By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
Way back in our January 1 issue, I wrote about Sire Records' decision to license Tone Soul Evolution, a fine CD by the Apples that was originally emblazoned with the spinART logo. Now Sire has climbed into the sack, business-wise, with another Denver artist: Sherri Jackson, whose eponymous debut on Hybrid Recordings hit stores last year. Thanks to a marketing and distribution pact, future copies of Jackson's album will appear under the Hybrid/Sire umbrella.
According to Ted Guggenheim, who manages both Jackson and the Samples, this propitious development was precipitated by the collapse last summer of Indie Distribution, the company that had been working with the fledgling Hybrid firm. "Within a matter of a year or so, Indie ran out of money and went out of business," says Guggenheim. "They left a lot of people high and dry; Indie had about a hundred independent labels, like [Boulder-based] W.A.R.? and Aware."
Within a month or two of the severing of their relationship with Indie, Hybrid execs had gotten Sire on board. "John Scher and Michael Leon, who own Hybrid, have had a long relationship with Sire," says Guggenheim. "And I'm told that Sherri's record and the success that it's been having was also of substantial interest to them and helped them make the decision."
The disc in question is not yet a national hit: Before Indie went bust, it had moved approximately 5,000 units, and Guggenheim estimates that Jackson has sold around that many more at venues while touring as a supporting act with artists such as John Hiatt. But Hybrid remains committed to the platter, which has been its only piece of product for the better part of a year (the enterprise contracted with a second act, Guster, a few weeks ago). "One of the reasons we signed with Hybrid is that we knew that they would stick with us for the long run," Guggenheim says. "Lately, it's been taking a year or so to break a lot of artists, like Tonic and the Ben Folds Five. There's a lot of luck and timing involved, and it's a big country; it takes time to create pockets of awareness and then string those pockets together. And that's what Sherri's doing right now."
At present Jackson is entertaining offers to appear on bills this spring with several acts, including Paula Cole and recent Westword profile subject Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise ("Blackwater Runs Deep," January 29). In the meantime, Psychodelic Zombiez keyboardist Jeremy Lawton has been sitting in with Jackson's trio on an experimental basis, and while it's too early to know if he will become a permanent member of the ensemble, all involved seem pleased by the resulting sound. With a new single due to appear soon (possibly "Rice and Beans"), Guggenheim is optimistic that the Sire teaming will help his client take the next step. "I'm hoping it works out over the long run for everybody," he says.
Things haven't worked out for the AUTONO. Hailing from Colorado Springs, the group made a lot of great music during its thirteen years of life, but it never received its due, and this lack of acknowledgment finally caused the combo to cash it in.
Chuck Snow, the group's leader, notes with pride the AUTONO's many good reviews (the recording This Is won a 1991 Best of Denver award) and its pair of trips to Russia in the company of Mark Junglen, a Springs-based composer whose Stalingrad--A Rock Concerto was twice performed by the Volgograd Philharmonic (see "Rockin' to Russia," April 19, 1995). But when the 1996 CD Machines failed to lift the band to a new level, Snow and his comrades (bassist Ivor Young and drummer Kirk Moore) sank into a malaise from which they never emerged. "We had a show back in November, and after it was over, we didn't have anything else booked," he says. "So we decided to take some time off and think about where we were at. And after a while, it seemed to me that we'd gotten to the point where people weren't getting along and we weren't learning anything new. And to tell you the truth, I was kind of burned out. So I just felt it was time to call it quits."
Interested observer Junglen pins additional blame for the AUTONO's demise on the reputation of its hometown. In his view, the community, despite a population of approximately 300,000, suffers from a severe shortage of venues that book groups specializing in original rock music. Moreover, Junglen believes that the city's reputation as a headquarters for right-wing zealots (the James Dobson-led Focus on the Family organization is based there) makes bookers in other communities reluctant to extend invitations to local musicians. "If you tell them you're from Colorado Springs, you can just forget it," he claims.
Fortunately, these challenges haven't prompted Snow to hang up his hat. His new, thus-far-nameless project involves drummer Steve Schaarschmidt of Big Backyard and a couple of AUTONO alums: Alan Stiles, the group's first rhythm guitarist, and Mike Amend, who was manning an ax at the time of Westword's profile of the band ("Just Say AUTONO," September 14, 1994). Snow doesn't expect the result to represent a radical departure from the style he's been refining since the Eighties. "The AUTONO was always kind of a power-pop thing, and I imagine it'll stay along those lines. But I think it may end up maybe being more melodic."