Saturday, September 16, 2006

Sympathy For The Record Industry's Long Gone John..the Interview

By: Rich Tupica
Sept. 18th 2006

Sympathy for the Record Industry's success can be summed up in three words: Long Gone John (aka John Mermis), the founder and owner of the California based rock-n-roll and punk label. Recently John's interest may be shifting from his record label towards other aspects in his life.
Can you imagine a life without Sympathy Records? It has been a staple in underground music for just short of 20-years. Though nothing is certain just yet, the last day may come sooner than we think. A new documentary called "The Treasures of Long Gone John" maps out the unconventional art and musical obsessions of the underground rock legend, this is what the man himself had to say about it.

Hey John, whose idea was 'The Treasures of Long Gone John' and did you have much of a role in the production?
"It was the idea of the director, Gregg Gibbs. We had become friends through an acquaintance, he is a pretty cool artist and I had him doing knock-offs of Warhol, Liechtenstein and Darger for me. He expressed interest in doing a film, I never suspected it would be started or completed so I half-heartedly agreed to participate and before I knew it was well underway."

Can you sum up the The Treasures of Long Gone John documentary?
"It is supposedly a film about me, but that actually isn't very accurate. It's a film about many things which is why I didn't want it to have my name as part of the title. I wanted it named "Pictures of the Gone World" after the book of poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, but that is only one of the many battles I fought and lost. It is about artist, mostly from southern California, focusing on four in particular: Mark Ryden, Todd Schorr, Camille Rose Garcia and Robert Williams, but it includes many others. It is also about music and it delves into my criminal childhood, my sordid life of obsessive collecting and adventures with my companies, Sympathy for the Record Industry and Necessaries Toy Foundation and it contains 40 tracks from my catalog in the soundtrack. It's difficult for me to be objective about the film, but I think it's turned out pretty good, at the very least I’m not terribly embarrassed by it, which somehow seems a modest victory."

Long Gone John & friends

Necessaries Toy Foundation
, do you have the same ambition with this venture, or more, than your duties with Symapthy for the Record Industry?

"Well, I just enjoy doing these things and of course I would like it to be profitable...I’m happy with breaking even on projects because even that is difficult enough to achieve. I’ve done eight figures so far, they have all sold out so I guess I’m doing something right. Next up is three figures by a friend of mine, a girl named Fawn and also two figures by Liz McGrath. I prefer at this point to work with female artists. I want to do large pieces soon, like 18 to 24- inches, no one is doing cool big stuff."

Sympathy has been around for over 17-years, do you see yourself doing this for another 17-years?
"I’d say that is a distinct impossibility. With the state of the industry being completely dismal and with things getting worse all the time, I’ll be lucky if I’m able to last 5 more years. I’m kind of tired of it anyway. I see myself soon selling off my collection of records, posters, memorabilia, and ephemera on Ebay. I’ve got a fortune in extra copies and things that won't kill me to part with. I have so much, probably one of the best collections of punk rock in the world and all the peripheral stuff to go with it. What do I hear as opening bid for this ultra rare Sniveling Shits "Terminal Stupid" single?"

At this point in your life, what do you feel is the best album that you have released? Or is it always changing?
"I could never say, way too many great releases and way too many great bands. I’m probably proudest of the releases by legendary artists like Panther Burns, Roky Erickson, The New York Dolls, The Gun Club, Spacemen 3, Wanda Jackson, The Scientists and Suicide.

I've done a lot of firsts like Hole, Supersuckers as well as Turbonegro and Holly Golightly's first U.S. releases. I'm very proud of all the releases by Rocket from the Crypt and Billy Childish. All the Memphis stuff, including loads of Jeff Evans, Greg Cartwright and Jack Oblivian. Also the Detroit stuff with the Detroit Cobras. Man, there has been a lot of amazing stuff. A few other standouts are April March, El Vez, Wreckless Eric, Geraldine Fibbers, Mr. Airplane Man and Matson Jones. I'm sure I’m forgetting lots of very important ones."

You have released some great compilations on Sympathy too, any favorites?
"I like the collections a lot, I like 'Root Damage', 'Their Sympathetic Majesties Request' and the 'Girls' collections. There are quite a few releases I wish I’d never of done for various reasons, but such is life. All things considered I think I’ve done pretty damn good. I listen to Sympathy stuff more than anything in my car and I think that’s a pretty good sign."

Long Gone John

You put out a double Suicide LP, obviously because they were great, but how do you decide on what to re-release? Is it stuff that you personally dig a lot, or just shit that you think a lot of people want to hear?
"Suicide as well as the early Alan Vega stuff are personal favorites of mine. It’s an incredible injustice that Suicide are not more recognized for their importance and the massive influence they have been on thousands of bands. The "Attempted" album I put out is not a re-release that live show is exclusive to Sympathy, I licensed in from Marty Rev. I originally put it out on cd and then finally as an LP along with double albums by The New York Dolls and Roky Erickson. Those were all highlights for me, as they are all among my personal favorites."

Since the start of your label, what has been the best part of the job and what has been the total crap of it all?
"Best part, is not having to answer to anyone, anywhere. I do what I want when I want and don't have to consider comments or suggestions by anyone else. That is an extremely valuable luxury in my so-called life. I could never work for or with another person ever again, I’d rather hang myself, euthanize myself or be sentenced to the electric chair for 5 to 10 years."

"Worst part, is having to be a master juggler, as there is no one to help I am ultimately responsible for every little aspect of the label except for the actual recordings. I have to deal with all the incompetent manufacturers, printers, distributors and all the morons in radio and press and if you haven't noticed sometimes bands aren't the most sensible or agreeable people to work with. It is a lot of work and not rewarding often enough."

What can we expect from you in the future, anything to keep an eye out for?
"November is 18 years for Sympathy as a label, an I guess I’m pretty content with what I have accomplished. I’ve released well over 750 records by over 550 artists from around the world. I’ve been fortunate to work with some amazing bands and many important visual artists for cover artwork. It'd be nice if things were easier, but that doesn't seem to be my lot in life. I have a couple great releases in September by L.A. bands. One is a new album by Veruca Salt, they made an amazing record and I have high expectations for it. The other is the debut album by The Ettes who are a 3 piece lead by an incredibly gifted girl named Coco and they recorded their album at Toe Rag Studios in London. Not many people know them at this point, but they are going on an extensive tour and hopefully that'll change soon as they are an amazing live band. Veruca Salt will be touring as well so keep an eye out for them. In October, I have a new album by Jack Oblivian and the Tennessee Tearjerkers and it’s nothing short of brilliant and features lots of great guest stars.
Other than that, looks like I’m slowing down with Sympathy and concentrating a bit more on my toy company which is now in it's fourth year and doing really well.

You also publish books, what's next?
I also have several books I’ll be publishing through Sympathetic Press one of which is titled, "Punk Like Me" by Terry Graham of The Gun Club. Also might be publishing a book of writings by Arthur Kane (of The New York Dolls) I’m working out details with his wife right now, I guess that’s it.

Any last words?
Buy my records! Buy my toys! Buy my book! I’m trying to raise enough money to buy a Chinese Junk and a dozen or so miniature horses."

Some Obvious "Sympathy" Links:

Treasures of Long Gone John Offical Website:
Sympathy for the Record Industy
Necessaries Toy Foundation
Mark Ryden: the talented artist for Sympathy
Long Gone John: Bio

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The HIPSHAKES! New Single, New LP & a Call from NME?

The Hipshakes are: Andrew, Bruce & Daniel

By: Rich Tupica
Sept. 11th, 2006

Slovenly Records recently put out The Hipshakes first and only 7" single to date. However, their catalogue will be growing very soon. The loud and snotty punk-rock band from England is making it's way to the United States on September 28th, to play the always anticipated GonerFest in Memphis, Tennessee.
So, if you like their "Ok, Alright" single, hold tight, a new vinyl single, EP, a song on a 26-track English-band compilation, and finally their debut LP (Slovenly) are all on the way very soon ... and possibly a call from NME?
I figured I'd better contact Daniel Hipshake to answer some questions before I have to go through their public relations guy to get to him!

So, Daniel,how old are you guys and where do you all live?
"Right now, were all 20 years-old. We live in a small town called Bakewell in the summertime and then we live in the city of Sheffield when we're at our University the rest of the time, in historic England"

For all the young hipsters over here in the United States who haven't heard the best new punk band yet, describe your sound...
"Fast, loud rock-n-roll is pretty accurate I think. We try and write songs with catchy bits."

How and where did you guys meet up and start banging on your instruments?
"We went to a pre-school playgroup together at the age of three. Bruce and Andrew were a gang and Bruce once bit my friend. We were not, at this time, on speaking terms. We went to the same schools after this and Bruce started playing drums at about 13 or 14 years old, I think? Me and Andrew bought instruments when we were 16 and the band started."

You guys name the Oblivians as an influence, must be pretty rad to be working with Eric Oblivian over at Goner Records on your new single, huh? Can you tell me a bit about the 7" and how it all came together?
"Yeah its great! The Oblivians are one of our favourite bands and have been for ages, it's going to be nice, yet weird meeting some of them at Gonerfest. When I was 16 or so I emailed Jack Oblivian for the lyrics to 'Strong Come On' so we could accurately cover it! As far as how the single came about I realized we had two songs with Oblivians titles and posted them to Eric, and asked if he fancied doing a 'Not Oblivians' EP. He surprisingly said yes, the songs bear no resemblance to their namesakes."

When will Static Recordings: "Killed by England" compilation be available? Is this your first compilation that you have been featured on?
"I have no idea, we played at the Static Party the month before the supposed launch night and haven't heard anything since. There's some good stuff on it, Real Losers, Black Time, Dirty Ho, we only snuck onto it at the last minute.
Yeah it's the first compilation we are on, we have been on cd-r that came free with a cool fanzine in Sheffield, made by the Sheffield Phonographic Corporation label, home of the now defunct Motherfuckers, where we featured alongside Arctic Monkeys and the Long Blondes. Surprisingly we are not yet the biggest band in the U.K."

You guys are going to be playing at Goner Fest 3, 2006... Long way to fly for one show! Is it because America appreciates the Hipshakes more than the U.K.?
"Yeah! Partly because people in America have said nice things about our record, but mainly because a member of one of our favourite bands asked us to go and play alongside several other excellent bands. It would be tempting to go to Gonerfest even if we weren't playing!
Next year we'll probably play more shows and go on a proper tour."

A Fistful of Records is putting out a Hipshakes E.P., are these new songs or some old dusty tracks?
"They are old now, from the same sessions as the Slovenly 45 and the Goner 45."

When will the world see an LP? Have you guys started any recordings for a full length?
"We recorded an album with Shaun of the Real Losers recently. Slovenly are putting it out. It sounds different to the older stuff, very loud. Maybe it will be out really soon, maybe by Gonerfest? I don't know for sure."

Can you describe the garage and punk rock scene over in your part of the U.K.? In a lot of places over here there's a lot of cool clothes and shaggy haircuts. Oh, and we got them girls who like to dress up like they're mod 1960's chicks or some shit.
"In the U.K. the NME has just pissed it's pants because some people who are about our age have formed a band, moved to London, stolen an old bands name and ripped off their extensive 60's and 70's garage and punk record collections and from what I've heard from other people, not very well. Oh, yeah, style magazines love all of them because they all have different wild hairstyles and dress in a gothic manner. This has been heralded as a revival of the garage revival of a few years ago. We are waiting by our phones for that inevitable NME call."

What about the punk bands over there, anything you're digging?
"There are quite a few bands playing tame garage or punk without conviction or any energy, others do it pretty well. Some of the best bands are no more- Real Losers, Motherfuckers. Look out for new bands from these people soon! They were about the only good garage or punk bands in the North. In London there is Black Time and some others.
There is hardly a scene here, now there may just be enough promoters scattered around to warrant some good U.S. bands to not just play London and see more of England!"

Some Obvious Links....
The Hipshakes Offical
The Hipshakes Myspace
BUY Some Hiphakes!! (#6 in catalog)
Goner Records
Static Recordings
A Fistful of Records email

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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