In the wake of Nirvana’s runaway success, Greenville-based grunge band Radish were the subject of a major-label bidding war; they signed to Mercury Records when their front man was only fifteen. A solo career followed for Kweller, now thirty, who has just released his latest album, GO FLY A KITE.
You’ve moved around a lot, but you seem to have settled into Austin.
I moved to New York when I was eighteen and lived there for eight years. When I was on tour, my wife and I would walk around and say, “Hmm, could we live here?” It was a game we’d play, and Austin kept winning. When we had our first boy, we decided to take the plunge.
You’ve taken another plunge: you’ve started your own label, Noise Company. How did you come to that decision and why?
I got started as a kid, making mix tapes for friends. I used to pretend I had this record company called Practice Amp Records, and our logo was a cassette. I’d record friends’ bands and make cassettes of their music and distribute them to friends.
You were a pretend label mogul.
I was a big record executive at thirteen! [ Laughs.] I’ve always been enamored of every part of music. I think it goes back to going to the record store, the Hastings in Greenville, where I grew up, the day Nirvana’s In Utero came out, getting the record and sitting at home listening, reading the liner notes, and absorbing everything. When I started with Radish, I kept learning. I went solo and signed with ATO Records, which was my label for ten years. In 2010 my deal with them was up, and I wanted to put my music out on my own and have control.
When you’re doing it yourself, how do you know when it’s time to make a record? You don’t have a record company knocking on your door going, “Uh, Ben?”