Release Me

A roundup of six local imprints.

Last month I profiled Dan Rutherford and Morning After Records, which had just partnered with Island Records (Beatdown, June 15). Although Rutherford's young company is one of the area's most high-profile, it's far from the only locally based label. Here are a half-dozen more homegrown imprints putting out quality releases:

Hapi Skratch Entertainment

Website:hapiskratch.com

Founded: By Morris Beegle, 1995

Associated Imprints: Fist Music, Big Bender, Avant-Acoustic

Distribution: Hapi Skratch is a direct distributor that works closely with Alliance Entertainment and Super D/Phantom.

History/Emphasis:A Loveland-based production-and-distribution one-stop, Hapi Skratch provides label services -- from graphics and manufacturing to merchandising, licensing and marketing/promotion -- for independent artists, giving them the ability to release their own records. Hapi Skratch's founder, Morris Beegle, formed the label after an eight-year stint heading up West Coast retail operations for Handelman -- at the time, the largest music wholesaler in the country.

Since then, Beegle has had a hand in releasing over 900 records, working with such artists as DeVotchKa, Love.45, Dave Beegle, Armando Zuppa, the Railbenders, Oakhurst, Marty Jones and the Honky Tonk Hangovers, either through Hapi Skratch or one of three satellite imprints. In 2000, Beegle launched Avant-Acoustic, which focuses on progressive acoustic instrumental music. The following year, he established Big Bender, a label that centers on alt-country, roadhouse and country rock. And in 2004, Hapi Skratch extended its reach with Fist Music, a hard-rock/metal arm that came out swinging with releases by Drug Under, Gashead and Jett Black. Helmet R00m Recordings

Website: helmetroom.com

Founded: By Randall Frazier and Matt Mensch, 2004

Distribution: In the United States, Beta-lactam Ring Records, Revolver, Nail, Soleil Moon and Carrot Top. Internationally, Digital Narcis (Japan), Sound Control and Drone Records (Germany), Rough Trade and Target Export (U.K. and Europe).

History: Helmet R00m's psychedelic origins lie in a studio by the same name run by two members of Orbit Service, who, in addition to releasing their own work, have put out records by Drop the Fear and a limited pressing of Mingo's latest effort. The label recently entered into a partnership with Beta-lactam Ring Records and has platters pending from Astrophagus (formerly the Moths) and former Drop the Fear principal Sarah Marcogliese, who's currently in the studio recording her solo debut. Frazier, who also helms a promotional company called Massive Music, says he's in talks with Ingoen Ring to release his next album.

Mobstyle Records

Website: mobstylerecords.com

Founded: By Don Blas, Wazir Ali Muhammad Al-Haqq, Jawad Ali, Wadi Ali and Harold Barnes, 1997

Distribution: Self-distributed

History: One of Denver's premier hip-hop-centric labels, Mobstyle Records centers on a trio of MCs: Don Blas, Kingdom and Mr. Fix (formerly Fritz G.). Blas, who's been rockin' the mike since he was ten years old, launched the imprint with the help of a few childhood friends and some older mentors from his Aurora neighborhood. In addition to heading the label, the Mobstyle crew also maintains two recording studio dubbed the Hempshack 1 & 2. Blas's next effort, B 2 Da L, is slated to drop this fall, followed by the second Underworld compilation and new music from Kingdom, who is currently in the studio.

SCI Fidelity Records

Website:scifidelity.com

Founded: By String Cheese Incident and Madison House Inc., 1998

Distribution:RED (Sony)

History: SCI Fidelity, based in Boulder with an office in New York, was created primarily as a vehicle for String Cheese's recorded output. Since then, however, the label has expanded its roster to include such acts as Umphrey's McGee, Keller Williams, the Disco Biscuits, Railroad Earth, Steve Kimock Band and DJ Harry while it continues to serve as a conduit for various String Cheese-related projects and collaborations, works by Kyle Hollingsworth, Michael Kang's Comotion, Bill Nershi's Honkytonk Homeslice and Michael Travis's outfit, Zilla. And next month, SCI Fidelity and Megaforce Records will partner for a joint release of Rose Hill Drive's heavily anticipated debut.

Suburban Home Records

Website:suburbanhomerecords.com

Founded: By Virgil Dickerson, 1995

Distribution: Navarre and direct distribution

History:Virgil Dickerson, the driving force behind Suburban Home Records, started his label while attending college at the University of Colorado. The imprint began as a fanzine, with early efforts including a series of seven-inch releases from Overlap and the Fairlanes. Although Suburban Home endured a few lean years, it's grown into one of the area's most lauded independents, having released discs by the Gamits, Love Me Destroyer, Drag the River and Ghost Buffalo, among others. It's also paved the way and provided inspiration for numerous indie-centric labels, the most noteworthy being Morning After Records. In addition to running Suburban Home, Dickerson and company distribute more than a dozen other independent labels.

What Are Records?

Website:whatarerecords.com

Founded: By Rob Gordon, 1991

Distribution:Select O Hits

History: What Are Records? (aka W.A.R.?) got its start in New York City, where it was based for three years before the label's founder, Rob Gordon, moved operations to Boulder. A former EMI A&R executive, Gordon started the label after becoming disillusioned with the constraints of working for a major. W.A.R.?'s first act was the Samples, which Gordon signed at the urging of his friend Ted Guggenheim, who managed the outfit at the time. In addition, W.A.R.? has issued discs from Pixies frontman Frank Black, Maceo Parker, Glenn Tillbrook, Tim Finn and 24-7 Spyz, among others. The imprint's current roster consists of David Wilcox, Stephen Lynch, Todd Fancey (New Pornographers) and local indie faves the Swayback.

 
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