What do you think people get wrong about Sub Pop and the Seattle scene?
Well, first of all, Jon and I, when we started the label, we were complete music omnivores. Some people saw Sub Pop as just a hard rock label but we were truly an indie rock label. We just believed there was a very interesting hard rock / punk scene that we wanted to focus on because that’s what was happening here. And when that culture blew up we went into a number of different directions. As soon as something became popular, it’s like, well we’re not going to put out the next Pearl Jam sound-alike band, we’re going to put out Sebadoh or Combustible Edison, who were a lounge band.
Secondly, I would say, as far as the scene goes, there was a lot of humor there. Some people wrote it off as really angst driven and depressing and there are some heavy, Black Sabbath-like tones in the scene for sure, but there was always an underlying feeling of celebration and humor and good spirit. And that’s what’s hopefully seen in the book is the level of camaraderie between the bands. A lot of smiling, a lot of mutual support, not a lot of ego. Everybody’s wearing each other’s t-shirts. That’s some of the magic of the indie culture, that level of cooperation versus egotistical backstabbing.
I think of Sub Pop as being part of the American indie rock continuum that starts with (Black Flag’s) SST Records through Dischord in Washington D.C. and Tough & Go in the Mid-West.
I’m working on a second book project called Sub Pop U.S.A. that covers the period from 1980 to 1988. I’m re-printing all my early reviews from that period and all the bands that you can think of, every single one of them that you can envision, is going to be in this book, because I covered everything in my original Sub Pop columns. And in addition I’ll be providing photos and commentary. I believe that that era was so under the radar, that it’s never really gotten its due and it was a golden era.
What is your biggest regret from those days? Is there anything that if you could you would do differently?
You know, I’ve been asked that question before. I don’t think I’d change a thing to be honest. It was extremely challenging. It would have been nice to somehow have acquired more capital so we could have paid our bills on time but then we probably wouldn’t have been as pressed to be as resourceful and creative as we were. The grueling process of trying to stay alive was what forced us to make the exaggerated claims and jump up and down and try to get the world’s attention which is ultimately what led us to our success. So, I would never do it again, but I wouldn’t change anything.
Experiencing Nirvana: Grunge in Europe, 1989 is available now from Bazillion Points Books.