Columbus Discount Records Celebrate Year 6 (Equality): Interview With Co-Founder Adam Smith

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CDR SAMPLER:
MP3: Piledriver Nitemare #2 by Dan Melchior und das Menace
MP3: Untitled .WAV File by Deathly Fighter
MP3: Little White Chords by Sandwitch
MP3: Don’t You Look Sideways by Bassholes
MP3: Accidental Space Tourist by Guinea Worms

One of the most foolish notions that has circulated this year is the idea that bands like Karate Coyate, Wing & Tusk, Ghost Shirt, This is My Suitcase and other indie groups exist as a reaction to the existence of Columbus art-rock, art-damage, shitgaze or whatever moniker is out there.

Bands of those types, that reflect the current climate of national indie rock have always existed. I don’t think Ryan Horns wakes up angry at Chris Lutsko.

Call it the 09 We Want Action.
Hopefully a Tiara emerges.

Just as Columbus has always had musicians that were keeping speed with the rest of the nation, it has also had a long-history of weird drop-outs that accidently have a reoccurring appearence.

Columbus Discount Records along with, but not to be confused with the local bands on the legendary Siltbreeze label, obviously would be the current crop of indigenous strange.

Columbus Discount Records is celebrating. For full itinary please check our message board.

What was your first release?

Terribly Empty Pockets – Sexy World Single. That record was like, the best record Flying Nun never put out. I still think it’s a great pop single.

What was motivation behind creating CDR?

At first we were just kind of blindly doing it, like, we knew there was a vacuum that needed to be filled and we had a lot of ideas about Columbus Punk rock as a sort of cultural history or lineage that we felt was being overlooked a lot by dudes in the city and we wanted to not let that happen. Some of that stuff was stuff we could articulate and some of it was just stuff that was intuitive to us. A solid set of ideas on what we were actually trying to pull off didn’t come till a few years ago.

These days, the manifesto is to do anything we can to keep that lineage going and to make records that teenagers and young adults can get their hands on and understand that you really don’t have to go down that right-wing type path. When we were kids, it was punk rock records from Columbus that made us realize that there was an alternative way of life to doing what the sociopaths on the right did. That’s really big underlying goal w/ each record we work on, is to put something into the world that some kid will pick up and understand that it’s a great idea to drop out. As poor people, we really don’t have the power to affect a lot of change, and I’m not allowed to just go behead the Glenn Becks of the world, so you figure out alternative ways to increase the freak power in the universe and you can really do a lot to push back through simple, unassuming things like 7” records.

Why is maintaining and nurturing a Columbus specific culture so crucial to you?

It’s important to have a local infrastructure for every kind of artist, be it a shitty rock and roll band or a painter or a graffiti artist, whatever. Keeping it local, and not really focusing on “making it” on a national level takes steps and people out of the process that make the art bad or plastic or uninspiring. I think local culture is better than big, national culture in almost every case. So it’s important to think about the Cultural History of Columbus rock and roll in a way that is accessible to younger bands so they can find the stuff and can learn from the dudes that owned their city before them. That’s why we’re always digging into the Columbus back catalog, the more stuff from the past that comes out, the better understanding everyone can get of how they fit into it. And it’s important for bands playing in Columbus, OH now to do a little homework and find out about the lineage they are a part of, even if it is only to buck it, that’s good enough. A band that has sort of tapped into that energy and is of Columbus and not just from Columbus is in a way better position to move the people they are playing to, because what is being created belongs to both the audience and the band in a more tangible way.

Why is it a Columbus sound-centric vs. Ohio sound?

We’ll, it’s Columbus sound-centric first then an Ohio sound-centric second. Prolly because the closer things are the more sense they make to you. But man, any of us would stab somebody to release a Pere Ubu or Electric Eels record. Anyway, we just sent a record off to press by a band from Toledo called Puffy Areolas.

Whats the importance of a local economy?

The smaller and more decentralized something is, the more sustainable it is. I remember reading something like “small scale operations, no matter how numerous are always less damaging than huge operations because of it’s scale in relation to the world and it’s small force against the recuperative forces of nature” We press all of our records locally at Mus-i-col these days, they do quality work and it’s just unconscionable to add another shipping leg to what is already a very petrol intensive business. We used to get our records made in the Czech Republic, but we just couldn’t stomach being so tied into the water freight system. I think everybody should grow their food locally, so why shouldn’t we make our records locally. The ideal would be to make records in Columbus and sell them only in Columbus, but that wouldn’t work. It would be great if every mid sized city in America had a small, quality record plant like the one we have in Columbus.

I just copped a car. I have been bumping the old Necropolis album in my compact disc player. One thing I noticed…its not lo-fi. Do you consider cdr a lo-fi label?

No way. We’ve put out plenty of fucked up sounding recordings, but that’s not the idea we’ve built our label on. Tommy Jay and I worked on this T.A. Lafferty song for the Harrisburg Players comp. We re-mixed it from the 4-track tapes, and there was tons of track bouncing going on, but it sounded fantastic. I remember thinking that the recording quality was up there w/ the Beetles Revolver or something. Even the dudes like Rep who are known for doing lo-fi records, never really did lo-fi records, they just did weird records on the stuff at hand.

Why do people confuse the words weird and lo-fi?

I’ve heard Crass called lo-fi and those recordings are brilliantly done. And I’ve never heard anybody call Phil Spector or Brian Wilson lo-fi and there is crazy distortion all over all of those wall of sound type of records from back then. Or, like, Leonard Cohen’s first record is a ball of tape hiss. I think it’s just because the music is crazy and the instruments sound really weird that people call records lo-fi. Calling anything lo-fi kind of implies a lack of quality that isn’t there in a lot of the examples people point to. TNV records sound crazy as hell, but I think calling them lo-fi isn’t fair to their creative impulse. I gotta guess that is how those dudes hear their music. Anyway, I think .mp3’s sound like shit and I think pro-tools recordings sound like ice-picks wrapped in tin-cans i.e. also like shit. To me that is lo-fidelity. I tend to think of Mike Rep and Psychedelic Horseshit records as hyper-fi or something like that.

What is the latest engineer nerd micing trick you have learned?

ORTF mang. Stands for “Office De Radiodiffusion Television Francaise” That shit is amazing. I was on a big Mid/Side Matrix kick for about a year then the head engineer at Mus-I-col, John Hull, says to me, he says “why you doing that? That’s just another circuit to not work, you should try ORTF, it’s the French stereo setup.” It’s the shit. Great for micing nerds.

How important is engineering?

Not very if you are recording yourself. Very if you are not. There is nothing more annoying than a hack engineer that, like, puts a Guitar Center Neumann in front of you and then tries to tell you that it doesn’t sound like shit because of the $4,000 dollar mic pre he ran the mic through then tries to fix the bad sound w/ plugins. That shit if for the birds and it can really put a band on the wrong track. Every hack engineer these days insists on using pro tools and then insists on the editing that comes along w/ it so you’ll get bands that have no idea how to record a record of them standing in a room and playing, and that is no good for the big picture at all. Most bands should be able to stand in a room together and make a record.

I know you guys have recording plenty of professional bands. What are some of the nationals you fuck with?

We’ve done some stuff for the Ugly Suit on Touch & Go, Jandek, we did a Pat Carney solo record a while back, TNV of course.

You also record at Musicol. What do you like about that studio?

That is an amazing studio. Mics from the 50’s and 60’s all over the place, and Studer and Ampex mix down decks, 1176’s and Putecs, an echoplate, a beautiful sounding room. You can cut a record in that place like they did in 1964 – 1975. The high water mark of the recording arts to be sure. The guy that built the place, John Hull is a really remarkable, in his 70’s I’d say, and he built a ton of the gear by hand. The place was basically sitting empty this time last year, which blows my mind because it’s the best studio in Columbus, hands down, and it’s like, $45/hr to record there, which is nothing for a place like that.

How did you feel about the last year of CDR?

This is our last year?! Praise be to Allah, we are free!


I have been to a few BBQ’s. The one I missed was when Daymon and Zach made all those fucked up drinks. Do you remember any of the things they were serving?

I remember them being like booze slushies that were sugary as fuck and this dude being like, “that corn syrup those guys are putting in those is so bad for you” He was a dude that looked real in shape. Real nice though. Daymon kept yelling “ADAM, BJ, DRINK THIS SHIT” whenever he made any crazy ass batch. I think I got a headache from the sugar.

What are a couple memorable performances?
TV Ghost – Year 4 – it was like seeing suicide or something.
Tommy Jay – Last Year – Tommy is an amazing singer and he was really killing it that night.
I remember somebody gave me a che guevera shirt they second year and I wore it on stage when necropolis played and felt like a fucking dork.
UH2 – year 3 – they couldn’t get through a single song because everybody was giving Lutzko such a hard time and throwing stuff on him and stuff.
El Jesus – every year – those dudes are the dudes.

Whats on CDR plate for the next year?

Singles Club year 2 just went on sale to the mailing list about 24hrs ago and it’s about half sold out. Lots of LP’s this year. Guinea Worms double LP, Bassholes LP, El Jesus 7”. We wanna switch to doing mostly LP’s

Any reissues of historical ass records? Who is Nudge Squidfish?

Yeah, we wanna do “20,000 leagues under Nashville” which is a Squidfish record that was an Old Age/No Age tape It’s like the beach boys on bad 90’s drugs. We’re gonna do a Mike Rep bluegrass record. It’s him in the late 80’s/early 90’s playing w/ this really good blue grass band. Real weird but makes perfect sense when you hear it. Plus, Mike is a really talented singer and that record really puts that front and center. I think Old 3C is doing the .mp3’s and we’re doing the LP’s. There are no words to describe Nudge.

Where does Deathly Fighter fit into CDR?

Those dudes are a really great band because it sounds like dudes that have excellent record collections and no idea how to play music learning to play and record industrial music, It’s punk in that respect, and in that respect they are no different from about anybody we’ve ever released a record for. A lot of that Nudge stuff is pretty electro and all the way back to the Razor Penguins or the Twisted Shouts, Columbus has a little bit of a lineage of cool electro music.

Who is Dan Melchior? Rot shit?

Dan is this Brit that lives in North Carolina. He’s kind of Syd Barrett ish, but really he’s so prolific that his music is all over the place. Probably one of the best songwriters of this decade and last. He is awesome.

Rot Shit is a hardcore band from Pittsburg. They are friends of ours and were broken up for a while then got back together to play this show. They talk a lot of shit and have songs like “fuck your dj night” and “rot shit fuck” they kind of sound like black flag. They are awesome.

How much longer do you think you want to do this?

CDR is for sale for $80,000, and I think that is an excellent deal.