Friday, August 16, 2013

The Baker's Dozen #7...Shawn Decker from Middle Man Records

I literally came into contact with Shawn from Middle Man maybe six months ago; first because my friend Chris was putting out his band Coma Regalia’s record, second because Coma Regalia was touring with my friends in Capacities and I booked a show on their run together. 

It doesn’t really take long however to realize that Shawn is a super committed dude. In the short time that I’ve known him Coma Regalia has done at least 4 small tours, he’s helped bring one of his bands over to the U.S. from Sweden, he’s released a whole bunch of records (among them are square-cut 7 inches and many which he has designed and screen-printed himself)….oh yeah and he’s married and has two kids. Work horse doesn’t begin to describe this guy. 

Even more than all that, the couple of times I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with Shawn in person, he has proven to be one of the nicest, most gracious and humble people I’ve ever met.

Read on.

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?

I first heard the Misfits and the Descendents when I was around 10 years old. My cousin and I used to skateboard with Rob Dyrdek and a couple other older pros at the time and some of them made us some mix tapes. As soon as I heard what was going on there musically I became enamored with the raw energy of the music.

I didn't start playing in bands until pretty late in High School but I lived in a small town in SW Florida and there was literally nothing going on. I rented out a warehouse storage facility and started throwing shows. I released one of my friend's bands tapes and just started to get the general feeling that there really wasn't anything that needed to be done that you couldn't do yourself. That's when I really got hooked.

What could have possibly prompted you to think it would be a good idea to start a money pit (record label)?

Well, in our little town, I felt like we had a couple of pretty decent bands and it really seemed like the only way that any way anyone was ever going to have their stuff out on tape or vinyl was to figure out how to DIY so that's what I did.

At what point did you move from Florida up north? What drew you here/pushed you from there and what were the similarities and differences both in terms of the music scene and in terms of day to day life? 

Well, I was having a really hard time and I was homeless for a little bit. At the time it was really hard for a younger adult to even rent an apartment in my hometown so I ended up moving in with my cousin whom I had a band with.

As far as day to day life the differences are immense. Down south, people don't seem to rush around like they do up north. Everything seemed really chill.

Like I mentioned before the town I grew up in was really small and until there was this one club that opened (and closed shortly after) the only local shows were in a warehouse that I'd rented. Although I did play a birthday party once...

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 actually sell a few copies and for you to recoup your money? Which generally takes precedence?

I will admit to be a terribly bad businessperson in this sense. I don't really think about whether a record will sell or not. I hope it does, for sure but mostly for the band's sake. I'm releasing the record because I want the world to hear the record not because there's any monetary gain involved.

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?

Well, luckily I can answer that this way. You're always going to get your copies first so you're really pumped about that. A little packing and shipping time goes on in between that and when the band gets their copies so your initial excitement might peter off a little bit but when the band gets theirs you're stoked all over again. It's a win/win.

In your experiences, what are the best places to press vinyl/get your jackets and inserts printed, and what are the worst places? Why?

Well, I have used URP for most of my projects. I have always been satisfied with their service although there have been a couple little hang-ups that are pretty typical in this game. I recently used Erika on a project that required a custom shape and I will say it was a great experience overall.

As far as jackets go, I really like to screen print them myself if the design is suited for that. If its digital artwork or something I just would rather not try to run myself there's only once place I'd go and that's Imprint Indie printing. I actually used to work there for a little bit right before I moved up north and I used to play in this rad hxc band called No Fraud with one of the owners too.

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?

Ooh. That's tough. I guess I already pretty much did that last year with the Coma Regalia/Capacities split. I have known Tom for years and always held his bands in the highest regard. I know there are tons of great active bands out there right now. I could probably come back to you with another 10 or so I'd like to do but yeah haha.

Talk about the most frustrating and the most rewarding things about running a label.

The most rewarding thing about doing a label is working with the bands and other labels. The most frustrating thing about doing a label is working with the bands and other labels.

For people who are considering jumping in and starting a label, what’s the one essential piece of advice you would give them?

Don't work with anyone that you're not friends with first. It's easy to get stoked about a band's music and then become super disappointed when they turn out to be disingenuous.

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?

“En Sperata” by Coma Regalia. For so many reasons.

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.

2013 has been super busy so far and I'm actually just getting to the point where I'm going to be "taking it easy" so to speak. Still to come though are:
La Luna s/t LP
Coma Regalia/Book of Caverns split 7"
We Had a Deal/Coma Regalia split 7"
Utarid/Coma Regalia split 5"
Coma Regalia "Ours Is The Cause Most Noble" 2x7"
Coma Regalia "Live Forever or Die Right Now" 10"
Coma Regalia/Eros+Massacre split 7"

So much more music from Coma Regalia! You guys trying to set the world's most productive band record or what? How do you manage to write so much music, and what inspires you to do so, both musically and especially, lyrically?

Well, the last really active band I was in was Ache/Emelie and I guess that was about 8 years ago almost so Coma Regalia might be my way of making up for lost time. I usually write pretty big chunks of music all at one time and run them over in my head until they're ready to be songs. This can start with a guitar or a vocal or even just a drum beat. As to what inspires me, there isn't really much that doesn't. Lyrically I'll take pretty much whatever approach feels right at the time and use whatever language best represents the tone of the song I guess.

For me as a person with a family, job, etc. one of my biggest challenges as a punk dude with a lot of "adult" responsibilities is maintaining balance. How do you manage to balance such an intense regiment of writing, recording, touring, running a label AND having a family?

I don't sleep very much. That's the short answer. I'm also really good with deadlines. I'm pretty good under pressure. I put plans together and then I put one foot in front of the other. It takes time and I think most people have more time than they realize but usually spend it doing things they don't really think about.

My family is also super supportive. My wife helps out as much as she can and even my son helps out with different things. He's very into DIY culture. I told him he could be my apprentice last week. Yeah, he's rad.

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