by B. Edwards
may be best known for his Ground Fault label; however, the
man has a few irons in the fire, all of which are worth more
than a passing glance. So, without further ado, into the realms
of one of the most visible and hard-working label bosses around.....
Can you give an overview of the evolution / development of
both Pinch A Loaf and Ground Fault?
The first label I started, Pinch A Loaf Productions (P.A.L),
was born out of a love for experimental/noise music, a desire
to start a record label, and to release my own material. P.A.L.
started late in 1994 with a solo cassette of my own material
called "36 Grit". P.A.L. ended in 1999 with the
completion of the 18th release, a split cassette with MSBR
and David Wright (Not Breathing). P.A.L.'s main focus was
on packaging, the majority of which was bizarre, handmade
objects that were pretty outlandish at times. Needless to
say, I never used a plastic jewel case for any release. For
roughly five years I spent an amazing amount of time cutting,
gluing, screwing, and painting wood, metal, tar paper, plexiglas,
bug screen, and whatever other strange materials I happened
to come across. And keep in mind, it wasn't like I was putting
out releases in super limited edition of 20 or 30 copies;
this was 200-500 copies of each release. Eventually I knew
I needed to change my approach -- all the labor was killing
me. I began to rethink what I was doing. I wanted to make
things a little easier on myself, and I knew I wanted to stay
in the experimental/noise music business. I had a pretty good
network of distributors, artists, and labels that I worked
with, and honestly thought I could sell 1000 copies of a CD
by some artists. So, I decided to put P.A.L. out to pasture
and start anew.
2) Can you talk a little about your ideas concerning
marketing? A lot of folks tend to think of marketing in black
and white terms -- "selling out," or "co-opting"
what your label is about -- without realizing there's always
more than a simplified approach to it.
Fault was born in 1999. In order to simplify the release process,
the decision to release CDs in jewel cases was made. I felt
it would give me more time to focus on marketing instead of
packaging labor. There were still a lot of artists out there
that I wanted to work with, and I knew if I simplified the
release process I could work with most if not all of them.
Many of the people that I originally invited were not very
well known and were all doing fantastic work. I wanted to
get them more exposure, and figured 1000 quantity to start
and after getting good distribution I could repress as needed.
Boy, was I a dreamer when it started. The packaging concept
was based on the Pure idea of making them all very similar
in appearance--make them easily recognizable. I wanted to
build a collector customer base that would pick up a Ground
Fault title even if they haven't heard of the artist. Price
also was very important. I wanted them to be available for
very little cost. 3 for $20 is still what I sell them for.
$8 retail per CD was the price point. All of this may or may
not have worked. I don't think the label has been entirely
successful. I did, however, manage to get Ground Fault spread
throughout the world by extensive trading. But I have only
started to sell out of the first titles -- it took 6 years
to sell 1000 copies, which isn't very good. I see other labels
selling 1000 copies in a year or so. There is a lot that I
You wear numerous hats, and do so -- certainly to the outside
eye -- impressively and efficiently. You run the label, do
substantial distribution, and are a conduit for manufacturing
CDs -- and still maintain a day job. Do you have some sort
of rigid "mode of attack" for handling these facets
of your life without fraying your wires or getting run roughshod?
First, thanks for the "impressively and efficiently"
comment. I strive for efficiency, speed, and quality. I guess
the "mode of attack" would be tremendous focus and
extremely hard work. I stay on top of the mailorder daily.
I make sure that every order is processed the same day and
mailed out the next day: I go to the post office every day.
I make the customer the number one priority when I'm wearing
the Ground Fault hat. I work a regular 40 hour a week job
and put in another 1-6 hours a day on Ground Fault. I am fortunate
enough to always be connected to the web and email throughout
the day, so I can handle the fast paced nature and immediate
demands that the CD manufacturing business requires while
I'm at work. With my cell phone and internet access, I can
keep things rolling. But believe me, my wires are definitely
frayed. I have a very hard time keeping up with everything
-- the CD manufacturing business is taking over most of my
time lately, and has pushed the label to the back burner for
the past year or two. I definitely do not have the time that
I used to have to focus on label promotion and sales. Other
people's CD manufacturing jobs are very important to me and
require constant monitoring and fast response. Many of them
have tight deadlines and I need to pull off miracles at times
to get them to the customer on schedule.
Again, for me (personally) it's refreshing to hear you talk
about components such as sales, marketing, and promotion.
Although the passion for the music is the motive for the label,
you need to think about how to get that music to people who
are interested--the releases aren't meant to sit in your apartment.
However, your meeting tight deadlines for CD manufacturing
is an interesting point--at what stage do you tell the artist
hey, this turnaround is impossible? I mean, you do have on
your site the turnaround for the manufacturing process, right?
I think of the "your lack of planning does not constitute
an emergency on my part" schtick....
tend to wait until the last minute to get things done. With
CD manufacturing jobs, artists and labels quite often want
super fast turnaround because they are going on tour in two
weeks or there is a big festival coming up. I'm sure many
of these jobs could have been wrapped up earlier but when
the opportunity to sell some comes, like a tour or a large
show, they decide to hurry up and get it done. More often
than not, they end up coming to me wanting the CDs to be delivered
to them in 10 days, and I’ve done it many times. There
has only been one job that didn't make it in time, and that
was because I was on vacation. The client knew I would be
gone and she was OK with missing the chance to take the CDs
on tour. The turnaround time for a fully packaged job can
be as fast as 7 days if everything goes really smooth. I tell
the clients that it takes 7-10 working days to complete the
process, and I have sent my fair share of boxes of 50 copies
via Next Day Air to wherever the band is performing the next
day. They always get there in time for the big show. There
is a certain amount of satisfaction to get the super enthusiastic
email telling me that they arrived in time. I've completed
about 250 jobs for other people in the past 5 years and missing
one deadline is a pretty good track record.
5) Most folks who have followed Ground Fault are aware that
you're folding the label at the end of 2005. Although you've
alluded to a few reasons, can you expand on them and, perhaps,
share insight into what's going to happen next?
that I am ending the Ground Fault series some time near the
end of 2005. I had always planned on making Ground Fault a
finite thing--it was meant to be a collection, and a collection
is not collectable until there is an end. I've also been feeling
that people don't show as much enthusiasm for new Ground Fault
titles anymore. I get the feeling they are getting bored with
it. Couple that with the fact that I'm so incredibly busy
lately, it makes sense to end it now.
What gives you this feeling of lacking interest/ enthusiasm?
feel that it has run it's course. I don't see that much excitement
out there when new titles are released. It could just be me
not having the enthusiasm for it anymore. I guess I'm basing
that on lackluster sales of Ground Fault titles. But, that
could very well be from the limited time I have to dedicate
to Ground Fault, the label. I haven't sent any promotional
copies to radio stations for a couple years. I used to take
out ads in magazines and do lots of promotion, but I don't
have time for it anymore. And sales show it. As for future
plans, I am planning to get back to the painstaking roots
of elaborate, handmade packaging. I'm a glutton for punishment
and I want to put out productions that are truly special.
Multiple discs, vinyl, outdated technologies, stupid packaging,
etc appeal to me. I'm tentatively calling it "GF Special
Projects". The first release will be the entire Ground
Fault collection packaged in a really nice handmade hardwood
box. It will contain all the bonus material that came with
the limited 3"s as well as other surprises. One key will
be that I will not be trading the GF Special Projects releases.
They are going to be limited in quantity and I don't want
to deal with all the work of selling all the stuff that I
receive in trade. I will continue to trade Ground Fault stock
until it is all gone.
7) You've probably seen a handful of labels come and
go: what would your advice be for people who want to start
a CD label?
Don't cheap out. Put out professional looking and sounding
product. A crappy CDr in a folded piece of xeroxed paper will
not keep orders coming. You will have a hard time building
a customer following if your label puts out crap. Also, be
prepared to trade. Trading is a big part of the business.
However, you will end up with a lot of product to sell, so
you best have a good outlet to resell it. If you don't want
to trade, I'd hope you were very good friends with a reputable
for a larger view)
In addition to the P.A.L. releases, you have a fairly formidable
personal collection of "unique" release packages.
To delve into your private collection, can you tell me a)
which package stands out as the most bizarre, b) whether the
audio usually lives up to the packaging, c) a "concept"
you've seen that you wish you'd done, and d) what "odd
packaging" you've released that you think stands out
a) I think the most bizarre is the Small Cruel Party/Daniel
Menche 7" acetate on MSBR Records. It is packaged in
original handmade mutated stuffed animal shapes. Absolutely
b) I don't
know that I've really taken notice.
the release I wished I'd done, I'd say the record made of
cement. I don't even know if it has been released yet (it's
taken years) but Scot Jenerik has made a 12" record called
"Aggregate" by F-Space. He basically poured cement
into a mould that had a record at the bottom. When it dried,
the record was removed and the grooves were pressed into the
cement. The sound is crazy. Very crunchy (as you could imagine)
and having a eerie quality to it like a very old recording
for the oddest I've released, definitely the MSBR "Electrovegetarian"
7". It came in a build-it-yourself kit when assembled
had a marble green record with a transparency overlay bolted
onto a spring connected to a painted wooden base. It was my
tribute to the bobble-head doll.
What three artists do you feel are seriously underappreciated,
1. Kevin Novak (T.E.F.) because he has been making some of
the highest quality recordings for years. He is brilliant
from a technical perspective.
2. Francisco Meirieno (Phroq). Francisco has been around for
about 6 or 7 years now and hasn't really gotten much notice.
I put out his first proper full length CD this year. I can't
understand why it has taken so long for someone to put out
a CD by him.
3. Spencer Yeh. If you've seen Spencer perform live you would
know why I have him on my list. If you get a chance, pick
up Burning Star Core "Let's Play Like Wildcats Do"
CD. It is phenomenal. A totally original sound.
One facet of your world I've not touched on yet is your Spastic
Colon project: any plans for taking it on the road?
We were on the road many times (Japan, OH, PA, PDX, SF, etc.)
in the early years (1996-97). Our live history is available
at www.spasticcolon.org We don't get out much anymore- actually,
we don't really play live much anymore either, as we are both
extremely busy with other things. We talk about getting out
on the road all the time, but it never happens.
And, now, a short barrage of more “standardized”
questions. What's the best thing about living in southern
California? the worst thing?
Best: Convenience...everything is here. I have no trouble
finding anything I need.
Worst: The weather. I hate the boring 85 degree year-round
weather. Last year was good because it rained all winter.
We had tied the all-time record for rain in one season. I
loved it. I wished it rained every day. There isn't much change
from season to season here, and I would love to have seasons.
What's your favorite item to cook?
food; Lasagna in particular. With home made sauce....none
of that jar bullshit.
What were the last three books you read?
read much. It takes too much time to read. I usually only
read when I'm on vacation, sitting on some remote beach doing
nothing. I'm just finished "No Beauty Without Danger"
by Max Dax and Robert Defcon. It's a collection of interview
with the members of Einsturzende Neubauten. Before that I
read "We Are Devo!" by Jade Dellinger and David
Giffels...the story of Devo (the greatest band ever!). The
third book would be "Angels and Demons" by Dan Brown,
which I read while in New York for the No Fun Fest.
A variant on a usual final Blastitude question: whose record
collections would you like to take a look at?
love to revisit two collections that I've seen before. They
were truly outstanding and very large and need lots of time
to really look at the whole collection. Those two would be
Koji Tano and Ron Lessard. Ron's collection is mind-blowing;
end of story on that. Because of Koji's early death, I will
never get to see his collection again. It saddens me to have
lost someone of Koji's caliber. He was a great friend to me
and I'm lucky to have spent time with him at my apartment
in Long Beach, at his apartment in Tokyo, and his parents
house in Matsuyama (where his big archive collection is housed).
Koji will be missed.