The music exec, who lives in Austin, is the co-owner of Matador Records, a label with a huge presence in the indie rock world: Its artists have included Teenage Fanclub, Pavement, Liz Phair, Yo La Tengo, and Cat Power, plus Austin acts Shearwater (see review) and Harlem (which has a new album out in April). He has just released the all-Texas compilation Casual Victim Pile.
A lot of people know you through your work in the eighties with Homestead Records, which signed bands like Sonic Youth and was highly influential in the alt-rock world. What do you remember most about those days? I remember we didn’t have a lot of heat in the office. I remember that the records sold rather poorly. I remember a lot of angry people calling up, wondering when they were going to get paid. But I feel good about a lot of the records that were out during that era.
How did Matador Records get started? [Founder] Chris Lombardi had been a sales guy at [indie distributor] Dutch East India Trading, which owned and operated Homestead, and he and I were in a car pool together. Around 1989, after he’d left Dutch East, Chris attended a show that I put on by an Austrian duo called H.â€ŠP. Zinker. A few days later, Chris put them in the studio to make a record. I started helping him out with contractual stuff. There were a lot of projects I steered in his direction, and after some months, he asked me to join up with him. Our very first record was an H. P. Zinker twelve-inch, followed by a Dustdevils twelve-inch, and I can’t remember if our next was Superchunk or Railroad Jerk. But it was Teenage Fanclub that put us on people’s radar.
Why did you end up in Austin? It was not a tough decision. I like it here. There was a lot musically that I’d been a fan of, from the 13th Floor Elevators and the Moving Sidewalks to the Dicks and Big Boys and Scratch Acid and the Butthole Surfers and Nice Strong Arm and Spoon and Trail of Dead. There’s a long history of bands I’ve been crazy about over the years, and that hasn’t changed.
Which brings us to the Casual Victim Pile compilation, a great anagram for “live music capital.” Thank you! Credit must go to the Internet anagram generator.
The band list includes some pretty obscure choices. Some are veterans of considerable repute. The Golden Boys just put out their fourth album. I hope that people know Harlem, or else Matador’s been doing a bad job. But as far as the others go, that’s the point of the record. There is an infrastructure in place in this town, but for bands who are hard to classify, there’s not as much of a safety net.
It’s invigorating to hear all these new groups. Did you find them yourself? It’d be an overstatement to say I’m in the clubs every night. These are bands I like. I made a short list, and at the end of the summer of 2008, we had a finished fourteen-song master. But I had a large house fire last August, and that destroyed all the artwork. The weird stroke of luck is, it gave us time to include an additional five bands, which made it a much better record. I hope people like it; it’s a very arbitrary overview.
Some people know you for a nonmusic venture: your hugely popular sports blog, Can’t Stop the Bleeding. I’ve always been a sports fan. I’m interested in the mechanizations of sports media and how that collides with things happening in people’s lives. The blog isn’t limited to who won or lost; there’s a lot of other stuff too. I hope the humor comes through.
If you were as frank about the music business as you are about sports, this might be problematic for you. Perhaps. There have been times when I’ve been pretty frank about the music business, and, well, that hasn’t always done me a lot of favors.