February 26th, 2014 by Amelia
Chris and I crossed paths because of the releases he has done for great Bay Area psych bands like LECHEROUS GAZE and OVVL. I really liked his recent ORANGE SUNSHINE cassette release and the finger he has on the pulse of the international long hairs. Here is Chris of Who Can You Trust? Records…
How did you start Who Can You Trust? Records?
I never intended starting a record label until I went to a show of San Francisco’s DZJENSHIS KHAN who were touring Europe in late 2009 with my favourite European band ORANGE SUNSHINE. After the show I asked their drummer/singer Jesse if they’d be into the idea of releasing a live recording. I thought that someone should put out this live experience on a fitting medium without caring that much about things like the general sound quality of that particular recording or how raw or clean it could be — that simply wasn’t the point. There are so much bootleg-type of recordings floating around in the archives of some bands but you really have to hint at them to get the bands to find out how great they are. What I had in mind was to put that primal energy of a live show on a stable but more affordable medium than a vinyl record — which is more forced to stick to certain standards in the audio quality range. Sure, some of that stuff wouldn’t be released on a medium that costs about five times more to produce, so I never had to care about a big amount of money to realize this plan. On some releases I expanded that idea a little and the range went from live recordings to radio sessions which are just perfect as they have a great sound and there’s not the background noise in there that you have from a crowd of people like on a live set. Of course – a live set played in front of a packed house is the best thing to get captured and putting it out to play it on your home stereo is perfect! Of course, I’m not the first person to come up with a release like that, but beside putting out vinyl records, I’m still releasing cassettes from selected bands that I like. I even released a simple “tape version” of the first full-length album by the Italian band IN ZAIRE, as I really love that band and they are a bunch of great guys. Go, check them out!
Is the name a reference to anything?
The label’s name is not a reference to anything specific, but I’ve tried to come up with something critical. I simply didn’t want my label to have a (real) name at all, so I decided to put up that question which is rather fitting to a lot of situations. I was always a very distrustful person so it’s quite fitting. haha…
What was the last the record you released?
The most recent record I put out is a project on which I really did set my heart, as it’s in the planning for two years already and something I always wanted to do. It’s the first volume of my own compilation series called “SWEET TIMES” — it features four bands on one 7-inch record. Volume 1 features HOT LUNCH, GLITTER WIZARD, OVVL and DIRTY FENCES. I’ve been working with HOT LUNCH for a couple years now and they became like really good friends to me and I did my best to push these guys and get their name out into the world from the beginning, so it was a no-brainer to put them on the very first volume, too.
How has being from Germany influenced you?
The cruel past of Germany has always and still plays a big role for most of the German and European people, me included, but my label isn’t built to be any place for my personal political output, but there’s a lot of great punk labels that do a great job and will continue with it in the future. Do the real thing or don’t do it, you know. In my case it’s all about the music.
How has being based in Germany affected your label?
In terms of distance in relation to quite a lot of bands I’m putting out there’s no real restriction for me, as the internet took over almost every business. As there’s not a single record store within my close proximity I’m forced to and lucky to use the internet to be in touch with everyone I’m dealing with — be it custumers, bands or record stores. The country itself doesn’t have any influence on my label as I don’t run a real punk rock label which would probably carry political themes aswell within the music and visual output. I’m concentrating on the broad field of rock ’n’ roll music and there’s not any deeply political meaning behind it, at least in the severity of how I see it, so that I would have to deal with it on some level. I want to channel my personal musical preferences through the label and keep it a fun job to do.
You seem to release a lot of bands from California…
Yeah, pretty weird — isn’t it? I’m not sure what’s common or what a label should usually do… maybe releasing music from their own surroundings and just put out “local” bands. As there’s nothing here that I could call a “scene” it’s simply not possible where I live. Some day, around late 2010, I got in touch with HOT LUNCH who I discovered around a couple corners, so probably the whole California thing really started with that one band, maybe a couple months earlier already with DZJENGHIS KHAN.
Any thing specific to the German rocker scene that makes it special?
On one hand, I don’t think that there’s any actual “rock scene” in Germany at all as there isn’t a specific musical direction you could relate to over here – Maybe, on the other hand, that’s what makes it special… I’m sure there are a lot of active Stoner Rock bands in Germany to call it a scene, but for that I’m not the right person to ask, as I really don’t like Stoner Rock at all… haha! Some pretty good german bands I’ve got in mind right now are KADAVAR, THE OATH and IN ZAIRE (who are Italian but half of the band are living in Berlin, so… does that count?). It feels more like a global movement these days, as there’s quite a lot of great European bands from Psych Rock to Krautrock-influenced bands to Blues Rock. If there’s any country in Europe that has got something I’d call a scene then probably Sweden – The good bands like GRAVEYARD, SPIDERS, KATLA, BLUES PILLS, SKOGEN BRINNER, BRUTUS … they just keep popping up like out of nowhere, it’s great!
What was the scene like when you were coming up?
Bringing to mind that my very first release came out just four years ago, early 2010, I truly believe that especially the real rock bands are starting to take over. When I started I felt like what the most labels are putting out is rooted in psychedelic and experimental, trippy music. Since then a lot of of punk has found its way back into rock music and that scene is still growing. Bands like HOT LUNCH, THE SHRINE or LECHEROUS GAZE for example are channeling the roots of rock like no one else and merging it with a true Punk rock spirit like that’s how it has been played for decades — Still it’s somewhat new but fits like your favourite old pair of shoes.
What local distros and record labels do you first remember?
A german label definitely worth checking out is Sound Of Corba Records with whom I’ve co-released the LA OTRACINA euro tour LP The Aquarian Wind back in 2012 and who also put out the excellent IN ZAIRE White Sun Black Sun LP for which I put out a limited Cassette edition which last year. Further labels I can recommend are This Charming Man Records, who only put out german bands as much as I’m concern and they also released the first KADAVAR record in co-production with Tee Pee Records which I really liked. Some distros I currently got in mind would be White Dwarf Rock and Kozmik Artifactz, who both have a big selection from all types of Rock and Psychedelic music. Both are big supporters of my label, so I can only recommend them here, too!
Did you model your label after a specific label/distro?
I think that I’ve established a certain loose aesthetics within the look and musical focus of my output, which has never been highly influenced by a specific label or look that I wanted to recreate.
As far as I can, I’m always giving advice to the bands I’m working with and if some things are still not properly put to paper I’m trying to implement my own ideas to help during the process without interfering in the band’s own ideas.
What’s your advice to punx who want to get in the game?
I started with a couple cassette releases before I jumped into the vinyl business and I’m happy I did it like that. Putting out records is expensive and starting with a medium that doesn’t demand too much money can always be useful. To gather experience with what you’re doing you have to start somewhere and talking to other labels who are putting out the same type of music you want to concentrate on might be helpful, too. Do it with passion and don’t put out as much as possible … sometimes less is more. Make it special and create your own style to remain recognisable.
How is doing this rewarding?
There’s nothing better than opening a box of Vinyl that freshly arrived from the pressing plant, putting the needle on a new record for the first time and cranking it up LOUD! Beside that, I’m getting very positive feedback for what I’m doing from all over the world and if that isn’t the fuel that keeps the motor running and the flame burning, I don’t know what it is. To put out and push the music I love was always the goal and as long as amazing bands like to put out their music on my label I’ve got the best reward that I can wish for.
How is it frustrating?
I’m spending a big part of my free time with my label work, as I’m doing this beside my eight-hour day job which forces me to handle my orders after work in the evening hours. Sometimes I would wish for a little more time but it’s all a matter of arrangement. In the end it’s what I’ve wanted to do, right? Haha…
Being forced to work with the post can be really frustrating at times. Postage costs in Germany are rather low compared to other countries… maybe even the lowest ones out there right now?! Generally getting shipments from other countries can be a pain in the ass … customs can be, too.
Any upcoming releases?
Up next is the debut 7” of PLANES OF SATORI — a brand new San Francisco band comprised of members from GOLDEN VOID, PARCHMAN FARM, VOICES and COUSINS. They’re playing a very groove oriented mix of Psychedelic, Jazz and Krautock that sounds like nothing I have heard the last years. I love what they’re doing! Then there’s the debut 7” by the Austrian heavy doomrockers PASTOR, who I wanted to support right from the first note I heard. Last but not least is a 7” by my own band RAGGED BARRACUDAS, which is also our debut release. We’ve recorded a couple tracks at Motorwolf Studios in The Hague, Holland with Guy Tavares who’s a veteran of The Hague’s underground scene and also plays in ORANGE SUNSHINE, for whom I recently released the “Burnout At Roadburn” live Cassette. We felt like he’s the only one to capture our raw Blues Punk sound the way we wanted, so that was the only logical move when we were looking for a studio.
How can we stay up to date on WCYT?
For all general infos – visiting the website, but for last-minute WCYT?-related news it’s definitely the best way to subscribe and follow the Facebook page, too!
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What’s the best way to contact you?
All questions, love letters or demo submissions can be sent to:
Any last words?
Thank you so much for the interview, Amelia! I’m happy that my label aroused enough interest to talk about it for MRR… haha… I’m doing my best and I LOVE it — I hope that’s shining through all of these lines.