Off the Record: An Interview with Curtis Knapp of Marriage Records

I recently contacted and interviewed (via the interweb) Curtis Knapp, co-founder of Marriage Records based in Portland, Oregon. Marriage is known for producing local and global acts big and small, ranging from Dirty Projectors and  tUnE-yArDs, to Lucky Dragons and YACHT.

Marriage Records prides itself on the community aspect of their organization. In a previous interview, Knapp stated:

“The label learned everything and grew through its artists. It wasn’t the other way around. This place–the community of music here; Marriage Records is totally a function of that.”

The B-Side at The Henry features numerous Marriage records, come in and listen today!

Marriage collage

The Interview:

What was the impetus for starting this record label?
Adrian Orange was making tons of music as Thanksgiving.  He was 16 at the time.  He and I started it as a way to get his records out into the world.  We set out to publish all kinds of work via the label.  We mounted the label as a document officiator of our time and work together, and of our friends.  Thus the name Marriage Records.

What is your production/distribution process? How has this evolved since the economic downturn?
It’s case by case and depends, obviously, on the medium and the artist.  Our production has slowed during the downturn.  Though this has more to do with internal factors than any national trends.  And thankfully so!  We were at a fevered pace for many years.  The bad part was not being able to continue to employ Jordan Dykstra.

Production/distribution costs can be anywhere from zero to $10,000 per release for us.  And have ranged from digital only releases, to tapes, CDs, vinyl, DVDs, T-shirts, posters, objects, books, prints, events, packaging in house or outsourced, tour management, promotion, advertisement, vans for bands, help getting SSI, interviews, etc.

What makes this record label specifically “northwest”?
The fact that we operate out of Portland and most of our connections are here.  Is the music itself tied to the landscape?  Globally less so, since the beginning of recording technology, I’d say.  Though certainly songwriters like Adrian would have to be considered in the Northwest context.  And White Fang, for the matter.  They were also born here.  But both their influences come from records from everywhere.  I think K records can lay claim to a large part of the popularization of independent record labels.  Is that they are in the Northwest significant?  Is it an inheritance of the pioneering spirit?  The fecundity of the less ruined forests?

What is your favorite record of all time?
Whoa.  I used to have a tape that someone copied for me from the library.  It had different funeral songs from all around the world.  I probably listened to it thousands of times in my Ford Aerostar before I lost it.

How do you decide what bands to work with?
It’s nearly always based on personal relationship.  I tend to have relationships with people who, above all else, are dedicated to their work.

Do you let the musicians choose their album art, or does the label have control?
Fantastic at times and unfortunate at others, the musicians have complete control over their artwork.  Sometimes this means they have me do it, also for better or worse.

What is Marriage releasing that you are excited about? 
Unkle Funkle.  Caspar Sonnet.  Little Wings.  White Fang.  Rob Walmart.  I should also mention Adam Forkner somewhere.


Thanks again to Curtis for the words.

Until next time!

Signing off,

Olivia Olive

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