You're the lucky reader of the 19th edition of the Punknews.org Vinyl File. This column aims to keep you informed with upcoming releases as well as spotlighting interesting releases, your favorite band's own collections and labels with an history of vinyl releases worth talking about. As always, Vinyl File is brought to you by Ben Conoley.
Vinyl File is going to be presented in a no–frills fashion until after the holidays. While we may not be posting much in the way of news until then, keep checking back weekly for features. To get your fill on what's coming out, head over to the Vinyl Collective message board where a whole lot of record nerds are discussing everything from Saves the Day to Isis records all the time.
This week Vinyl File is pleased to bring you an interview with Dan Askew of Second Nature Recordings. Dan has been involved in a slew of fantastic vinyl releases over the years, many of which you probably count as amongst your favorites.
VINYL FILE SPOTLIGHT Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background within the music scene.
Dan Askew, 32 years old. Like many people my age, I discovered punk and hardcore music through skateboarding. But I was always pretty interested in music for as long as I can remember. My dad had a pretty large music collection - a wide range of LPs, reel-to-reels and 8-tracks, from Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, Queen, Beatles, Black Sabbath, Zeppelin to Creedence and tons more…of course I didnât come to really appreciate any of that stuff until a lot later in life unfortunately, but I think just being around it had an impression and generated an interest in music. I definitely wore out that Michael Jackson "Thriller" double gatefold LP as a kid, 3rd or 4th grade probably, and then got into some hair bands like Ratt, Dokken, Motley Crue and stuff like that, so funny but I dug it. The 80âs baby, gotta love âem. Anyway, I got into skateboarding in 5th grade through Sean Ingram (of Coalesce). Then some of the first skateboard videos started coming out and we were introduced to bands such as Dinosaur Jr., Descendents, Minutemen, Black Flag. This girl in my 7th grade art class let me borrow her Minor Threat tape and the rest is history. Over time we got more and more into music, constantly discovering new bands, it was an obsession really. Sean started a skate zine in highschool and I started a music zine a few years later our senior year, which pretty much evolved into a label after jumping in the van with Coalesce and seeing and meeting new bands, and soon to be friends.
What made you decide to start Second Nature?
It just made sense at the time, being on the road, meeting new people, discovering new bands every night. I really felt these bands needed to be heard.
When did you start the label?
Were you into vinyl at all before you stared Second Nature?
Definitely. Still have many of those records I bought like 15 years ago, as much as Iâve sworn to get rid of them each time Iâve moved…haha.
What kind of role do you think vinyl plays in the punk music scene?
Well, I guess in a way itâs an attempt at keeping punk and hardcore underground, small and special instead of completely cheesed out like it is now with things like Warped Tour and all. The entire package of a vinyl record is just so much more aesthetically pleasing and substantial.
What was your first vinyl release?
Coalesce "A Safe Place". January of 1997 I believe, but really that was a split label release with Edison. The first one I did completely on my own was Krakatoa "Clouds Burned By Sunshine". It felt great…once I finally finished inserting all 1000 records and lyric sheets that is. I remember being so excited about that release and those songs. I was pretty fanatical about Threadbare. Harvest too. 300 on clear vinyl…the old clear when it was slightly blue/green tinted. I loved it.
Have your goals and expectations with the label changed since you started?
Yes and no. Obviously money can change everything, once you try to do the label for a living you have to make sure you keep your lights on and pay the rent, and bands expect certain things - larger recording budgets, advances, a publicist and things you just never really thought of in the very beginning when it was a hobby…back then a band was happy to just have a record out that they could tell on tour. You end up maybe not taking the risks you used to - being so passionate about a band that youâd go broke putting out their record, but I think Iâve always had a hard time distinguishing that line anyway - I always spend too much and have lost a lot of money from believing in bands a little too much. I guess I just want to see things done right or not at all. A few years ago I decided to sort of treat the label more like a hobby again and not worry about having releases coming out on a regular basis and just release stuff as it comes and try to do things on a more realistic level, especially with the way the industry is now. Itâs actually worked out way better compared to the previous years. Been doing a lot more vinyl too. Basically, itâs fun again.
What are some upcoming records you have coming up that you are excited about?
Able Baker Fox! So excited about this one. Itâs a project comprised of Small Brown Bike, The Casket Lottery and Coalesce members. Theyâre all living in different states, but with the chops and the chemistry those guys have it sounds like a band thatâs been together for years, not like a album that was written through email and one weekend of practices. Itâs up for pre-order now and ships 7 weeks before the street date so get to it! Tour plans early 2008.
Are you personally into record collecting?
Not so much anymore, unless itâs a band I really love. I recently purchased the Radiohead "In Rainbows" discbox version that includes 2xLP, CD + digital download. I own their entire catalog on both CD and vinyl. Same with all the early Hot Water Music records and Iâm sure some others. Every once and a while Iâll pick something up, but like I said before, I hate moving and records are heavy and take up room I simply donât have. Iâm trying to minimize my whole life right now cause I have no storage in my new place. I sort of hate having stuff, yet I love it. Itâs a struggle. Maybe Iâll have an eBay party.
Tell us a little about your collection.
My collection is probably largely comprised of friendâs bands and/or releases from friendâs labels as well as my own - I think independent labels did a lot more trading of each otherâs releases back then. A lot of multiple colors and different pressings sprinkled in there, test pressings and cool limited stuff that doesnât really fit anywhere conveniently like the Isis Sawblade CD thatâs bolted onto an actual painted sawblade.
What are some records you've released on vinyl that you are particularly proud of?
Coalesce Salt and Passage 7", Rocky Votolato The Brag & Cuss LP, The Blood Brothers Young Machetes 2xLP and Burn, Piano Island, Burn LP, These Arms Are Snakes Easter, Isis The Red Sea 8", Grade And Such Is Progress LP, Waxwing/The Casket Lottery split 7", Anasarca Discography 1994-1997 LP. All those records came out amazing I think.
Do you collect any other bands or labels?
I have pretty much every Hydra Head release up to a few years ago. Used to buy anything and everything on Dischord, but who didnât, right? That label was the best back then.
What's your most prized piece of vinyl?
Iâd probably have to say Coalesce 012: Revolution In Just Listening LP test press with original artwork concept sketches with paint swatches and notes to the band from album artist Dan Henk. Thanks Sean. Oh, I definitely freaked out when I randomly found a mint copy of Rain La Vache Qui Rit 12" at the height of my Dischord obsession. Threabareâs 7" is still one of the best record packages ever, period. Itâs that sort of care in craftsmanship and attention to detail you just donât see much anymore. Oh, Ignition 100th show flexi…amazing. Who does that?
What release that's not available on vinyl would you like to see printed? Half of the Second Nature catalog. Threadbare Feeling Older Faster. Wait, I think that exists but I opted for the CD format at the time. Big dummy. Are there any records you really want but have been hesitant to shell out big bucks for?
Nothing comes to mind. The advent of MP3 file sharing has sort of ruined that adventure since more than anything I just wanted the music - once you get that shelling out $150 for a record just doesnât make sense anymore. Did I just sound like an old man there? Haha…
Besides the obvious, what sets vinyl apart from other formats?
Itâs beautiful. Oh wait, thatâs obvious.
Releasing albums on a number of different colors is something you have often done, do you see this as a way to boost sales for an indie label?
Sure, it definitely helps, especially for a release that you might not break even on otherwise. Plus itâs fun to lay them all out like a candy store. Vinyl is fun, period.
If there is anything you would like to see featured in Vinyl File email ben (at) punknews (dot) org.