Milwaukee Births Several New Record Labels
the newcomers is Listening Party, which Decibully members Nick Sanborn and Andy
Menchal created to release the band’s latest album, World Travels Fast. This week Listening Party issued its third
release, a solo album by Def Harmonic rapper Lunaversol 9, which it will follow
later this fall with a new Def Harmonic LP and a cassette by the ambient
electronic musician He Can Jog.
a label was something that Andy and I had been talking about while drinking for
a year and a half,” Sanborn explains. “When the Decibully record ended up
needing a home, we decided it would be a good idea to finally put our money
where our mouth was. It’s been a great experience, because we get to think
about our fantasy label and how they would treat us, then we get to treat our
artists that way. We don’t take publishing percentages on the master, for
instance. And being a small label, we can give each release a lot of personal
attention. Even the album packaging we really take to the nines. The Def
Harmonic album will be on translucent, marbled purple and white vinyl, and will
come with a paint-by-numbers poster.”
summer saw the first release from Ten Atoms, a label started by Ryan Matteson
of the website Muzzle of Bees and fellow music blogger Kyle Matteson (the two
share a last name and similar taste in music, but they’re not related). Its
inaugural release is a self-titled 10-inch EP from the Milwaukee folk-rock band Conrad Plymouth.
Like Listening Party, Ten Atoms plans to specialize in limited-run vinyl
releases with pay-what-you-like downloads—and like Listening Party, the label
has no expectations of turning a profit anytime soon.
seeing a lot of labels pop up, which just shows the dedication people have to
music in this city,” Ryan Matteson says. “There are people who want to put
their time and resources behind music they really love. I think we all have the
same intentions; we’re really proud of the music in Milwaukee and want to do what we can to get
that music out to as many people as possible.”
most specialized of Milwaukee’s
new labels is Dope Folks, which John Kuester (better known to some as local
rapper Kid Millions) and Chris Schulist launched this summer to reissue rare
and unreleased golden-age hip-hop. Schulist says there’s a nearly endless
supply of lost hip-hop from the ’80s and ’90s, enough for Dope Folks to do
monthly releases, including some from vintage Milwaukee acts.
got one coming up from Stranj Child, which was a Milwaukee group from around ’94 through ’96,
and one from a guy named Rock La Flow, which is just awesome,” Schulist says.
“We call it Milwaukee’s
Illmatic, because it was recorded
around the same time as that Nas album, and when we heard it, we were laughing
because it was so good. We couldn’t believe it had never come out.”
says he’s been surprised by how much interest the city has taken in the label,
which plans to hold local listening parties and DJ spins for each new release.
“We thought we were just going to press these niche records, then mostly sell them to collectors abroad over eBay, but Milwaukee’s been really interested in it, too,” Schulist says. “In general, the city has been really supportive.”