The time has come to conclude the exhibition The Record: Contemporary Art & Vinyl.
For the final interview connected to this exhibit, I spoke with Andrew McKibben and Ian Judd of Couple Skate Records. As personal coworkers and co-community members of these two for several years through Cairo, I was very excited to (lightly) interrogate the men at forefront of producing Seattle DIY music and culture.
Many thanks to the boys for the interview, and to all of you who have followed these posts!
How did you get started working in independent music? What was the impetus for this label?
Ian Judd Well, since growing up and going to highschool in Spokane, Washington, I was involved in a lot of DIY culture. I started booking shows myself when I was 15. It just kind of happened out of necessity. When I was 18 and moved to Seattle, that interest I had was a little more refined and a little more mature. I built up a lot more momentum, and got more involved in music community here. I started booking shows, playing in bands, and starting a music label was sort of a product of that journey. I got involved in DIY music communities because I wanted music to be more accessible for myself, rather than just listening to it.
Andrew McKibben I’ve never been a “show booker guy” or anything, my involvement has always been as a musician. In terms of independent music, I really got my start was in highschool as a volunteer at The Vera Project downtown. A lot of good times there. I was going to shows, seeing bands, and getting involved in other DIY spaces in Seattle. But I wasn’t super involved in the music scene in Seattle until I moved back when I was about 19 or 20 and started playing in bands. The label kind of came out of that for me.
What was the impetus and drive for starting a label?
AM My band M Women really wanted to put out a record, we had plans to record and had songs written, but we didn’t really know how to approach the music business. We just decided we’d start a label and put it out ourselves. We got Ian on board because he’s good at that kind of stuff.
IJ We also wanted to have a way of documenting music that we love, and our friends’ bands. Every record label has some sort of narrative that tells you about was this label is about…or at least every label thats doing it right. For us it’s fun too, because we get to curate.We had so many friends in bands that didn’t have a connection or know-how to get their record out to people, so what we try to do with Couple Skate is to create a model and a platform for a lot of our friends’ bands.
AM It’s not just about our friends’ bands, it’s also about bands in our community and the people we’re connected to. Not every band is your best friends’ band, it’s more about the community.
Do you each have individual roles in running the label?
AM We vaguely have roles–Ian is good at press, PR, internet, social networking kind of stuff, and I’m on the ordering and production side. That’s very general.
IJ Andrew is the “shrewd businessman”, but we both have to do the packaging.
Do you let the musicians choose the album art, or does the label have control
AM The album art is part of the album; we would never try to tell the artist what to do. The only thing we ask, because we’re such a small label and we have limitations as to what we can financially do, so if someone is dreaming real big, we would have to sort of curtail that.
IJ So far the artists that we’ve worked with have had a heavy unique visual element. We wouldn’t want to impose on that at all.
Where did you get the name?
IJ I don’t remember. It’s a term that denotes that time on the rink when no one can be alone–everyone has to find someone that they have to chill with, skate with. It could be romantic or platonic. It just sounds good. Jessie Brown made the logo, so that really tied it together.
Why is Seattle a good place to have a record label?
IJ There is already an infrastructure set for musicians to get the props they deserve, and for their bands to have some sort of complete local exposure. There are so many opportunities for bands like KEXP, The Stranger and Seattle Weekly…
AM Also, there are independent record stores that will carry records released on your tiny label. Even though SubPop is the big boy in the room, I feel as though it sets the tone for the independent labels in the room here in Seattle.
IJ Ideally, one would start a label in an enormous city like NY or LA–Seattle has always been a “provincial backwater” city up to this point. But all the rules have changed over the past 20 years, with Sub Pop being such a heavy hitter in the music industry.
What makes your record label specifically northwest?
IJ The artists. I don’t think we are going for a “timber-flannel-microsoft” vibe. Haha. We are influenced by the ethos of K records–we are all about bringing people together through the music we release.
AM For us, it’s about trying to build a community, as opposed to climbing a social latter. That’s sort of our goal, is to try to build something here for ourselves, instead of taking to something national and getting rich and famous. I don’t know if that’s specifically northwest, but it’s definitely small-community oriented.
Do you have any production idols or labels that you looked up to most?
IJ I always liked Factory Records in Manchester. They were just so good at documenting everything. They did a lot of extra-curricular stuff, like owning a club and hosting shows. Each of those shows were documented. I think that’s really inspiring. The guy who owned Factory Records had the Factory label on printed on his coffin.
AM I think a more recent label that I have been really interested in is PPM (Post Present Medium) out of LA: they do a really good job of documenting the downtown LA music community. It’s cool because they don’t have an aesthetic that is super consistent, but because the bands are all in the same community, they have a very similar and consistent vibe. They put out pretty killer records too.
How would you describe your label in three words?
Thanks to Ian and Andrew for this final interview!
Signing off (forever),