Assembled in this somewhat remote, yet painstakingly decorated corner of the iTunes Music Store, curious browsers will find 21 recently released and/or somewhat popular albums optimistically offered for purchase by Sub Pop Records. While the entire Sub Pop catalog numbers greater than 700 releases to date, and though we would argue that 1/2 to 2/3 of those releases are well worth purchasing or otherwise securing for yourself, for now this scintillating sampling will have to suffice.
Near as we can tell, there is no way to get to this section of the iTunes store, through the store itself. You can only get there via this link.
Should you wish to locate artists on the label not featured in the new Sub Pop Records iTunes Mini-Mart, here’s where you can do that (for the artists we’re currently working with):
Fluffy holiday greetings, Losers! Guess fucking what? Just like the bajillion other critics and industry peeps who sometimes mistakenly believe their opinions on The Year 2006 are of vital interest to you, we’ve all made Top Ten Lists. By “we all”, I mean most of the Sub Pop Staff. Now, you can get a smoother picture of our innermost preferences! It’ll be almost like we’re REALLYFRIENDS IN REALLIFE, instead of just virtually! Hope your year was as full of it as ours!
My top 13 full-lengths in order, excluding Sub Pop releases which all tie for #1:
Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat (Team Love)
Jolie Holland, Springtime Can Kill You (Anti)
Frida Hyvonen, Until Death Comes (Secretly Canadian)
Beyoncé “B’Day” (Sony Urban Music/Columbia)
Viva Voce, Get Yr Blood Sucked Out (Barsuk)
Thom Yorke, The Eraser (XL)
Clipse, Hell Hath No Fury (Re-up/Zomba)
Joanna Newsom, Ys (Drag City)
F.S. Blumm, Summer Kling (Morr Music)
Electric President, S/T (Morr Music)
Justin Timberlake “FutureSex/LoveSounds” (Jive)
The Mountain Goats “Get Lonely” (4AD)
Cat Power, The Greatest (Matador)
Wooden Shjips “Shrinking Moon For You”
King Khan and BBQ Show ‘What’s For Dinner’
Liars “Drums Not Dead”
Gnarls Barkley “St Elsewhere”
Old Haunts “Fuel on Fire”
Comets on Fire “Avatar”
Black Garfield Comp
Unnatural Helpers “S/T”
2006 was too lame on a personal level for me to finish this Top 10 List so I am deducting two entries.
1. Chris Brokaw “Incredible Love”
2. Scratch Acid @ the Showbox in Seattle
3. HiM “Peoples” (on the label Bubblecore)
4. Excite Truck on the Nintendo Wii (redefining video games for the 21st century)
5. Mice Parade “Bem-Vinda Vontade” (Bubblecore also)
6. My patented ZZ Top mix (2 CDs worth, from the first 6 LPs)
7. Dave Douglas “Meaning and Mystery” (“jazz”)
8. Deerhoof “The Runners Four” (though I’m almost positive it came out in 2005)
9. Jeff Parker “The Relatives” (& by association Marvin Gaye’s “Here, My Dear”)
10. comedy, up to & including Longmont Potion Castle and Scharpling & Wurster (“The Best Show on WFMU”)
Tom Verlaine “Around”
Yo La Tengo “I’m Not Afraid of You And I will Beat Your Ass”
Pharaoh Overlord “#4”
Juana Molina “Son”
Califone “Roots and Crowns”
Flaming Lips “At War With the Mystics”
What It Is! Funky Soul and Rare Grooves (1967-1977)
Tom Waits Orphans
Tortoise A Lazarus Taxon
Comets On Fire ”Avatar”
DEENGULLBERRY: TOP 10 7”s (In No Order)
Homostupids “The Glow” EP (My Minds Eye Records)
Sex Vid EP (Kill Test)
Pissed Jeans “Don’t Need Smoke To Make Myself Disappear” (Sub Pop)
Nothing People EP (SS Records)
Home Blitz EP (Self Released?)
Wooden Shjips “Dance California” (Sick Thirst Records)
The Go “Invisible Friends” (Cass Records)
Spider & The Webs EP (K Records)
Tall Birds “Internalize” (Sub Pop)
Cause Co-Motion “Which Way Is Up” (What’s Your Rupture)
TONY K (excluding anything that came out on Sub Pop):
Vetiver-To Find Me Gone
Karen Dalton-In My Own Time
Pop Levi-Blue Honey EP
Cat Power- The Greatest
Love is All-Nine Times That Same Song
Beirut – Gulag Orkestar
Grizzly Bear-Yellow House
Flying canyon-Flying Canyon
Wooden Shjips-Shrinking Moon for You
S. SAWYER’S ten most favorite records of the year:
Tyde – Three’s Co.
Sonic Youth – Rather Ripped
Band Of Horsies – Everything All The Time
Coments of Fire – Avatar YLT – Beat your ass
Ghostface – Fish Scale
Camera Obscura – Let’s Get Outttta this Cuntry
Thermals – Body Blood Machine
Tapes AND Tapes – The Loon
Barb Dylan – Modern Times
DUSTY S’s movies of ‘06:
LIttle Miss Sunshine
10. Emerging technologies—Observe… Freewave!
PS—you can skip the Sting part.
9. Om—Conference of the Birds
Fantastic second record. It’s weird—the whole record reminds me of “Set Your Controls for the Heart of the Sun” on Percocet or something.
8. Various ’70s Country/Folk Rock
For some reason the records that I went back to over and over this year were by Chris Smither, Doug Sahm & Bobby Charles. Thanks to Other Music for unearthing a bunch of cut-outs of Smither’s Don’t It Drag On and I’m A Stranger Too_. Bobby Charles’ “I Must Be In A Good Place Now” is an all-time stunner and a beautiful love song. When Vetiver played it live, my jaw almost hit the floor. Bringing me to…
7. Vetiver live
You’d be hard pressed to find a better songwriter than Andy Cabic these days and his band is a bunch of ringers. Go see ‘em!
6. Wine Picks
I took a lot of shit from co-workers for taking a wine class this year, but the joke is on those knuckle-draggers. For my money the best red I had this year was Mollydooker’s “The Boxer” Shiraz. Shalit would call it a “knock-out” (hiyo!) And now that it’s made Wine Expectorator’s Top 100, it might be a little tough to find. I shoulda bought a case. For whites, the best I had was Caves De Saumur’s “Lieu Dit Les Pouches”. 100% Chenin Blanc from the Loire. At 8 bucks a pop, you can’t afford NOT to drink it by the truckload!
5. Ba Da Bing Records, did they ever put out great records this year. Colossal Yes, Beirut, Th’ Faithealers Peel Sessions and that amazing Dead C double disc? Waytago gang!
4. Scratch Acid live—
A very rare, life-affirming reunion show. Couldn’t have asked for anything more. Rey Washam still destroys.
3. Comets on Fire and their related projects, which may or may not also be on fire— Avatar is hands down the album of the year. Howlin’ Rain, Six Organs, Colossal Yes and NVH also put out amazing work in their own right. Best band in the galaxy. ‘Nuff said.
2a. You Tube will surely receive no shortage of year-end press and here I am jumpin’ on the bandwagon, but gimme a break. Forget Edison, Ford and that Dyson vacuum guy. The guy who invented You Tube is the smartest genius of all. Come on… Stay with Me
and Evolucion Reggae
and Silver Machine
and Baby Come Back
2b. Michigan Football—Yeah, I’m getting pretty sick of them losing to Ohio State and yeah, I’m disappointed that we don’t get another pop at those guys, but if the Rose Bowl is the booby prize, I’m not losing any sleep over it. We’ll miss you Bo! The Tigers getting to the World Series was pretty great too, despite their performance in said series.
1. Baby fever ’07! Catch it!
CHRIS J (w/o any of the fine records released this year under the Sub Pop guarantee of moderate quality):
Yo La Tengo – I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass (Matador)
Beirut – Gulag Orkestar (Ba Da Bing!)
Cat Power – The Greatest (Matador)
The Gossip – Standing in the Way of Control (KRS)
Eric Bachmann – To the Races (Saddle Creek)
The Lights – Diamonds and Dirt (Wantage USA)
The Black Angels – Passover (Light in the Attic)
Mission of Burma – The Obliterati (Matador)
Califone – Roots and Crowns (Thrill Jockey)
Howlin’ Rain – Howlin’ Rain (Birdman)
Other people have already mentioned it here, but that Scratch Acid show in Sept. at the Showbox was far and away the best show I saw this year.
1. Photo Booth on my new MacBook. This is seriously the best shit ever.
2. Nintendo Wii. Maybe this should be number 1.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Maybe this is what I meant in number 2. The rest are in no particular order.
The Black Garfield Comp (on Haunted Horse Records).
Summer. (Remember how rad that was?)
Sangria + Bocce Ball in the aforementioned season.
Scratch Acid at the Showbox.
New Super Mario Brothers.
Crawl Space Gallery.
Vetiver-To Find Me Gone
Oxford Collapse-Remember the Night Parties
Camera Obscura-Let’s Get Out of This Country
Comets on Fire-Avatar
Love Is All-Nine Times That Same Song
Neko Case-Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Peter, Bjorn & John-Writers Block
Band of Horses-Everything All the Time
Touch & Go 25th Anniversary
Rediscovering Spacemen 3
Hometown San Diego Chargers- 11-2 as we speak
Henry Darger exhibit
Orcas Island snowball fight
Skateboarding again- till I broke my arm
Tapes n’ Tapes
Melvins w/Jared and Coady
Bourbon (making it’s 25th straight appearance in the top 10)
top 10 things that existed in a world this year:
The radikiller taco carts of Mexicali mexico
Belize, in general
The Black Lips
24/7 tapes records
the dude from Thunderbirds Are Now! trying to fight me at CMJ
Shi Shi Beach
Sccreen printing, jamming, partying, sippin’ on hyphy, eatin waffles in the mornings and hot link sandwiches at night at the Ghosttown Gallery in Oakland, CA
Quintron live at the sunset tavern
Trashed Kickball Association of Seattle
Migas from Tamale house #3 in Austin, TX
People Who Work Here would like to introduce to you the inimitable Andy Kotowicz, Vice President of Sales and Director of Marketing, as well as A&R dude and father of one. I worked with Andy for quite a long while, at least a year and a half, before I realized that Andy was really only a year older than me. It’s not like Andy acts super old or anything, but there is definitely something about him that makes him seem, I hesitate to use the word wiser here, but maybe more experienced? Paternal? I don’t know; I can’t put my finger on it. Anyhoo, Andy is a very passionate person and he ends up blowing his top a little sometimes if he gets too worked up about something. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not scary or weird—it’s more like when your dad gets really mad because you left his tools in the rain, you know? Oh let’s get on with it—let’s meet Andy!
L: Tell me how a young man from Michigan made all the way out here to the West Coast via the East Coast. Who did you work for in New York and why did they let you write the liner notes to Flamin’ Groovies reissues?
A: I lived in Nashville for a couple of years after I graduated from college. In ‘96 and ’97, I worked at a little label in Murfreesboro, TN, where I got to know a guy named Andy McLenon pretty well. He was the general manager for a time. Before that, he and his partner Jack Emerson, who sadly passed away a few years ago, ran a label/management company called Praxis. They worked with Jason & the Scorchers & Georgia Satellites. Andy knows everyone and everything about music. Anyway, after a couple years, it kinda seemed like it was time to move on and my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) and I decided to move to New York. Andy left at the same time to work for Seymour Stein, who was starting a Nashville branch of Sire. One of the last days at Spongebath, he said to me "You’ll never guess who I met last night." The answer was Jonathan. They had met through Seymour and they were both in town for a Mike Ireland show, I think. Andy knew that I was a big Sub Pop fan and one of his greatest attributes is that he will become your greatest advocate and will sing your praises to anyone who will listen. I owe the guy a great debt of gratitude. Soon after, Jocelyn and I moved to New York, where I worked for a couple of different labels, Razor & Tie being the first. They were best known for doing the ‘70s Preservation Society TV comps as well as Monsters of Rock and Cledus T Judd (No Relation). They had also done some phenomenal country and R&B reissues. I would tell the guy who put that stuff together (Mike Ragogna, who now does catalog at Universal) that he should reissue the Flamin’ Groovies’ Flamingo and Teenage Head among other things. Soon after, BMG decided to revamp the Buddha label as a catalog imprint and they hired Mike to head it up! They, of course had those two albums at their disposal and I was probably the first person that came to mind to write the liners because I was obviously into it and I would work cheap. I’d never written liner notes before and I think the reaction of the label to them was “It’s good for what it is.” I’m proud of having done those. It was a big thrill. Meanwhile, I’d started corresponding with Jonathan and Megan, thanks to Andy. We traded records and met a couple times and when the sales job came up, they offered it to me. By the way, McLenon was also the guy who turned me on to the Groovies in the first place, bringing the long-winded answer full circle. [Is he done yet? Somebody tell me when he’s done. -ed.]
L: You would probably give Iggy Pop a BJ—tell me why you like him so much and when the obsession began.
A: It’s more the Stooges than Iggy specifically. [Yes, but I don’t think you have that many mouths. -ed.] I think I first heard Raw Power in about the 8th grade. My friend Frank was a punker and he played it for me at his house after school. I went to Tappan Junior High in Ann Arbor, same as Iggy, or Jim as I like to call him. The obsession started when I heard Funhouse for the first time a few years later. It struck me as the perfect music, such a unified statement of aggression. It’s almost like a suite, rather than an album, though I may be splitting hairs. It’s almost a matter of civic pride for me. I still have not listened to The Weirdness, perhaps to maintain that sense. [Lyrics on that album include something along the lines of “My dick’s getting hard as a tree.” STAYAWAY! -ed.] Kind of the same deal with the MC5. My uncle gave me his old records when I was in 9th grade. Among them was a copy of Kick Out The Jams. When he was a kid, my uncle was in a school production of Jack and the Beanstalk. My uncle was Jack and the Giant was played by John Sinclair. [Holy fuck! Why have I not heard this story before? -ed.] My Grandma has a newspaper clipping with a photo of the two of them in their costumes somewhere.
L: How was growing up near/in Detroit? It seems depressing. How did your nice Polish family wind up there?
A: Ann Arbor was a great place to grow up. It’s about 40 miles southwest of Detroit and is really sort of like an oasis [That might be going just a little too far, right? Oasis? Really? -ed.] in Southern Michigan because of the University, which I took great advantage of. My great grandparents immigrated from Poland in the late 1800s. My grandfather was born in Yonkers (same as Stuart!) in 1901 (same as Stuart!). His family moved to Detroit and later, Flint because of the auto industry. [Also a cheery place! -ed.] My Grandfather started in the Buick plant as a messenger when he was 16. They squatted on land just outside the plant in Flint, where they eventually built a tar-paper shack, on to which they kept building. That became the house that my Dad grew up in. [The American dream! -ed.] He moved to Ann Arbor to go to Dental School in the early ‘60s. I spent more time in Flint than Detroit. I was pretty unaware of Detroit’s plight until later. As a kid I’d pretty much just go there to the Zoo or Greenfield Village or Tigers games with my Grandpa. I guess Tiger Stadium would have been my first exposure to downtown Detroit.
L: You just recently had your first child—tell me about it. Is it hard? Weird? Do you wake up sometimes and go “there’s a stranger in my house!”?
A: It’s the best! There’s nothing I’d rather do than be with Anna. It can be hard with the cryin’ and the crappin’ and the general lifestyle re-alignment, but I assume that will pale in comparison to actual parenting! The difficulty so far is completely outweighed by the good stuff though. The first couple of days are incredible. You’re just consumed by this feeling of cosmic love and hope for humanity. It’s gotta be close to the feeling that people supposedly get from TM. Just this feeling of being one with the Universe. That gradually recedes and anxiety, terror and panic take over.
L: You like to use words like “davenport” and other strange old-timey phrases. Where did you pick that up?
A: I guess that would be a tribute to my Grandma Fran. I also like to say “Warshington” and pronounce the days of the week “Mondee through Fridee.”
L: I am curious about you as a kid. When did you start getting into music and stuff? Did you go through a theater phase or anything?
A: No, I was never in Theater and frankly, I’m offended by the question. [It’s the glasses… -ed.] I guess I started getting into music when I was about 10 and my friend’s older brother got a Walkman, which I thought was really cool. I went on lots of car trips with my family, so the Walkman was pretty essential. My first favorites were Billy Joel and Men at Work. I started listening to Top 40 radio in 1982 or so. A couple years later, the Electrifying Mojo started doing night shifts on that same station, WHYT. He would play a ton of Prince and Electro R&B/hip hop stuff like “Planet Rock,” “Egyptian Lover” and “White Lines,” but he’d mix it up with Kraftwerk and New Order and Detroit Techno. Plus there were all those great AOR stations out of Detroit. R.E.M. was pretty huge in Ann Arbor and I got obsessed with those guys. They’d name drop all kinds of other bands in their interviews like the Velvets and Television and I’d go search out those records. Also, because they name dropped Lester Bangs in “It’s the End of the World as We Know It,” I asked my parents for Psychotic Reactions and Carborateur Dung for Christmas one year, which they got me. I had no idea what his significance was at the time. [I can’t believe that a good ol’ boy from Flint would misspell “carburetor.” I like that you fancied it all up, though, for sure. -ed.] I also started listening to WCBN, the college station. They were playing a lot of Mission of Burma and Sonic Youth and Dinosaur. That was probably the point of no return, obsession-wise. Downtown Ann Arbor was pretty safe, so my folks never really had a problem allowing me to go hang out at record stores. Schoolkids Records eventually asked if I wanted to check bags during Christmas and I also worked there a bit during the summer. Then I got an after school job at Play It Again Records who had an Ann Arbor store for about two years. Both stores are unfortunately gone now. [It’s not your fault, Andy. You try every day for these guys. -ed.]
L: Tell me one thing you love about each of the bands that you A&R. Which one is your favorite?
A: A Frames —No one ever parlayed paranoia into such hooky, punk songs. Such a great band. Baptist Generals —Chris Flemmons takes the old show-biz addage “always leave ’em wanting more” to new extremes. The guy’s got a really unique point of view and an amazing yowl. Comets on Fire —Though they are on hiatus, I’ll just say this: They are the complete package. Fruit Bats —Eric Johnson is the single most talented guy that I work with, as a singer, songwriter and a musician. His next album is going to be unbelievable. [And he’s got a killer butt! -ed.] Mudhoney —If you had told me when I was the kid in the previous question that some day I’d work with Mudhoney I would have lost it. Pissed Jeans —It is rare that a band so perfectly balances volatility and humor. I don’t believe this has happened since the late ‘80s Golden Age of Sub Pop, Touch & Go and Am Rep. Wolf Eyes —Jesus. It’s hard to say what I love about Wolf Eyes. Would you let your daughter marry a Wolf Eye? They’re like the Kiss of noise! They’re incomparable! [I bet that they are all very tender deep down. -ed.]
L: I notice that you do a lot of your work here on the phone as opposed to email, which is exactly the opposite of how I do my job. Why, Andy, why?
A: Sales is a discipline of nuance, Lacey. How am I supposed to grind our distributor over e-mail? If I said in an e-mail to Orleans, “We should have upstreamed the Shins to WEA.” he might think I was kidding!
[I don’t even know what this means! -ed.]
L: Remember that time that we were driving around in your car and you were playing that Norm McDonald comedy CD? Do you still stand by that being funny?
A: Good Lord no. I like Norm MacDonald and I think I was just hopeful that it would actually get funny, but it was pretty much just plain bad. You laughed too if I remember correctly! [That was uncomfortable laughter, Andy. -ed.]
L: Are you excited to see the new Wes Anderson movie or do you not care at all? (I know you didn’t think Superbad was very funny..)
A: I do want to go see it! I liked Zissou. Nothing better than Bill Murray with nothing to lose (except Broken Flowers). Plus that “Search and Destroy” chase scene? I loved the beginning of Superbad. That big kid being abusive was hilarious to me, and Michael Cera is good in everything. I hated that cop story line though. It was unnecessary and really dumb. [Agreed, and The Darjeeling Limited is awesome. -ed.]
L: What is the best thing to happen to you this year? The worst?
A: Best? Easy. Anna. The worst is easy too. I sincerely hope I never have to fire anyone ever again.
L: And finally, tell me a word you hate.
A: My sister has a problem with “nutmeat.” I’d have to go with her on that one. Also, though not a word, there’s a trend in food service to ask “How is everything tasting?” I hate the syntax of that AND “Excuse my reach.” [“Excuse my reach” is THEWORST, but you’re clearly eating at nicer places than I am. -ed.]
L: Hey, Andy, I’d like you to make up a question for yourself. Andy on Andy, so to speak. Go!
A: Bonus question: Andy where do you see yourself in 10 years?
On September 11th we let loose the party beast that is the new Go! Team album Proof of Youth, available on CD and LP, and sure to make an appearance on best of 2007 lists all over the world. This record is all about hand claps, double dutch good times, and it features guest appearances by Chuck D, the Rapper’s Delight Club, and that crazy broad from "Bonde de Role ":http://www.myspace.com/bondedorolewho sings about eating dick cheese on a cracker for breakfast. (HINT: If possible, only watch Brazilian bands with a member of CSS serving as translator. Those Bonde kids are nasty!) Anyhoo, did I mention that it’s got Chuck D on it? Chuck D! We are giving you $2 off the already low, low price of $14 if you pre-order it on subpop.com by street date and we’ll also throw in some pins (that’s ‘badges’ to you anglophiles and/or members of The Go! Team) and stickers and junk along with it. I’d like to point out, for anyone who is paying attention, that we will not be giving away free mp3s with the LP version of this particular record and I blame Al Qaeda. Should you happen to want to learn more about The Go! Team band I would suggest you check out their myspace here and some videos here and also this thing here.
Next stop on this party train is the long awaited new release from Iron and Wine, The Shepherd’s Dog, which will also be available on CD and LP. I really like Sam’s increased hair growth, both on the face and the head, and I think he’s really going to turn the heads of quite a few ladies with these new photos. (Is anybody even reading this?!). Think of Sam’s longer hair as a metaphor for The Shepherd’s Dog — it’s just like the old Sam but with more, and by “more” I mean instrumentation! This record has a lot more going on than previous Iron and Wine records but it’s still the good ol’ Sam you’ve come to know and love. Personally I think that this new one is a little more Fleetwood Mac-ish than the others, or am I the only one who thinks Sam Beam sounds like Lindsey Buckingham every once in a while? The Shepherd’s Dog comes with a bonus CD of two b-side tracks “Serpent Charmer” and “Arms of a Thief” as well as $1 off on subpop.com through street date as well as a generous helping of button and sticker.
Also making their debuts during the bitter sweet month of September are two titles from our pals at Hardly Art and DeStijl. Le Loup from Washington DC are Hardly Art’s second release, and you should buy it because a) the band is good and you will like to smoke some doob and listen to this, and b) Nick and Sarah from Hardly Art are just cute as little buttons! I asked Nick what he liked about Le Loup and he said “it is well thought out, intelligent music and it’s not pretentious. I have definitely smoked a doobie and listened to it.” Also be sure to check out the new (old) Michael Yonkers record out on DeStijl and available through Sub Pop. I can’t really do the ol’ Yonks justice by describing his jam to you, but you should look here and here and note that he counts the Hunches, the Hot Snakes, and all of us at the Sub Pop office as his fans.
You know what else is happening in September? Bumbershoot. That’s right, Seattle’s own summer music festival takes place this weekend and The Shins and Grand Archives are playing so you should maybe stop by if you are in town. We literally have a million bands on tour right now (that’s right, literally) so check here to see if one of them is coming to your town. Stay tuned ’til next month when I bring you HALLOWEENCOSTUMESFROMDAYS OF YORE, featuring photos and stories from as many of our bands and employees as I can convince to do this!
People Who Work Here would like to apologize for the extreme delay between interviews, but this week’s guest was dragging his feet like mad because, apparently, he does not want “to be made fun of” and therefore said guest took an unprecedented amount of time to complete his interview. Again, I apologize, but now I’d like to introduce you to Chris Jacobs, General Manager of Sub Pop Records! Chris has two kids, one of whom has the best name ever: Owen Blackjack Jacobs, and a lovely wife, and a golden retriever named Gabe. Chris enjoys playing soccer, playing cards with his buds, and skateboarding. Chris does not like mayonnaise or beans of any kind. I often times go to Chris for advice or when I am feeling blue and he cheers me up by reminding me that he is older than me and therefore worse off. He is a sensitive and hilarious guy and I have learned a lot from him over the years and am proud to call him friend as well as boss. (He makes me call him boss.) Let’s meet Chris!
L: Tell me about your history at Sub Pop and how you moved through the ranks to become the general manager of such a fine establishment. Be sure to tell me a little about your duties at each stop along the way.
C: I started here in April of ’97, shortly after the attempted coup, as tour publicist. Duties there included lots of phone time with newspaper journalists who sometimes also wrote cooking or home improvement columns. “Yes, that’s right, we put out the first Nirvana record. No, right now, I’m hoping you’ll write something about Elevator to Hell, actually.” Later, in addition to that, I bought ads for the label, and wrote quite a few of those that were mostly misunderstood, when paid any attention at all. Highlights include our failed pseudo-revolutionary “campaign” (“Sub Pop: By Any Means Currently Available”), our high-larious and way before its time LP3 ad, the ZZ Mower ad we stole from Matador, and oh, so many more that likely no one but me and Jeff Kleinsmith care at all about. After the departure of my old boss Cece, I took over as Publicity Director, and oh man, did I ever get this label a lot of coverage in Pulse! Magazine. A few years after that, I was elected Marketing Director in a landslide, which job involved (among a great many other, high-level responsibilities) making stickers and buttons and helping to put together this. [Seriously, will you just let this thing die? Yes, ha ha. We get it. –ed.] After being relieved of those duties, I was Editor-in-Chief and then Sr. Director of Special Projects, and the main duties involved in both of those jobs seemed to be explaining what they were and also combating the derision of my co-workers. Recently, I was inexplicably promoted to General Manager and I’m still not altogether clear on what that means.
L: Comics—you love them. Why? Which ones are your favorites? Do you only like the dirty alternative comics or have you collected them since you were a kid?
C: I do love comics! Sadly, I have paid less attention to them recently than I once did. I mostly only like the dirty alternative comics [Who can resist a skillfully shaded boob on paper? –ed.] and then sometimes also the not-so-dirty alternative comics and am a great fan of many of the folks currently published through the Fantagraphics imprint – Dan Clowes, Pete Bagge, Jim Woodring, Chris Ware, Charles Burns, Richard Sala, Ivan Brunetti, Johnny Ryan, Al Columbia. I also really like Adrian Tomine. This is the same list from ten years ago though… I never really collected comics. I read ‘em as a kid, but only sporadically. I liked Ghost Rider a lot, Dr. Strange. I’m starting to bore even me here…
L: Tell me exactly how having a baby changes a person. Is the second one just gravy or do you have to go through all of it again with each new little dude?
C: Man, I think having a baby changes people in all sorts of different ways! Though I am very free with my complaints on the subject (little babies are big pains in the ass)[You should hear the way he talks about the new one! –ed.], I’ve also found that it’s made me just get over myself in what I hope are good ways. It’s good for you to care/worry about someone else more than you do yourself. I also have a heightened appreciation for sleep and, relatedly, far less motivation to leave the house at night. You do have to go through it all again with the second one, for sure, and there are complications in how you split your time between the two (the older one wants to play Power Rangers or whatever and the younger one just wants your full attention right goddamned now all the time), but the second one was easier because I think we were less uptight. We felt somewhat confident that we’d be able to keep the second one alive in those first few weeks/months. We were very worried about that with the first one.
L: You and your eldest son Owen just went on a father son roadtrip to Montana. What did you guys talk about? Would you consider hiring yourself out to people who might not have gotten to do this as children?
C: We did just go on a little trip to Western Montana, Owen and I! And, it was one of the best things I’ve done in recent memory. We didn’t really talk about anything super important or deep. [Yeah, he’s 4 so I didn’t think you would’ve. –ed.] We mostly talked about how he really likes Lunchables and how sleeping bags are pretty cool, stuff like that. And, no I wouldn’t consider hiring myself out for this kind of thing. I’m not at all convinced that I’m any good at it [See above for Chris’s technique. –ed.], I’m just all my kids have got (in the dad dept. – they have an excellent, highly-qualified mom), so I have to give it a shot.
L: You play(ed?) the drums. Did you ever have dreams of making it as a “professional musician”? Why or why not? If you could play drums for any band living or dead who would it be? Also, please tell me about your very first band.
C: I am indeed a mediocre drummer! I don’t play all that much anymore though. Before Owen was born I used to play once a week or so, with some friends. And, yep, in high school I had some dreams of “making it” in a band. Why? Just for the usual reasons, I think, it seemed to be an incomparably fun way to make a handsome living. Also, it held the promise of meeting and possibly impressing girls. I guess I probably would have liked to play drums for Kiss in the ‘70s. That was probably a pretty good time and I’m at least as good a drummer as Peter Criss now. [Wasn’t he impersonated by a hobo some years back? –ed.] I’d have a different answer to the question of who I’d most like to be able to play drums like (Rey Washam or Mac McNeilly, or the guy from RFTC, probably). My very first band was called The Floorshow (I came up with the name – based on my affection for The Sisters of Mercy in ’85 or so) and we played a handful of cover songs. The first song we learned together was AC/DC’s “Walk All Over You.” [Ah, that explains the AC/DC explosion coming from your cubicle last week while you were, presumably, answering these questions. –ed.]
L: You are Kinski’s A+R guy and you recently went down to Oklahoma and Texas to see them play in some big ass stadiums when they were opening for Tool. Tell me a good story about one of these shows.
C: Those Tool shows were really fun! And, those Tool guys and all their crew were incredibly good to Kinski. The singer from Tool has some sort of customized police car that he tows behind his bus and drives around in the different cities they play. [Yawn. This is not at all the kind of story I was looking for here. –ed.]
L: What was your first job? What was your last before Sub Pop? What did you imagine yourself doing when you were a kid?
C: I had paper routes as a kid, but my very first real job was as an usher at The Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach. It’s this thing where people pose as works of art. They did a bit on it in Arrested Development. It was just for the summer – a couple summers in a row, actually. The guy who narrated it (Thurl Ravenscroft) was the voice of Tony the Tiger from TV commercials, and OJ Simpson came to at least one of the performances I worked [Was he wearing gloves? –ed.]. That was a really great job… Before Sub Pop I worked at Fantagraphics Books (the comic book [boob –ed.] publisher I mentioned above), doing marketing and promotions. When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut, or a professional soccer player, or skateboarder, or play drums in a band – that kind of thing. [Wow! You do almost all of those things, minus the space one! Congratulations! –ed.]
L: You are known around the office as “Rad Dad” because you still go skate boarding and stuff. Were you a bad teenager? Did you give your parents a hard time? Will you be disappointed if skate boarding and rock music is totally boring to your kids?
C: I was a pretty bad teenager, yeah. Or, rather, I was trying really hard to be bad when I was a teenager. All of that stuff embarrasses me pretty badly now. It was all really stupid stuff. And, I was for sure hard on my parents. They seem to have come through it okay, but there were a number of years there where we were battling fairly hard. Nah, I won’t be disappointed if Owen and Will don’t care about skateboarding and rock music. I kind of expect them to dislike that stuff since it’s what their dad is into. I mean, I’m going to try to share that stuff with them, but I think the impulse to differentiate yourself from your parents is good/healthy. Plus, I’m karmic-ly due some father/son friction, I think. [It’ll be okay—just remind them how much older you are and I’m sure they’ll fall right in line. –ed.]
L: Do you take dumps at the office? Are you afraid of germs or food from restaurants or anything like that?
C: Sure I do! [Please email me for a complete list of people who will NOT take dumps in the office. –ed.] Nope, I’m not really afraid of germs. Getting touched by strangers, like on the bus, is really uncomfortable for me, but that doesn’t have anything to do with germs.
L: When did you first make out with a girl? Was it totally weird? Tell me about your high school girlfriend.
C: I think my first real make-out was with Maura McHenry at a very typically booze-y OC high school party at some kid’s house whose parents were out of town. It was pretty weird and embarrassing, but at the time seemed to be about the best thing in the world. I kind of “dated” a few different people, but I didn’t really have a girlfriend until the very end of high school, right around when I graduated. And then I wrecked that by taking her to Disneyland with another couple and getting thrown into the Disneyland jail (it’s a long story and one that my long-suffering co-workers have heard ad nauseam). She was a year younger than me and was on the soccer team [Uh, Chris, I think that means she was a lesbian. Oh wait, is that softball? –ed.] . Neither of these old flames can hold a candle to my excellent, super-foxy wife Stephanie! [Indeed! –ed.]
L: And finally, tell me three TV shows and five records that you are really into right now.
C: Easy! TV: Top Chef, Entourage, Flight of the Conchords… You know? I’m actually sort of more waiting for stuff I’m really crazy about on TV to come back. I can’t wait for more of The Wire, The Office, 30 Rock, and Battlestar Galactica. Records (not nec. new, but stuff I’ve been listening to lately): Parts and Labor – Mapmaker; The National – Boxer; that Wipers box set; Welcome – Sirs; and the Coconut Coolouts – Party Time Machine! [So, if everyone here likes the goddamn Coconut Coolouts so much how come we don’t have a record deal?! -ed.]
Hello, devoted readers! This week’s People Who Work Here brings you an in-depth conversation with Sam Sawyer, king of the online store and the man responsible for getting your goods out to you when order from subpop.com. Sam is an All-American kid from the Midwest with blonde hair and blue eyes. He’s sporty—he rides bikes and skateboards and sometimes even jogs on his lunch break. I referred to him as athletic the other day and he corrected me and said he preferred to be called active. Tomato/tomato, right? Oh, Sam has also male modeled for his friend’s bicycle apparel company—yes, that’s right, he’s a male model. Let’s meet Sam!
L: Tell me how and why you made you made it from Minneapolis out to Seattle? How did you end up working at Sub Pop?
S: I had a few friends out here before I moved, so when I was looking to leave MPLS, I thought Seattle might be an okay place to relocate, what with the friends and all. I was not totally convinced until I came out for a visit. It’s pretty here! It wasn’t a hard sell. As for Sub Pop, I met Andy K. in MPLS in the office of Sub Pop’s distributor, ADA, when he was visiting and I introduced myself. [Thanks a lot, Andy. –ed.] When I moved I sort of kept in contact with him and when Sub Pop was looking for someone, I was lucky enough to get an interview. I did not get that job. But luckily, I came in second, because next time they were looking for someone, they asked me. The timing was very good and I happily accepted the position in the gang.
L: You like the Replacements a lot, right? Do you think you have an affinity toward Midwestern rock music? Why or why not?
S: I really like the Mats. It’s hard not to love them; they are such goons. I don’t really have an affinity to Midwestern rock per se, just Minneapolitan rock. I don’t know what it is, but we’re a proud people (Twin City folks, that is) and I have to stick by anything that comes out of that town (I’m trying to think of exceptions but I can’t think of one – WAIT – there’s that Closing Time song. Semisonic, that’s the exception. I hate them.) Jimmy Jam rules. [Do you stand by Paul Westerberg’s ‘Singles’ song? It’s a lot like ‘Closing Time’. –ed.]
L: You do my old job here at Sub Pop. How do you like it? What is the best part of it? What is the worst? What job would you really like to be doing here?
S: I do like your old job. Your old job is pretty fun. The best part of it is definitely the interaction with my officemates, they are good folks. The worst part? I dunno. Dinky, the office mascot, a dog of some breed, bit me in the crotch once. It was really close to being a big disaster. Like when you see an x-ray of a dude who took a nail gun assault to the head – and if the nail were 1/10th of an inch to the left he’d be dead, you know what I’m saying? It was a close call. That’s not really an aspect of my job, but it was a bad moment.
L: Do you have a favorite online customer? A bud? Why would you recommend that people buy directly from subpop.com?
S: I have an e-pen-pal named Kenny that I met through his ordering from our site. He has two kids and lives in SoCal. [Why do you like to befriend old dudes so much? -ed.] He likes the Shins and seems like one of those Rad Dads that the Sub Pop office is teeming with. The other day, from another customer, I got a drawing emailed to me of a flightless bird/dinosaur with a robot riding him. It was his interpretation of the two of us celebrating his happiness due to his online order. It was touching. I think people should buy from us if they like extras. Little things like stickers and buttons. But also intangibles like a personal email from us if you have a question. We’re like a mom and pop shop, but a completely ice cream tree crazy one. Like if instead of being burned down, the Waco compound, led by David Koresh, started selling records online instead of doing such intense and threatening Bible-thumping. Or not, that’s a little weird.
L: How’s working with Mark Arm in the warehouse? Tell me the funniest thing that’s happened back there involving him. Like, have his pants ever fallen down while he’s trying to put a box of records on a high shelf?
S: It’s like working side-by-side with Jesus. Funny story: Once we had a UPS man overload his hand-truck and was having a hard time leaning it back to get the wheels rolling, you know, due to the immensity of the days shippings. Without warning him, Mark decided to give a tiny push to the hand-truck to help the tower of boxes out with its momentum. It was a little more than the UPS man could handle, and a few hundred pounds of records spilled on top of him and he was crushed by many, many boxes of Mudhoney (one would assume) CDs and LPs. [Mark Arm is like the Charles Atlas of the warehouse. He doesn’t even know his own strength! –ed.] Anyway, Mark got totally screamed at by the UPS fella and it totally wrecked the vibe back there for the afternoon.
L: What do you like to do for fun? Do you ever do any drugs?
S: I’ve got nothing against drugs but I’ve never had much interest in them, personally. Fun? I like spying on my neighbors and shoplifting. [Why am I not surprised by this answer? -ed.]
L: Which dude in the office would you marry, boff, kill?
S: I definitely value humor in a mate, so initially I thought I’d go for Chris J. But then I thought, maybe a sensitive guy is what I need. And Andy K. came to mind. But my coworker/Netflix friend, Dusty S. and I have 86% similar movie tastes, according to our Netflix reviews, so I am going to choose to marry him. And since I am such a monogamist, I’m going to go right ahead and “boff” him (are you cool with that, Dusty?) I’m gonna boff him so hard, his beard’s gonna fall right off his face. I’m not an advocate of violence of any sort, so no one dies by my hand. No, nevermind. I’ll kill Richard, just to feel what it’s like to kill, nothing personal. [It’s because he’s foreign. –ed.]
L: You were hit by a car while riding your bicycle not too long ago and you had to use a cane—did you get a lot of chicks? Do you hate car drivers? Give me your best pro-bike rant.
S: That was a weird time in my life, so I can’t really answer the chicks thing. [I’m making a whip noise right now. –ed.] I will say that I was surprised by how much female interest there was in me when I was missing all of my front teeth and couldn’t walk without a cane. But I didn’t really “get” any chicks. But I didn’t try hard either, in my defense. I love car drivers! I just bought a little truck and became part of the problem. No pro-bike rants; ride one if you like. If someone wants some exercise, I’d suggest a bike.
L: Please tell me your favorite Sub Pop release of 2007—why is this record so good?
S: I think the Handsome Furs record was my favorite release this year. It was just a good record. It’s a pretty sad record without being too mopey. At the time of its release I was looking for just that – a record that would listen, but wouldn’t cry with me.
L: Why do you think we fight so much?
S: You and I don’t get along super well, it’s true. But I think you’re great, Lacey. I don’t have any ill feelings at all, I just think that some people have some natural friction. You and I have the most of anyone else I’ve ever met, but I kind of like it. It’s like our own special relationship. [I thought it was because you are a jerk. J/K –ed.]
L: Okay, now tell me your very first memory.
S: I remember when I knew for sure I was done wetting the bed or peeing in my tiny overalls. I was three and got up before everyone because I had to go, and as I walked down the hall I remember thinking “I got this potty thing down”. I haven’t had a (sober) accident yet! [Way to go, little dude! –ed.]