Friday, November 5, 2010

TVD Label Spotlight | Frontier Records

Frontier Records founder Lisa Fancher concludes her week with us today which celebrated label’s 3oth Anniversary. (Right - the 30th.)

But the party ain't over yet - in fact it hasn't even started. If you're in LA Sunday night, the smart money is on the label's 30th Anniversary Show at the Echoplex. But we'll let Lisa fill you in and she wraps it up.


"'Ziggy Stardust came out 5 years ago, and now it's SHIT! In five years, punk will be SHIT!"
—Tomata DuPlenty, The Screamers, 1977

If there was one thing I seriously tried to avoid this year it was doing a big event type of a thing. Though we had fun parties like our 7th year anniversary at the Ambassador Hotel where Tommy Boy's Tommy Silverman showed up (and told me if I paid royalties, I was doing something wrong), Posh Boy (who I got into a screaming war with, just like the good old days) and culminated with us throwing chaise lounges onto the lawn (poor man's Led Zep). I still have bad memories of a Frontier showcase on Feb. 1990. (10th year anniversary!) It seemed like a great plan in theory—American Music Club, Thin White Rope and Young Fresh Fellows at the I-Beam during the Gavin Convention.

Frontier didn't even really belong at Gavin since we weren't exactly a hit machine so it was humbling to be handed such a great opportunity and with the core of our roster, except for the Dharma Bums. In between setting the gig up and its execution, my dear friends in AMC and I became embroiled in a nasty contractual dispute. I'd signed a deal with RCA and Thin White Rope had just released "Sack Full of Silver" but AMC's management had some major beefs. Which was fine, happens all the time.

One of those people that I would never kept this label alive without was my attorney, Ashley. Actually his name was S.D. Ashley but he liked being called Ashley for reasons unknown. His advice was sage and impeccable but I rarely heeded it the first time because I'm a stubborn jerk that thinks they know everything, and when he told me I was never going to win this one and to let it go, that's exactly what I should have done.

The day before the showcase, our publicist had faxed their manager an YFFS 8X10 of a wrench (in-joke, don't ask) with some handwritten hype on it about how well TWR's album was doing, a futile attempt to sway their manager our way. She, who was pregnant at the time, told them we had faxed her a picture of a coat hanger! You can imagine this didn't go over very well with them… I called everyone and thought I had smoothed it over and it seemed as if we were all committed to working it out.

AMC were on first so I was flashing my backstage pass to the door guy so I could go backstage as Mark Eitzel was heading toward me and shot me a "don't talk to me now or ever" look. I had been deluding myself, I saw it just like that. I know this sounds girlish and dramatic but the thought I was going to lose AMC was inconceivable, that it would actually cause me to die. The typically professional way I handled this epiphany was to commence drinkin' an ocean of vodka. I mean even for a drinker, I jumped right in there. I watched AMC play a couple of songs when I began to cry uncontrollably. Anyone who knows me knows I'm not a crier—I tried it once and only dust comes out of my tear ducts! Meanwhile people are coming up to me to say hi or congratulations so I had to run before they saw me transforming into Ms. Hyde. Yep, I was definitely having a nervous breakdown. Believe me, I knew… It's like the inner and outer turmoil of a panic attack and a heart attack squared, incrementally increasing by the minute. You should try it sometime! In public.

I propelled myself down the stairs onto Haight Street and threw myself into a cab, leaving my fearless employees behind at the showcase and in the dark about my whereabouts. I spent the night in the hotel bathtub completely hysterical but as you can see, I didn't die. AMC and I parted ways somewhat amicably—I am not alleging that they were not wrong and I don't think I was in the wrong—we just could never recover from such rancor, and there was no point in trying. It took us a while to be on speaking terms again but we're better friends than ever before, Vudi even came to my 100th birthday last month. And though I lost the license to ENGINE AND CALIFORNIA decades ago, I connected AMC to the world and I'll couldn't be any prouder of that.

Much earlier this year, I hired Josh Mills' It's Alive Media to do press for the 30th anniversary, hoping no one would notice Frontier hadn't released any records this year. It's a cash flow thing people, maybe you've heard something about it? Josh kept saying I needed an event to convince the scribes we were sizzling hot. And I'm thinking no no no nooo showcases, please. History, does this count for nothing? I genuinely have learned, reluctantly, to listen but in truth it was Josh that approached Michael Stock from Part Time Punks to put on a Frontier show, not me.

Thank goodness my fantastically loyal Adolescents said yes, because they really didn't have to. One biggie on board! I ran into the Pontiac Bros' Ward Dotson and Matt Simon at Jeff Palo's birthday party and got a yes from them. Mike Atta from Middle Class was there but I decided to ask him privately since he told me about a hundred times that they'd never play live again. Though Ward and Matt were sworn to secrecy, Mike already knew and he said yes but we accidentally made his life hell by announcing it before he'd had a chance to discuss it with his brother, the lead singer, Jeff. Doh!

Thank goodness the Flyboys are able to be there (best band on the Masque reunion!) since they were the first release and this is the last time they will play live. I really hoped that Thin White Rope would make it and I felt awful for bothering Guy—I knew he wouldn't even as I pitched it to him. That was a regretful n-o, as was the Three O'Clock. TSOL said yes but though we were dying to, we couldn't advertise them until after Halloween… The Deadbeats, not an official Frontier act but on Dangerhouse Vol. 1, said yes and they were the co-second greatest band at the Masque reunion show.

In mid-October, Betty and I flew to Seattle for a mini-Frontier 30th show with Young Fresh Fellows and the Dharma Bums. My buddy N8 Slusarenko who designed this fantastic color poster fetched up from the airport and we were soon joined by my erstwhile bff Gina Arnold. We toured the whole of Europe together while tagging along on a Bums/YFF tour in 1992. Also former Frontier flack John Troutman, who needs to move back to Los Angeles stat. I think the Young Fresh Fellows are better than when they were around the first time, the opened and Scott McCaughey brought HIS bff—Peter Buck. Watching Dharma Bum Eric Lovre play, I time traveled back in time to one of their first L.A. shows at the Coconut Teaser. Somehow I blurted to Eric (somehow = vodka) that the band might really go somewhere if he didn't play guitar just like Peter Buck. I came very close to getting knocked out and I vowed to be more tactful in the future! So here I am at the Croc, watching Peter Buck laser focused on Eric's distinctive guitar playing, thinking sometimes it pays to be blunt especially when you're a girl and there's about a 70% chance you won't get punched in the face.

After the show I was relieved to find that showcases don't make me go insane when I got a text from Michael Stock saying "The Avengers said YES." The Stains don't have a Frontier LP out yet but they will next year. Time they got their day in the sun at long last, get there early or be a loser.

Here we are, two days away… It's a good kind of terror. For the next 48 hours, I shall be as elusive as Rick Rubin. Nine amazing bands for $20, get outta here! I wish my Ashley was still alive to see it. He would never believe to learn that I can let go, but I have.

So many of my good friends throughout the decades will be there—I know because they asked me to be on the list! It would be nice if I remembered to "Rise Above" but so much of the time I didn't. To everyone I ever got in a fight with privately or publicly, or don't talk to anymore because now isn't the time... To anyone I ever sent a pig's head to or said terrible things about in print because I was bitter that you're rich and I'm not—I apologize profusely. This label may never get its due and one of the down sides of not having partners is that I have no one to blame expect myself. Damn it.

Without you, I'm nothing: Betty Fresh, who else can say they have one employee that does the work of ten (while I do the word of zero)? Steve at Rainbo Records, who rescued me from the clutches of Alco when they simply would not press the Jerks LP even though I paid them in ADVANCE. Without Steve's 30 year patience and tolerance for my own particular interpretation of what paying on time means, we would not be here. Hail to my new distributor, ILC—when my previous distributor died (I won't speak its name) in spring 2009, the obvious thing to do was go with a big indie distributor, and I could have done. Safety last: I will go with idealistic and enthusiastic kids over what has the outward appearance of stability any day. I didn't go to business school but I know what time it is! Thanks to the fantastic Jean Luc Gaudry from Headline Records, our designated pop-up store for the evening—he's celebrating Headline's 15 year anniversary. Toddler! And extra special thank you to Jon Meyers for letting me take over TVD, it's been great fun. At least for me!

Long may you run, everyone from my past and present. Last but not least, Free the West Memphis Three!

1 comment:

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

It is not often I would prefer to be in California, even with your girls and all, but today would be one of them. Hope ya'll had some fun.