BY TIFFANY YOON West Philly-based Badmaster Records‘ roster spans a spectrum of genres, from Tickley Feather’s bedroom drones to the danceable disco beats of Le Tigre-like Pony Pants to the experimental noise of Drums Like Machine Guns. The common link amongst all the Badmaster bands is their capacity to try something different and new, maintaining the DIY and anti-Establishment ethics of punk, but not necessarily sounding like punk music. Amongst the slew of independent Philadelphia record labels like High Two and Park the Van, Badmaster has survived the Bush Administration and is still staying afloat in Apocalypse Now of America mid-recession. “We’re basically recession proof, because we’re such a small operation, said Brendan O’Conner, label owner John Emory’s right hand man in the Badmaster project.
On the auspicious occasion of the Badmaster’s four year anniversary, Phawker caught up with John Emory and Brendan O’Conner [pictured, right] in West Philadelphia with a quick interview to congratulate them on their success and pick their brains about the future of the label and independently distributed music. We’re sitting in the bedroom of John Emory’s house, which was formerly home to The Dead Milkmen and where Dr. Dog recorded their second album, Toothbrush. There’s a fake fire crackling at our sides and The Lamps (who are playing Clockcleaner’s Final Show) are blasting through the speakers behind us and Brendan O’Conner is still trying to warm up from his bike ride in the cold.
PHAWKER: How did Badmaster Records come about and where did its name and Monster face logo come from?
JOHN EMORY: I can’t find the book right now, but I had this sketchbook that I did a lot of a lot of writing in and I would write in it every night. I just kept writing down names until something stuck. It (Badmaster) just had certain longevity to it. I drew the monster. I’ve always been inspired by infantile comic books like R. Crumb’s work. My main goal was to create an aesthetic for the label. Black & White, no frills, early punk rock posters, DIY. I wanted there to be a menacing sense of humor. Kind of scary, but then something intriguing. Something you had to dig into to find out more.
PHAWKER: Why was Brendan brought in?
JOHN EMORY: Two heads are better than one, but I had to stop referring to Brendan as my partner. People kept thinking we were a gay couple, [laughs]
BRENDAN O’CONNER: There’s some pictures of us in short shorts from Best Fest somewhere [laughs]
PHAWKER: Why Philadelphia?
BRENDAN O’CONNER: Moving here in 2002, there wasn’t much going on in music in Philadelphia. Before R5 there used to be shows at the 4040 Club and The Rotunda. There was a dead space in music in West Philadelphia because of the shows at the First Unitarian Church.
JOHN EMORY: When we moved here we took over that hole of shows, that niche, because R5 was doing it professionally, you’d have to be an established band to get a show. That’s kind of when we started to book shows. I tried to find out what was missing and fit it in.
PHAWKER: How has Badmaster chosen bands for the label and how do you seek out new bands?
JOHN EMORY: We don’t want to do music that’s not taking a chance. Stuff outside the box. Almost every band on the label has recorded their first album with us, except Northern Liberties, but they’re really good guys.
PHAWKER: Where do you see the future of music? Vinyl? CDs? Mp3’s?
JOHN EMORY: We’re not gonna do CDs anymore. We’ve decided to only put out vinyl with mp3 download coupons. If we can get people to go out and buy a turntable, we’ve done a good job. The artwork on the vinyl sleeve is part of the whole package, and we always try to include different artists.
PHAWKER: Who are the artists that created all this amazing cover art?
JOHN EMORY: The first album, Satanized’s “The Secular Chansons Of…” is by Hunter Stabler. Seripop did the Night Wounds / Mutators Split 7″, which is the second one. The Drums Like Machine Guns / Mincemeat Or Tenspeed Split 12′ is by DEARRAINDROP, they’re from that whole Lightning Bolt scene. The Tickley Feather / Serpents of Wisdom Split “, which is unfortunately out of print, is by Molly Landergan.
PHAWKER One last question, for fun. What was the very first album you can ever remember buying with your own money, and how old were you?
JOHN EMORY: When I was, I want to say 15 years old, a local 7” by a local Delaware band called Walleye.
BRENDAN O’CONNER: I was around 16. A Crimpshrine LP.
[Artwork by Daniel Kent]
TRANSLATION: Badmaster Records celebrates it’s 4th year on Feb, 26th 2009 @ Kung Fu Necktie.
RELATED: Founded in March 2005, Badmaster is an eclectic homegrown music label that fosters local musicians and artists. Now on its 17th release, Badmaster continues to lend a hand to the local with an MP3 Collection of local area musicians entitled DIS-ADELPHIA planned to be released digitally on Feb, 26th in conjunction with the label showcase @ Kung Fu Necktie. The compilation will feature unreleased tracks by U.S. Girls, Birds of Maya, Satanized, My Mind, Hot Guts, Mincemeat or Tenspeed,Talk Me Off, Reading Rainbow, Serpents of Wisdom, Barking Spiders, King Kong Ding Dong, Dog on the Loose and others. The tracks will be available for free on www.badmasterrecords.com starting Feb. 26th. Physical copies available at the show or upon request.