Canada’s long since been the home to some of the world’s greatest garage and psych music but unfortunately outside of the great frozen North, we don’t always hear a lot about those killer juggernauts lurking in the frozen lands just the other side of Detroit; enter Shooting Guns (interview here). Last year I talked to Shooting Guns, being one of Canada’s foremost instrumental, psych, doom groups, about their latest album Brotherhood Of The Ram and what they were going to be up to in the future. At the time they eluded to some new material and the like, but I hear that all the time. Little did I know that they were planning on starting their own label to facilitate the distribution of the aforementioned album inside of their wintery homeland, or that it would be months before I caught onto the shtick. Pre-Rock Records popped up on my radar for the first time when I managed to snag a copy of the limited edition two-on-one cassette of Born To Deal In Magic/Brotherhood Of The Ram, their logo appearing alone on the j-card. I did a little looking, didn’t see anything about Pre-Rock and just kind of wrote it off for the time being. Flash forward a few months, in the midst of my Facebook band stalking I came across what appeared to be an absolutely killer compilation of Canadian psych and garage rock, House Of Burners released by one Pre-Rock Records. This time, after a little digging I found that the masterminds behind some of the greatest instrumental psychedelia that I’ve ever heard were starting their own brand new record label! Their first official release is the insanely killer compilation House Of Burners which features tracks from not only several of my absolutely favorite Canadian bands, but about half a dozen I like so much that I’ve tracked them down and interviewed them for the magazine. The minute that I found out about Pre-Rock I dropped one of the founders, Jim Ginther, a line in hopes of finding out what was up with the fledgling label and before long I ended up doing this showcase on the label. There’s some really interesting stuff brewing for Shooting Guns and their new label, and if you’re intrigued by any of what I’ve just written you are going to want to read on because there are big, big things happening in the Shooting Guns camp. And as we all know, anything that leads to more amazing mind pummeling psychedelic sludge rock can’t be a bad thing!
Listen while you read:
Where are you originally from? What was the local music scene like there when you were growing up?
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Growing up, the biggest band to come from here in the 80’s was The Northern Pikes (“She Ain’t Pretty She Just Looks That Way”) and then Wide Mouth Mason in the 90’s.
Did that scene play a large part in forming your musical tastes or in the kind of music that you like to listen to and or release?
No! When we started playing in bands around town, the most visible scene was guitar-prodigy blues rock. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s not what we were into doing.
© Suzanne Friesen
Were you very involved in the local scene when you were younger at all, like booking shows or helping to record or release anything?
There were so many bands going hard making some really interesting music, but very few bands were recording it and seemed like even fewer were touring. These cool projects would exist, play some amazing local shows, and then disappear forever. It was cool to be there for the shows but also bothersome that very few local bands making interesting music were getting their due. The only impressions people had of Saskatoon were these blues rock stereotypes even though so much cool stuff was happening. I think it was in 2002 that we got a group of thirty musicians together and started talking about starting a collective with a studio so that we could start document things happening in the scene. Steve Reed, who plays synth in Shooting Guns, and I set up a studio, taught ourselves sound engineering on the fly, and put out a 3-disc comp of bands from the prairies, complete with hand stitched fun fur album covers. Steve recorded a lot of very cool records over the next ten years, including the Switching Yard track on this comp.
When did you decide that you wanted to start releasing music and what brought that decision about for you?
I’m not sure if this is only true for out here but generally, if you want to have fun, you’ve got to make it yourself. Music was our outlet for fun and releasing material seemed like a natural progression.
Where does Pre-Rock Records operate out of?
Is there any sort of creed, code, ideal or mantra that Pre-Rock subscribes to or runs the label by?
Small bites, chew thoroughly, chase it down with Pilsner, repeat.
What does the name Pre-Rock Records mean or refer to? Who came up with the name and how did you go about choosing it?
The name Pre-Rock, like most of our song titles, came from our very own Chris Laramee (guitar, synth) who has a much better way with words than I do. We play Neanderthal rock, so it’s a reference to the primordial nature of our sound.
I know Pre-Rock Records started last year (2013) as the copy of the Brotherhood Of The Ram/Born To Deal Magic two-fer cassette tape was on Pre-Rock, but I hadn’t heard any mention of the label before that. When and how did Pre-Rock get started exactly? What exactly led to the formation of Pre-Rock Records? If I’ve heard right Pre-Rock was started as kind of an offshoot from the need to distribute second Shooting Guns’ second album, Brotherhood Of The Ram in 2013 or something along those lines...
We were driving home from a show in Edmonton last August discussing how we wanted to distribute Brotherhood of the Ram in Canada. It was pretty clear that if we were going to get it in record stores, we’d have to do it ourselves. So, we figured it was time to put a name on something that we were already doing.
Is Pre-Rock being run entirely by Shooting Guns members or is anyone else involved and is everyone from Shooting Guns involved with Pre-Rock, or are there just a couple of you that are handling the label at this point?
It’s just us. I take care of a lot of the logistical stuff, but we make all decisions and plan as a group.
Did you start Pre-Rock Records with any certain plans in mind, or any kind of particular game-plan that you’re looking to accomplish in the coming year or two?
Other than putting this comp out, we’re going to focus on releasing more Shooting Guns stuff. We’ve got a lot of new material and are excited to release it on a bunch of formats. I’d also really like to release House Of Burners on double gatefold vinyl if there’s demand, but we released the CD for now to get it out there and see what people think of it.
Pre-Rock Records’ dropped your first official release under the label banner PRR001 the House Of Burners compilation, which features a ton of absolutely killer Canadian psych and garage rock. How did the compilation come about and how did you go about choosing who was going to be on there? What all went into the release of House Of Burners? Was this first release a fun, pleasurable experience for you?
We’ve had this funny idea of a fictional retirement home for psych bands called House of Burners whose residents would be bands that we’ve played with over the years. We had this idea on the road years ago and even talked about releasing a comp, but that’s where it stayed until we established Pre-Rock. Once we had the label, it seemed like the perfect time to go ahead with it. We started reaching out to all the bands we’ve played with since 2009 and were pretty amazed by the enthusiastic response we got.
Is Pre-Rock going to be mainly focusing on releasing Shooting Guns’ material at this point or are there plans to continue to release material from other likeminded Canadian bands?
The focus is Shooting Guns for now, but we’ll never turn down a good idea. We’ve been tossing around the idea of split 10” with Hawkeyes who are also on House Of Burners in the fall. We’re taking things one project at a time, so it’s exciting to see where this little project will go.
You just released the House Of Burners compilation at the beginning of this month (April 2014) and I had no idea about it until a few weeks prior to its release as you all are extremely good at playing your cards close to your chest. Do you all have any other releases planned or in the works at this point that you’d be willing to share or talk about? Do you have a bunch of stuff lined up so far or are you just kind of going to play it by ear?
We’ve actually got a really exciting project on the go right now that we’re pretty pumped about… Scoring a film! We were approached by the creators of WolfCop, an independent police/horror/thriller that was entirely created, directed, and filmed in Saskatchewan. The film won a national contest put on by CineCoup and in addition to funding the production of the film, it’s got a theatrical release set across Canada at Cineplex Odeon theatres, with possible US release as well. A nice spinoff of now having this studio is that we’ve also been spending the spring recording a ton of new material, so we should have another album in the works sooner than later.
How did the idea of doing a soundtrack originally come up? I've actually thought you all would do a really great job listening to Brotherhood Of The Ram especially. How did you originally get involved with WolfCop?
Being an instrumental band, we’ve always wanted to score film. So when the executive producer approached us, we jumped at the chance, setting up a studio on the fly and putting in eight hour days to figure out how to pull this beast off. They’ve been great to work with and have given us artistic license to pretty much do whatever we want. We brought the amazing Toby Bond, who’s an accomplished composer in his own right that I’ve had the pleasure of touring with in previous bands, to help us with scoring and he deserves a lot of credit for how this sounds. We recorded everything ourselves and got local mixing engineer S.J. Kardash to get the gritty sound we were going for.
Who's releasing WolfCop and when is the soundtrack supposed to be coming out? Will that be before or after the film's released? Was the material for the WolfCop soundtrack written and recorded specifically for the film, or had some of the material been around for a while and fit the film well? How much new music from Shooting Guns is there? Is it enough for a full-length or is it more along the lines of an EP?
I’m not totally sure when the soundtrack will be released but I can tell you than when it does, it’s coming out on vinyl. We’ll be using John McBain, who mastered House of Burners and Brotherhood of the Ram as well, to master it nice and loud. One hundred percent of the material on this soundtrack was written for the film and we wrote enough to cover the entire eighty-plus minutes of the movie, so we’ll actually have to be pretty choosy about what makes it onto the soundtrack album. One thing that I’m really proud of is that we’re responsible for getting Lawrence Gowan (“Moonlight Desires”, “Strange Animal”) on board. I’m not sure if he registers in the US, but he’s a living legend here in Canada. Toby worked out a heart melting cover of “Moonlight Desires” and we recorded a version for Gowan to approve. It’s pretty cool to know he’s going to hear a doomy version of a track we all grew up on.
Obviously you all have just started and have only released one CD at this point, so I don’t know how much would be speculation on your end to answer, but you seem to be extremely well versed in revealing only what you know to be true and not given to wild flights of fancy and shooting your mouth off about stuff that’ll never happen, which unfortunately has become a problem with all of the small, indie boutique labels out there. Do you plan to continue to release stuff on CD or are you all going to make a play at the vinyl market which is booming right now with your upcoming releases? Speaking of booming popularity, boomboxes are popping up again and again as well and I know Shooting Guns has a cassette release which actually bore the Pre-Rock Records label name. Are there going to be any cassettes on Pre-Rock in the future?
Thanks for making it sound like we’ve got our shit together! Cassettes will be playing a very large part of future Pre-Rock Records releases, as will vinyl. We released House Of Burners on CD as it’s a good, inexpensive format for compilations, but I don’t think we’ll make releasing individual albums on CD a priority. I’d rather have the downloads available for free, or very cheap, to get it out there and make tapes/vinyl available for the collectors.
With all of the methods at people’s disposal these days I’m always curious why they choose and prefer the various methods that they do. Do you have a preferred medium of releasing music? If so can you tell us a little bit about why?
We’re all vinyl collectors so that’s a pretty easy answer! If you take the average music listener, myself included, I’d sooner just download a band’s discography than buy the CD unless I wanted to make a point of directly supporting the band. While CDs still make sense for promotional releases, they’re a dying medium since so many people just want the digital file. That said, as a vinyl collector, I’ll definitely buy the album on vinyl regardless of whether I’ve already downloaded it.
I grew up around my dad’s massive collection of psych and blues and I was really encouraged to dig in and enjoy it. There was something about yanking something off the shelf, sticking it in the player, kicking back in the beanie bag with a set of headphones, reading the liner notes and zoning out staring at the cover artwork. There was a magic to having something to have and hold in my hands and physically experience along with the music, so I really appreciate people who release music such as yourselves. Do you have any connection with physically released music and if so, what is that and did that play any role in your wishes to start a label of your own?
Absolutely. I love unique packaging and the way the music industry seems to work now, you’re paying for format, not the music.
As much as I love my music collection and it’s precious to me, digital music has proven to be a real game changed. Besides the fact that it allows me to really take my collection on the go with me for the first time, the really amazing thing has been its combination with the internet. Together they’ve exposed people to an entire universe of music that they never would have heard of otherwise, not to mention keeping tabs on things and keeping up with everything that a label or artist are doing. It’s allowed an unparalleled amount of communication and interaction between fans and the people responsible for making the music that they’re interested in. It’s not all peaches and cream though and there’s always going to be ups and downs to everything. I understand digital piracy to an extent as a way to explore music, but illegal downloading in running rampant while people have absolutely no interest or intent to pay for anything, even if it interests them. With everyone being able to have an equal voice it’s also extremely hard to get noticed in the chocked digital scene that’s going on out there right now. As label owners and musicians during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?
I remember joking ten years ago that a band is lucky to get fifteen seconds of fame, forget minutes, because of how bombarded we are with a constant glut of new bands. Digital technology lifted the barriers to home recording and that’s what got us hooked into making records. The challenge now, is to find a way to connect with your audience. A pet peeve of mine is when bands try to promote themselves by just saying “we’re a band” or “we have a song”. There are a million bands doing that and it just becomes background noise. Because of this, it’s very difficult to cut through and I really appreciate when bands get creative in reaching out to their fans. As for digital distribution, I think if people want to get the music, let them have it. The old music model is dead, but there are still opportunities to get ahead if artists and labels are willing to adapt. We’ve posted download links to get all of our stuff for free before and while it doesn’t fill the cash register, it gets the music out there. I’d much rather have the music spread, which opens up way more opportunities in the long term, i.e. building a fan base in new cities for touring. The way I see it, if someone wants to download a track for free, they’re going to do it anyway. So you might as well embrace it but have merch available so people can still support if they choose to. Having said all this, it’s a unique situation with House Of Burners since each band owns the rights to their songs and it’s not fair to the bands if we’re giving away free downloads of their music under the Pre-Rock name. We’d rather give fans the opportunity to collect a short run release and support their favorite band directly in the process, which is why we made the whole compilation streamable but put the focus on buying copies from each band directly.
Do you all give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the label, like logos, covers, shirts and that kind of artwork? Is there any kind of meaning or message that you’re trying to convey with your artwork? Is there anyone that you usually turn to in your times of need for those kinds of things? If so, who is that and how did you originally get hooked up with them?
Jay Loos, the bassist in Shooting Guns, and I compiled all the photos and then I did the graphic design, layout and logos. The aesthetic we were going for on this was different ‘houses of burners’ where they look all decrepit on the outside but are a paradise once you’re in there. All the photos are of abandoned buildings in Saskatoon and rural Saskatchewan, and I like how it adds to the ‘made is SK’ vibe; something that I’ve always wanted to be part of any project I’m involved with. We also did all of the artwork for Brotherhood of the Ram ourselves, using photos from Saskatchewan photography books and working a little of our own Photoshop magic. That said, we’ve worked with some amazing artists over the years. Ben Hettinga did our first LP, Born to Deal in Magic: 1952-1976, as well as half of the cover art for our first 7”; Cate Francis did the other half. We’ve also got to give a big shout out to Harley Kataklysm from Regina for designing our logo and tentacle shirts.
Are there any major goals or plans that Pre-Rock Records is looking to accomplish in 2014?
House Of Burners on double-gatefold vinyl would be a dream come true.
With the absolutely insane international postage rate increases I try and provide our readers with as many possible options for picking up music as I can. Where’s the best place for our US readers to pick up your released?
Postage is one huge advantage that CDs have over vinyl, as we can send a copy pretty much anywhere in the world for under four dollars while it’s ten dollars to send a record within Canada. For House Of Burners, if you’re favorite band isn’t shipping internationally or you want to support Shooting Guns, ordering directly off our Bandcamp is the easiest, and you get digital copies of all the tracks with the CD. As for getting Shooting Guns stuff internationally, we’ve had the good fortune to partner with Riding Easy Records (formerly Easy Rider Records) out of LA and they’ve lined up distribution points across the US and EU.
What about our international and overseas readers?
While most of our releases are out of print, there are a lot of distributors that still have Brotherhood of the Ram on vinyl. Germany’s Kozmik Artifactz is the biggest distributor in the EU carrying it and I think their shipping rates are pretty reasonable, but there are also distributors in Sweden, UK, and even Japan. So hopefully, there’s a copy that’s not too far away.
Where’s the best place for fan to keep up with the latest releases from Pre-Rock Records?
(2014) Various Artists – House Of Burners – digital, CD – Pre-Rock Records (Limited to 1,000 copies)
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
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