Jade Tree Records merupakan salah satu independent label yang essential. Pada era 90-an mereka melempar debut album dari Lifetime, The Promise Ring, Joan of Arc, Jets To Brazil dan masih banyak lagi. Kini, album mereka dicap album klasik yang menandakan zaman. Ini semua karena mereka berani keluar dari zona nyaman dan konsisten dengan pilihan sebagai antitesis dari yang ada di scene.
Bertahan selama 25 tahun sampai sekarang, Jade tree dikerjakan oleh dua orang solid, Tim Owen dan Darren Walters, yang visinya tidak pernah surut layu. Label ini jadinya memang tumbuh seperti pohon yang beranomali, awet dan sangat berharga. Sebabnya, Kanaltigapuluh beruntung sekali bisa berkesempatan untuk menelisik lebih jauh tentang label ini lewat interview kami melalui email. Darren Walters secara terbuka membicarakan, musik, scene, pertemanan, industri dan tentu saja perjalanan dari labelnya. Silakan simak di sini!
When I look back, it almost seems impossible, but that is the magic of punk rock, the ability to rely on the circle of peers around you to help start something magical.
Here in 90’s, there was an oppressive regime that pissed every young lives and long hair metal was everywhere. Anyway, how’s 90’s when you decided to create Jade Tree back then?
Tim and I were both doing smaller labels that focused on straight-edge hardcore. We both wanted to expand our horizons and release music that was not restricted by musical style, politics, belief system, geography or anything at all. Jade Tree became the outlet for that vision.
The US had a similar musical landscape to what you describe when Jade Tree began; hair metal and pop music were the cool thing and Jade Tree was determined to be the antithesis to to the mainstream as well as to what was happening in the scene.
You’re Delaware-based records label. How’s important Delaware geography on the map of underground music culture in US?
Delaware is not important at all, but it ended up playing a huge role in the rise of the label. As our future motto said “Location is Everything”. Being located in Delaware when East Bay, California, NYC, Seattle and other parts of the country were exploding served the label well because we were able to carve out our identity. In addition, bands often ended up staying at the Jade Tree house on their way through town which enabled Tim and I to talk to them and have them visit the label without the distraction of other labels being involved, which was a massive boost to getting the artists that we did. Many of them would spend days on end at our house as they toured around the immediate area and we went to the shows and hung out with them.
I read you had just graduated from high school at that time, what made you really convince these things are your ideal of life?
I’m still not convinced that this will all work out! However, I was inspired by Dischord and Touch & Go Records, in addition to the many other labels and bands of the mid and late eighties. Knowing that it was possible to Do It Yourself left a mark on me that made me realize that I could do something that other kids in my high school would never dream of doing. When I look back, it almost seems impossible, but that is the magic of punk rock, the ability to rely on the circle of peers around you to help start something magical.
Beside both of you, how many people run this label?
The label was started by Tim Owen and I and it has always been both him and I who run the label. Through the years there has always been a handful of individuals who work at the office with us in a variety of capacities. Right now there are a total of 7 of us in house and a few more that we use for a variety of projects when needed.
You made The Promise Ring moves from tiny basement scene to bigger one and said you sold millions of records and never had to work again but it isn’t true. Maybe half true, how did The Promise Ring change the pace of your business anyway? Do you consider that Nothing Feels Good the most successful records?
We certainly still have to work, but The Promise Ring was the band that defined the label and vice versa. They were the artist with whom the label shared many of our firsts. We hired our first publicist, made our first video and so on. As they grew, so did the label. The attention that the band and label received from those releases helped the label grow into what it is today. Certainly the album Nothing Feels Good is a classic Jade Tree release and is the #2 best seller on the label so it has had a huge impact. Of course, as I’ve already mentioned, when it was released, it skyrocketed the band forward and the label had to adjust to the demands of having such a successful record. It was a strange journey to figure out what types of things the label would and would not do in order to help promote a record. With regards to The Promise Ring much of what occurred was very organic and as a group, we were all very interested in experimenting and seeing if what we were doing was going to be interesting to a wider audience than 25 kids at a ink rock prom in Wisconsin. It turned out that they resonated with many more fans than any of had ever dreamed.
The truth, years ago the business turn to be a serious decline? And you guys had to get ‘day jobs’. What makes me surprised, is that you said Jade Tree was still actively operating. Even, everyone seems to believe last year you made a comeback. what was your struggle to sustain the label at that time?
Jade Tree has always remained active. What the label did was make a conscious decision to slow down the release schedule because there were less and less artist that Tim and I felt that we were interested in working with. This dovetailed with a decline in the business around 2007 / 2008 and so we decided that if we took some time to see where both our hearts and the industry would go, it would be better than simply releasing records just for the hell of it. Fans should remember that why it is a business, it is also a passion, and honestly, both Tim and I were getting interested in other things as well as having kids. I am a firm believer that sometimes you have to take a beat to step away and assess the situation in order to make an informed and impassioned decision about the direction that you want to take moving forward.
I see Jade Tree took various twisted sounds seriously. Zero Zero ,Snowden, Ester Drang, Jaye Jayle and Euphone for instance, they are the departure from your early essentials. Why are you so interested to their music?
Tim and I really only have one idea that forms the basis of what we do at Jade Tree and that is that we have to like the music. When we started, the idea was to releases anything that we liked regardless of how it sounded. The label represents the both of us and our tastes. So every record represents a part of both of us.
As far I know, you put all the great releases on Bandcamp or iTunes range from the classic to the latest. Safe to say the way music is consumed now shifting. But, how do you see that from your point of you? I mean do you believe digital release also has a pivotal role for music documentation?
There is no stopping digital consumption. It is important that music is heard and that artists are fairly compensated. My hope is that through hearing artists’ music that fans will purchase their music in some form and buy the artist’s merchandise or go to see them live. And with the rise in vinyl sales you can see how fans still want a something they can hold in their hands as well.
Direct Effect, Spraynard and Dogs on Acid are your new rosters. They are from Philadelphia. What’s makes them amazing?
The people. The music is incredible, but the individuals who make up the bands are the difference. In 2015, I’m looking to make better connections with the individuals. Having a localized connection with the members, hanging out, seeing them at shows, stopping by the office-it is all crucial to a family atmosphere. Also, these artists are happy to being working with us and realize that we are a team working together.
In your opinion, what’s the significant different regarding hardcore bands derived from Gen-X back then and Millennial today?
Hardcore bands now are much more open-minded. They tend to be more influenced by a multitude of genres, not simply punk roots. I think that is a great think as it has given birth to an entire generation of multifaceted artists who are not pigeon-holed by being repetitive at what they do.
How did you meet Dark Blue and You Blew It?
Tim and I have known that Dark Blue guys through working with them in their previous bands. You Blew It! I heard and they simply took my breath away. They reminded me of what I loved about working with music. I knew that they would help to forge a connection the original Jade Tree and the current style and that made me smile.
Talking about your release schedule, what are the best things may happen this year?
We have announced a Spraynard 7″ and full-length, a Dogs on Acid full-length, a Socialite 7″, a reissue that has yet to be announced and You Blew It! and Direct Effect will enter the studio later in the year. Besides that, we are talking with a few other artists on upcoming projects.
In Twitter you say hello to fans in South America, Africa and Asia. Did you get many mail orders from outside US? For physical release, how’s about the extortionate postal cost that directly affect international order coming to you?
There are Jade Tree fans all over the world and there have always been mail orders from almost every country. Yes, of course the cost of postage is an issue, but as the Internet has grown and the ability to reach fans instantly with social media, it is much easier to connect with fans all over the world. I believe this helps fans who are have to pay more decide whether or not they really wan to invest in a release before the purchase it. This is the same with artists touring in foreign countries. If the demand is there, the artists will come.
In terms of that particular tweet, I am interested in the international music markets and I want to converse with fans around the globe about how they experience music. I understand that it is not always the same and anything that I can do to improve or enhance that experience for them I will try and do.
How’s your plan to Joan Of Arc, Cap n’ Jazz and Lifetime classic records? Fancy re-issue?
Well, we have already done the CNJ record. As for the rest, I’ll let you know know when we tell the rest of the world! Safe to say that we are working on some of them, but sometimes they are not as easy as it may seem because we like to get the artists involved and that means it can take longer + pressing plants are so backed up. So stay patient and there will be some news soon.
Speaking of Kinsellas, you’ve been with those guys quite long time. What do you feel when met them and discovered their music first time?
The Kinsella brothers are a trip, really funny and unique. It is part of what makes Joan of Arc, Owls and CNJ really special bands. Tim and I were lucky enough to see CNJ before we would ever work with them at a tiny show in Wisconsin and I have fond memories of coming home with their record after that trip. Like every artist, I felt a special kinship with them after all of these years and I am proud to have released a variety of different records with them. (Trn)