Monday, July 6, 2015

A Ripple Conversation with Daniel Hall of Riding Easy Records

How did you get started running an independent record label?

I’ve been working in music since the early 90’s, It’s been a bit of a wild road, I’ve done many different things and in different genres and scenes, the kind of music RidingEasy is putting out has always been my true love. I started it as a passion project and it’s kind of grown at a rate and size that I really had no idea would catch on.

 What motivated you? Why here, why now? 

I really just wanted to have limited runs of bands that I thought were cool, make some cool art, and help people get their stuff out there, and essentially have a role in shaping people’s record collection to artists of my liking. I started the label as a fun thing and basically have an excuse to always be buying and selling records because I’m a collector and music fan first and foremost.

What's your prior history in the music world? 

I’ve worked at major labels, management companies, marketing agencies, booking agencies, club dj, producer, played in bands, had another label in the late 90s that was all west african/nigerian psych funk afrobeat stuff. Like I said it’s really all over the place because I love music, and I love the social aspect of the music biz as well.

What was your first release?

Salem’s Pot “Watch Me Kill You” April 2013

Any special projects planned? 
All the records that I put out are special to me, but there is some stuff that is a bit of an expansion that is coming. I have teamed up with Permanent Records Lance Baressi to do a series of late 60s/70s obscure rock compilations called “Brown Acid”. Its all bands that loved Zeppelin, or Sabbath, or Hendrix, but they for whatever reason never got outside their small geographic area. The first 7”comes out in July it’s called “Raw Meat” and it’s never been released commercially. I’m looking forward to doing more re-issues like that, we have 5 volumes in the works that is almost completed on the licensing side.

 Tell us about the label Name and logo.  

It came from my favorite Hendrix song “Easyrider”, I thought that would be a cool name. I don’t ride motorcycles so Easy Riders Magazine wasn’t even a thought.  It was a bit too close for comfort and I agreed to changed the name to RidingEasy, no hard feelings, it didn’t really slow things down at all.  Dust La Rock (R.I.P.) did my logo, he was a close friend, I told him the general mission statement for the label or at least the visual component of the brand and he came back with both the circle and the longer logo a week later, I was pumped!  We agreed I’d give him my copy of the “Lost Highway” soundtrack on vinyl for his services and the rest was history……Dust died in February this year, but he also had something to do with the artwork for the first 40 releases.  He is greatly missed and I'm still really in shock that he’s gone.  To have had him do the logo for me is something that I value very much so and I’ll ride hard for that guy till the end.

 There's so much to learn about running a label, share with us some of the lessons you're learning along the way.

1. Don’t be afraid to walk away if something isn’t looking like it’s going to pan out. If you get dealt a hand you can’t win with while playing poker, you don’t bet your money hoping it’s going to turn around. Life is the same way, do things how you want. You will find others to work with that see your vision.

 2. Stay on top of your accounting! Signing bands, marketing, social media, packing records, art direction…..that's easy. The organization to actually run a business is where the real work comes in and basically separates the men from the boys.

 3. Build a direct relationship with your fan base.

 4. Make sure that the contract you are using with your bands, you fully understand.

What changes do you see ahead for the music industry?

The same things we all see. Digital is on the down, physical is back on the rise etc. I see records getting back to 4-6 week lead times in the next few years. There will be enough plants to go around so we aren’t dealing with this 5-6 month pressing period.

 What will you do to stay on top of new and emerging technology?

I’m a tech head. I also do social media professionally and I’m pretty in tune with stuff. I learn a lot from my wife as well.

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

The distribution model is the biggest problem outside record plants not being able to turn product out in a timely fashion. That is a whole topic in itself, which leads me back to: go direct to your fan base and educate them that buying from you is not only supporting without middle men, but they get the full experience of your brand/vision.

Seems like there are a lot of independent heavy labels emerging these days. What will you do to set yourself apart? 

I think art plays a big part, I love lots of artists, but if they do stuff for loads of other bands and are “known” for being the creative force behind something within our world, I don’t use them. I want to establish a very unique look and feel to the heavy rock arena. I think that people need to start thinking outside the box and make a name for themselves. Frank Kozik is my biggest inspiration as a label guy, Man’s Ruin was awesome even though I didn’t like all his records, I still bought every single one I could get my hands on because the art was fucking out of this world.

 What do you look for in your bands?

Good work ethic, Nice People, Good Record, and easy to work with.

 How do you find your artists? Are you a club rat, constantly searching live venues for cool acts?

I don’t go out. I don’t even have an LA band, I get stuff passed to me, I run across stuff online, social media, band camp etc.

Are you involved in all the creative decisions?

Yes, RidingEasy is the brainchild of me, I sign the bands, clean the toilets, make pay the bills, pack records, etc. Creative decisions are the fun part.

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

I’  d like to have a record sell enough so that I can afford a book keeper =). I’d also like to see some new booking agents rise out of the ashes, easy to get a label to press vinyl. Booking Agents are an important piece to the puzzle as well and its getting harder and harder these days to find a good one.

 Anything else you'd like to share with the wave riders? 

Thanks for having me and being such a positive force within the independent music scene, Ripple is all good in my book. SAN DIMAS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL RULES!

 Best of luck man. Ripple will be there every step of the way to support you in any way we can.

Sons of Huns | Mondo Drag | Shooting Guns | Salem’s Pot | Monolord | Electric Citizen | Slow Season | Old Man’s Will | The Well | Spiral Shades | Aleph Null | The Picturebooks | Holy Serpent | Blackout | Danava | Spelljammer | Aleph Null

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