Friday, April 4, 2014

A Ripple Conversation with Steve STB of STB Records

 It seemed to come from out of nowhere and man, did it make an impression.  STB, appeared one day and changed the face of heavy rock with it's limited edition vinyl "pieces of art"   Great bands, great packaging, limited editions.  What's not to love here.

How did you get started running an independent record label? 

STB Started as a idea on a whim in 2012. I said to my wife I want to put out my own record. she said, "then do it". I was listening to Dopethrone in my truck and I texted my buddy Red Rum (Who now owns Poisoned Mind Records!), and said Dopethrone is sick huh? He confirmed that he loves them then I just hit up Carl on facebook through the Dopethrone page and it was 24 hrs from conception of idea to contract signing! I was on my way. I'm a jump in the fire and figure it out type of guy. Less thought more action.

What motivated you?

I love Vinyl , I have been collecting since i got my first punkrock record back in 93 and never looked back or stopped. I was also sick of ordering a record and being all pumped to get it, then NOTING. an empty flimsy piece of card-board on a shit piece of vinyl with no thought process. I remember when you didn't know if you were gonna get limited color or not. Then it comes in the mail and nothing. No insert, no color, no stickers nothing. I would be like I should have just got the CD or in today's case the MP3. Also I would be into a band and see they have no vinyl. I got sick of asking "Hey where is the LP?", so I was just like "I can make these and I will make them MY WAY." I'M a collector making collectors items the way I would want to purchase them.. ..

 Did you tap into a particular local scene or were you aiming to capture a sound? Describe your label philosophy and individuality?

Well truth be told, I am new to the Stoner/ Doom scene. I'm an old Punk/ hardcore kid. Tom from Poisoned Mind Records got me into the doom stoner stuff. I was sick of the same crap about 5 years ago and was talking to him. He goes check this out, gave me Witchcraft s/t album, then said check this out and gave me a ton of other stuff. Then I was completely hooked.  I had the same feeling I had when I found hardcore. It was all new, fresh exciting and real. The DIY ethic in the doom scene doesn't really mirror the normal metal scene. It's un-polished its grassroots still. It actually has that same attitude and punk ethic hardcore has. That's what drew me to it so fast.

My philosophy is this. Would I buy this? If I say no, back to the drawing board. I am a fan of the bands I put out. I DO NOT release any bands I am not a fan of. When I mean fan, I am talking about knowing lyrics, listening to them often, and thoroughly enjoying the bands music. I'm a fan and collector first, making boutique style releases for other fans and collectors.  I love how STB has become my artistic release. My day to day does not really call for to much imagination, when it comes to art. STB is like a whole different world I love it.  I still buy records. I am not the dude that only listens to what he gets for free. I will never be that guy. I want to support the bands new and old. Grow together. Iron sharpens Iron.

Which was your first release?

Dopethrone "Demonsmoke" Limited to 250 records on Gold and Black Aside/Bside vinyl. 75 of which have a Die Hard version which came with an alternate cover in a large zip lock back with gold hand stamped pot leafs on it.

There's so much to learn about running a label, share with us some of the lessons you've learned along the way. What's been your label's high point?

Lessons I have learned are: think a bit more before you act. I plan a little more now. I don't try making the cheapest product, and no one has complained thus far. I find spending more money ensures the best product.  My highpoint is selling out with-in a days time so far on every release. Its such an amazing feeling to see how much people believe in what I do, AND GET IT! I get emails all the time people thanking me for putting so much thought in to the releases and how I created a work of art. I met so many awesome people like Pat Harrington from Geezer and the Electric Beard of Doom radio show. W. Ralph Walters who does a lot of my art, just cause he loves what I do, Dan Hall at easy rider was very helpful when I first started. That support and DIY ethic is worth every release. Aaron Pickford from the Sludgelord has been super helpful and / Niels Batholdy has introduced me to more new music then anyone in my entire life. Those reasons make me love doing STB Records.

Low point?

Packing orders. I wont lie guys. I love your support, I hate mailing your shit to you hahahaha, but seriously I hate it. I have to weigh the boxes on a plastic food scale and scotch tape all labels to the box cause I don't have a label printer lol.

Who would you like to work with, but haven't yet?

Not sure on this one.. Obviously Id love to work with Sleep and Electric Wizard, but that is a lame answer. I would love to start a second label dedicated to Hardcore music, but those bands are not as easy to work with at all. I honestly love finding new bands and getting to expose them to the people who buy my records. I am fully comfortable being a stepping stone for bands. I have no interest being a record label. Tour support and mass sales don't interest me. I want to make some cool stuff, release it, talk about it with my people, post pics, see how much people love it, get the band recognized and hopefully singed to a bigger label if that's what they want. I love when people post pics of their order on Instagram and Facebook. LOVE IT.

 What changes do you see ahead for the music industry?

I think in the USA especially, there is a renaissance of music. The Stoner/ Doom scene is stronger then ever. This new wave coming through is educated and motivated. You have people like me STB Records, Pat with Electric Beard Of Doom Radio, Even you guys! All of us are blazing the new trail in the United States really making this movement D.I.Y, in house, fan based and alive. It hasn't been tainted yet by big labels. YET! That's why I love the scene right now, it has a very punk ethic. I honestly try to only sign bands from the States if I can, because I believe in it that much.

What are you doing to stay on top of new and emerging technology?

I'm not a techy. I kinda let people tell me what could benefit me, then I try it out. I'm getting into Hi fi Audio at the moment. It a dangerous slippery slope. I have to be careful to not become a sound snob. lol

What's the biggest challenge facing you today as an independent label?

Money. Stuff is expensive when you do small limited runs, especially with my ideas.. It almost cost just as much to press 250 records as it does 750. My profit margin is so small. I think I made $100 profit on Doctor Doom, which went to tape, mailers, and the next release. As long as the label does not cost me money and I can buy a record or two with it. I'm happy. This will never be my bread and butter. I think that's why I have so much passion for what I do.

Seems that the sound of the bands you sign keeps evolving. What do you look for in your bands? How do you find your artists?

I'm on bandcamp a lot,. Sometimes something will just catch my ear and BOOM hey "what's that?" Then I research on Facebook etc then go from there. LISTEN UP! If you're a band with no bandcamp page you're insane. Every band needs a bandcamp Facebook and Instagram.  I get a lot of suggestions, but I'm weary of putting out a hype band. AGAIN I have to love the music and band. I'm a fan of all my releases. "Would I buy this??" I'm a collector and music lover first, label owner second. I also make sure the band has work ethic. I will never sign a band full of lazy burnouts that wont self promote.

Are you a club rat, constantly searching live venues for cool acts?

I go to as many shows as my life allows. When I was a kid it was 4 a weekend. Not I'm a 2 show a month (maybe) guy. I have a wife, another business and a home. But I def try to get to what I can, nothing beats a live show. Especially when it comes to DOOM. It sounds great on vinyl but when you see it live, and your clothes are vibrating. MY GOD what a feeling. Growing up in the Punk Hardcore scene, Live shows are the band, so I always check YouTube as well if I like the band to see if it carries over to the live set.

What are you looking for now?

Same as always. A band who believes in themselves, works hard. I will not sign a lazy burn out band. I am an aggressive person I need someone who is like me to talk to and brainstorm with . If your not posting on Facebook and Instagram you're not interested in people hearing your band., Honestly I don't look, it finds me. I have no interest in putting out 15 releases a year. As of right now I'm overbooked as it is. I think Starting with Curse The Son as my next release I have 7 releases coming soon! That is way more then I can handle LOL.

Are you involved in all the creative decisions?

Yes. With STB it's understood, you hand over the music, and I take the reigns. I let people give me suggestions but it's just that. Suggestions. I listen to the record over and over and let it speak to me. Then, the ideas just flow and come to me. I then get online and see where I can go with them creatively. I think in 2014 you will see some of the coolest stuff I've done yet.

As I release more, the bands have backed off. I think I've proven myself to have some great concepts and know how to market it and bring it to life.

 What would you like to see happen for the future of the music industry and your label in particular? 

 Id love to keep putting out awesome bands on vinyl. I love meeting new people and of course selling out of every press. I want to keep making unique collectable pieces that people cherish. I think my biggest compliment is my stuff is not really on Ebay that much. People are keeping them!! I have seen some posts where people say "I will never sell this record!!" That is such a compliment to me and it means so much to hear that. People have no idea how thankful and touched I am that they believe in what I do and support my visions. It means the world to me. Every order is like a high five and a hand shake. I would like STB to grow organically and just see where it goes. No stress, no aspirations other then keeping it DIY and always being part of the scene. The down fall is when a label gets disconnected and listens to industry music, and only talks to industry people. Your miss the revolution and the realness of what made you fall in love. The day I stop standing in the crowd is the day STB dies.

Thank you so much for this opportunity to introduce myself to the world of vinyl collectors and music lovers. You guys are really doing something great at Ripple. Your passion shows and its refreshing to see people with the same ideals as myself.

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