Mike Riley (Toxic Pop Records/Firestarter Records)
SPB: While the meaning of Toxic Pop's name is fairly obvious, how has its meaning changed to you since the label was first formed?
Riley: The label was formed in 2007 as a "sister" label to Firestarter Records, which I had been running since 2002. The first release, the Sick Sick Birds - "Chemical Trains" 7" EP, was originally planned as a Firestarter release, but the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that Firestarter had a respectable following as a label that released solid records for fast hardcore/punk bands and it might be quite a curveball to those dedicated consumers of that sub-genre to offer them an indie-rock record, so I decided to start Toxic Pop which would focus on all my other interests, namely pop-punk, indie-pop, alt-country, and everything else not short, fast, and loud. The name of the label is basically a play on the legendary pop-punk label, Mutant Pop Records, with a twist and a nod to my home state of New Jersey and youthful fascination with the Toxic Avenger movies. In another instance of paying homage to another legendary punk label, I came up with the tag-line "Making pop a threat again", which is a play on Profane Existence's "Making punk a threat again". Clever, eh? I guess my thinking behind the name and the tag-line came from the boom that classic Lookout Records-style pop-punk was having at the time, but within the midst of all that there were all these great bands that were putting new spins on the genre or taking influence from bands beyond just The Ramones, The Queers, and Screeching Weasel, yet they were still definitely a part of this resurgence, and those were the bands that were exciting me the most. So in that sense, I don't think that the meaning behind the name has changed for me. Poppy and catchy music can still have integrity and fangs (ie: Dead Mechanical, The Capitalist Kids), there are still bands finding new ways to bend, warp, and mangle the genre (ie: Tenement, Vacation), and there are still bands keeping traditional sounds fresh and exciting (ie: The Ergs, Sick Sick Birds, Sundials), and as long as those three things hold true and those bands are interested in having me release records for them, I'll keep doing this.