Monday, December 18, 2006
Kalina reminded me of this interview we did in 2004 for Bettawreckonize.com. Peep it:
Coming Out Swinging
Many new independent labels leave the gates at a leisurely pace in an attempt to test the waters before jumping in feet first. Cold Sweat isn’t one of these labels. With teeth clenched and guns blazing Cold Sweat recently unleashed Starlite Desperation’s Violate A Sunday and Battles’ Tras and it seems as though Sam Velde and his label aren’t backing down anytime soon. With Wives, The International Noise Conspiracy, White Magic, and Devendra Banhart waiting in the wings, this L.A. based label is building a power-house roster that is sure to knock most of its competitors right off the playing field. It should come as no surprise then that the mastermind behind this label is a seasoned punk veteran whose band, Bluebird, has given the face of indie rock a shiner or two over the last decade.
Bettawreckonize had the distinct pleasure of being dazzled by Mr. Velde over a series of e-mails. The results of that correspondence is below for your viewing pleasure.
Interview conducted via e-mail with Sam Velde of Cold Sweat and Bluebird. Pictures provided by Sam Velde.
Name: Sam Velde
Label and Band: Cold Sweat/Bluebird
BW: Is Cold Sweat an idea you've been kicking around for a while?
SV: Yes, for about the last 10 years or so. No joke. I've had this vision of a living room filled with CDs and LPs stacked everywhere. Be careful what you wish for I guess. The reason It took me some time to actually make this fantasy into reality had always been other things taking precedence or my total focus...i.e.: Bluebird, jobs, etc. I realized last year that I had to live in the now to a greater extent, so I decided to go for it. I asked 2 very close friends (Laurel Stearns and Kalina Bitter) if they would help and we started the partnership that is now called Cold Sweat. The name came from an amalgamation of ideas. The main idea was based on the Cold Sweats you get when your sick or have a fever. I've always been sick for music, so it just made sense for me to call it Cold Sweat. People have asked if its James Brown related. I'm a fan, but that's not where I got the name from. Our goal is like most, to put out music that doesn't blow!
BW: Does the world really need another independent record label?
SV: The world needs people to express themselves. Indy labels give people the chance to do so. Obviously to a greater extent than commercial/corporate labels do. I believe in the power of expression (The idea and the SST released album by Blast!). Its a privilege and a strong medium for change. So yeah the world definitely needs another label, more specifically it needs Cold Sweat to facilitate the many forms of musical expression!
BW: Was the SXSW showcase Cold Sweat's big debut?
SV: I haven't really thought of it in those terms. We had a party at CMJ last year but it was busted an hour into it by the ever-so-present element of the pigs! SXSW was the make up date I guess. We threw a backyard party with Buddyhead and then had a free show the next day in a club. It wasn't officially affiliated with SXSW, therefore no one needed badges or 20 dollar tickets to be a part of it. In many cases, I believe it was the 1st time people had heard of the label and in some instances even the bands that played, Cold Sweat associated or not. Spreading the word is half the battle, so we felt both situations were a step in the right direction. Not being an official event of either festival didn't alienate or inhibit anyone from being able to attend.
BW: So the cops showed up and shut things at the backyard party down? Did anyone get a ticket/get cuffed and stuffed?
SV: It was in this backyard of this crazy southern style house in this cracked out neighborhood 5 miles outside of downtown Austin. They were broken down cars strewn about and a cow in the next yard over. It was amazing. BBQ pits, bonfires, etc. Cops were rolling by cuz they patrol for crack dealers and didn't really care much about the party until they found some 17 year old kid barfing his guts out in the parking area. Then they shit it down. No one got a ticket. It's on next year for sure! The party was the highlight cuz it had nothing to do with SXSW and the bullshit you gotta put up with.
BW: Were you surprised that Pitchfork Media was already buzzing about your label before you even had a website up?
SV: I figured somehow they made it on to the e-mail newsletter I started. I compiled it through names Starlite Desperation and Bluebird had compiled and names Buddyhead had given me as well. It wasn't like they came up with that info solely on their own. A lot of it was derivative from the newsletters I had begun sending out regarding our plans as a label. I'm grateful though, cuz everything helps. I'm glad they're interested cuz lotsa people seem to read Pitchfork on a daily basis and take it to heart?
BW: Do you take the things Pitchfork says to heart? Does criticism, either positive or negative, affect the way you do things?
SV: No. I don’t really care what most writers have to say. It just one opinion and it really depends on what lands on their desk or what they’re into (or what they’re suppose to be into). It doesn’t mean too much to me. I like press positive or negative, it just helps with exposure. A lot of times negative is better. Like if they diss you by saying something like 'these guys sound like The Birthday Party and The Saints, not much originality." I always think some kid is gonna read that and go...'cool I like the Birthday Party I'll pick this up.' I think half the battle is getting people to know you have releases out or you’re a band and people seem to always need reference points.
BW: Is it hard to balance doing Bluebird full-time and taking care of all the label's day to day activities? Does one ever take a backseat to the other?
SV: When Cold Sweat's wheels started spinning, meaning we started talking to Starlite and Battles about doing something with us and trying to sort out distro and other things Bluebird was touring a lot. We were doing the US, Europe and Japan all in a months time of each other, as well as finishing an EP for DIM MAK. It seemed that with the help of Laurel and Kalina it wouldn't be a problem to run things and still be a part of an active band. I still believe that can be done, but not as a brand new label. There is a great deal of set up, branding and work to be done. Thankfully, Bluebird decided to take a break so we could all focus on other things that had been waiting in the wings of our personal lives. So this has given me ample time to focus on the label. Getting a label off the ground can be an undertaking and I'm glad I've had time to do so...and still doing so. All employees of Cold Sweat have other things going on, but we've made a commitment to Cold Sweat. It's our responsibility to our bands to make the label a major focus. No matter what else is going on.
BW: What are the other dudes from Bluebird doing right now?
SV: Collectively? Something probably weird and perverted I'm sure?
Bryan our drummer is writing his own music; songs and soundscapes. He's got a band he's putting together called Syd Brown (not too mention teaching masculine ballet). His brother Jim has been in Mexico learning the language of love and playing solo shows . Paul, our guitar player is an engineer at Sound City Studios. Barry our other guitar player was deported back to Canada last year. He was found in the LA airport with a loaded weapon? Everyone has been really busy.
BW: Who will handle the label's business when Bluebird hits the road again?
SV: Well, Bluebird has plans to record another record, a split and a movie score. The focus being on the recording process. Bluebird has been such a 'live' thing in the past that we feel that with where were at now in these other projects, that its best for us to focus more on the other side and build better songs and sounds without the pressure of having to showcase it live. When its time to put that into a live setting again I feel Ill just have to take it one day at a time. Kind of cross that bridge when I get to it so to speak. I don't really see Bluebird pounding the touring pavement too hard though. We've been a band for sometime and the idea of making records is much more exciting than playing shows. I feel very confident with Laurel and Kalina as my partners. Together we make a strong team so these decisions don't worry me, things will get done regardless.
BW: Is Bluebird still working with Dim Mak at all? Do you have plans of moving Bluebird's stuff over to your own label? Also, is Steve Aoki one busy mother or what -- I just read he's starting another label with Ben Lee....
SV: We just released a new enhanced EP last March on DIM MAK called Falling Back To Earth. Steve Aoki aka "Buddies" is the busiest man on earth. Not sure where he gets the energy to run 3 labels and DJ everynight. Cocaine and Speed wouldn’t be enough to keep that posi-machine rolling. Maybe it's all the left over straight edge homo eroticism Heartattack magazine gave him? Maybe it's the fact he's obsessed with music and artistic energy? I think its given him the gas to run 3 labels and still have a life he can enjoy. More power to him, he's a good guy.
I don’t wanna move Bluebird over to Cold Sweat. I wanna keep that separate. That would just be too much to think about and too much work. I wanna enjoy myself while playing music and not think about the other things involved. I wanna be able to remove myself at times and crawl into a cave. If I were to release our records I wouldn’t be able to do that. They'd know exactly where my cave was. Gotta keep the cave secret.
BW: Cold Sweat and Buddyhead seem to bro down together quite a bit? What is the relationship there?
SV: Well, 1st off I'm good friends with Travis Keller (Iron boss of the Buddyhead underworld). Not too mention, I've been contributing to the website since its conception and they've always shown a great deal of support for Bluebird. We also have similar views on music and art, as well as living in close proximity to each other. So the communal aspect is kinda natural I guess. Plus, we hate everyone mutually, which is nice.
BW: Did being headquartered in Los Angeles add any pressures or pitfalls to getting Cold Sweat off the ground, or did it work to your advantage?
SV: Neither. Pretty sure it would be the same if I was living in SF or Seattle. You have friends that play music and want to put out records. You see bands you like that want to put out records. It would probably be easier if we were in NYC cuz our manufacturer is there. But I don't want to live in NYC. I love the West coast. Black Flag and Love were from LA! Living in LA can help, cuz you can see what NOT to do. It gets pretty silly here at times. There's a great deal of people wanting to be famous which can be equally amusing and annoying. But always a reminder of how to do things in an honest way.
BW: How have the Starlite Desperation and Battles CDs been received so far?
SV: Really well. Starlite has been a band for sometime, except for the hiatus they took. So, a lot of people have been anticipating their return EP Violate A Sundae. Which has been great. They just recently toured the US with the Rapture and BRMC and are now in Europe with INC.
Battles is also highly anticipated because of their past efforts in other bands (Helmet. Don Cab, Tomahawk), not too mention they destroy so hard live. Its been amazing.
BW: How has the Battles joint been going since it dropped a week ago?
SV: Battles joint? I definitely wanna smoke a Battles joint if there is one. The record is blowing out the door. It's only 2 songs (15 minutes-CD/12 inch) and were already repressing it and it came out on the 15th. 3 days ago. So it's going really well. I'm happy for them. They’re an amazing band.
BW: Has Cold Sweat been receiving demos? Anything worth giving a second listen?
SV: Yeah we've gotten some. Some are great. At the present time were just trying to focus on the projects we have in front of us like WIVES, INC, DEVENDRA, etc. I definitely encourage demo sending. I want to hear what people are doing and see whose interested in our label. So many great things have come from just hearing a demo.
BW: Bush or Kerry? Neither?
SV: Neither. I'm pushing for a 6 party system. The "Lesser of two evils" shit has got to stop. The Bush family has got to be stopped. Where's Hinkley?
BW: Have you met a lot of celebrities kicking around Los Angeles? Who has been your favorite? Who was your least favorite?
SV: Shit, I think a part of living in Hollywood is star sighting. You run into or spot someone on a weekly basis. Not too sound cool, but you start to become desensitized after awhile. I'm always into the fucked up ones or the 'falling stars' so to speak. Call me sick. The most interesting 'star' moment for me was partying with obscure 60s/70s actress by the name of Susan Tyrell at her house years back (when I was a wild moron). She was in John Waters 'Crybaby' with Iggy Pop and also an amazing film by John Huston called "Fat City." She invited us to her house after meeting my friends and I in this sleazy bar that Charles Bukowski supposedly haunted at times when he was still kicking called the "Smog Cutter." In her house she had all these crazy paintings (One was entitled "The African In Me," which depicted African tribesmen marching out of a woman’s vagina!) and creepy knick knacks all over the place. She showed us around her place, including her bed that she called 'The Bed Of Sorrow.' She also had tons of (like 500) Polaroids plastered on the walls, some of her naked. I got really drunk and stole a Polaroid of her and Iggy. She walked in and automatically asked where it was. Out of 500 Polaroids she knew that one was gone. Since I had been insisting on playing 'Funhouse' on her stereo all night she went straight to me and started frisking me violently! To make a long story a bit shorter she kicked me out of her house in a huff of rage. I'm leaving out a lot of details, but it was a freaky night, a freaky house and a freaky lady....and also a great time.