When it comes to record labels, what do you think about? Corporate greed? Artist manipulation? Spoonfed demographics? You cynical fucks. Not everybody's out to fleece the masses. Sure, there's lots of independent labels out there that focus on the music, not the money, but while they might have the heart, you know what so many of them lack? The talent.
Founded in 1999 by former Alternative Tentacles manager Greg Werckman and Ã¼ber-accomplished vocalist Mike Patton, Ipecac has become synonymous with quality through all their releases, becoming the musical equivalent to the Criterion Collection. After blessing us with brilliant releases from Kaada, Ex-Girl, The Melvins, FantÃ´mas, Kid 606, The Ruins, Tomahawk and Isis over the last few years, the next few months are going to be chock-full of goodness as well
We spoke with Mr. Werckman about what it's like to run a record label, what it takes, and what's instore.
Scene Point Blank: Who are you and what do you do?
Greg: Greg Werckman. Co-owner of Ipecac Recordings and manager of Mike Patton.
Scene Point Blank: How did you come to be involved with Ipecac?
Greg: Started it with Mike Patton in April 1999 because we needed a label home for one of Mike's bands, FantÃ´mas.
Scene Point Blank: How many staff does Ipecac employ?
Greg: Not sure. We have our main office in NYC and people in London and Sydney, Australia.
Scene Point Blank: Describe a typical day at the office.
Greg: Like a lot of other offices. Phone calls, computer corresponding, arguing, work, work, work.
Scene Point Blank: Ipecac doesn't appear to solicit demos - how did you come by your roster of artists?
Greg: We have our bands that are always suggesting other bands. We get tips from people we know. We are lucky in that a lot of very talented artists come to us.
Scene Point Blank: Is there a specific criteria that needs to be met for a band to be signed between you and Mike Patton, is one of you more the "talent scout"?
Greg: We try to agree on everything. We look for something unique. We are not interested in carbon copies of other bands. We also like to work with people that we would have over for dinner.
Scene Point Blank: I hesitate to use the term, but is "marketability" ever a factor?
Greg: Obviously no. We can't control how the general public will react to a band. All we can do is decide if we like it.
Scene Point Blank: How is it feasible for a smaller label to put so much time and effort into packaging as with the last two FantÃ´mas albums?
Greg: That is a priority for Mike. He spends nearly as much time on packaging as music.
Scene Point Blank: Let's say I wanted to start a label - what are the most important things I need to take into account?
Greg: You need a good distributor to sell your stuff and some hardworking bands.
Scene Point Blank: I think my favorite thing about Ipecac is the way you'll take a band like Bohren & Der Club of Gore or Flat Earth Society and release songs or albums that are already released in their native countries but don't have the exposure in North America. Almost like someone making a friend a compilation tape saying "Dude, you gotta hear this shit!"
Greg: Exactly! There is sooooo much great music that most will never have a chance to hear. We are lucky to have contacts all around the world and Mike is always traveling.
Scene Point Blank: Have there been artists that Ipecac has approached about doing this but it didn't work out?
Greg: Yes, of course. We really wanted to work with Meshuggah for one. But they chose another label.
Scene Point Blank: Along the same lines, one Ipecac release I'm particularly looking forward to is the Ennio Morricone Crime and Dissonance - how did this come about?
Greg: A friend of Mike's in Italy puts out a lot of Morricone music and Mike asked if we could license a compilation of rare or odd tracks from various Morricone releases. Something different. We are all HUGE Morricone fans.
Scene Point Blank: Are there any plans to release a label compilation?
Greg: We have been trying for years! It is just a time consuming thing and we are trying to do something unique with it.
Scene Point Blank: Does Ipecac plan to expand into other media, like DVD?
Greg: Yes. That is the number one question we get. Our main purpose is music, but we will get around to DVD someday. We are a small company. Everything takes time.
Scene Point Blank: The bio on the site states you were an employee of Mercury records for "a record 15 minutes". Sounds intriguing - care to elaborate?
Greg: It is a typo. It was actually 15 months. I got paid a lot of money to find new bands for them but they did not like my ideas and I did not like the music on the label.
Scene Point Blank: You've been an integral part of two successful independent labels - what's your secret?
Greg: Work with talented people. Be patient. Be honest. Don't do it for fame and fortune.
Scene Point Blank: Finally, where would you like Ipecac to be 5 years from now?
Greg: I gotta say, where we are right now is pretty great. Not sure if I'm crazy about growing anymore. We are doing great. I just hope we can continue to keep our bands happy.
Upcoming releases from Ipecac Recordings:
September 6, 2005: Ennio Morricone - Crime and Dissonance
October 4, 2005: Mugison - Mugimama! Is This Monkey Music?
October 18, 2005: Messer Chups - Crazy Price
January 24, 2006: East West Blast Test - Popular Music For Unpopular People
Interview conducted by Kevin.
Image courtesy of Ipecac Recordings.
Scene Point Blank's review of Safety Second, Body Last can be found here.
Scene Point Blank's review of Suspended Animation can be found here.
Scene Point Blank's review of General Patton vs. The X-ecutioners can be found here.
Scene Point Blank's review of Romances can be found here.