We want to stay small. We operate Asian Man Records like a family…there are no contracts, bands are free to come and go if they want. We want our bands to be happy, and we try to pick bands that we really feel a connection with. Mike started the label because he loves music, and that always comes first.
arena rock releases music we like whether it’s pre-major or post-major. superdrag was our very first release well before they went to a major. we’ve remained fans and it’s good to have them back. as far as luna…i loved their major label records and this was just a great opportunity. most of our bands have not had major record deals but if anyone is unhappy where they are then they should have another option. i guess we’re the “single boy-in-waiting”.
I think we are a song band. So that would put us in the same line as a lot of classic 60’s rock, we all grew up in the 70’s and 80’s so we were influenced by Metal, New Wave, and Punk . And of course, the 90’s were the college years so, yea, we are influenced by alternative and indie rock too.
Our editorial format really hasn’t changed since inception. We’re still committed to reporting an any news, reviews, etc. and adding our own biting commentary. One of our mottos is “if we have nothing to say about it, we won’t bother with it”. We’ve expanded a bit with what we offer (features, columns, radio) but our purpose is still the same. For the record, we’ve gone through one site design.
Allen- It seems to me that the labels have been sorely remiss in getting their shit together. They should have been on this and finding a way to make it, because it’s an inevitability…
Paul – On a way to make money.
TR: What’s your south?
a place where i can disappear when i’m done, live on a farm or in a shack, raise alligators, probably somewhere in cajun country, louisiana.
TR: Have you been to Nashville? And did you like it?
Yes. and No.
TR: And if not do you plan to go?
JM: How would you define the music your band makes? Linc: A passerby to our practice once stopped to tell us we play what his brother describes as “strength music.” Finn: Over the top Rock.
JM: How much of an influence is J. Robbins (jawbox, burning airlines) and the greater D.C. scene on your music? justin: The first time I saw Jawbox was on Conan O’Brian. They blew me away. I’ve been a huge fan ever since.
This interview of John Davis of the band Superdrag was conducted via a correspondence of emails from September 21-22, 2000.
JM- Generally what do you think about the prevalence of mp3s and the whole Napster Phenomenon?
JD- To be quite honest, I’ve never downloaded a note of music off of Napster or any other file-swapping service, so I can’t really debate the pros and cons from a listener’s perspective. Supposedly our new record (street date: Oct.17) is already available in its entirety through Napster. That doesn’t really bother me at all.
JM- Why doesn’t it bother you? Is it because of a faith in music, that if the fans are listening to the music and enjoying it then you’ve done your job?
JD- I suppose. I guess I just feel like anything that generates more interest in the music can’t possibly be bad for us. And yes, I do feel like if people are listening to the music and enjoying it then we’ve been completely successful in what we set out to do. It’s part of our job to go to their town, play at their favorite bar, and make them WANT to go and buy the record. Right?
JM- Do you believe that the “record” is going to become obsolete in favor of structures like the subscription system that some labels are toying with, and how do you think this change in music delivery changes the way the public looks at bands.
JM- I’m sure there’ll come a day when every household will be equipped with a computer and a CD burner, but until then, I don’t think the “record”, as we know it will become obsolete. I work part-time at a “record” store in-between tours, and I can tell you we’ve got quite a ways to go. People are still buying cassettes, for Christ’s sake!
JM- Which record store? Which bands are selling the most vinyl records?
JD- It’s a chain store in Knoxville. In the year-or-so that I’ve been there, we’ve only had two vinyl LP’s darken the doors, ever. Something by Dub Narcotic, and “The Marshall Mathers LP” by Eminem. We have yet to sell either one.
JM- Do you believe the labels, both major and indie, had the responsibility to see the mp3 thing coming and should’ve prepared themselves better?
JD- Well, I guess most labels have taken full advantage of the Internet in terms of promotional campaigns, Enhanced CDs w/ free Internet access, etc. Seems like they could’ve foreseen any number of ways for the same technology to work against them. I guess it’s kind of a double-edged sword that way.
JM- Do you yourself prefer the sound of vinyl over the compression-ed sound of a CD? Does your band produce its albums knowing most of the fans will listen to it on CD; are you trying to best recreate your live sound?
JD- Well, I’ve always liked hearing the warm lows on LPs. I guess the analog medium just has a wider dynamic range or something. We’ve always tried to get that kind of sound. In fact, “In The Valley…” will be the first Superdrag LP ever pressed on vinyl. Hell yeah!
JM- What do you think is in the future for small labels in relation to Napster?
JD- They will join forces and rid the Earth of Imperialist Record Mongers!!
JM- You know everyone says that. But why is it that everyone is looking for management? It seems they and record distributors are the new power players in the careers of many bands. How bad of an experience with them did you have?
JD- It could’ve been worse. It could’ve been a lot better. We held up our end of the deal. We’ve never been short on material, but I’m just not willing to write to anyone else’s specifications. Especially if that particular person doesn’t know jack about shit. See Vitamin C.
JM- Do you believe there will ever be any regulation, any royalty paying system for downloaded mp3s?
JD- Seems unlikely, but like I said before, I don’t know much about it.
JM- How do feel about the elite colleges like Stamford and Harvard refusing to block Napster in the name of academic freedom?
JD- I’ll bet Lars Ulrich is fuckin pissed.
JM- Do artists lose credibility the more music becomes easily stolen and/or easily downloaded?
JD- Seems to me the only people who lose credibility here are multi- millionaires like Lars & co. or Dr. Dre who bitch and moan about lost record sales when they already have more money than their grand- children’s grandchildren will ever be able to spend.
JM- Do you sell CDs at shows? And have you seen sales drop, either at shows or through your label, or not meet your expectations?
JD- Yes we do, from time to time. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not any of this will directly affect our sales at shows.
JM- What influence do you think mp3s have on records sales in traditional music stores?
JD- It’s hard to say.
JM- Does music have a significant cultural value that is a necessary element in the survival in a culture like in the US?
JD- I don’t know if it’s a necessary element in terms of survival, but all kinds of people depend on it for all kinds of different reasons. I know I do. I can’t imagine a world without Rock.
JM- Do you think they should teach Rock in high school? Or at least a history of 20th century music?
JM- Where do you get most of your music? Online stores, traditional record stores?
JD- I’ve never bought anything online.
JM- What % is indie vs. major?
JD- I guess it’s roughly 50/50. Hard to say for sure.
JM- Can you name three of your favorite new albums?
JD- It’s not exactly new, but “New Parade” by The Sheila Divine is excellent. “The Pity List” by The Mayflies USA. And whatever Teenage Fanclub’s getting ready to put out. I’m quite sure it’ll be tops.
JM- What band do you feel isn’t getting the attention it deserves?
JD- Teenage Fanclub. They’ve never gotten their just desserts in this country, if you ask me. They’re too fucking good.
JM- What band, that has been around since your band began, gets way more credit than they deserve?
JD- Anybody who can’t sing in tune or play in time without a computer.
JM- If you were to make a family tree, what bands are your ancestors?
JD- The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Big Star, The Stones, The Who, The Kinks, Cheap Trick, Teenage Fanclub, The Posies, Dinosaur Jr, Swervedriver, Guided By Voices, My Bloody Valentine, The Replacements, AC/DC (I’m trying to make sure all the guys are represented, too. Didn’t mean to write a book on the subject. )
JM- No MC5, Television, or Iggy?
JD- Brandon’s got the Television stuff, and you’ve gotta love the Ig (with or without The Stooges) & The MC5, but I don’t think we’ve ever been quite that funky. At least Tom looks a little bit like Rob Tyner. BTW, Tom’s band Flesh Vehicle has a record out that’s worth hearing. I think you’ll pick up a lot more of the Detroit influence in his stuff. In fact, they do a pretty raunchy version of “Search & Destroy.”
JM- How important is the element of “fun” in your songs? As instead of being called a Rock band, you guys can be considered a Rock AND ROLL band? Much in the way people write about the Stones or Cheap Trick.
JD- Man, we just enjoy playing. Usually, the songs that wind up on our records are the ones we have the most fun playing.
JM- How much do you consider yourself a southern songwriter in a southern band?
JD- 100%. I think it’s high time that the definition of “Southern Rock” be changed, or at least amended; there’s a lot goin on down here besides .38 Special, Black Oak Arkansas, & Molly Hatchet.
JM- Do you feel Nashville is overlooked as a rock city?
JD- Absolutely. Nashville’s got a thriving Rock ‘N’ Roll/Power-Pop scene. Tons of good bands, good writers, and good venues.
JM- What other bands from down there should we be listening to?
JD- Lifeboy, Who Hit John, 30 Amp Fuse, The V-Roys, Flesh Vehicle, Pegasi 51, The Shine, The Mayflies USA, Joe Marc’s Brother.
JM- How supportive is that city to keeping a band going. I ask that last part in relation to how impossible it seems to keep a band together in NYC due to lack of paying part time jobs, time, traffic, and the subway.
JD- There are tons of music resources in Nashville. Practice spaces, studios, etc. Knoxville, on the other hand, is more or less devoid of anything other than what the bands make for themselves.
JM- So, why Knoxville if there is less music-stuff than Nashville?
JD- Well, it’s always been cheap to live here, for one thing. Don and myself are from here originally and our families are still here. We’ve been thinking about relocating to Nashville; Sam lives there. I really like Nashville, actually.
JM- Does Knoxville have a sound like Seattle did back in the grunge heyday?
JD- No, I can’t really think of any two current Knoxville bands that sound alike.
JM- Is it because of Knoxville’s proximity to the other larger cities that makes it appealing? Much like Champaign IL, proximity to Chicago?
JD- Well, as far as touring the Eastern half of the country goes, I guess Knoxville’s as good a place to start a tour as any. We’re 8 hours from D.C., and once you get up there you can work your way all the way up to Boston, and most of the drives between cities are no more than 4-5 hours. Same goes for the Louisville-Chicago/Midwest run. Out of all the regions of the country, we’ve probably done the least amount of touring in the Southeast, but still there’s Atlanta (3 hours) Nashville (2 1/2 hours) etc. etc. etc. However, getting out to the West Coast from over here is a ball-buster no matter how you slice it! We finally made it back out there last month.
JM- Did you get your break there, in Nashville, or where?
JD- Our Darla seven-inch had gotten some attention from CMJ, which I guess in some ways is like a tip-sheet for unsigned bands, or at least it was at that time, and we started getting calls from labels. We were touring pretty steadily at the time, but we had been playing a lot of New York shows. You know, you’d get on one of those “showcase” type bills with four other bands, the whole Industry thing with all the A&R. I guess we got our “big break” in New York.
JM- How important is location to being “discovered”. So many bands move to LA or NYC or Chicago to make it. Is there a lesson to be learned by the success (musical, not financial) of bands like yours?
JD- I really don’t think it has all that much to do with it. It’s been my experience that a band’s willingness to work on the road is a lot more important. Granted, a lot of bands are willing to hang tight at home in a small town, be the big fish in a little pond, and wait to be discovered. It’s unrealistic. I think in some ways, being from a town like Knoxville works to your advantage. You’re kind of forced to do things for yourself. No label president’s gonna see your name in the local weekly and come down to the local truck stop/rock venue and sign you to a five-album deal!
JM- What genre would you consider yourself to belong to?
JD- Rock. No Post-Rock, no Indie Rock, no Math Rock. Just Rock.
JM- Do you feel a connection to the early power pop band the Descendents and that California/DC sound of the late 80’s? i.e. Swiz, Dag Nasty, Soulside,Bad Religion.
JD- The Descendents have always been one of my absolute all-time favorite bands. I don’t think you could ever find a better synthesis of punk energy and classic songwriting. I think “Milo Goes To College” is probably my fave Descendents record. I really like the All stuff, too. I always felt like Milo was one of the best punk singers ever, right up there with Glenn Danzig & Joey Ramone. You know, really aggro but really tuneful at the same time.
JM- How many bands that you have seen or heard remind you of yourselves?
JD- Not many, unless you’re referring to all the ones we’ve “borrowed” from!
JM- Do you feel like you are part of a music community, and/or tradition?
JD- I’d like to think we’ve earned our place in the Power Pop file.
JM- Where do you find your core audience lives? What part of the country?
JD- The Northeast/East Coast has always been good for us. Actually, the West Coast has always been great, too. We’ve probably been the least successful in our own neck of the woods. There aren’t too many places in the Midwest where we do exceptionally well, although Chicago & Minneapolis are generally pretty good.
JM- What band, from after 1980, do you think exemplifies the Power Pop sound?
JD- For me, it would have to be either The Posies or Teenage Fanclub. At the risk of sounding like a broken record.
JM- Do you believe in the theory that every band has to have a hit single in order to make it?
JD- Well, that depends on your definition of “making it,” and a particular band or artist’s goals for what they’d like to achieve. We had a “hit” and as a result, we sold just enough copies to be considered sell-outs by Indie Rock elitists who bought our first EP, but not enough to establish the kind of clout at the label that a lot of your platinum-sellers enjoy. It totally changes their expectations from there on out, and if you’re not willing to bend over backwards (or forwards) to do anything you can, jump on any bandwagon or assimilate any trend that comes down the pike into the music in order to repeat that phenomenon, then the honeymoon will indeed be short. And not necessarily sweet.
JM- I know of a few artists whose labels call them in for meeting and ask them to write stuff more like Limp Bizkit, or more like Ben Folds Five. My question is where did the Power Pop women go? With the contemporary Rock sound seeming to be so male, even though it really always has been, but it seems no one took over after Kim Deal and her associated bands. Will rock always be male?
JD- Well, I can’t think of too many female artists in recent years who have even approached Kim Deal’s songwriting and pop sensibility. The Lilith Fair women were doing something else entirely. Luckily for me, they were doing it someWHERE else entirely. I just didn’t get it, I guess. I like Rock Music. I like it loud and pissed off. I like Joan Jett. Kim Gordon. Thalia Zedek. It doesn’t even have to be pissed off; just loud. Bilinda Butcher. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be loud. Nico. Moe Tucker. Georgia Hubley. I don’t know if Rock will always be “male.” I’m sure there will always be great female Rock artists. Sleater-Kinney certainly brings the Rock literati and the Indie elite to their knees on a fairly regular basis, and even if the lead singer sounds like Geddy Lee (in my opinion) they rock. They don’t play acoustic guitars and they don’t fucking yodel, either.
JM- What would you tell up and coming bands, what tips would you highly recommend they follow?
JD- Buy yourselves a reliable van.
JM- How much of the year are you on tour?
JD- Well, it’s varied quite a bit over the years. We’ve been out for as long as 11 months at a stretch. It always seems to depend on how well the record’s doing.
JM- Have you seen a difference in attitude in the crowds since you started touring?
JD- This year, you mean? Not really.
JM- Have you found who your fan base base truly is after making the adjustment from a major label to an indie?
JD- Well, the 2nd Elektra album sold just shy of 20,000 units without a video, a big tour, or a Billboard single. I guess those were the people who actually gave a fuck about the band. We’d just like to build on what we have left through constant touring and good records.
JM- What was the major adjustment when you changed labels?
JD- Well, I managed to go five years without having to work at any other job. Of course, with a major, you live on advances. They give you lump sums of money against what you’ll earn through record sales, and that’s how you pay your rent, etc. Of course, that money comes right off the top of whatever you make. Most bands rack up serious debts this way. So, I guess the biggest difference in day-to-day life is having to work a job in-between tours. Believe me, it’s worth it. The flip side is you get to make your records the way you want to.
JM- What type of treatment did you receive from your former label during your tenure? I only hear horror stories from bands once signed to a major?
JD- I’ll just say this; there’s a very, very narrow window of time in between the Ass-Kissing Stage (when you’ve got a hit) and the No-Phone-Call-Returning, Rats-From-A-Sinking-Ship Stage (when you don’t.) Only one of my so-called “friends” from the label has ever bothered to contact me since this whole thing happened. Like I give a fuck, I hate most of those people anyway and I’m just thrilled about the way things have turned out.
JM- and finally…What lesson did you learn, take with you, from your experience being on a major label?
JD- Simple: I’ll never do that again. No way.
Don Coffey Jr: drums
John Davis: guitar, piano, organ, electric bass, vocals
Brandon Fisher: guitar
Sam Powers: electric bass, vocals
Visit them at www.superdrag.com
This interview is with Alan Charing of the band, A.C. Cotton.
JM: What’s your south?
AC: a place where i can disappear when i’m done, live on a farm or in a shack, raise alligators, probably somewhere in cajun country, louisiana.
JM: Have you been to Nashville? And did you like it?
AC: Yes. and No.
JM: And if not do you plan to go?
AC:we’ll be back there i’m sure. it just seems really touristy and like there is no real heart to it now… but i don’t know; i’ve only passed through a few times, short stops. maybe it was my fault for going to a seafood restaurant in a city nowhere near any ocean.
JM: Or where do you want to go, where does the root of your music live?
AC: I do feel like it comes from being out here in Portland. I moved from boston and did take some stuff with me, a lot of influences from there, but i do FEEL like my music is in the west. Not western, but of the west, like kerouac said, the east of my youth and the west of my future. I WANT to go everywhere i can.
JM: Do you feel there is a resurgence of Rock and Roll in the indie world, music that’s getting away from the drone and shoegazine, fist airing, of hip-hard-rap like Limp Bizkit?
AC: In the indie world, yes. in mainstream, no. I think the term “indie” now is even too limiting. i don’t feel that straight rock and roll like ours even fits into what most would consider an indie sound, but we like it, and we are certainly independent. but that old style of rock and roll doesn’t seem as easily accessible besides maybe a band like the black crowes. if people had more exposure to it in a mainstream way, i bet they would dig it too. everything is trying to fit into something now, and thats a sure way to be unoriginal and unartistic. you just do whatever feels good and people will get it or they won’t. doesn’t matter if it sells
JM: Which end of the spectrum do you like better; Rolling Stones or XTC?
JM: If you were to make a family tree for your band what bands are your parents and ancestors?
AC: bob dylan-godfather
tom petty and bruce springsteen are uncles
kurt is a dead grandfather
roger waters and leonard cohen are eccentric cousins
and the black crowes and crazy horse are brothers
the beatles are like great great grandparents who won’t talk to us.
JM: What’s your favorite guitar, and what guitar do you play the most often?
AC: i have a ’74 les paul which has been pretty good to me. also a music man. and a tele. that family is pretty sturdy. i had a gretsch country gentleman, but the way i play, it was impossible to keep in tune. when i am home, or writing songs, i use a beautiful hollow body vox that i bought from a friend of mine it isn’t good for live shows either, going out of tune, but it is all i play at home or writing. i guess that’s my favorite in many ways.
JM: How often do you tour? Nationally or locally?
AC: we try to get out of town now once a month, even if its down to california and back for a weekend, just to keep at it. we did a month of touring last summer to the east coast and through the south, and plan to do that again at the end of this summer, hit the festivals and see as much of the country as we can.
JM: What recommendations would you make to other bands on music as a career choice?
AC: 1. you better love it, and really want to do it. don’t just take up space just for kicks.
2.its great if you don’t want to make any money for a long time
JM: Do you have a day job and what is it?
AC: freelance waiter
JM: What does it take to have a hit song?
AC: don’t try for it. just write what you want. if you are a good songwriter, hopefully you will get the recognition, and even then probably not. but i’ll let you know when it happens
JM: What is your definition of success?
AC: to be able to feel good about what i am doing. not necessarily happy all the time, but proud. knowing there’s nothing else i can do. to be able to keep myself alive doing what I love, and keep going in a positive direction. a lot of people say success is happiness, but i know a lot of people who are successful and unhappy. or vice versa.
JM: Would you sell your songs to a pop-star if they wanted to record them?
AC: no. not really. not yet. they are a part of me; it would be weird to hear it from someone else, and i probably wouldn’t like it. it wouldn’t sit well. my ego wouldn’t stand for it
JM: Would you be happy being a one hit wonder?
AC: no, but i would take the money if it came
JM: What bands should we be listening to?
AC: a.c. cotton, all the old bands i mentioned before. sonic youth, frank black, a lot of jazz, bob dylan bob dylan bob dylan
JM: What bands of the 90’s didn’t get the attention they deserved?
AC: american music club, tree, poster children, freewheelers, elephant sandwich. or maybe they really did and i just don’t know it. bosstones took a long time to really hit too.
JM: Do you find redemption in your songs?
AC: hell yes. i better.
Learn more about Alan Charing and A.C. Cotton at the website http://www.accotton.com