Hello Tim. It is a real pleasure sharing a moment with a Real Music editor. Not just a businessman but a real Rock and Roll Archaeologist.
Hello Chopper Monsters! Congrats on running a great record store in this horrible New World of the Download Generation!
For some reason there are a lot of people out there that have no idea what Crypt Records is, and what it means in modern music history, young people’s music and it’s consequence. And that is the reason for this interview, to get to know a little about you, Crypt Records and by doing so, try that the ones who don’t know about you and Crypt, don’t die without knowing about. So, let’s do this! You started by putting some sixties bands compilations out there and then you started working with bands from the contemporary scene which you took out on tour. How do you get this combination to work? After editing some very good bands you decide to focus your label on reissues and set aside a bit working with contemporary bands.
Well, we did our Modern Band period for 11 years (1987-1998) and “retired” that and the tours etc so yeah, Crypt is not active enough to be cool for the New World. I like it that way though. I did the Grave 9/10 and the new Last Of The Garage Punk Unknowns series, and now I’m concentrating on unreleased Real Kids and DMZ and Raunch Hands and that is what matters to me. That’s how Crypt STARTED (as a reissue label) and that’s how it will END, I’d say. Doing modern bands in this New World where it takes 5 months to press a record means that a band can’t even tour properly.
Why does indie music suck, and why are hippies such scumbags? Sorry, I couldn’t start this interview without this question.
Oh man, I’m so glad that i’m UNAWARE of 99% of this new Indie Explosion these last 12 years. I’d have to torture myself and listen to Hip Bands via YouTube to get an idea of how they sound but i just DO NOT WANT TO! A pal’s band was playing an outdoor festival here in Berlin back in 2011 and i took my dog to go see what was happening and jesus fucking christ was it a nightmare of TWEE fucking la-la shit.
You will not believe it but I was born in ‘83, and my my fave band is The Dirtys, and in back my hometown, between my buddies, Dirtys and Ass Draggers are the world’s best bands. Is it possible that, maybe, not all hope is lost?
I’m sure there must be some great bands out there but I’d have to join Facebook and Twitter and Instagram etc to be made aware of them and i say “NO THANK YOU” to all social media!!!
Could you explain how did you started this project? Let’s get back to the origin of it: Which year did you start the label? How was the previous time? What motivated you to do it and where did it happen? Summarized, take a look back to way back then and tell us how it happened.
In June 1983 i went into Erik Lindgren’s studio in Cambridge Massachussetts and recorded 16 tracks and on August 3, 1983 the first volume of Back From The Grave was released. Prior to that i worked at a record shop in Amherst Mass from Feb 1979-Oct 1979, then Jan 1980-Aug 1980 I worked at a gas station in Maine 4 days per week and d.j’d 3 nights a week at a punk/new wave club in Portland Maine. Next i worked at a huge record store, J & R Music World from Dec 8 1980 until early May 1983, when i got married to a Parisian gal, Caroline, and we created the Crypt label. What motivated me: love for music and a doomed desire to earn very little money. A big motivating part was my hatred for the SQUARE WORLD, of which i was NEVER gonna fit in. J&R was just north of Wall Street and us lowly employees would have to put up with a daily flood of ASSHOLE rich fucking Wall Streeters coming in to buy the latest Phil Collins, etc shit.
We’ve heard that you wrote a book called “How to tour Europe and lose $1000 a day” but we couldn’t get a hold of it (yet). Can you tell us something about it?
Yeah, it wasn’t until Summer 1988 that i finally re-settled back into NYC after my years in Paris, then Sweden and spending 6 months per year living in rental cars all across the USA tracking down 1960s garage bands.
By 1988 I was slowly building Crypt up from this wee reissue-only label, having done a DMZ live in 1978 LP and two LPs by Swedish garage/beat outfit Thee Wylde Mammoths and licensing a Mighty Caesars best-of LP and a Lyres 1979-1981 live LP, So i return to NYC and my fave band the Raunch Hands had been dropped by their record label and i said “Fuck it! Let’s do the Raunch Hands on Crypt! So I asked the RHs if they wanted to do an alb, and “Payday” was recorded (with new drummer Steve Crowley) in Oct 1988 at Coyote Studios in then-desolate Williamsburg and released on Crypt in Jan 1989. In Nov 1988 I put on a two day mini-“festival”, The Bad Music Seminar, with the Raunch Hands, Thee Mighty Caesars, the A-Bones, the Gravediggers and the Rat Bastards (who each recorded a stack of songs at Coyote with Billy Childish producing), the Talismen, etc. “Hip” New York showed its “hipness” with a “stunning” turnout of around 80 folks each night so I took a loss of $4500. This plus the fact that 1989 was awash in the Led Zep revival Seattle sound and not very r&r, so i pursued the idea of EUROPE, where bands like the Flamin’ Groovies, Cramps, Lyres were much more popular than their native country.
The Skin Of The Ass Tour June 15 to August 5 1989: I faxed a few tour bookers in Europe and got about 12 confirmed shows and optimistically booked 2-month return plane tics with the thought that we’d find more shows whilst there. In May i purchased a backline, popped it on a boat to Spain, flew with George to Amsterdam and searched out and bought a 1980 VW LT40 van and installed a coffin-like upper bunk bed “sleeping area” and headed southward to Madrid to meet and pick up Chandler, Mariconda, Steve Crowley, last-minute-added saxist Dave Doris. En route south we crashed one night with my ex-wife Caroline and Stiv Bators and they set about booking us a show in Paris in late July. Arriving in Madrid we promptly spent 2.5 weeks crashing at the Pleasure Fuckers’ pad with a whopping FOUR shows booked by the Spanish booking agent. We were able to fill in with a show in Barcelona (booked and recorded live and released as “Fiesta!” LP by my pals Jaime and Ignacio at Ruta 66 music mag) and a show at a gay bar in Madrid, El Templo Del Gato, where there was a chain-link fence separating audience from band ala that Blues Brothers scene, and Mariconda hopping from a table back onstage and plunging through a hole in the stage. Upon exiting Spain at southeast France I phoned Antoine at Abus Dangereus zine and asked “Hey: can the Raunch Hands play Toulouse?” and he said “Yes. Tomorrow.” So that was the first French gig. Next show was a few days off in Germany and we heard about a Hells Angels bar in Grenoble, so we figured it was en route and drove to Grenoble and the club said “Sure! Come back in 3 weeks!” so off to Germany for FOUR shows in Enger, Cologne and Berlin and one show in Holland in Eindhoven. Post-Berlin gig Chandler is zonked and unconscious at the East German border and the stasi border guard demands to see Chandler’s eyes and Mariconda must resort to multiple slaps until at last Chandler awakes with a jolt and lashes out with his foot and short-circuits the van battery on the sub-seat cross-metal so for the next 12 days we must park at a LEVEL or DOWNHILL angle in order to push-start the van and have George slam it into second gear in order to turn over the motor. Next up: four shows in Italy, where at last on July 19 in Naples we have enough money to purchase a new battery. This Naples show is at an AMUSEMENT PARK (y’know: with roller coasters, etc) in a faux-German Beer Hall with the band playing on a 2nd floor “terrace” of sorts about 3 feet deep so the bass drum is crammed tight up against the railing, and there’s a dumbwaiter elevator system for hoisting drinks up to the band. Mariconda informs me the next morning that he has left a “mystery dump” in the dumbwaiter. My Italian distributor, who booked the four shows, mysteriously proceeds to NEVER reorder any records. Hmmm. In any case, it is a luxury installing a new battery and not having to push-start the beast. Grenoble, France, Zone Interdit hells angels club: What a great goddamned show. It all ends with about 30 bikers riding their bikes round and round the dance floor. We pray for somewhat sobriety and no passes at their girlfriends. Next gig was in Paris 4 days later so we thrive upon baguettes and red wine in the meantime at various parking lots and the Parisian crash-pad kindness of Quelou. Paree is a gas, but alas our next show is far away in Hohenems, Austria. From there a brutal drive to Amsterdam where the band must be off-stage by 11p.m. in order for the Techno Hordes to party on. Next night is Schaufhausen, Switzerland, land o’ watches, then Geneva, two nights at the Herscheneck is Basel, where I meet a ravishing gal, Michaela, in a Radio Birdman t-shirt. Next night is far southwestern Germany in Freiburg, where I decide to nip back to Schaufhausen for a 2nd glimpse at the Swiss Alps (two rather mammarily-endowed sisters) and the next morning the van engine is DEAD. A backup van is rented and the band barely makes the final gig in Ravensberg and then must train it to Amsterdam to make the return flight to NYC. It takes three weeks to repair the van and in that time a romance blooms twixt Michaela and i. A “mere” $4500 secures the replacement of the van’s engine, and so I drive it up to camp it at our pal and oft-Lyres road manager Frank’s in Eindhoven, Holland, and fly back to NYC. We talk to Mono Man about a Lyres Euro tour using the van and having the Raunch Hands as the backing band for Jeff but nothing comes of that.
A mail romance continues, until Micha comes to NYC to visit in October 1989. We head out to CA, hit Vegas, back to CA, sleep under Michael Murphy’s Wilhelm Reich orgone blanket, wake up, say to each other “let’s go back to Vegas and get married” and do so Nov 6 1989 at Graceland for $25. Raunch Hands return to Coyote Studios in Nov 1989 and whop out the amazing 7-song “HAVE A SWIG” LP.
January 10 1990 I flew to meet Micha in London and then we go try out Hamburg, fall in love with the sleaze of the Reeperbahn and finally nab a flat ($400/month! Beats the fuck outta increasingly expensive NYC). Micha’s doing physical therapy and I start to search for European distributors, set up a mailorder, and start to book the first Devil Dogs tour (Sept-Oct 1990) and second Raunch Hands tour (Oct-Nov 1990).
From broke to success, isn’t it? How was it to deal with Grunge, Techno and Metal in the 90’s?
Success has never really been part of my story, hah hah! Oh man, it was a WAR against all that crap music. I’m proud of the work Micha and i did in Europe in 1990-1998 but what a draining experience. I’d noticed by 1996 that booking tours was getting harder and harder and that there less and less customers coming to our shop in Hamburg, so the Death Bell was already ringing. By 1998 we gave up. So funny that a few years later there’d be that massive hype on the White Stripes, but that was never a band i could listen to. Long Gone John gave me a copy of the first album and i spun about 20 seconds of each song and said to myself “Great: a lo-fi whiney version of Led Zeppelin: No thank you.”
Was Darwin right on his Theory? Now Crypt Records is the best reference on Rock and Roll. If you see Crypt Records on the back of an album, you know you can buy it. How did you finally hit success and when?
See above. No success!
Which are the most representatives releases on your label?
Back From The Graves 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 9 and 10
Beguiled “Blue Dirge” (sells about 12 copies per year)
New Bomb Turks “Destroy-Oh-Boy” (our ONLY “hit”: it sold around 32,000 copies in the first 2 years)
Raunch Hands “Have A Swig”
Oblivians “Popular Favorites”
Real Kids “1974 Demos”
Do you think Crypt’s smash hits left some other records in the shadow, like somehow rendered them underrated? If that’s so, which ones do you think are the ones that didn’t get the attention they deserved?
The only real sellers are the Graves and Las Vegas Grind series. Teengenerate “Get Action” did pretty well in 1994-1996. and NBT “Destroy-Oh-Boy”. That’s about it as far as “hits”, but they are pathetic compared to the success of the White Stripes.
THE DIRTYS. Tell us something about them.
Oh boy, did they piss off a lot of people… They were the first band we set up to do a USA tour BEFORE a Euro tour and it was a disaster of them cancelling so many shows, showing up late, fighting on stage. I remember driving from Hamburg to Dresden and they played maybe 6 songs and Mark hit Larry in the head with his guitar and the show ended…
Your label has also a location store. Could you tell us how many stores you owned and where? Where is your store located now? A friend from Hamburg told us that he’s been in the store some times and said that “it doesn’t look like a store, it’s like some kinda Crypt-Vault.”
Just the one store in Hamburg. We opened it in April 1991 and then had to close it in 1997 because this idiot “investor” bought the building and wanted us to pay TRIPLE rent. Luckily Dirk found a new space so in July/August 2005 we renovated it and moved the store and warehouse and it re-opened in Sept 2005. Yes, it is a Crypt Vault: We specialize in only carrying what WE dig. In the 1990s we “expanded” the selection by carrying lots of tiny label releases of a variety of stuff, but we got stuck with so much leftover stock that we reverted to our close-minded ways when we re-opened it in Sept 2005. The store space itself is a 22 m2 space and the rest is 100 m2 of warehouse space and a tiny 8 m2 “office” for Dirk! I did open a shop in Brooklyn in June 2006 but that was a disaster because it was in a no-traffic fairly gang-ridden neighborhood. In June 2008 my dog Bando died, and my marriage with Micha fell apart and i was sick of America after living through eight fucking years of President George Bush, so when i saw a clip of Sarah Palin running as Vice President to McCain in Sept 2008 i flew to Hamburg to look for a flat but prices had risen so high that i fled to still-cheap Berlin and bought an abandoned WRECK and spent 6 months fixing it.
Why do you live in Europe now, has Bush something to do with it?
Yes, those Bush years sucked, then the idea that an idiot like Sarah Palin as Vice President….
And now with Trump? Will you go back to USA sometime?
Oh jesus… I’d planned to move back but when Trump won i said “fuck the usa”.
The “Back From The Grave” compilations are a retrieval of songs and teenage bands from a very specific gap in the sixties. Where does that sound come from? What is the main definer of the style?
Yes: the focus is on aggressive, simple, ROCKING teenage punk. No LSD “trippiness”, no marijuana “philosophizing”, no Hendrix jamming. Kids imitating the Kinks and the Stones, NOT the sugary pop of the Beatles.
How did you put together those garage punk compilations? Where did you get those bands and how did you found all of them when they were like some kind of buried secret? What’s the message behind the Back From The Grave cover art? Is like the living dead from the past came back to claim vengeance from whom buried them. What’s the meaning of those zombie gangs executing humans?
Well, this has all changed “thanks” to fucking Ebay and so many rich record collectors and “hip” d.j.s, but back in the early to mid 1980s NOBODY cared about this kind of music except a small, spread-out circle of lunatics. You really could buy so much stuff for $1 to $30 tops, and a $75 record in 1985 was a seriously big expense. Nowadays so many garage punk 45s are going for $700 to $3000 and it sucks. BACK THEN you’d buy em CHEAP and you’d do a compilation that made the music available to ANYONE interested. Nowadays you have millionaires buying these so they can post a PHOTO or VIDEO of a rare record so they can generate “likes” via Facebook etc. WHAT A STUPID FUCKING WORLD. Message: basically we are stating our HATRED of fucking SHITTY pop stars and rock stars and metal and disco.Meaning: “KILL ALL THE SQUARES!”
Is the well of ‘64 Garage-Punk already dry, or is it more of them still waiting to be unearthed?
Well, it’s more 1965-1967 era. But, YES: it is pretty damned DRY. There are (and were back in the 1980s-1990s) bozos doing CRAP comps of previously un-reissued tracks but the bulk of them are CRAP.
We suppose that one of the main influences from B.F.T.G. are the Nuggets compilations, which in 1972 opened a window to explore a music style. Did the same happened with Back From The Grave?
It was Pebbles 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and Boulders 1 and Chosen Few 1 & 2 and Off The Wall 1 & 2 that kicked my head in, more so than Nuggets, which had too much pop stuff. BFTG was an ATTITUDE in sleeve art and SOUND attack, rather than the “archival” approach.
What’s the future of the music industry?
No idea! My whole purpose in creating Crypt was to piss on the “record industry”.
Do you have some anecdotes with internet and the new generations?
Not really. My earlier mention of idiots posting their “RARE RECORDS” on Facebook kinda says it all.
We have been reading that you got a $20k loan to start the label. Is it true? If it is, how did you pay back? What did you spend it on? Was it worth?
NO. Michael Chandler loaned me $800 to help press Grave One and i would borrow $2500 from another friend and pay him back $3000, each time i’d put together a new volume. i WISH i’d had a $20,000 loan when i started! I would have put out the Raunch Hands “El Rauncho Grande” and “Whap-A-Dang” LPs!
Was an opening party in N.Y.?
Your pal Mort Todd is also a Comics editor and music videos producer. What was the part of his art in the Label?
I met Mort at the punk club i was d.j.-ing at in Portland Maine. When i moved to NYC in November 1980 i would hang out with Mort and his pals Daniel Clowes and Cliff Mott and Pat Redding. When I came up with the idea for each Grave i would make a rough sketch and gave it to Mort and he would deliver his artwork.
Which labels and (contemporary) bands do you like at the present day? How is your contact with the contemporary scene?
I’m really not paying any attention to current music. I do a lot of mastering on current bands in order to make some sort of income but am left rather bored by 95%. I prefer to walk my dog than to go to concerts. Being a hermit in Berlin is pretty easy.
Are you going to produce new bands? What needs to happen so Crypt turns his look towards a band and want to produce a record?
NEVER. I prefer to work on the 1970s Boston punk stuff and this insane pile of unreleased and live Raunch Hands stuff from 1984-1991.
So, at the moment is Hamburg, punk-sailor ambient and currywurst. What do you like the most of this city?
I’m in Berlin but i really miss Hamburg but at the same time i was pretty sickened by what i saw of the new RICH/EXPENSIVE Hamburg when i visited there in October 2008 looking for a flat. But Berlin is so fucking green and beautiful that i love it here.
Your last compilation looks like a statement against the shitty present political context. We LOVE it! We say our goodbyes with it and… What does CRYPT want to say to the world out there?