing Neon Fiction? We you looking to write another Sundowner album, or did you just find yourself with a bunch of songs that needed a home?

I didn’t sit down to write a record. But I wouldn’t say I just found myself with a bunch of songs either. I was writing with no real goal in mind. Just writing to write. I wasn’t thinking about how or where or why. I wasn’t focused on some kind of end game. I guess somewhere in the process, when the songs began to accumulate, it occurred to me that I felt strongly about the material. At that point things felt more magnetic. I was being pulled to some kind of end and then I felt compelled to figure all the other things out so that I could make it. I’ve thought about this in a lot of different ways. In terms of the song writing I would say it this way: It’s like I was a kid out in a field in the evening with a mason jar and a lid trying to catch fireflies. Got one. Here’s another. And at some point I’d caught so many I was excited enough to go show someone.

I swore that you stated before that you were not really going to go the solo acoustic music route in the past, but here you are. Has the popularity of punk rockers following this trend changed your mind?

I’m pretty sure I never said that. Certainly not in that way. I’ve been playing as a solo acoustic artist since 2005 or 2006, when I first began writing acoustic stuff and the first Sundowner record started to come together. So, no, the popularity of the genre has nothing to do with my choices or decisions as an artist. I’m just trying to write and live a life that’s authentic and genuine to me. That’s it, man.

Can we expect you to be onboard the next Revival Tour then?

I have a great amount of respect for Chuck Ragan. He’s just an amazing guy. I first met Chuck years ago when TLA toured with Hot Water Music and I’ve had the good fortune of performing on Revival tour and doing shows with him here and there over the years. It’s always an incredible collection of talented and passionate artists he puts together for Revival and I always feel honored when he reaches out to me in any way.

I thought “Concrete Shoes” was exceptional. What made your feet so heavy that you had to write a song about it?

We live in a sticky world, man. And, I guess, at times my feet felt pretty heavy against the pavement. Just trying to get off the ground.

Was there a certain track you favored over the rest on Neon Fiction?

I’m proud of the record as a collection of songs. They belong together and I think they make each other better. And that was the goal. If I absolutely had to pick one maybe it would be Poet of Trash? Maybe My Beautiful Ruins? Grey on Grey? I don’t know, man. I have an array of feelings and connections to them all.

Overall, was there a theme surrounding all of the songs on this album?

There are a lot of themes and sub-themes. But generally speaking, it’s a record about self-acceptance and self-actualization. It’s about letting go of the things that you can’t control and being honest with who you are, embracing your nature.

Seems like I am not the only one who is digging Neon Fiction. How are you taking the feedback so far from everyone who pre-ordered the release?

It feels great to have such a positive response to the songs. And, of course, I’m happy it seems to have had some impact on listeners already. But I try not to worry too much about all of that or read into it too much. I just continue to be thankful that I’m in a position to share the work, keep believing in the craft and the process.

Who all helped you this round on Neon Fiction? How much did Neil Hennessy pitch in again?

Neil played bass and drums. I did all the guitars and vocals. That’s it. Neil is an incredibly talented musician and has been an essential part of making the Sundowner records. This record was no different. His contribution to Neon Fiction was enormous. He helped catalyze and actualize so much of what was in my head. I feel lucky to have a partnership with him that has created conditions to work in this way. Justin Yates, who works with Matt Allison at Atlas studio where we made the record, engineered and helped produce which allowed Neil and myself to really focus in on performance. Neil is a true craftsman, one of the best dudes, and we’ve had a, sort of, musical kinship for a long time. He has a sharp and sophisticated ear and what he brings to the studio, or to any project, is invaluable.

I know you hardly toured with the last Sundowner release, but that is all changing this time. How does it feel to be hitting the road without your full-time band? Any plans on expanding that tour?

Over the years I’ve played solo quite a bit, so I don’t anticipate it’ll feel too strange. This fall I’ll be doing some small runs of shows here and there and we’ll see what happens. Not getting too far ahead right now. I try to do this in the way that works best for me and not get too concerned by others expectations.

Just curious, but were you asked to cover a Tony Sly song for his upcoming tribute release? I didn’t see you on the track listing and was curious if that was due to your own choice.

Tony Sly was a great guy and an amazing songwriter. TLA and No Use toured together a bunch and I was fortunate enough to get to know him and spend some time around him. He’s deeply missed. If it’d worked out that I could’ve contributed a song that would have been awesome and an honor. But it didn’t. Don’t read too much into it.

Rumor has it that the Lawrence Arms have new material recorded. When can we expect that to drop?

There’s a new TLA record. It exists. We’re excited. That’s about all I can tell you.

So, what’s next for Sundowner?

It’s September. Neon Fiction is out. Shows ahead. I’m stoked and thankful. Just trying to live in the present moment and do the best version of me I can.

Pick up the new Sundowner on Fat Wreck Chords.

Sundowner is playing Now That’s Class in Cleveland on Sept 26th. with Meridian and The House Of Wills.  Tickets are only $10.  Do not miss out on this show!!!

Sundowner @ Now That's Class

Interview: Chris Mason of Dirt Cult Records

Dirt Cult RecordsAs many of you know, I spent about a year in Las Cruces, NM for my paying gig.  I left last June and just recently returned to my state of birth.  My time out there was mostly spent on working at  said paying gig, thrifting for fun finds, and more or less being a hermit.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my time out there, but I just did not do a whole heck of a lot for the most part.  Home is where the heart is right?

About a month before I packed up and moved back to my beloved Ohio, I ordered the brand spanking new Rumspringer album from the Dirt Cult Records website, and label owner Chris Mason sent me an email suggesting that I just stop over and pick it up as he lived close to me.

I decided to head on over to the Dirt Cult headquarters to pick up my purchase later that day, and he wasn’t kidding – I lived literally a mile away from him.

We hung out for a few hours that evening and he introduced me to a good portion of the Dirt Cult catalog including the band he was in.  I have heard of some of the bands before (including his own band), but never really checked any of them out entirely, sans Rumspringer of course.  Chris was great company and was quick to share with me a bunch off his label’s roster.   I loved what I heard and am just stoked I had the opportunity to kick it with him that night.

Before I said adios to Las Cruces, I was able to check out Chris’s band play a July 4th party and even hang out again while helping pack up some records.

Running a record label has always been something I have wanted to do.  I know there is cost and time involved in it and hopefully one day I can make that happen.  For now, I just will live vicariously through others.

Even though I am out of the desert and back in Ohio, America, I still keep in touch with Chris as he is just a solid human being.  Recently, I had the great idea of interviewing Chris for the site.  He was all about it.  Check out the fun interview we did via trading emails and such recently:

Dirt Cult Records

BHP: Can you give me a little history about how Dirt Cult Records got its start?

CM: I always thought that running a label sounded like a lot of fun, so in 2006 after my band at the time, Shang-A-Lang, had recorded our first 7″, I figured it made sense to start a label and put that record out rather than “shop around” for someone to do it. I also figured that if I completely fucked up somehow that at least I’d be fucking up one of my own band’s records.

Why Dirt Cult? Is there some specific meaning behind that name?

I had some friends, Ronnie and Adam, who ran a zine in the early 2000’s called Dirt Culture. Those same dudes also opened up a record store here in Las Cruces called The Dirt that was really the catalyst for the creation of a DIY scene here. It’s where we all cut our teeth booking bands and playing shows. I also helped Ronnie (or he helped us I guess) release a split 7″ between my band The Answer Lies and another local band called 10 Seconds To Liftoff on “Dirt Culture Records,” but the zine kinda went on hold because Ronnie took a job in California. So when I needed a name for the label I thought I’d use Dirt Cult as an homage (or maybe blatant rip off) to the zine. It’s the reason that the first Shang-A-Lang 7″ is DC-002. I always kind of considered The Answer Lies/10 Seconds to Liftoff split our first release, even though it was released a couple years earlier.

Chris MasonWhen did you first start appreciating vinyl?

When I was a toddler I’ve been told I used to throw my dad’s vinyl collection around his room like frisbees. When I got a bit older (around 5 or 6), I was obsessed with that medley on side B of Abbey Road. I would play it over and over again. I think I was as excited about the mechanics of it all as I was about the music. Of course, as a child of the 80’s and 90’s CDs were pretty much what I listened to, and I didn’t rediscover vinyl until I started going to punk shows that had DIY distros in the mid-90s. I loved flipping through records and buying shit that looked cool, hoping it was good. Unfortunately, around that time, I was still buying primarily CDs for convenience’s sake, which is a shame because I missed out on a ton of cool records that now I just have shitty scratched up CD versions of. I kept buying a mixture of vinyl and CDs up until sometime in the early 2000’s. Around then, I decided that I wasn’t a huge fan of CDs as they always ended up scratched up on the baseboard of my car, gave most of them away, and bought my music on vinyl pretty much exclusively.

That pretty much sums up my relationship with vinyl too.  Well said.  So did you start with records or cassettes early on with Dirt Cult?

Dirt Cult’s first five releases were 7″s. Our sixth was a tape comp featuring a bunch of my favorite bands. That’s probably a pretty accurate representation of how things progressed: 75% vinyl, 25% cassettes.

Were there specific bands early on that you knew you wanted to work with?

I don’t really know if I set out to work with anyone early on. Though I’m sure I had a “short list” of bands I would have liked to ask, I’m not sure how many of those bands actually ended up releasing records with Dirt Cult and how many releases just kind of fell into my lap.

About how many albums have you released on your label to date?

By the end of the year I should be at right around 70.

You’ve already had some great releases this year, especially Rumspringer & New Swears. Care to hint about any upcoming releases?

Sure. I’ve currently got five records at the plant; a new Canadian Rifle 12″, a new Unwelcome Guests LP, Sweatshop Boys LP, VVHILE 7″, and a Free Machines 7″. I’ve also got some tapes of the new Muhammadali out this week for their upcoming tour. That LP will be sent to the plant soon, but I’m betting it will be a 2014 release. I’ve already got a list of 2014 releases lined up as well and it’s going to be an epic year for me.

Nice.  Looking forward to hearing some of those.  This is probably not a fair question, but do you have any favorite Dirt Cult releases?

I’m always most excited about whatever I just released, which is a great sign I suppose. But I try not to play favorites.

Typically, how long does it take for you and a band to get from talking about releasing a record to actually having it in hand?

It just all depends upon my release schedule and the band’s organization. Lately, I’ve really tried to avoid sending anything to the plant until I have the music and all the art. It just saves me from headaches later. So some releases happen quicker than others. It does take about four months to get a record pressed these days, so the timeline has definitely gotten longer. Gone are the days when you could have a record out in a month.

Chris MasonDirt Cult is more or less a one man operation right?

Yeah. I pretty much do everything. Though every once in a while I bribe my friends with beer to come over and stuff records.

Did you ever think your label would last this long? Ever feel like giving up?

I never really had a game plan going into this, so I’ve never given it much thought. I suppose there has never been a reason for me to stop putting out records because I enjoy it. I never really had hopes of being a “successful” label, so I’m sure I’d be doing it even if it wasn’t going well. So giving up? Naw. Slowing down? EVERY FUCKING DAY!

Let’s hope things speed up again.  How gratifying is it to be able to say you run your own record label? I know I am jealous of what you have.

I certainly love that I’m always busy and creating stuff, and I’m also pretty proud of what the label has been able to accomplish in the past few years. But it’s certainly not as glamorous of a job as people might think. I spend a lot of time repairing art files, uploading music to servers, assembling records, and playing with packaging tape. I also think it took me six years of making constant mistakes to finally get to a place where I’m doing a few things right.

Dirt Cult isn’t even your full time gig right? Where do you find the time?

I’ve always been a person that doesn’t really like downtime. After a few nights of staring at the TV, I start panicking and thinking I’m throwing my entire life away. So I spend most of my free time either working on Dirt Cult stuff or working on band stuff. I’ve also got a fairly flexible work schedule that allows for trips to the post office and other odd jobs throughout the day.

Speaking of band stuff, care to tell me about the band you currently play in?

I am in a band called Low Culture. We’re just under two years old and have released records on Dirt Cult, Dirtnap, Dead Broke, Rad Girlfriend, Drunken Sailor, and Cut the Cord that… and have toured the Northeast and Canada with Iron Chic, Europe, and have done a ton of regional trips.

Europe huh?  How was that?

It was amazing. Really makes me question if I’ll even do an extensive US tour again. Bands are just treated so much better over there…breakfast, diner, as much beer as you can drink, and sleeping arrangements always planned out well in advance.

Any plans for an upcoming US tour with Low Culture?

We’ve got plans to play Awesome Fest 7 in San Diego at the end of the month as well as the Dirtnap showcase in Portland and Seattle in mid-September, but otherwise we don’t really have anything lined up. I’d like to make it to the Midwest sometime in 2014 if we can.

If someone asked you what Low Culture sounded like, what would you tell them?

I don’t know, I think I always have different ideas about what my own music sounds like than other people. I’ll bring a song to the table thinking it sounds like Elvis Costello and someone will say it sounds like Shotwell. Maybe “garage pop?”

When is the next Low Culture release expected to drop?

We pretty much have it written. We just have to record it. So I’m expecting it’ll be out in 2014 sometime.

Can’t wait.  You helped create Trainyard right? Can you tell me about that little DIY operation?

Trainyard is a DIY practice/show space in Las Cruces that has been around for several years now. For years, after the Dirt went under, shows in Las Cruces primarily occurred in houses. Unfortunately, we don’t have basements so shows would take over people’s entire houses. It became increasingly difficult to convince people to open up their houses to a raging party once a week, so we set out to find a stable venue. There have, of course, been pros and cons. It’s great to have access to a space where we can do whatever we want, but since there isn’t really an alternate venue in town, it can feel somewhat stale at times. People don’t want to spend most of their nights hanging out in a shitty warehouse with weird wood paneling, and I can’t say I blame them.

Do you feel you have helped ramp up the music scene in Las Cruces, NM?

Yeah, when I moved here there wasn’t all that much going on outside of a shitty bar scene crowded with Tool wannabes and cover bands, but there was a small group of us who set out to make our own fun and build our own scene. That’s one of the cool things about living in this town. People complain all the time about how there is nothing to do, but it’s really not that hard to build whatever the fuck you want to.

So from one music lover to another, what bands are currently on your radar?

This list is always way too long. Let’s see, some bands whose records are currently piled up by my record player are Nona, No Sir I Won’t, Needles//Pins, Dark Rides, Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band, Nervosas, and Chandeli’ers.

If there was one band out there that you wish you could release an album under your label, who would it be?


What do you like more? Being in a band or being that guy who slings records for bands?

That’s a tough question. They can both be rewarding and frustrating, but honestly, I being in a band is more “fun.” I just love creating music and traveling and playing shows and everything that comes with it.

Chris Mason

Some Dirt Cult releases you really should check out:

Check out Dirt Cult Records on:
Dirt Cult Records Website

Interview: John E. Carey Jr. & John Rosen of Old Man Markley

I remember the very first time I heard bluegrass/punk rockers Old Man Markley.  I was amazed and intrigued at the same time and could only think, “where has this band been all my life?”  The band puts together a perfect mix of genres I never really fathomed would work so well together, and the result has been in my weekly playlist for years now.

Earlier this year, the band dropped their sophomore release on Fat Wreck Chords titled Down Side Up.  Where I was a fan of their 2011 debut Guts ‘n Teeth, their second album has really grown on me.   From the ode to Gary Busey to the fun track about a certain lovable companion, the album is catchy, fun, and begs for repeat spins.

Having seen them live before, they have no problem winning new fans over.  This seven-piece act is going places and are not to be overlooked.

Recently, I caught up with John E. Carey Jr. (lead vocals and guitar) and John Rosen (banjo and vocals).  They were able to take a quick break while in between shows and were more than happy to shoot the breeze with me.  Check it out:

Old Man Markley

BHP: So, first things first, how did your latest tour treat you?

John E. Carey Jr.: Our US tour with Dropkick Murphys and Jim Lockey and the Solomon Suns was great. JLSS unfortunately had visa issues and couldn’t make the first half of the tour, so the Revillers from Boston filled in. Good Times!

BHP: You are getting ready to head to back to Europe to play some festivals and shows with the likes of Pennywise and even Larry and His Flask. How stoked is everyone in the band to return overseas?

JC: It’s a great accomplishment for us to be returning over seas! I’m Looking forward to the people, sites and falafel!!

BHP: Mmmmm falafel. So when you get back to the good ol’ US of A, you are all on board to tour with Dropkick Murphys some more. No rest for the wicked huh?

JC: No rest is right, but we are happy to again have the opportunity to go out with DM in support of our new album.

BHP: On Down Side Up, it sounds like you guys and gals toned it down a bit and focused more on the bluegrass appeal to your style. Was this on purpose, or did your recording just kind of lead you this way? Regardless, it is an incredible release.

JC: I don’t think we were intentionally toning it down, as much as toning it up and just letting our creativity flow.

BHP: I mean, y’all did have a #1 spot for a Bluegrass album. Did you ever think that would happen? I know your debut release got well-deserved attention.

JC: It was a wonderful surprise, but i guess hard work leads to great things. It’s awesome we made #1 and I’m extremely proud of the band.

BHP: So What was done differently on this album than on Guts ‘n Teeth?

JC: We built a home recording studio and tracked most of the album there. Most of the songs we really developed while we tracked them, which was a different approach to recording our first record, Gut’s ‘n Teeth, which was ready to go by the time we went into the studio to track it.

OMM - Down Side UpBHP: I love that in the album notes it was listed that a Converse shoe was used as an instrument on that track. Was that random or were there many shoes used in looking for the perfect beat?

John Rosen: When we were recording the song, Chris Hesse of Hoobastank, who played shaker on the song, had suggested the sneaker tapping to flesh out the instrumental section of the song. It was just an off-the-cuff suggestion thrown out at the spur of the moment and it just happened to work great.

JC: Like George Martin said “All you need is ears.”

BHP: How did “Beyond The Moon” come about?

JR: I’ve always been a huge fan of Gary Busey ever since I first saw The Buddy Holly Story as a kid. More recently, when reality TV breathed new life into his career, I discovered shows like Celebrity Rehab and I’m With Busey. I’ve always been fascinated with him and had toyed with the idea of writing a song about him for years but didn’t know how to approach it. My first pass at the song was a much sillier version than what we ended up recording. This first version felt a little too cheap, too Weird Al Yankovic, so I took out all the references to his movies, Dr. Drew and his teeth and shifted the song’s focus from him to me. In this version, Gary is just a passing reference in the chorus. The rest of the song focuses my struggle to write a song about him. So really, it’s not a song about celebrity or mental illness, but a song about writing a song.

BHP: Man, I loved I’m With Busey. So anyways, did the greatest villain ever out of all the Lethal Weapon franchise ever catch wind of the song, and if so, what did he have to say?

JC: As far as I know, Mr. Busey has not heard it, but I’m sure he will.

JR: I think someone may have brought the song to his attention via Twitter, but none of us have heard anything about his reaction or if he’s even heard it for that matter. I’d only hope that if he does hear it, he understands the song is not a swipe at him but just the opposite.

BHP: I loved the tracks “Up Side Down” and “Fastbreak”. You can hear the chemistry throughout those duets. Stuff like that does not happen accidentally. Was this something that had to be worked on, or did it just come naturally?

JC: Joey had all the music worked out for “Up Side Down” to a tee. Originally, I tried singing it and I had the hardest time following the up swing of the song! After a bunch of failed attempts, I realized it would better suit Annie, so she ended up taking the lead on it. Joey and Katie sang the harmonies trading back and forth and my vocal response just sounded cool so we went with it! Then it really came together. Great song, one of my favorites on the record!

Old Man MarkleyBHP: Same here. Speaking of “Fastbreak”, the album sleeve lists the song as “Fastbreak” and the lyric insert lists it as “Run Away From Me”. Which is right? More importantly, as a dog lover, tell me all about Lucy.

JC: The song “Fast Break”, and yes that’s the official title. [I] pretty much wrote [it] one afternoon after I chased my pet chihuahua Lucy down the street during one of her glorious sprints for freedom! I like how light hearted the lyrics are and dark at the same time. The line “don’t run away from me, for your own safety” makes me think of some hopeless obsessed romantic warning his ex not to leave him or else, when really I’m referring to Lucy possibly getting hit by a car on her adventures escapes!

Lucy is a chichi-mutt that we adopted off the mean streets of Redondo Beach. She rules the OMM manor and used to tour with us, but these days she’s more comfortable staying with grandma and grandpa lounging in the sun. The road can be a ruff place for a little munchie.

BHP: Sounds like one rad dog. I need to pause for a moment and give kudos to the limited edition vinyl pressing of Down Side Up. Whose idea was that? I know I missed out on nabbing one, but still, that is one cool press. Who came up with the idea?

JC: Obvious choice for us. We wanted to go all out with the limited color release so three color red whit and blue seemed appropriate!

BHP: So, what’s it like to be a bluegrass band on a punk rock label? I know that you incorporate tons of punk rock into your music, but still, you are on CMT’s radar, and I would have to say that is probably the first for a Fat Wreck band.

JC: It’s rad! We are having fun and making music and that’s all the matters! We love Fat and I like to think they love us! I’m sure we are the first Fat Wreck band to be on CMTs radar and that’s great! The more support we can get the better. It only opens up more windows of opportunity for us and that’s what we need to stay on the road.

BHP: Looks like Fat Mike assisted in producing Down Side Up. How does it feel to work again with not only the guy in NOFX, but also in a sense, your boss?

JC: I don’t really consider Mike our boss, Fat works with us like record labels are supposed to. But it’s a total family vibe with Fat and that’s what i love so much about them. Producing with Mike is really a dream come true! I always send him demos of our songs and he tells me what he thinks, its great to have his input and we trust him as a producer but ultimately Mike let’s us do what we do, and that’s what is most important to us.

BHP: That’s awesome. I think what I love the most about your band is how humble you are to your fans and how much family feeling is contained in the band. Is it always a blast to play live with the band?

JC: Lot’s of love! And yeah, it’s always a blast!

BHP: As your band clearly is maturing, are you living into a rock star life, or are you more still into just crashing on a couch at a random house while on the road?

JC: Actually, turns out these days crashing at a random fans house on the side of the road every once in a while and sleeping in our beloved bus the rest of the time is the rock star life; at least for me. So yes; I mean no.

BHP: Haha. What’s the most messed up thing that you all have witnessed to date while on tour?

JC: The price of diesel gas!

Old Man MarkleyBHP: I believe that! So does Mr. Markley himself have calluses like no other? I have seen that man shred the washboard a mere foot from my face and it is intense. Has he occurred any injuries from washboard thrashing?

JC: In the first year, Ryan would scrape up his knuckles regularly, almost every show. He went through a few different variations of spoon handles too and finally made the right set using his old drum sticks and kitchen silverware. He later hooked up with Columbus Washboard Company and now he gets his boards with stainless steel grills which hold up longer. Still he manages to tear them up after a few tours so he recently built a washboard that he can replace just the grill on once its torn up. It works great! Now Ry just orders back up steel grills and he’s good to go!

BHP: Awesome. While I am on the topic, your live shows are entertaining as hell. How fun is it to just jump on stage and do your thing to thousands of people?

JC: I’m having the time of my life!

BHP: What would you say was the best show you ever played?

JC: One of my favorite shows we ever played was in Paris at a punk squat to 300 people in a tiny sweaty concert room in an abandoned building! It was dirty in all the good ways! And the bad ways too. PunkSpring festival in Tokyo with Weezer and Nofx was pretty cool too.

BHP: So what influential punk act from the past do you thing y’all will cover next? I will not lie, I love your takes on classics

JC: We just finished tracking a No Use For a Name song “The Feel Good Song of the Year” for the benefit compilation Fat is releasing later this year for Tony Sly’s family.

BHP: I can not wait to hear that. So, folk and bluegrass seem to be really popular these days and I am sure you are all aware. I am just curious what your reaction would be if say, a band like the Avett Brothers or Old Crow Medicine Show were to ask you to join them on tour

JC: I love those bands and it would rule to tour with them!

JR: It’d be the thrill of a lifetime for me. I’ve got a ton of respect for both those bands and love their music. We’ve done our share of touring with high profile punk bands over the past 3 years and I think touring in the alt country world would be a great change of pace. It’d be a chance to expose ourselves to a broader audience and introduce our sound to people who might otherwise never have known about us unless they were punk fans.

BHP: I know you are still living off the energy of Down Side Up, but have you all started writing new material for your next release?

JC: We have some really great new songs that were demoing! Very excited to get back in the studio after these next few tours!

BHP: What do you think people like Bill Monroe and The Stanley Brothers have to say about what route you have taken bluegrass to?

JR: It’s hard to say. I’ve been playing bluegrass ever since I was a kid and one thing I’ve learned is that in this this genre anything that pushes the boundaries of what is considered “traditional” bluegrass is usually viewed with a little suspicion, even skepticism. This isn’t always the case, but among purists (and you’ll find a lot of them in bluegrass) you’ll encounter this attitude from time to time. I’m sure Ralph Stanley and Bill Monroe would be fine with what we’re doing musically. Whether not they’d consider it bluegrass might is another story.

JC: I think they would like it, and probably say that’s not really bluegrass! And that’s cool with me.

For more information on Old Man Markley, check out their band profile on Fat Wreck or head over to their Facebook page.

Down Side Up is out now.  Check it out on iTunes or Spotify.  If you really want to be cool, head over to the Fat Wreck Store and snag up a vinyl release.  It is so worth it.