Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Interview with Series Two Records

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Here is my interview with Christopher, the founder of the great indie label Series Two Records and the Nebraska Pop Festival

Why did you start Series Two Records?
Series Two had its humble beginnings as a blog. The blog is where I interviewed nearly a dozen various independent artists, some with notoriety, some not so much. Also within the blog I issued recommendations of albums which I had enjoyed. As a result of the recommendations and interviews, I gained credibility amongst music lovers, some of the people in underground bands from some of the most unlikely of places around the world. It was a clear realization that some of the CDs coming in my mail box were excellent sounding, but weren't getting touched or even considered by other labels due to the status quo.

Some of these releases received in my mail box, were simply too good to let dust gather on them, so I thought, why not start a label, to issue some of my favorite underground music, to give the artist more dignity, and a chance to build at least a small audience outside of their friends, family and the few caring others. Sometimes the appreciation factor, the knowledge that real people listen to their work and enjoy it, can mean the life of some of these smaller artists, and sometimes hearing positive comments from listeners of their music via e-mail message, letter post or at a live music show, is enough to motivate musicians to continue making their music and sharing it with the world, sometimes for many more years than they would without proper support. Also releasing in physical matter of any kind assures that the music will always be out there in the hands of someone, and that it won't be foolishly lost by sequestered hands.

With the Series Two collective, there is no profit motivation (despite the existence of many fake DIY pop underground operate them specifically for profit), though make an upmost effort to break even, as in these terrible economic times, anyone foolish enough to lose their own money, isn't likely to have money to put food on their table, and also in danger of keeping their projects active.

Are there any particular aspects to a band you look for with signing them? Or does it vary quite a bit?
There are a lot of factors that go into the aspect of bands of which you choose to release with. Very important factors are the quality within the music. For me I have to be able to relate to it and enjoy it before I would consider releasing it. But also at the same time, the artist has to be directly interested in releasing their work with Series Two and have to be passionate about it also. Bands which send CDs to numbers of labels, and other games like that are clearly situations I do not like or even consider, and very rarely do others. If there is an artist that I enjoy and relate to, but they aren't interested in Series Two, I don't dwell on it. My plate is relatively full, but if I do come across an excellent band I can relate to, one of which is passionate about releasing with Series Two, usually I'll follow through and release them.

You founded and organize the Nebraska Pop Festival. How did that come about?
To design a pop festival, keeping the money factor out of it and putting a primary focus on keeping the fun and fairness alive is something absolutely necessary and fulfilling. I talked with my friend Matt Beat whom was the music director for University of Nebraska at Omaha's student organized college radio named “MAV Radio”. I talked with Matt about organizing a Pop Festival which would benefit MAV Radio. I verbalized to Matt that through my experiences at Series Two, I had established many friendships with others across the world and also mentioned that through my ambitions and labor of love, that I could gather together interested bands to come and play a pop festival in Nebraska organized by myself and that it could benefit MAV Radio, and he agreed with the idea. So in January 2009, we began plans for the first Nebraska Pop Festival, which later occurred in August of 2009. The festival was designed to have any and all proceeds go to benefit the station, and we had good local support from the Nebraska pop scene in addition to artists coming through from Midwest, East + West Coast and a few international artists, some of which arrived through support of their area arts councils. Many of the artists came here to have a fun time, meet new friends, go on vacation, hear some fun new music and also some artists/bands built a tour around it.

On January 1st of 2010, I began work on the 2nd Nebraska Pop Festival, which is due to occur during 5 consecutive days of September 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 of 2010. Also this year will be one additional night, prior to the festival on August 14th, which we call a “pop rally” and is in place to hopefully build up more support for the festival when it comes around in September. Booking is still underway, and already have booked artists from (11) different states of the USA including artists from Nebraska, Midwest, East + West Coast and also international artists coming from Denmark, France, Switzerland and Australia.

What was the first album you ever bought?
This can be debated… I believe back in '97 or '98 (when I was ten years old), I gathered some hard earned money and bought Chumbuwamba's then new release on tape. Don't have that tape or even a tape player anymore, times and tastes have certainly changed.

How many artists signed to Series Two have you been able to meet in person?
Proudly I've met over a dozen different bands that I've worked with. And more coming soon, thankfully I've been able to meet all of them inside Nebraska while they came through on tour or while they came to visit me on their vacations, etc., hoping to meet many more of them this year and in coming years, certainly with the way things are it'll be hard to meet them all, but I would love to, and will certainly try to meet all of those that want to be met. I have to remind those reading this, I am no rich man, never been on a plane in my life, but have been on some long car rides that surely aren't much fun : ( , hopefully in later years, I'll get to experience plane rides to make some of these visits possible. It's a bit sad and extremely funny to say to others the farthest east I've ever been is Council Bluffs Iowa. Definitely have some traveling days ahead of me…

In 2009, Series Two released 26 full-length releases, which is quite ambitious. Do you plan to exceed that number in 2010?
I highly doubt that I or anyone else in the indie world will ever be able to exceed that perfect number ever again. That wasn't done on purpose, it was achieved naturally and through a work load = unimaginable to me now. I had released a modest compilation series of (23) which included (522) different artists, and found many artists from the compilations that I enjoyed, many of which were willing to release their music on Series Two, and that's how that release total came about. This year I hope to keep things just like any other year, where I work very hard to help others. That's what I'm here for, even if it's not with Series Two, I help people through various other projects including the Nebraska Pop Festival, DIY labels collective, and Even in the Future blog among various other projects. Always keeping myself very busy and also keeping those I work with very busy too, including giving them information about opportunities available to them, which they can pursue with their music, whether it be DIY compilation opportunities provided by others, doing shows with artists passing through their city or perhaps helping some artists organize mini-tours, and sometimes collaborations with others in songs, among various other interesting things.

This year at Series Two I'll release a retrospective compilation Series, which is 5 discs, all of which are full of music. Aside from the new compilation Series, I'll do some new full length releases that will soon following the release of the compilations. One can never really know how much releases will happen this year on Series Two, as I'm very patient, and work with the artist's schedules and not any other schedules. Sometimes things happen in big spurts where sometimes there is a lot of stuff ready to be released, and sometimes very few things. Since I don't have any stockholders to please, I'll usually release things in batches, and rarely do the artists have to wait extended periods before I release their work.

If you could be any other person for a day, who would you be?
I would like to be Tony Clifton!

What's better - downloading, still buying CDs, or collecting vinyl?
A. Downloading is the worst thing to ever happen, legal or illegal. Buying CD-R's actually is where it's at, and sometimes CDs. Collecting vinyl isn't one of my interests, it seems like a big “fad”. Many people back into vinyl these days were the same people that made fun of it before its resurgence, and many of the people back at it are guilty for putting some vinyl in rubbish before also. With the way patterns are going, there might not be anything physical, and we'll have to deal with downloads. Some labels are very greedy with their vinyl records, there was a label over in Miami selling them at 10 dollars for a record of just 2 songs, and just recently moved their prices down, with various other labels charging similar amounts. I think the value is there with CDs and CDRs, most particularly full lengths, where you can generally get more songs for each dollar spent. Nobody wants to buy a 2 song CD for 10 dollars, so why should they buy a vinyl with 2 songs on it for 10 dollars… The concept of vinyl just seems too foolish to me. Some of the pro's of vinyl I'll recognize such as superior sound quality, and of course the physical artwork is much better, as you would expect with an item of larger diameter. Though who knows, many people fads over time, maybe 10 years from now, CDs could be the minority format and tapes and vinyl take over.

Best band you've seen live?
Best band I've seen live was Poland when they played at Nebraska Pop Festival in 2009. Everything about them was amazing. I don't think I'll see anything like that anytime soon.

Recently though a performance nearly as good, Cleemann live on main stage in Lincoln (late March 2010) as part of the Songwriter Power Ranger series. Everything about the performance was great, and was interesting hearing Cleemann perform on electric versus his trademark vintage guitars. And also was nice hearing him backed by drummer Gary Foster and an overly energetic Dereck Higgins on the bass.

What would you like to the world to know about Series Two Records?
I'd like the world to know that you can be hard working and honest, and as a result, can have a lifetime of great friendships and memories. You can do anything you want to in this life, even in the most unlikely of places, for example my hometown which is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by rural farming communities. You don't have to be in NYC, or London to do everything these days, you can do what you want to anywhere, just put your mind to it.

Tell us something interesting about your hometown:
We are known for many things, many not so flattering, which I'm ok to tell you people about. Columbus, Nebraska actively has the highest rate of unsolved crimes, in all of the USA, which includes every city from each of the 50 states; we take the cake on that one. Also back in the 80's we had the highest rate of bars per capita, but no longer have the throne on that one, but we still have over 20 bars to a population of just 20,000. The founder of scientology is originally from the area. Also the founder of Twitter graduated from the public high school here. Chuck Hagel, the famous politician whom was slated to be Obama's right hand man (but for some reason didn't happen) had graduated from the private high school in this city. Also we have lots of problems with low wages here, New York Times came here a few months back to do a story about that, and while here they didn't fail to mention our crumbling downtown. Our wages here are so low, that the average available wage is lower than unemployment benefits, so there is actually people weighing the pro's and con's of those benefits versus having a job. Most jobs here pay minimum wage, which is extremely low here. We don't have much live music here, aside from the occasional cover band, but recently have been given special consideration to help book artists to perform live at a local art gallery, which is certainly promising. Also in the city when most people graduate high school, many of them leave this city permanently, largely because of the jobs situation. Despite all of the evidence, our city still claims to be the city of “power and progress”. Other fun facts, our super Wal Mart is the biggest in the world, and also our McDonalds was the site of the very first “drive thru” in the history of the world. Former heavy weight champ Leon Spinks is an active citizen of the community (he gave Muhammad Ali a TKO in late 70's). Also there is Series Two : - )

And what are your plans for 2010?
I have a lot of plans, spending a lot of time with my University work, Nebraska Pop Festival 2010, and of course the new compilation series by Series Two, among very many worthwhile things. These days, just enjoying my time all the more and finding more ways to appreciate things.

Thanks Christopher! x


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