By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
Having stayed afloat for more than twenty years, you have seen artists grow then falter. Many musicians tend to struggle with balancing "real life" and art. Chloe Lum, vocalist for AIDS Wolf, spoke on this in 2012, saying: "The vibrant scene we were part of seems to barely exist, and it turns out that no one is actually interested in an hour-long record of very formal harsh jams." How do you respond to this sentiment?
Yeah. That was sad. It's hard being in a band that doesn't compromise. AIDS Wolf were unique in that they received a lot of media attention before their first album came out, and most of it focused only on the surface elements — the name or the initial promo pics of the band in the raw — but once the music was out, by design, the sounds they made only resonated with a niche audience. Maybe they suffered some backlash because they were name-dropped in Spin. AIDS Wolf toured relentlessly and were always pushing themselves creatively, but they hit a wall where they felt that they were surrounded by indifference. There will always be a "scene" for this music, but it's distressing that it may mutate away from being able to provide a minimal amount of financial or emotional support to touring bands.
What's on deck for the near future?
More Ruins late in the year, a single of unreleased alternate Arab on Radar tracks and hopefully something to honor Strangulated Beatoffs' quarter century of service. We'd all like to get Yowie's first album out on vinyl one of these days.
Have you considered doing a comic collection or anthology of the label's visual works?
I've daydreamed about designing an art book compiling a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff. Some of the old comics are available for reading in the comics section at the website. The color weekly Gumballhead the Cat comic series that Rob Syers and I collaborated on for the Chicago Reader is the most likely candidate for a proper comic collection, but we have no specific plans right now.
What does St. Louis mean to you now that you live in Austria?
Spiritually, I'm a product of this town. When I was twelve, I had a stack of K-SHE 95 vinyl stickers stashed away in a shoebox under my bed. Physically, even though I'm working in Vienna, the label's mail-order facilities are housed in St. Charles County.
Growing up here in the 1980s, it seemed like a bunch of people had a bit of an inferiority complex and set their sights on moving away to Chicago or somewhere else. For me, seeing Dazzling Killmen play was a defining "Judy Garland" moment. This band is right here where we live. Right here in St. Louis. We had it better than we realized back then. Drunks With Guns and Strangulated Beatoffs are bands that couldn't have originated anywhere else in the world.
At the homecoming show, having Nick and Al here, two guys who've been a part of SKiN GRAFT since the very start, seeing all of those Lovely Little Girls on the stage, seeing my mom and stepdad man the merchandise table, seeing the people come out despite Black Flag playing down the street, seeing St. Louis' very own Yowie play... I'd swear to god, I was wearing ruby slippers. There's no place like home.