Chris Zibutis is one of the most solid people I’ve ever met through hardcore. I’ve known him just under a year now, but am consistently impressed by how straight-forward, humorous, and down-to-earth he is. As a thirty-something hardcore kid who is married, has kids, and a legit job, it’s very rare that I meet people in similar circumstances as me...Chris is one of those rare connections.
In addition to co-running a photography company with his wife, Chris runs How Soon is Now Records, which has released a solid stream of awesome records, both visually and sonically. Chris has a really awesome thing going, and unfortunately, I feel like he is one of the most under-appreciated d.i.y. labels going currently. Let’s fix that!
Editor’s Note: In the interest of full disclosure, Chris is releasing my band’s next 7”, so realize that all journalistic integrity is out the window on this one, haha.
Describe how you stumbled into the punk and hardcore community. When did you know it was probably going to become a permanent fixture in your life?
My first taste of punk/hardcore was hearing Metallica cover “Green Hell” and “Last Caress” by The Misfits. I instantly became obsessed with The Misfits and from there I started getting into Black Flag and Bad Brains. A year or two after that is when I stumbled on Earth Crisis / 90's era Victory records and hearing “Gomorrah's Season Ends” is when I got hooked on the core.
What could have possibly prompted you to think it would be a good idea to start a money pit (record label)?
Some friends of mine needed someone to release a 7" before their tour started so I offered to help release it. Then I decided for some reason that I liked spending lots of money so I kept putting out records.
When you consider signing/working with bands, how do you balance your own personal feelings towards the band and their music with what you see as the potential for the thing to sell a few copies and for you to recoup your money? Which generally takes precedence?
For the most part I just want to work with my friends. Dudes that I connect with a higher level than just a shared interest in hardcore. Dudes that I can call to BS and hangout with and not have to be business like all the time too.
I am open to the idea of working with anyone but so far working with friends has worked out pretty damn well for everyone involved.
Recouping my costs is nice but in the end I just want people to hear the music. I do very few releases per year and am able to make it more of an experience for myself and everyone involved instead of just upping my catalog numbers.
What gets you more stoked…..getting YOUR copies of a record in from the plant, or hearing the BANDS reaction to getting THEIR records from the plant?
No doubt getting my copies. I sit down and look through every copy while assembling them to find color variations. It's super lame but I enjoy doing it. I am like a kid on Xmas morning.
In your experiences, what are the best places to press vinyl/get your jackets and inserts printed, and what are the worst places? Why?
I have had nothing but wonderful experiences with Gotta Groove out of Cleveland and United out of Nashville. Imprint out of Florida also does some top notch work for jackets and inserts.You are going to hear good and bad things about every plant out there, depending on who you talk to.
Your fairy god mother grants your wish and you get to put out a split with any two bands on the planet. Who shares the wax and why?
Earth Crisis / Judge 7"
No reason other than they are two of my favorite bands. “Firestorm” on one side and “The Storm” (Bringing' It Down version) on the other.
Talk about the most frustrating and the most rewarding things about running a label.
Rewarding is having the finished product in your hands. All the time and effort finally paid off.
But then you have to get people to actually listen and trying to get kids to take risks on new bands can be a pain in the balls. All the emails that never get responded to about reviews are also pretty frustrating.
For people who are considering jumping in and starting a label, what’s the one essential piece of advice you would give them?
Find something better to do with your money.
If you can't do number 1, start small/local. There are too many labels focusing on reissue this and reissue that and totally skipping over what is happening in their local scene.
Obviously you love every record you put out or you wouldn't spend thousands of dollars on them, but let’s be real here; what’s the one record from your catalog that you listen to the most/that has the most value for you and why?
They all have a very special place in my heart and it's hard to pick one but I would have to say it's the Coma Regalia “En Sperata” 12". I have gotten to know Shawn (drums / vocals) more and more over the past year and a half and when a label dropped off the project I quickly took its place.
Shawn puts his whole heart into everything he does and then some more. And it really shows with “En Sperata”. The whole project is an experience. The music is intense and the packaging just blows most things out of the water.
I also recently started playing guitar with Coma Regalia and we play a couple of songs of “En Sperata” so that adds another level of meaning for me.
I know you do a lot of live band photography, both for work and pleasure...do you prefer shooting bigger shows on stages or do you like doing smaller spots like basements, etc? Do you have a favorite band (or couple bands) to shoot?
I have a love/hate relationship with shooting in basements these days. Usually the setting is really cool and there is a certain energy you get from bands/kids going off in a basement compared to seeing them on a big stage. But I am also kind of tired of putting my gear in danger. The camera I shoot shows with is the same camera I have to shoot weddings with. While all my gear is insured it still bugs me out holding 4-5,000 dollars worth of equipment in my hands when kids are moshing hard. I still do it from time to time. Just depends on the show and how soon after I have to work.
Favorite band to shoot in a live setting would probably have to be Trial. I have seen them 3 times over the past few years and each time has been pretty wild.
A lot of your releases (Capacities, Coma Regalia, All These Years and Nothing) feature pretty hands-on design whether its screen printed vinyl, hand folded inserts, etc. As a person who works in the visual realm professionally, how important is it to you that your records not only sound but look awesome?
It's pretty damn important. You want something that catches the eye and hopefully goes along with whatever story or theme the record is trying to tell. There is something special about picking up a record and being able to tell someone put a lot of time and effort into it and not just put a boring logo or stock image on the cover and sent it off to the plant.
On the theme “Baker’s Dozen”, what do you have cooking for the rest of 2013 and into early 2014? Give us a virtual taste of what we can expect from you.
Keeping things pretty low key for 2013. A few months ago I did a 12" for some friends All These Years & Nothing. Later this year or early 2014 there will be a new 7" from Great Reversals from Detroit and then something Coma Regalia related.
Stay Current: http://www.howsoonisnowrecords.com/
Give Chris all your money so he can be like Tony Victory and make Great Reversals whoopy cushions: http://howsoonisnow.storenvy.com/
Stop Sleeping: http://howsoonisnowrecords.bandcamp.com/