Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Special Guest Post.The only obscure Seattle grunge label

While Sub Pop and C/Z were proudly dominating much of the Seattle Scene(of course, Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman were having their master plan of "world domination", which worked until the late '90s when they started relesing materials of crappy indie bands, yachhh!!!!") followed by Empty Records, other labels fight for notority as well.Among those labels that never made it big and that would deserve much recognition is New Rage Records.
Previously on Northwest Noise we talked about Fireclown, Stymie and is now time for us to end this trilogy with a post about the only obscure Seattle grunge label(well, not quite the only one, but pretty obscure). I once again asked for Adem Tepedelen's help to write down a special guest post for us about his record label, and because his kindness has no limit, he accepted:

New Rage Records was started by myself and graphic designer Jeff Kleinsmith in Seattle in 1990. We moved to Seattle from Eugene, Oregon (where we originally hatched the idea for the label). We were in Fireclown at the time and we wanted to start a label to put out our own records, as well as records by some of the great underground bands coming out of the Northwest.

Our first release was the 6-song Daddy Hate Box EP called “Sugar Plow” in 1990. Daddy Hate Box was a side-project for the drummer of TAD (Steve Wied) and vocalist for Coffin Break (Peter Litwin). It wasn’t a full-time band and they never played very many shows or even toured. The record was produced by Jack Endino and it sold pretty well, despite the fact that the band broke up not long after it came out. The band’s name, in case you don’t get the connection, was a play on Mother Love Bone.

Next we put out the Fireclown “Junkie” 7” in early 1991, which has one of my favorite covers of all the releases we did. It was the label’s best-selling single (1,000 copies pretty much sold out) and was distributed all over the world. The band broke up in late 1991 and a few of us formed Stymie in early 1992. Unfortunately our next New Rage release was our worst, and worst-selling: Sow Belly. We did our friends in Sow Belly (a weird Eugene psychedelic band) a favor by putting out a 4-song 7” that they actually helped pay for. It barely sold a couple hundred copies and was slammed in most reviews.

Another one-off came about when a local Seattle band, Sweet Water (originally S.G.M., then Shotgun Mama), who were quite popular (and who Fireclown had once played a show with) contacted us about putting out their CD. They had recorded some demos for Virgin Records who decided not to sign the band. Virgin returned the rights to the demo to the band and so Sweet Water wanted us to put it out as a CD. We didn’t have the money at the time, so they helped finance it. Unfortunately there was no contract in place, so it was all just done with a handshake. I think we pressed about 2000-2500 copies which sold out immediately, with most going to Europe. Locally it sold pretty well, but outside of Seattle (in the US) no one really cared. The band was soon signed to Atlantic and we (foolishly) just let the CD go out of print, fearing the legal might of the band’s management and label. The weird thing is, the band re-recorded most (but not all) of the songs for their Atlantic debut. There are a few tracks that are exclusive to the New Rage release which have never been reissued, making this our most sought after and rare release. I also personally think that the versions of the songs they re-recorded later, are way better on their New Rage release.

One local band we had a long relationship with was Unearth. We had played a show with them when we were still in Fireclown and we initially offered to put out a 7” for them since they were going to be recording with Jack Endino. That single was called “Pinchpoint” and is amazingly heavy and cool. That came out in 1991 or 1992. It’s a totally overlooked example of prime Seattle grunge. Both songs on that single (as well as a later single called “Caught Up”) later appeared on their Jack Endino-produced full-length CD, Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt, that we released (with the help of C/Z Records, who distributed it) in 1993.
Unearth also appeared on the “Things That Are Heavy” compilation which also featured the first appearance of our new band Stymie, as well as two similar Seattle bands, Sleep Capsule and Bone Cellar (who both put out 2 CDs each on other indie labels). We printed 500 copies of this, silk-screened all the covers (something we did with some frequency because Jeff had started a screen-printing business with Stymie’s singer and a friend of ours) and it sold out immediately. This record offers a good example of some really good grunge bands that weren’t on Sub Pop or C/Z.

By this point New Rage Records was getting something of a reputation in the Northwest, so we were able to put out a single for another high-profile Seattle band, Alcohol Funnycar (who also recorded for C/Z and BMG). That single featured exclusive recordings that never appeared on other Alcohol Funnycar releases. We pressed about 500 and I think they are pretty much all gone.

We finally put out the first Stymie 3-song 7”, called “other” in 1993, I think. That had silk-screened covers and we probably pressed 500 copies. It got a lot of good reviews and a label in NYC got interested and wanted us to record a demo for them. We did that, they weren’t stoked enough to sign us and so we took that demo and used one song, “Toil and Folly,” for a split single with our bassist Patrick’s solo noise project, Lab Rat. Only 200 copies were made and they each had a different photo which were original police photographs from automobile accident scenes. Some were pretty gruesome. (The other Stymie song on this was “Systematic Break” from our very first demo.) This was a co-release with Patrick’s label, Apraxia.

New Rage also did another co-release with Apraxia in 1993 of a 7”, “Corroboree,” of a noise band from Colorado Springs called Blowhole, that Patrick was also in (and I later joined after Stymie broke up). This sold out of a pressing of 500 copies immediately and is impossible to find.

Unfortunately, much of the money that we had invested in Unearth’s CD, didn’t come back to us because the band broke up shortly after the CD was released and we didn’t sell very many copies. Which was a shame, because anyone who loves grunge would do well to get their hands on everything Unearth released. It is amazing stuff. (And, yes, we still have CDs and 7” singles available.)

So, New Rage did one more co-release--this time with Cavity Search Records in Portland--of a Stymie/Control Freak split single that was only released with a Japanese fanzine called Fringe!. This may be the rarest thing we did, because very few were ever distributed outside of Japan and that fanzine is long gone.

We did one final release, a Stymie 7” single that was actually recorded after the band had broken up. It was jokingly called “Debut Posthumous” and was issued in the spring of 1995.

We never officially closed for business and are still selling the items we have in stock, if anyone is interested. You can go to our web page here:
http://home.earthlink.net/~ademt/ to see what’s still available.

NEW RAGE discography:

Sugar Plow 12"EP
NUR 100

"Junkie" b/w "Big Disease" 7"
NUR 101

"Spaztech Culture" +3 EP
NUR 102

Pinchpoint 7"
NUR 103

Sweet Water CD
NUR 104

V/A compilation 7"
Bone Cellar, Sleep Capsule, Stymie and Unearth
NUR 105

"Caught Up" b/w "Electric Funeral" 7"
NUR 106

"All About It" b/w "Complications" 7"
NUR 107

Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt CD
NUR 108

Grocery Bag 7" EP
NUR 109

Corroboree 7"EP
NUR 111/PXR 04261

Split 7"
NUR 113/PXR 03311

split 7"
NUR 114/CSR 20

Debut Posthumous 7"
NUR 115

No mp3s for this post. I was just kidding, knock yourselves up:
Unearth - Caught Up b/w Electric Funeral 7''
Stymie/Lab Rat 7''


iledan_2d said...

Oh man,it's always good to get some new info on the Northwest Sound movement of the 90s,and especially from someone who was a part of it.
You know,some might think grunge was all about the big bands around the scene,but...
It's a shame the smaller groups didn't get the recognition they deserved. Anyways, great post and tnx for the mp3s.They kick ass!

AT said...

New Rage was just one of many labels that put out some really cool records in the NW in the late '80s and early '90s. There are a lot of bands that never got the acclaim that Sub Pop and C/Z bands did, but were equally good. It's great that this blog is dedicated to remembering and celebrating those bands. Thanks.

Peter said...

Daddy Hates Box's Sugar Plow is amazing..sounds pretty much like early Coffin Break.Great post!

Hoofomobile said...

Cat.# NUR 112? What was it?

AT said...

Cat. # NUR112 was supposed to be a Stymie CD, but we ran out of money and it never happened.

Seattle Electrician said...

You know,some might think grunge was all about the big bands around the scene. Seattle Electrician

Dylan Hall said...

If you had some way of rating posts I would for sure give you a high rating my friend!


Dylan Hall said...

Good writing. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed my Google News Reader..


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

UNHEARTH FUCKIN RULED. Chucks guitar killed. Best drums around. and on and on and on Hail The REAL UNEARTH

lex dexter said...

Just found out my friend Chris was in Sow Belly, whose 7" is slammed in the above blurb. I suppose I'll judge for m'self when I plop down some clams on the single.

Anyway I had the pleasure of recording with Chris once, and better still hanging loose and 'talking about SST/Homestead/Forced Exposure/pigfuck action in his rad company. Chris plays bass with an alumnus of C/Z's Dose, one Chris Ross, in a band called Hot for Chocolate that gigged maybe a dozen times over the 9 years I lived in Eugene and were easily the best thing happening in a town of a lotta not-bad things happening that go unnoticed and inspire a "fuck you, we'll play only when we feel like it" posture. Worse things have happened. He also plays in a jumpsuit-wearing futurist squad called that always manage to sound better than you remember them.

I really appreciate the post and the hard work, thankee.