Portland, Oregon's Dirtnap Records

Ken Cheppaikode

Dirtnap Records

A classic hand-drawn punk record label logo

Dirtnap Records started in Seattle at the end of the '90s. I came up with the idea to start the label in May of 99, but the first release actually came out a couple of days after New Years Day 2000. (So I guess you could say that Dirtnap is quite possibly the first punk label of the new millennium!)

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Since early '98 I had been doing an internet radio show called (wait for it) Dirtnap Radio. Originally I had envisioned the label as an extension of the radio show, where I played international garage punk type stuff. Around that time, though, I was going out to shows in Seattle constantly, and it seemed like at every one I was stumbling over great new local bands, sometimes literally. I found it rather puzzling that none of the established local labels seemed to be interested in these bands, so after only a few releases, I very consciously changed the focus of the label and decided to focus on Pacific Northwest stuff.

I stuck with that for the first several dozen releases, more or less, but after awhile it started to feel rather arbitrary and limiting. These days I focus much more on how individual releases fit the overall aesthetic of the label, and much less on geography.

What exactly we're looking for in bands is a little hard to articulate, but I know it when I hear it. Basically I look for stuff that is catchy and rocks, but isn't quite a straight-up genre record or a record that is only going to appeal to train spotting record collector types. For example, I like to think you don't necessarily have to be deeply immersed in the pop-punk scene, conversant with the entire history of garage rock, or have every power pop record released on Bomp in the 70's committed to memory to appreciate alot of the stuff we put out.

In late 2004 I was casting around for ideas on how to make money that didn't involve going out and getting a job. I found that my favorite record store in Portland, Green Noise Records, was for sale. In a matter of weeks I dropped everything in Seattle and moved down here to buy the shop. I remember I arrived in Portland on Sunday and started work at Green Noise on Monday. Dirtnap is currently run out of the shop. We're kinda half record store, half glorified office space for the label.

We are at about 110 releases on Dirtnap, along with 5 or 6 on my short-lived side label, Green Noise Records. November 2012 will mark 10 years since I last had a full time day job, so I guess things have been fairly successful as far as modern-day indie labels go. I am 12 years in to the record label thing, and more psyched on it than ever. I have many faults in life, but being jaded isn't one of them! Barring any major life-changes I'll probably always do the label on some level. If it winds up going back to me sitting around my bedroom folding up 7-inches (which is very much how it started), that's fine, although I think we're probably some ways off from that just yet!

As far as individual releases go, I hate talking about that sort of thing, as it seems like I am always leaving out a million bands. Besides, I'm actually very unreflective (don't say shallow!) and don't spend a whole lot of time thinking about the past. To me, it's much more exciting to be looking into the future, so with that in mind, here's what Dirtnap has coming up on the horizon:

• Steve Adamyk Band – Forever Won't Wait LP/CD. It's not often I offer to put out a band's record after just hearing a few songs on Myspace, but in the case of Ottawa's Steve Adamyk Band, that is exactly what happened. A ridiculous amount of great bands are coming out of Canada in general and Ottawa in particular right now. Steve Adamyk Band plus The White Wires are my 2 favorites, and they are both on Dirtnap. So there.

• Little Cuts 7-inch. This is Dave from Scared Of Chaka and The Shins new band. Scared Of Chaka has long been one of my very favorite bands, and while I am sure being in The Shins rules, I am very psyched to see Dave back fronting his own band and playing his own songs. Now if only he would let me reissue Masonic Youth, I'd be a happy guy.

• Sonic Avenues – Television Youth LP/CD. Mark my words, Montreal's The Sonic Avenues, are going to be a definitive band for this era of the label. Anyone who has ever liked any release Dirtnap has done should really consider buying this record (When it comes out).

• Mind Spiders – Meltdown LP/CD. This will be the 11th release Dirtnap has done with Mind Spiders' Mark Ryan in the past 7 years. 4 Marked Men LPs and 1 7-inch, 3 High Tension Wires LPs, a previous Mind Spiders 7-inch and LP. I went to Texas for the first Mind Spiders show. I guess you could say I'm a fan of this guy.

• Mean Jeans LP/CD. Recording it now. Still haven't heard a note of it, despite going out drinking with two-thirds of the band last night.

• Guantanamo Baywatch LP/CD. It's not too often we put out records by Portland bands these days, but this one was too good to pass up! Sexed up sleazy garage/surf/trash, these guys and Mean Jeans are easily my favorite bands in town!

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