[Gippy] ITA: Qualche settimana fa sono finito praticamente per caso a fare questa intervista via mail con Chris della BCT di San Diego in California. Fin dai primissimi anni 80' Chris ha prodotto e distribuito molto materiale, prima in cassetta e successivamente in Vinile, tra cui numerose complilation con gruppi europei ed anche Italiani, come Raw Power, CCM, Peggio Punx, Nabat ecc... e le versioni americane di "Osservati dall' Inganno" degli Indigesti. Questa sua passione per l' hardcore italiano lo ha spinto a farci un paio di domande sulle nostre attività con Lanterna Pirata, il che ha portato alla conversazione che segue. Spero presto di riuscire a tradurla anche in italiano. Intanto qua c'è la versione in Inglese.
ENG: A few weeks ago I ended up being interviewed by Chris from BCT in San Diego, California. Since the early 80s Chris has been releasing, trading and selling lots of material, first on tape and later on vynil, including many compilations of European and even italian bands like Raw Power, CCM, Peggio Punx, Nabat etc... and the american versions of "Osservati Dall' Inganno" by Indigesti. His interest in italian hardcore has lead him do ask us a few questions reguarding our activities with Lanterna Pirata, which resulted in the following conversation. I hope to be able to do an italian translation of it soon. Here's the English version.
1)C: What sells more, CDs, 7", LPs or something else? do tapes sell? I've always been partial to Italian HC so when I meet any Italian who is into that I'm automatically interested. Thanks for responding. Makes me happy.
G: First of all thank you for the interview and the attention.
I think what sells best these days really depends on the focus a d.i.y. Distro wants to have. Our distro mostly carries CDs, mainly because when we started doing our the label we were just kids and CDs were the easiest thing you could get your hands on and/or produce moneywise(I'm 23 now and started Lanterna Pirata in my last years of high school, when I was 17/18 years old).
C: I'm dealin' with a kid here! I'm 60. Ha. 37 years difference between us yet so much is common between us.
G: Lately we are trying to focus more on Vynil. Many people who still care about buying records today are kind of the collector types, so I guess they prefer vynil, due to it's longevity when it comes to conservation and sound quality. My favourite format is the 7" vynil, as I believe it's the perfect format to release hardcore punk stuff on. It's got just the right length for it.
C: I'll take CDs for ease of use. Mostly cuz i can't really listen to HC at home due to the wife (and before her, my lst wife and our daughter, neither of whom were into it but they allowed it when punx came over!). I love the format of LP and 7". They look and feel the best, but, fairly impractical for use and I dislike cracks and pops! per se. Tape, it's so funny. It is a sturdy format but when it gets stuck in the machine!!! Yer right, 14 minutes of a 7" is perfect for punk. I never fully thought of it that way.
G: Tapes seem to have made a quite unexplicable comeback lately if you consider that it's quite an outdated format(younger generations hardly even know what they are) and many bands are pressing limited runs(usally like 50 copies) of their albums on tape. Many kids who get into punk today sadly seem to be interested in buying t-shirts rather than the records of the bands.
C: I can only hope they know the music first and get the t second! Though some T's are very cool. Art really.
2)C: I notice a distinct lack of devil stuff on your records. do you make a conscious effort to simply avoid releasing such material or is it just a coincidence?
G:What do you mean by devil stuff? If you mean heavy metal, it's because I never listened to it much and neither does Marco, my friend I run the label with. Me and my brother, Roberto,(who is a twin of mine and plays guitar in L.e.i.s.f.a.) got into punk through our parents, who are about your age, so we were introduced to a mix between the 80s stuff and the 90s melodic hardcore music, which was starting to become more popular when we were born(I guess this also explains why our band has a more melodic touch ;) ). But for a kid our age it was far more common to get into metal bands like Iron Maiden or even Slayer and mostly avoid hardcore punk completely. In most cases punk and metal audiences today are seen as two really different scenes who rarely mix, exept for few exeptions. There is no conscious effort in keeping heavy metal stuff out of our distro, as I would actually welcome it, in terms of musical diversity, which is never a bad thing. It's just that many metal bands these days don't seem to like or particularly care about the whole d.i.y. Approach to things.C: You cover a lot in this answer. By devil stuff I mean art and references to demons, evil, death, suicide, indulging in satanic images and lyrics (like Slayer and Venom do). I assume many of those bands and kids assume that God and the devil and heaven and hell are not real so they don't care if they upset people by using such images since, for many of them, I'm guessing, they don't believe it's true anyway. If some do believe in it and still indulge in such images and lyrics, i feel bad for them cuz there's no party place in hell. I dislike metal and crossover (later Discharge, later Cockney Rejects, later DRI, I guess later COC). I love Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. But, to me, that's before metal got screwed into a parody of itself, so to speak. I'm glad due to yer parents you didn't get into metal! If you guys are 23 then if yer folks had you at 25 then your parents are about 50, maybe 10 years younger than me!! Ha(note: mom's 52 and dad's 59). I love that they got you guys into 80's and 90's hc. Nothing wrong with more melodic hc. If metal and punk stay separated, that's ok with me. I'm not surprised that metal often disdains DIY. What that translates to is that their goal is to make a living at it, while with punx DIY means they'll keep their day job or live with their parents and so forth, to do DIY punk activities for the love of it. Yes, punk is better than metal, in virtually all ways!! Ha. I like musical diversity as well. Check out my 12 posts from yesterday on my fb page. Maybe it'll educate you to some great music out there. Lemme know. I like Metallica for 2 reasons: they took the speed of punk and applied it to metal which was getting horribly slow. and they took the independence aspect and ran with it! also, notice they seem to totally avoid demon/devil/evil/hell/suicide type lyrics and images! i think that's pretty cool. Especially since i do believe in God, the devil and heaven and hell so I don't wanna end up in hell just because of music that i like. There's TONS of great music out there that has nothing to do with evil images and lyrics so I enjoy them!
3)C: Who are your customers? can you tell the age? teens? 20's? 30's? 40's? 50' year olds?
G: Nice questions, but honestly for me it's really hard to tell. Taking a guess I would say it's mostly people between their late 20's early 30's all the way to their 40's, who are still used to buying records, when it was the ony way to get into new music. There are also some younger kids who are interested in it, but not many. Being that we do a lot of sending via mail order it's also hard to tell
- C: I guessed you would have difficulty knowing. I never knew
the ages of punx who bought bct tapes and records. still don't. but
you end up meeting some and a few say their age so i knew there was
some indication for me back then and you today.
4)C: do customers (i hate to use that word with punk!, usually i say 'kids') want music available via mp3 or other downloads?
G: Most of the music whch is released today is usually avaliable for free streaming and download right from the get-go(not only on d.i.y. labels), in many cases even weeks or months BEFORE the actual physical copies are even released, so I would say it is something inevitable that happens automatically. It has it's usual set of pros and cons. On one hand it makes a lot of stuff avaliable to people who maybe don't have a lot of money for free, so it integrates the whole d.i.y. And low-cost ethos very well and you have the opportunity to spread it far easier than you used to(just look at this interview ;-) ). On the other hand it forced the whole record releasing community to tone down pressing numbers significantly. For a common d.i.y. Band in the 90s it was no big deal to press a 1000 copy run, as it was the only way to make the music avaliable. Now you are lucky if you can press and give away 300-500 copies of a releaseC: Fascinating. "give away"!! Yer right, the 'low-cost ethos' is met well with free access to music. who doesn't love that.
5) C: Do you bundle things like you did the CDs and zine? such as download for free along with a CD or LP?
G: We rarely bundle things when we sell them, the fanzine being ,I think, the only example, but we try to keep the price of CDs as affordable and low as possible while still beng able to grow a bit. We are not making a living out of any of the actvties, be it the distro or the shows we put up.C: I have always assumed that very few punx in the world can make a living at it. The only ones who can are Epitaph, Anti, Offspring, and so forth, cuz, of course, they get bought by the masses. Though not all on Epitaph does. And Hellcat label/Rancid also appear to just happen to make music that sells big so they surely do live off their music efforts but, to me, i assume they still stay pretty darn punk ethos wise.
6) C: How are records and CDs selling these days compared to 2 or 5 years ago?
G: This is another question hard for me to answer to. During the past two years or even the past five I honestly didn't notice much of a difference saleswise. Maybe we got a little bit more used to it and it gets easier to give away records, simply because through time you get to know more people and you start to get the hang of how all of this works, but otherwise we feel like we got a kind of a steady stream of small improvements through time that keep us going and motivated. It's more than enough and I would definetly say that we are into all of this far more because of the people and friends we get to meet, than because of the records we sell.
C:I like that, 'a steady stream of small improvements through time that keep us going and motivated.' excellent. It's exactly the same with bct, first, the true find, the real value, was meeting and interacting with a wide variety of punx in San Diego then L.A. then the world! I met several punx whom i have never met face to face but became friends with, without ever seeing them. but by snail mail letters! The tapes and records are like little are works, tiny children, sorta, that we give birth to and then watch if they can navigate time and still be of interest to punx in future years. though, in the 80's when we did bct we didn't think much of the future.
7) C: How much of your stuff do you end up trading vs. selling?
It appears to me that there are much stronger punk indie distros in existence today than in the 80's when often we had to deal with so called indie distributors who were not punx and often they dragged their feet about giving us punk labels our money. it was the only bad thing about punk in the 80's (aside from the rare violence).
G: We like the trading part more than the actual selling one, for a bunch of reasons and most of the stuff we get in the distro is by trading our own releases.
C: Cool. I love hearing that. I used bct tapes to get a bunch of zines, other tapes and some records, all in trade. I didn't quite realize till you answered this just how much a factor that was in bct for me back then. still is. ha.
G: First and foremost it gives a nice personal touch to the whole thing, while making it all less about the money.
C: Amen. Less about the money (only about money cuz it does have some costs and so forth) but way more about getting stuff in trade.
G: Trading is often also a quite wonderful excuse to stay in touch with a lot of friends and a great way to stay informed about many things that are going on in the d.i.y. Scene.C: That's exactly how it worked in the 80's too.
G: Since the 80s a lot of stuff has surely changed in the world of music, and it is by far easier to run a label nowadays, given many of the comforts of modern technology. You get into much more stuff much quicker.
C: I didn't stop to think of that.I'm still shocked when someone simply sends me a link and suddenly I'm listening to something i never even heard of 1 minute ago! In the 80's we needed snail mail and tapes or vinyl and zines to share infos.
G: Con side is that often a lot of the relationships that are formed through social media and the internet are becoming more and more impersonal.
C: Again, fascinating. I saw that just a few days ago. I've had several punx worldwide ask to friend me and i've asked to friend some who are clearly into punk. I friend this guy in Australia and he clearly sent me a 'stock answer' of info in my fb message. I was kinda stunned. But, I know there's no reason to retype something if i've already typed it up! But, i think social media is way more opportunity to hook up easily and quickly (like our interview here! I never knew you existed 2 weeks ago!) and, with it, i see a lot of personal interactions. even if we never meet. one of my favorite people on earth is a punk in italy who traded me a lot of Jimi when i traded punk to him. in the 80's. still we have never met!
G: This is actually one of the reasons why i decided to write a paper fanzine in 2012/2013. I write it in Italian and translate a lot of intervews from foreign bands, so italian people, who are not the best at speaking english, can read it in their own language.
C: I love that. I have been meaning to say your English is excellent. When we had Raw Power (5 Italians) and then Indigesti (6 Italians with Stiv of T.V.O.R.) most spoke great English but about 3 of 11 spoke virtually no English. And maybe 2 spoke broken English. I know and knew about 100 words in Spanish and they ALWAYS understood, without translation, every word I used in Spanish. And they knew all the punk words: gig, guitar, band etc! I LOVE that you translate to Italian for a paper zine!
G: It is nice to expose a lot of the interesting people you meet, going to shows or touring and getting away from a PC screen every now and then.C: that's hilarious! ha. come away from the computer. come outside. meet a human being.
8)C: I see you have a focus on Genoa, naturally, as it is where you apparently reside. It appears to me that punk has remained very DIY and so it makes sense that you would know what bands exist in your area/region and would then work with them, cooperatively, voluntarily, to release their records thru yer distro. Are there other small punk labels in your area/region and they look to you to help distro their CDs and vinyl?F or me, it's questions i have of the current punk generation! since i don't know hardly anything about punk from after 1986!!).
G: We started the distro and puting up shows in Genoa, mainly in the local squats, because we were noticing a certain lack in all of those things when we started our first bands, which was at the age of 15 in 2007. As we were getting started we were living through the leftovers of our previous generations and scenes, with many people who used to be involved in it either having kids, or relocating, or simply not knowing them yet. So we really felt the need to start something of our own. Genoa and Liguria in general throughout the years have had a small but quite active scene, with people forming bands, running distros, but has always had some continuity issues. Many labels closed down after few releases, but continued being operative in some way shape or form under different names/collectives. Punk and hardcore shows here in italy have always had very strong ties to squatting, so it was a good thing that we at least had some previous "breeding ground" so we had not to start not totally from scratch. A good example are the people at C.S.O.A. Terra Di nessuno, who taught us more than a thing or two about organizing ourselves. Other regions and cities are not always so lucky. A few good bands from the Liguria area throghout the years you should definetly check out are: Distemper, Evolution So Far, Slaughter In The Vatican, 5MDR, Majak, CGB(Crime Gang Bang), Gli Altri, L.e.i.s.f.a., Esalazione, Losers Parade, Kafka, Downright and Never Was.C: Fascinating. squats basically do not exist in the U.S. I will look on youtube for each of these bands. I can't wait.
9)Do you work with other punx on your distro? I assume you do. Do you guys all have day jobs and do this on the side after work? You don't make a living doing it do you? i'd be surprised if you did. just cuz there's so few punx in the world and so many releases and punx are famous for not being rich! so many DIY releases make for many small pressing releases. cool man. i hope you don't mind me doing this interview with you!! Chris BCT in San Diego.
We also love to do interviwes, don't worry ;-)
We don't do Lanterna Pirata for a living, we just love doing it in our free time. I started the project in 2009 with Marco, who lives in Varazze and who is about 10 years older than me. When i started thinking of it I was just a kid, and really was just trying to figure out a smart enough way to give away our records. I just did it out of necessity. Marco is now unemployed for the first time in years and I study languages at Genoa university(I'm also half German, btw).C: I'm half Mexican, half Sicilian.