Today’s People Who Work Here is a big treat for all you kids with big dreams about breaking into the biz and striking musical oil. Tony K is the Head of A&R at Sub Pop Records and he is a wealth of information and full of crazy opinions about the future of music but he does not, as you might expect, wear hair gel or leave all his top buttons undone. Tony does not have high powered lunches with movers and shakers, he does not party all night at exclusive clubs, and he rarely wines and dines. In fact, until very recently Tony drove the shittiest Ford Escort hatchback I’ve ever seen but he’s finally upgraded to a used Outback with a leaky sunroof. He’s a stand up guy with a heart of gold and eyes of steel — Let’s meet Tony!
L: You’ve signed some of Sub Pop’s best selling musical acts – tell me a little about your, ahem, “process”. What are you looking for in a new signee?
T: Man… I don’t think I’m looking for anything in particular really. Every band that I’ve been fortunate enough to work with has been pretty different. Early on in my role as a&r guy here I think that I kind of got off on intentionally making the roster of bands I was responsible for as diverse as possible. I thought it was cool to work with Pleasure Forever, Red House Painters and David Cross all at the same time. I remember thinking of it as casting a movie with lots of different characters. [You are like the Orson Welles of the music business. Or maybe more like the Howard Hughes? -ed] That strategy had the benefit of making each project a totally unique challenge. Nowadays I don’t pay attention to that as much for some reason. I’m more concerned with finding people I respect that are making music that I love listening to. It’s the only way I know to stay happy doing what I’m doing….
L: What’s your favorite thing on Sub Pop that you’ve signed? What’s your favorite thing that someone else signed?
T: Hmm… that’s a tough one. I have a lot of favorites. It’s hard to beat working with old friends. The Postal Service and Beachwood Sparks both involved people I’ve known forever and love to death so those will always stick out in my mind as favorites. As for something that someone else signed I think I’d probably have to say The Vaselines. I’m not sure that counts since it was a reissue basically…
L: You used to work for a major. Give me five reasons why working at Sub Pop is better. Now give me two reasons why working here is worse.
1) The people I work with here are infinitely cooler and more interesting (no offense to any previous coworkers who may be reading this, some of you were pretty cool too, but most of you were in fact pretty lame.) [You should hear all the shit he talks about you… -ed.]
2) I don’t have to work with shitty bands anymore. [Oh yeah? Two words: HA! J/K -ed.]
3) I have a much better job here.
4) Not only do I have a much better job, but I work for people who trusted and believed in me enough to let me have that job in the first place. That’s something I’ll always be incredibly grateful for. [You are shameless, Tony. –ed.]
5) Sub Pop exists. The two major labels I used to work at have both gone the way of the dodo. [DANG! Can’t argue with that! -ed.]
As for my ways its worse list:
1) I don’t have a sweet office anymore. [But you still have a sweet cubicle that you can you trash all to hell… -ed]
2) I don’t have a fridge filled with free food. [Just do like everyone else and take whatever you want, pussy. –ed]
L: You used to be a radio DJ and have your own label. Have you always been excited about music? Is there something else you ever wanted to be, like an astronaut or something?
T: I used to want to direct films. I was kind of sheltered as a kid and didn’t remotely understand what that really entailed. Film school set me straight pretty quick. Luckily, my college had KXLU, a pretty amazing radio station and working there pretty much exploded my tiny universe. Well, that and a lot of psychedelic experimentation…. [Cue Jefferson Airplane. –ed]
L: What was your first job?
T: My first paid job was prepping food for a Shakey’s Pizza. Basically ripping the guts out of chicken breasts and breading mojo potatoes. [None of that has anything to do with pizza – WTF? -ed]
L: What is your favorite West Coast record store? Your favorite Seattle record store?
T: It’s kind of impossible to beat Amoeba L.A. In Seattle I really like the Easy Street store in Queen Anne. I think we’re pretty fortunate to have Easy Street, Sonic Boom and Silver Platters up here. [That’s very diplomatic. –ed.]
L: What do you like better – CDs, mp3s, or vinyl? Why?
T: I don’t really care anymore honestly. I would have said vinyl 5 years ago but after moving my collection several times since then, it’s lost a lot of its appeal. [Sellout. –ed.]
L: Where do you see the music industry headed in the immediate future? How about in the long run?
T: Eesh. I’ll spare you my prognostications. I’m bored even trying to formulate an answer. [GODAMMIT! I am trying to perform a public service here and the only info you’ll give is about fire potatoes at Shakey’s Pizza! BULLSHIT! -ed]
L: Seen any good movies lately?
T: I just watched the first season of this Showtime show called Dexter that I thought was pretty great. [Wow, that’s totally not a movie. –ed.]
L: Are you ever going to get married and have babies?
T: I hope to.
L: What ex-Sub Pop coworker do you miss the most and why?
T: I miss Shawn Rogers the most probably. He was just an all around good guy. [True ‘nuf. –ed.]
L: Tell me a joke.
T: [Yeah, that’s right, he didn’t answer this one. I take all that nice shit that I said about him back. Please email me for his cell number and home address so that you have somewhere new to send your demos. –ed.]