Interview with Jason RerunFor more than 25 years, a plucky little label from the Midwest has been delivering the goods, cranking out release after release of quality reissue of underground artifacts and other assorted subversive goodies. While the world is burning, Rerun continues trying to single-handedly "raise the bar" for Independent record labels. This chat with label honcho Jason Rerun was conducted via email in June of 2020.
By Scott Bass
PSF: Please introduce yourself.
JR: Jason Ross, owner of the Rerun Records label and Jason Rerun Mailorder Service, my outlet for selling used vinyl, music ephemera, etc. It used to all be under the Rerun Records umbrella, but a legal settlement and other hassles had me split it into two different businesses.
PSF: What sparked you to start the label? Were there any other labels that provided inspiration?
JR: In 1993, I got the first Supercharger 45 (record), and Rip Off Records was just starting then, as well. I really liked the idea of one-sided 7-inches for some reason. I mean, I made lots of bad choices in the '90's, but those were really appealing at the time. I loved the low budget, DIY pic sleeves, especially. I had done a couple very crappy 'zines, but I really wanted to release records.
I knew Rev. Norb from his previous bands Depo Provera and Suburban Mutilation. He had formed Boris The Sprinkler, and l loved the band. Their second show ever was at my 18th birthday party. I offered to release a one-sided single a couple weeks later. That was pre-Rerun.
PSF: Your first (re) release was a repress of Boris the Sprinklers' "She's Got A Lighter" single which came with a band photo baseball card as well as a custom-printed pack of matches containing the song lyrics as well as a message that said something like "she's got a lighter but all you've got are these matches, you cheap fuck!" What's the story with that?
JR: I named the label Rerun because the first release was a reissue/rerun of a previous release I had done. We added The Beat cover on the B-side, and a friend of mine split the pressing cost. First issue had a baseball card of the band, with yellow/green background. Second run had a blue background and came with matches. I worked at a promotional products/marketing company, so I could get that stuff made very cheaply. It wasn't until years later that I realized I wasn't supposed to be sending matches through the mail.
PSF: You've now been issuing records over 25 years -- what came first the distro or the label? What percentage of your time is spent on one vs the other?
JR: The distro came right before the label. In 1993 at age 18-19, my first roommate and I started buying some punk/hc records and tapes wholesale, with the idea to bring a few boxes to the punk shows in Green Bay, WI. We did that several times and sold a bunch. It was fun, but it got kinda old, as you couldn't really enjoy the show if you were stuck at a table selling records. We decided to put out a few 7"s, the one-sided BTS single being the first. That label was called Trouser Cough. After a year or so, I moved to a new place and started Rerun on my own. I had some used vinyl set sale lists along the way, but I didn't really do the distro or label for several years after I left Wisconsin. These days, I'm slowing down a bit on label releases. I still have a healthy distro of '70's-'80's punk/indie reissues, but most of my income comes from selling used vinyl and music ephemera.
Once I started Rerun, I released just a few more records over the next few years. I had the chance to leave WI for a job, so I moved to St. Louis in late 1998. I wanted to do the label again, but it took quite a while to put that in motion. In St. Louis, I ended up putting together some releases by the Screamin' Mee-Mees for Gulcher Records. I also helped on some other reissue projects for various labels. One day, I realized that I should be releasing this stuff myself. I was doing all of the research and leg work, just to hand it off to another label that would give me a handful of promo copies for my time.
PSF: What's the grand total of releases at this point? Proudest release? Best-selling? Most difficult?
JR: If you count the handful of demo and comp tapes, pre-vinyl, Trouser Cough and Rerun, I'd say it's about 65 releases. I mean, that includes some of my own bands' crappy demos and odd things, but the count is mostly the Rerun reissue/archival releases.
Proudest release is hard. They're all so special to me in some way. I'd have to say that the three newest ones.. BOB, Shivvers and No Direction are probably my favorite to date. Then again, it may be just like a new love in your life. These three have all been in production for a long time, so to see them finally materialize is a great achievement. No Direction has been ten years since I first started talking to them.
The best-selling to date is probably the VOM EP. Shivvers will probably outsell it, but VOM is #1 so far. Metal Mike sold probably 300 or so at the merch table at (his version of) Angry Samoans shows. He signed every copy of those, I believe. Sales on that... we're talking big leagues... like 1700-2000 copies. Ha ha!
None of the projects have been that difficult. If things get weird, I kill it. I've run into my share of junkies or even worse... band members who insist they sold 10,000+ copies of some punk single that is well documented that they made 500-1000. I've run into some pretty insane narcissists over the years. I mean, just because you released a 45 in 1981 doesn't make you Mick Jagger, but you'd be surprised at what some people think of their own legacy. Egomaniacs are one of my biggest turn-offs when it comes to dealing with musicians. I've canceled some projects that just didn't give me a good feeling, but for the most part, every release has been a good experience. I also got to become friends with several people I've worked with, which is worth it in itself.
PSF: Can you share a bit more about No Direction? That's kind of a rare US gem that a lot of people aren't familiar with but really should be.
JR: A guy in NYC approached me with the idea to reissue their material around 2008. It was a dream come true, as one of the first ten punk records I bought was their "Reaganomics" single. I bought it at a used records store for two reasons. I asked them which of the box of indie 45's in the store was punk, and secondly, it had a 25 cent price tag. I immediately fell in love with it. That was at age 13. It took me a number of years to track down the first LP, but it was also a favorite, once I had it on hand. So, when the opportunity to reissue it came up, I jumped on it. It took many years of persistence to make it happen, but I'm so glad I stuck with it.
PSF: Is the 3-page double-sided / folded insert the new Rerun standard? Those liner notes are just amazing and really demonstrate how much love goes into these releases.
JR: Yeah, I think it is kind of the standard now. I don't want to fill that large of an insert with fluff, but I also don't want to leave out really cool materials that the band has in their archives. I really like to include liner notes, as it's always cool to read the band's perspective. Plus, those large inserts only cost a little more to print than a standard 12"x12" one, so why not go all out?
PSF: Even though you are doing low-volume pressings, your releases look really professional -- with factory shrink, hype stickers, UPC graphics and the works. Is that a requirement to compete these days?
JR: I never think of it as a competition and rarely pay attention to how other labels package their releases. I just aspire to make my releases look the best they can. I don't like it when labels skimp on things to save a few bucks. If it's worth reissuing, then I feel that it should be the best it can be. Sure, I may have to charge a buck or two more than some labels do, but I feel that it's worth the cost to deliver a great looking release.
PSF: How do you categorize your label? You have reissued quite a few notable Punk records like Vom, The Executives, Plastic Idols, The Lubricants, etc. but there's way more under the Rerun umbrella than classic Punk repros.
JR: I say I'm a reissue label, which I primarily am. The label wasn't set out to do reissues in the '90's, but the revived 2000's version definitely was. In hindsight, I should have created a sub-label for the few contemporary releases I've put out since reviving it in 2011. Those were exceptions, because they were bands with my wife and me. Everything else is some type of archival/reissue release. I also co-run BDR Records with friend Matt Harnish, local rock dude. That is like Rerun, but it's only for artists from the St. Louis area. We've done eight releases since 2009, and are working on our ninth right now. That will most likely be the last, at least for a while. That's what really got me doing Rerun again.
PSF: In 2018, you reissued Great Plains' first album, originally issued by Homestead records in 1984. Compared to most of your other reissues, Homestead is a big label -- did that make things more difficult? Spill the tea on Great Plains, please.
JR: Luckily, their deal with Homestead had the band retain the rights to everything after a certain point. So, it was just working with the band. We let Gerard Cosloy of Homestead know we were doing the releases, and he was totally fine with them. I had been a fan since I was 13 or 14 and my older brother did a radio show on a college station in Appleton, WI. We found their records in the music library and fell in love with them. Fast forward to around 2014, and I got to meet keyboard player Mark Wyatt in person. He was playing in Craig Bell's band at the time, and I booked a show for them in St. Louis. Mark and I became fast friends, with many of the same musical interests. There was another label that had planned on reissuing the records, but they had been sitting on them for over a year with no movement. I talked to Ron House at the Cropped Out fest in Louisville the next year, and I brought up the idea of me releasing them. He said to talk to Mark. So, Mark gave the other label a bit more time to shit or get off the pot, and they did nothing...so they came to Rerun. Mark is a great guy, and I've had the pleasure of hanging out with him a few times, when he passes through St. Louis.
PSF: How is the record business compared to ten years ago? How about compared to when you started?
JR: About the same as ten years ago. What I'm doing has such a tiny scope in the record world, you just hope to break even and anything else is bonus. I love doing the label, but 90% of my income is still from selling used records. The label is more of a labor of love. In the '90's, you could release anything remotely cool punk/garage punk and sell/trade 500-1000 in a few months. At least it seemed that way. It's slower now, but I still do fine. Since I also distribute other labels' resissues, it's nice to be able to trade stock with them, expanding my catalog.
PSF: Any thoughts on the state of vinyl manufacturing? How do you see the recent Apollo fire affecting you?
JR: I use a plant that uses a DMM (direct metal mastering) process that eliminates the lacquer cutting step. It won't affect me, except I'm guessing there will be longer production times with people going DMM while lacquers are hard to get. On the other hand, things are a bit iffy with that right now. We almost sold out of the Shivvers LP in a month, and I placed an order for a second pressing. That's been in limbo for a while now, as the records are made in the Czech Republic and nobody is certain if borders will stay open to get the records through. We'll do a second pressing of that, but it might be delayed.
PSF: What are your thoughts on the state of modern vinyl quality control?
JR: For me... I've seen many conflicting articles/opinions on DMM versus traditional lacquer cutting. A lot of mastering engineers say that DMM is inferior to a well cut lacquer. That may be true, but I'm not releasing audiophile recordings to begin with. Plus, most of the people buying my records are using cheap stereos to play them on. I get what they're saying, but I don't think they always take into account that people aren't listening to the master recordings in a studio on $10,000 speakers. I had one person cut a lacquer for me that was a pretty lo-fi, lengthy 33rpm 7" EP. Just by nature, a 33 RPM 7" is going to sound somewhat shitty. This guy spent a good amount of time yelling at me over the phone, telling me all of the things I did wrong for that release and how he could have done better. At the end of the day, it's still going to be a 12-14 minute long 7" EP that was recorded on a 4-track to begin with. You can only polish a turd so much.
Either way, GZ Media has been the only plant so far that consistently delivers vinyl without a slight warp. I have used multiple US plants, and every one of them delivers part of the pressing with a slight dish warp. I don't know if they're packing them still warm or what the issue is. Rainbo (R.I.P.) was great for years, but the last few releases I pressed there had me returning 20% or more of the pressing due to warpage. Often, they would just tell me it was within tolerance. Sure, they don't skip, but they're on the verge. People paying $17-20 retail for a new LP don't want that.
PSF: Is the "vinyl fad" fading?
JR: I wouldn't say fading. I'd say smaller but more focused. Probably not as many random people buying vinyl and a cheap turntable on a whim, but I think there has to be a good amount of people that got back into vinyl who are going deeper. It's hard for me to say. With punk, it was still mainly vinyl, even in the lean days.
PSF: Advice to new labels?
JR: If you're releasing contemporary records by bands who tour, it's less of a risk. I have friends who do releases of their friends' bands and sell out quickly. With reissues, you have to realize that you don't have the outlet of a merch table at a live show most of the time. That's where a large amount gets sold. Plus, I'm paying bands royalties as opposed to a cut of the pressing, which adds more to the cost. Reissues, especially 7"s are a long game. Not much profit to be made there, especially with the amount of work involved. Basically, just do your research on the best way to get things made and don't expect to make hardly any money by releasing records. These days, you definitely need a stronger source of income to supplement the label. I mean, unless you're releasing things that are selling thousands, and you're consistently doing new projects. It's certainly getting tougher to find things worthy of reissue these days.
PSF: Favorite current labels?
JR: I have to admit that I don't keep up much with current bands/labels, unless it's a friend's local band. As far as reissues... I think HoZac does a great job with their archival series. Alona's Dream does great work, as well. Splattered has been going strong for a year or so now with their reissues. Puke n' Vomit keeps cranking out good product. Not too many reissue only labels on the punk level these days. There are some really cool one-off releases from labels releasing mainly new stuff, but those are few and far in between. Futurismo in England has done some great reissues... Suburban Lawns, Units, DEVO, etc. but I feel like some of their releases get a bit too gimmicky with five different choices of colored vinyl, etc. The packaging is great, but I don't care for manufactured rarities. I just want the music.
PSF: What's your biggest vinyl gripe?
JR: That I have too much in my house. Um... I don't like warpy vinyl, straight from the pressing plant. Quality control at some places is crappy. I've had issues at times, but it's been pretty solid for the last several releases. Those are not real gripes. I mean, I've had vinyl in my life since birth. I can't gripe about vinyl.
PSF: Thoughts on RSD (Records Store Day)?
JR: I have nothing against it. It's fun in the same, kinda sleazy way as a carnival. I don't like the people who constantly shit on it. It's snobbery to complain about it. I've had great times at them, even if I didn't always buy anything. Live bands, free food and beer, records, bumping into friends you haven't seen in a while. I mean, yeah I can see what there is to complain about. It's just like a nerdy block party.
Coronavirus couldn't stop Rerun's release schedule as they continue to crank out the quality (mostly reissue) records in 2020. More information:
Official website: http://www.rerunrecordsstl.com/
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