Since the early 2000s I have been the product of, primarily, Level Plane, Ape Must Not Kill Ape, Ebullition, Slave Union, React With Protest and Init Records. Well, today I can scratch off talking to one of my record label heroes from my shitpail list. The music this guy helped release most definitely influenced Zegema Beach Records. A lot. The following bands are only a sliver of the Init mass cataloge worth checking out from the label - but these are my personal favourites, listed in chronological order of album release.
The Spirit Of Versailles, Dispensing Of False Halos, Forstella Ford, Phoenix Bodies, Enkephalin, Meth And Goats, The Abandoned Hearts Club, Sinking Steps Rising Eyes,Tyranny Of Shaw, Back When, Ricky Fitts, The Setup, Examination Of The..., Raein, Since By Man, The Assailant, Castle, Battlefields, Kidcrash, Cougar Den, Amenra, Towers, Buried Inside, Ken Mode, In Loving Memory and For Want Of.
How has music influenced your life?
If not for punk/hardcore, I wouldn’t be who I am today, and the music has definitely helped develop the majority of my political and personal beliefs.
What is INIT Records?
Init Records is a small DIY one-man record label I run out of my basement. I’ve put out over 80 releases since 2001 and have gotten to work with an amazing plethora of bands, artists, graphic designers, engineers, etc.
Can you reveal anything interesting about yourself and/or the label that the readers are not aware of?
The name Init means nothing. I did a very short-lived (1 issue, printed, 2nd issue completed but never printed) zine and I needed a name for the zine. I was talking to someone on AOL instant messenger and typed the words “in” and “it” but forgot the space in between them. I thought that sounded like a cool name for the nameless zine I was working on. This would have been 1998-ish, so when it came to me starting a label, I just used the same name. In hindsight, I think it’s a pretty stupid name, a lot of people cannot pronounce it, and it means nothing. I have like a dozen better label names picked out at this point, but it seems too late in the game to change it now.
Can you explain, perhaps specifically - the catalyst for you founding INIT Records?
It really comes down to the band The Vidablue for the label being founded. When I was a senior in high school, one of my best friends at the time moved away from my hometown of Mankato, Minnesota, to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I had already been active in the local scene, booking DIY shows and running a distro, so when I went to visit him in Cedar Rapids, I wanted to go to shows and see what the local bands were about... I did some internet research and found out about The Vidablue and they were playing a show in their hometown of Iowa City, about thirty minutes away from Cedar Rapids. I convinced my friends to go and the show was just incredible. At this point they only had two 7”s out and I had to buy them both along with extra copies for my distro. I told them they had to come play Mankato, and I would book them a show, and they were super cool. So a few months later, I booked that show, and they added Mankato to their regular tour stops... so when they played the summer after I graduated high school (2000) I was bummed that they still only had these two 7”s out and I wanted to listen to them in my car on road trips, etc. So I proposed to them that I wanted to start a label and release a CD that compiled those 7”s and the “What I Should Have Said Volume One” CD was the result of all of that. From then on it really kept going with friends’ bands I knew from booking shows.
Can you run us through how your label start-up process, assuming you still remember?
Well, aside from what was previously mentioned above, I sold some records on Skylab and eBay and and saved up enough to press 1000 CD’s from some pressing plant I found in an ad in Maximum RockNRoll.
Can you touch on any of your current personal and/or label conflicts?
Personal and label conflicts are always keeping the label in line with my ethics and beliefs. I’ve turned down some releases, chain store offers, and distribution deals that would have made me money but would have left me with an uneasy feeling. There have also been bands that have approached me that are on larger levels than bands I’ve worked with that would have sold and made me money, but bands, that, although fit the same genre as my releases, weren’t bands I personally enjoyed, so I had to say no. I think that is one of the important things to me. I own probably 6000 CD’s and records. 95% of them are punk/hardcore/metal and that is what I have listened to since I was in high school. I’m not a label putting out black metal but just listening to singer-songwriter acoustic music. If I don’t like it, I can’t get behind it. At 32 I am still as excited about punk as I was in high school. I really don’t have an interest in classic rock, or folk, or rap, or country, or anything like that.
What was the biggest initial obstacle when starting INIT?
Money. And it still is to this day.
What has been the most difficult part about running a label?
Collecting debt owed to me. Distributors disappear or fold and owed me money. Bands I’ve worked with have owed me money. It sucks when these bands are supposedly your friends, and you pour not only your money, but time and energy into their releases and they break up owing you money and not making good on their end of the deals. I can’t imagine fucking over my “friends” or anyone who supports my label, but apparently that’s not the way everyone lives their lives.
Have you ever almost shut down INIT?
All the time. It’s a financial burden and a source for accumulating a lot of debt. Every time I put out a release I think of the things I could better spend that money on in my own life: fixing my cracked car window, or even paying off my car, or going to the dentist, or buying furniture, or going on a vacation, or just records I want to own, or whatever.
What has been the most rewarding part of running a label thus far? (I’m sure working with the bands is one answer, so can you provide a second one?)
The most rewarding part is when the release is delivered to my door and I get to open the boxes and take out the release and hold it and it’s something I’m responsible for bringing into the world along with the bands. It feels good. It is also great to do mailorders. I’ve noticed a lot of “DIY” labels outsourcing their mailorder to distros like Deathwish or merch companies like Merch Now. I don’t understand what the point of doing a label is if you lose that connection between you and the fan. Plus you are adding a middleman and either making your stuff more expensive or making less money to put back into the label. That connection to the person buying the music from me is a great feeling, even if I don’t even have time to write a personal note or whatever because I’ve got 3 dozen orders and have one day off a week to package them, I at least know, that so-and-so from whatever city/state/country ordered a record from me, and I am packaging it up and sending it to him.
Which band has inspired you the most that you have worked with?
It would be hard to pick just one. A lot of times I think about how lucky I am for a really un-hyped, un-cared-about small label like myself has gotten to work with artists like Melt-Banana, Krieg, William Elliott Whitmore, P.O.S, etc. But there is that other factor where I have gotten to work with a lot of people in bands that inspired me in their previous bands (The Blinding Light for example, whose members were in Threadbare and Floodplain, two very inspiring bands when I was in high school). And of course there is the fact that I have gotten to work with artists like Aaron Horkey doing artwork for releases on my label, which is seriously awesome and I feel very lucky.
What criteria makes you choose a record to release?
I have to like it first and foremost. Added plus if I know the band in real life and they are rad dudes, but these days with the internet what it is and so many bands and great music, not to mention bodies of water dividing countries, that isn’t a requirement. I also have to be happy with the artwork and layout. In the early days I released some things that I think were ugly or had typos or whatever because I let all of the bands just do whatever they wanted and since then I have a higher standard of quality for packaging, artwork, etc. I constantly make suggestions or recommendations to bands for artwork, packaging, etc. If needed.
Besides INIT Records, what other job(s) do you do?
I am the store manager and music buyer for an independent record store in the suburbs of Minneapolis.
How do you generally decide how many records to print?
Depends on what it is, but it also depends on packaging costs. I have so many CD’s and records in my basement that I’ve had for 10+ years and I used to do 1000 runs. At this point, I’d rather press less than run the risk of bands breaking up and getting stuck with unsellable records like in the past. 300-500 runs are great. Sometimes that isn’t cost efficient with packaging, like the Primitive Man/Xaphan 7” I released this year, it has a gatefold cover and to get the cost per unit down to an amount to not charge double-digits for it, I had to make 1000. The record is seriously crushing and incredible, so I am confident I will sell all 1000 of them!
Who were your primary influences (bands or other labels) when you started INIT?
Level Plane, Dischord, Witching Hour, Ebullition.
What was the first record that you remember thinking, "Damn, I wish I'd released that."
I don’t know about the first, but one that still is on my mind to this day is Love Lost But Not Forgotten “Upon The Right I Saw A New Misery”. I’ve (unsuccessfully) attempted to release it on vinyl. Maybe it will happen someday. Still an all-time favorite of mine.
What was the motivation behind the idea of the /40 box set?
Ah the forgotten 7” boxset. I thought it would be cool to stash some color vinyl copies of 7” releases and compile them into 10-7” boxsets. I had Aaron Horkey do artwork and screen printed them and assembled them with extra goodies...and... they didn’t sell, and nobody cared. So I never did a second one. Now, Aaron’s artwork is so immensely popular, I probably could sell out of them in a few hours. But back then, I guess people were less interested. Volume two never happened, and the color vinyl copies I was holding on to for the second volume, I ended up selling via mailorder individually.
Do you have any tips for people trying to start a label?
Don’t fucking do it. It’s just as rewarding building up a sweet record collection of other labels’ releases.
How did you get into 'screamo'?
Right time and the right place? I don’t know. In 1998-1999 I was buying a lot of records, just anything I would read a review of in HeartattaCk or Punk Planet, and anything that looked cool. This is how I ended up with a lot of Ebullition and Witching Hour and No Idea stuff and was really into a lot bands like Spirit Of Versailles, Song Of Zarathustra, The Kinship, Twelve Hour Turn, Reversal Of Man, Orchid, Shotmaker, etc.
Discuss your thoughts and opinions regarding the ‘screamo’ genre.
I don’t really like the name “screamo” but, whatever. “Screamy hardcore” is what I always used. I think most of what comes out now just doesn’t do it for me. There’s nothing setting them apart like there was back in the late 90’s where it was newer and fresher. There are a few bands in Europe that are still active that are great (Raein, Adorno, La Quiete, Aussitot Mort) and fewer American bands (Loma Prieta, For Want Of, Kidcrash). Overall, it’s not what gets me excited in bands these days.