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