S-S Records Hits 50

Posted on May 22, 2009 – 2:56 PM | by OldManFoster
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A FramesSince its inception in 2001, S-S Records has been an institution in the music underground worldwide. As the label approaches its 50th release it increasingly garners praise from all corners, including a top 10 spot in the esteemed music periodical The Wire’s 2008 End-of-Year best-of list.  Midtown Monthly caught up with the incredibly busy Scott Soriano, the man behind the curtain, to talk about his label and the music he loves.

Soriano considers S-S Records a punk label. “My idea of what constituted ‘punk’ or high-energy rock and roll is a bit more broad then when it became more established. With the label, it was conscious that the vision or approach would be applied to the label and one of the main missions of the label was to knock down the walls of genre ghettos and push forth a more expansive view of what punk rock or what ever it is. People, especially younger people had a monomaniacal vision of what punk was and being restrictive.”

 “When you start breaking things out of the genre thing and start comparing the energy, then you have more in common than difference. What’s more primal or direct…energy or a bunch or rules that were made up? You can change the rules, you can’t change the energy.”

Dan“Would I rather listen to a band that sounds like a band that Rough Trade put out from 1979 as opposed to some guy who’s trying to push the boundaries by wearing a dolphin suit screaming into a microphone while pounding on a garbage can? Yeah, because aesthetically it’s more pleasing, but at least the guy in the dolphin suit is taking a chance. So my sympathies, if not my ears, are with the guy in the dolphin suit.”

What Soriano and S-S Records brings to the table is a completely eclectic take on his beloved punk music, one that incorporates everything from the ecstatic free rock/jazz of Antennas Erupt to the paranoid no-wave herk-jerk of A-Frames to Monotract’s thug-fusion of Chrome and Hawkwind. S-S also has released a few 7”ers culled from long-gone bands like electro cold-wavers The Decay and Cigarettes whose legacy came from the cassette underground scene of the late 70’s/early 80’s. And in the past few years, Soriano has released 45’s and full-lengths from French, German and Mexican bands. In fact, he’s traveled to Paris twice to meet up with comrades such as Crash Normal and Lili Z and to soak in the sights and sounds. And if offered a plane ticket anywhere in the world he said he’d would head to Morocco.

The S-S Records story starts with the folding of Soriano’s earlier label, Moo-La-La, which documented Soriano’s own bands and like-minded Sacramento ensembles. At the time, circa 1997-98, there was a glut of 7” singles by thousands of bands and between getting lost in that shuffle and a lull in the Sacramento music scene, he decided to call it a day.

LosEnter Sakura Saunders, program director at KDVS 90.3 FM. She had turned her friends from a Seattle called Bend Sinister on to the Karate Party EP, recorded and played on by local musician and engineer Chris Woodhouse. Obsessed with the sound of the record, they tracked Woodhouse down and begged him to record them. By this time, the band had changed their name to the A-Frames and Woodhouse recorded their first 7” in his apartment.  Liking what he heard, Soriano agreed to release it under the new S-S Records sobriquet, logically culling the name from the multiple Ss in he and Saunders’ names.  

The initial plan was to release a 7” every other month as a hobby, but that idea was soon jettisoned as the A-Frames single attracted attention from college radio and the indie music press. But all the word-of-mouth didn’t necessarily translate into sales. The single, of which 500 were pressed, took almost three years to sell out. Currently (and ironically),  you can pick one up on eBay for a mere $75.  Soriano still gets requests to re-press it to which he responds chuckling,  “Where were you when it was in print for three years!”

Soon afterwards, the A-Frames recorded two critically acclaimed full-lengths, both of which made numerous ’Best-of’ lists. Sub Pop co-released the second album and later signed them.  From then on, S-S staked their claim in the musical map. And haven’t looked back since.      

In addition to the label, Soriano and his friend Ryan Wells put out the pretty awesome Z-Gun music zine. Now on its third issue and 55 pages long, it’s the print version of the S-S Records aesthetic with articles on Dan Melchior, Riot Grrls and the great Aussie trio, Feedtime. 
So, you think these are these good times musically?

“These are great times musically. I don’t think there’s bad times for music. People say there’s bad times for music, but that’s just a myth. The people who say that are usually Beatles fans.” he says, laughing.  

Z-Gun and all current and upcoming S-S titles (with samples galore) can be had at www.s-srecords.com or from Time Tested Books at 1114 21st Street. Also check out his music blog, Crud Crud  http://crudcrud.blogspot.com/ which focuses on “obscure, forgotten records that have a uniqueness, a one-of-a-kind-ness to them.”

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