Monday, November 1, 2010

TVD Label Spotlight | Frontier Records

Circle Jerks, Adolescents, T.S.O.L., Christian Death, Rikk Agnew, The Three O'Clock, Suicidal Tendencies, The Long Ryders, The Pontiac Brothers, Thin White Rope, Redd Kross, The Young Fresh Fellows, American Music Club, Heatmiser.

Pretty impressive roster there, hm?

For thirty years, LA’s Frontier Records—without undue hyperbole—has been at the forefront of musical culture. Defying genre classifications, the label and its founder Lisa Fancher stoked the fires of a rejuvenated punk scene, gave wings to New Wave when it was actually ‘new,’ added light (and shade) to an army of Goths, and nurtured many a burgeoning movement.

Frontier has also been strictly vinyl-oriented as well. Sure, there are CDs and Mp3s, but vinyl is their calling card.

Frontier’s founder Lisa Fancher will be with TVD all week celebrating the label’s 3oth Anniversary which will culminate this Sunday night (11/7) with a 30th Birthday Party at LA’s Echoplex, featuring a reunion by seminal hardcore/new wave band Middle Class who are together for the first time in 30 years. Also on the bill are The Adolescents, TSOL, Avengers, Deadbeats, Flyboys, Stains, and The Pontiac Brothers.

Til then, TVD is all Lisa's:

Are You Experienced?
I may not be straight edge but don't call me no junkie…

They call diehard moviegoers Leadbottoms, but what is the term for people who can't keep their mitts off records? I'm not exactly sure what the first record I ever bought was but I know It was from one of those mom 'n' pop electronics stores with TVs, hi-fis, needles and the like. The counter featured side-by-side wooden bins with 45s, each with a yellow or red center adaptor and a crisp paper sleeve, sometimes even a picture sleeve! This store tilted toward Wayne Newton but a delightful 7-year-old me made a big enough fuss over the Beau Brummels "Just a Little" to have been placated with it. I know that Autumn logo and its amber label like I do my own name. First LP? That's easy—"Help" by the Beatles after my creepy friends and I sat through the movie twice on my birthday.

In the '60s, AM radio and variety shows weren't segregated so it was perfectly ordinary to love pop music created by blacks, whites, Latinos or big-haired country stars of either sex. My three older sisters had exquisite musical taste so I was lucky to grow up listening to their records too, things outside the hit parade, everything from R&B to surf. Despite being reasonably intelligent lasses, we'd sit in front of the TV set and scream at our favorite groups as if they could actually hear us!

I preferred the Stones to the Beatles, and the Yardbirds to either band. Social issues and music were moving at light speed by August '67, when my oldest sister Lynn brought ARE YOU EXPERIENCED home. I can remember the busting of the shrinkwrap and putting it on the spindle... I didn't have a clue what sex or drugs were but I understood Jimi viscerally ,and whether I was ready or not, he dragged me out of childhood by the scruff of the neck. My reverie interrupted when my three older sisters realized I was still in their room and screamed at me to GET THE FUCK OUT until they nearly stroked out.

It's not that my best girlfriends didn't love music as much as I did, I knew that for me records weren't a casual past time. I took records seriously. I never cared if I fit in which was good because I set myself apart from the get-go by knowing what label bands were on and their discographies, I memorized lyrics and even album credits. Who does that? I never tore a record out of its jacket and left it out on the rug in my life… Records saved me, and I often preferred them to people, especially as my sisters' inevitable drug habits stigmatized me at home and at school for many years.

But it was Lynn that saw—and hated—the Velvet Underground at the Whiskey and bequeathed me her copy of VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO with an unpeeled banana cover. How could I have not been a record collector? Buying records was catch as catch can until my boyfriend Mark and I would go to the Capitol Records parking lot swap meet at the crack of dawn in 1973 until it moved to the west side of Vine in the punk days. With virtually no money, I'd scour every box with a mission to find anything my glam idols cited as influential in the pages of Creem or Rock Scene.

We also accidentally stumbled upon a yard sale featuring only records belonging to a guy who, naturally, lived with his mother was moving north—everything had to go that very day. 45s were $1 and LPs were $2 and of course I only $10 to my name. I bought "See Emilly Play" with PS*, a UK Direction copy of Mickey Finn's "Garden of My Mind", Bette Davis , Marilyn Monroe, Ultimate Spinach's "Romeo and Juliet" and Zappa/Burt Ward's "Boy Wonder, I Love You" plus two LPs: KAK (never liked it) and the 13th Floor Elevators' EASTER EVERYWHERE. Sometimes I wake up screaming thinking of the records I left behind but it was a Saturday and pre-ATMs.

*My sister Chris kicked my dresser drawer shut and ruined the Pink Floyd sleeve, if she didn't run faster than me I would have actually murdered her.

Motivated to never leave a yard sale devastated ever again, my first music biz job was doing inventory at Licorice Pizza. Sorrowful payday in hand, without fail I made the circuit of the original Moby Disc on Victory Blvd, the Capitol meet and various Hollywood record stores every weekend. (Anything I couldn't find in person I mail ordered.) I especially loved to visit Wallich's Music City on Sunset and Vine though Tower Sunset was slowly choking it out. Tower to me then was as daunting as Amoeba is now, but that was where I got the life-altering "Piss Factory" in 1974 and "Little Johnny Jewel" a year later.

Down the line Danny Benair and I attempted to live in London thinking we were going to establish our respective careers there. Ha ha funny in retrospect but not when you aren't holding return plane tickets… I brought a handful of rare records to England and ran FOR SALE ads in the weeklies as we ran out of funds. As much as I love my records I wasn't sentimental in keeping all of them—I could get another copy! Someday. But when I repurchased a record, it somehow didn't have any emotional resonance. And I was never one to pay market value so most of the really valuable ones (goodbye, KAK!) that have saved my keister over the years will only ever be fond memories at this point. Enjoy your records while you can and pass them along without regret if you have to. You still have your war stories to hang onto.

If I've learned anything it's that someone will always have more and better and rarer records than I do, so why lose sleep over it? A collector could spend a fortune and turn the world upside down but never top …… (fill in Greg Shaw, Ken Barnes, Jeff Gold, Eddie Gorodetsky, Brian Hogg, Glenn Baker, Danny Benair, Geoff Weiss, Jello Biafra, Chuck Warner, Johan Kugelberg, Curtis Taang and/or the obsessive of your choice) but I know record collectors, the other guys's stuff is okay but not great. I never hoped to be in the top dog realm but it's pretty cool to even have my name known by some of them.

I was lucky to have handled Greg Shaw's entire record collection when I typed up the info up onto index cards over the course of two years. Well before that, a friend took me to Bob "the Bear" Hite's home and I couldn't shut up about his collection for days. Thousands and thousands of 78s took up every inch of wall space (and most flat surfaces) in his sprawling North Hollywood ranch house. No one living or dead could ever approach the magnificence of it! Of course I had to ask him how many he reckoned he had… (I'd heard 15,000 to 100,000 before I saw it for myself.) Hite rolled his eyes and shrugged—a LOT!
—Lisa Fancher

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