John Dwyer is certainly prolific. His main band, Thee Oh Sees, have released 18 studio albums since 1997. His side project, Damaged Bug, has two albums out. He co-owns Castle Face Records, where most of his output has been released. He tours frequently, and Thee Oh Sees are legendary for their energetic live shows. I met John about ten years ago through our mutual friend, and his main engineer for the past decade, Chris Woodhouse. Since then I've had the pleasure of going out for sushi runs and cooking a few dinners at the studio with John. He's a fun hang with a great combo of in your face dry wit and a razor sharp intelligence. He's one of the smartest, savviest independent musicians I've met. Since forming Castle Face and self releasing his albums, all of Thee Oh Sees records have hit the #1 spot on the CMJ charts. He could teach a master class in how to survive, and even thrive, as a muscian, while so many other music business folks moan about how terrible the business is. Maybe his secret is that he works his ass off. When he's not touring, he's recording, and before the rest of the musicians in the studio have even woken up, John's run several miles and is on his laptop taking care of business, even though he worked later, and probably partied harder, than everyone else the night before. Last time Larry and I were in Los Angeles, we dropped by John's new house to see his home studio and talk about making records. -JB & LC
LC: I see you have Pro Tools here.
I'm slowly learning Pro Tools as I go — I've never been a digital guy. I wanted to get the body of the song on tape to get that nice tape sound. Drums, vocals, guitars, bass, and main keyboard will go on tape. That's what I need the eight channels for. Then, ideally, I'll start doing tracks in Pro Tools, like claps, backup vocals, and little parts that don't need a lot.
JB: So you can get more than eight tracks.
Yeah, I can get as many as I need; but I honestly still don't know how to do that. I'm learning Pro Tools as I go, and I haven't been home much. I have some time coming up where I'm going to finish up a new record. It's been slow.
LC: You're known as a pretty productive guy. Do you think it is going to get worse now, having a home space? Do you think you'll be even more productive?
No, I've always had a home space, but it's always been a bedroom or something. This was the first one where I could alter it to how I wanted, and to be officious in it being a recording studio. The funny thing is I got all this gear in, then I came down here and for two months just couldn't do shit. The well was dry. My buddy was like, "Give it time, it'll happen. Keep going down there and smoking weed. Eventually it'll click." That's kind of what happened. I wrote a bunch of shit in a row. You guys will appreciate this. I got one of these [neon signs] for me and Dave Sitek a while back.
JB: "Don't record over stuff!"
I had to turn that on when I got too high down here so that I didn't accidentally record over tracks. All of a sudden I'm like, "Fuck, did I record over the drums?" I'd have to re-record the whole song. I bought a tape deck remote for use by the drum kit; now when I'm here by myself I don't have to keep getting up and running back and forth. I'm always working in a small space, but that fucking thing [the remote] doesn't have an RTZ [return to zero] on it, so it's moot. I still have to get up because the readout is here, and I can't see that from the drum kit. My eyes are shot because I'm getting old, so I have to get up and make sure it's zeroed, and then I can go back and hit record.
LC: How well is your dog trained?
Yeah. "Buddy, RTZ!" I'd have to keep putting snacks on it. The tape repair guy would be like, "Well, here's your problem. It's full of spit."
JB: So you've done most of the Damaged Bug records at home on this setup?
All of them, so far. I've done a couple of Thee Oh Sees records on this as well. I did Castlemania on this machine, and Dog Poison might have been on this machine. Dog Poison might have been 4-track though. I don't remember, honestly. Thee Oh Sees has always been recorded with Chris Woodhouse, for the most part. I like to have somebody available so I can go and play. We've been working for months on these songs, and it's nice not having to do double duty. Also having an extra person there behind a piece of glass and not having to run back and forth makes a huge difference. When I'm doing songs at home all by myself, it's really nice to have this setup. I dig it.
JB: Chris Woodhouse mixed a lot of these home recordings?
Chris mixed the last Damaged Bug [Cold Hot Plumbs]. We went up to the studio at The Dock [Sacramento, CA] to mix. He's obviously a much better mixer than me, although I've taken a lot from him. He showed me subtractive mixing, and helped me wrap my head around gain staging. I was always an additive mixer, like, "Oh, it needs more mid-range?" He'd say, "No, take away everything but midrange, and that will stick out in the middle more." That way I'm not having an incredibly noisy record. We'd always have everything pedal-to-the-metal, blasted really hot. I'm backing off of that a little bit; I'm trying to make things actually sound good, rather than hiding them with the forgiveness of compression and smashing it to tape.
LC: It's a balance.
For sure. Everything I have is solid state, somehow. I like a lot of tube gear, obviously, but for some reason the gear that stuck out for me with Woodhouse at The Dock, and at Panoramic House, tended to be solid state when we did a little taste test. It depends what it is, though. I think it's time for me to get more tube gear. Half the rack shit I have is garbage too. I found some shit in the trash, like the [Yamaha] SPX-90. This thing is shockingly great-sounding.
JB: It's got cool choruses and flangers.
It's a weird, weird effect. But my console's only got two sends on it, so you've got to limit yourself.
LC: You should track right through it.
I do that a lot. I used to do it all the time, but then Woodhouse talked me out of it, because I can have more options. Now I'm leaning back to tracking with an effect. Fuck it, I know what I want it to sound like. Ideally it would be nice to have four effects sends and options, but I need to get better shit before I start focusing on that. I'm a real one cord kind of guy. It goes from this hole to this hole, and then you're done. This is my first time ever having a patchbay.
LC: How loud does it get upstairs in your home when you're downstairs working?
It's not too bad. It's not full band recordings. If it was a full band, it would be loud as hell up here. When I'm monitoring, it's nothing up here. It's the live drums that are loud. The neighbors are all, "Oh sweet, you're a drummer?" They're all old hippies up here who want creative types around.
JB: Did you look around for a while before you found this place?
Yeah. Basically right now the state of affairs in L.A. is that everyone's trying to sell their houses for a half million and up, so we looked at these really horrible flip houses. This place was trashed. It needed a new floor, new pipes, new electric, the ceilings were popcorn ceilings so we got rid of that, and all new paint. It was fucked. The people who lived here were hoarders, so it smelled like piss. We pulled up the subfloor, hollowed out the whole joint, and had to pour the foundation that was sitting on these pucks of cement at the back of the house.
JB: Do you see yourself bringing in other bands here, at any point?
Not really, no. I would like to; it sounds like a great plan, but I don't even have time to fucking record myself. The band's so goddamn busy. I have to make time.
LC: What are Thee Oh Sees' studio sessions like?
We've been doing ten-day stretches. With car rentals and food, I end up spending eight or ten grand and then waiting eight or ten months to get some of that back. It's always an investment.
LC: Do you try to budget a certain amount of time?
I try to book a little more than I think we'll need. I think, with recording and with life, I've gotten to the point in my life now where, if I want something and have the money, I just fucking spend the money. You're only alive for so long. That's how it is with recording. If you need to pay a string section, want to get a good dinner, you want to buy drugs, or if you need more time, just fucking spend the money, if you have it. For years I recorded for nothing. I loathe Kickstarter for art projects. I managed to be high the whole time, and do it for free. Why do you want my money for your terrible band to record a record when you could just bust ass? Figure it out.
JB: It feels weird to say, "Hey, can you give me some money for my small business? I can't quite get it together to start it myself." It's the mark of an amateur, I think.
It inevitably means that your shit's going to suck. I bought a 4-track for $150 when I was a kid and recorded 30 records on it. They sound like shit to me now, but people bought them and I was able to tour. I've been slow and steady my whole life. Slowly climbing the ladder. But because of that, I've got people who haven't paid attention, but I've been doing it for 20 years. I'm always fucking there.
LC: You mentioned how you can't stand how your early 4-track recordings sound.
I don't like going too clean. I never have. That's what I really like about tape. You have the option. I think, with mellower tracks, it's nice to go clean, but I've always leaned towards raw recordings. I like live recordings — a lot of people don't. The 4-track is really nice, because it's really accessible and fucking cheap. Anybody can do it. I learned how, in like ten minutes, because I was so obsessed. I couldn't wait to start. "You can record four things? Holy shit, I didn't know you could do that." I like shit rough. I've always liked it really up-front. There were certain things I'd always hated about some kinds of recordings when I was a kid that I've grown to deal with now more; like evident overdubs is something I've never been a fan of. I think that was a big part of wanting to be raw; that it gave recordings that live aesthetic. We used to record a lot live. I used to record a bunch of shit with Woodhouse, all live to the 8-track. Thee Oh Sees' Warm Slime was done on a [Tascam] 388 at a bar I used to work at. We rented it for the day, went in, and played our set. That was it. I would make Woodhouse mic that fucking PA, which he loathed. Now I do overdub vocals, and I'll mix in a little bit of the scratch vocal for rawness. I like music to be a little bit hairy.
JB: So you went from the 4-track to the 8-track, right?
I'd love to get a Studer 16-track, or something. I think that machine fucking rules, but it's not in the cards. A Studer's like a swimming pool. I've got friends who have them. I'm like, "I'm happy that you guys have one I can use, but I don't want one."
LC: Even with the Tascam 388, there's maintenance involved.
I would put that thing standing up in the back of my Volkswagen Beetle all the time and drive to San Francisco. As far as machines go, that thing still works. We bring it to clubs.
JB: You did that series of live recordings with that, right? [Live in San Francisco Series]
Yep. They sounded fucking great too. It's all on the 388.
JB: You worked with Eric Bauer on some of that?
Bauer, Woodhouse, and Bob Marshall are always the guys. Eric Bauer does Bauer Mansion in San Francisco, in Chinatown. He did some Ty Segall, and the new Heron Oblivion records.
LC: When you take the 388 to a club, how do you patch in?
We set it up in the bathroom. We drilled holes in the floor and ran a snake.
LC: You put live mics out to capture the ambience and take splits off the stage?
We usually put PZMs [pressure zone miscrophones] in the room, the old standby for me, and then an [Electro-Voice] RE20 on the drum top and a drum mic on the bass kick sometimes. It sounds pretty fucking good, for a live recording. We also us [Electro-Voice] RE-15s for guitar amps, which are like a secret weapon. I like the [Shure SM]57s, which are classic, but the RE-15s are great. Then usually a [Beyerdynamic] M 88 for vocals, and everything running through nice preamps. This is in a basement of a vintage shop in San Francisco called Vacation, with a shit PA I bought at Guitar Center.
LC: Do they have audiences there?
Yeah, it's slammed. It's BYOB, and free. We do these secret shows in the basement about once every month or two.
JB: Do you mix these with Chris?
Yeah. Woodhouse has been there for all these.
JB: How much of your live vocal setup chain — with the [Roland] Space Echo, the Mackie, and the JBL EON speaker — is an integral part to your sound? Are the studio recordings done the same way?
We do mic it. We use a bit of the scratch vocal. I used to use it all the time. You can hear the difference if you listen, like, four records ago. It sounds pretty shitty compared to how we are now, as far as fidelity goes. On the heavier songs, when I'm playing it live in a room, I tend to sing it more aggressively than an overdub. That's one of the problems with overdubbing, vocals in particular. I feel like it's really tough to get in the zone. I literally have to hold the guitar and play, and Woodhouse would complain that he could hear the plectrum. I have to be playing it to sing it. I finally learned how not to do that. It's really tough for me to belt it out the way it is live without the band playing with me, having all that in the mix. I started bringing a PA with me with on tour years ago. It's mostly because sound guys can be jerks. If I got to a club and they didn't get it, they'd be like, "Why?" Like fuck it, "We're playing on the floor, bringing in our own mic stands and setting up everything. You're [point is] moot. You're null. Go have a beer." We'd have total freedom to do whatever we wanted. But, on the other hand, that's the PA at practice too. It's nice to set up on stage and have everything sound like it did at practice, how I wrote it, and what we're familiar with. Everybody can hear. We have two PAs on either side of the stage, so my bass player can hear me singing. The other end of that coin is that monitor guys are either great or a totally inept nightmare. Having my own monitors on stage means I have my own monitors set up in addition to theirs, which is nice. If they're fucking up, I can wing it with my own PA. That's what all the keyboards go through live, so when I turn around to my amp to play the keyboard, I don't have multiple monitors on stage creating this feedback zone. I can walk away from the other monitor, as well as have a monitor right here that I play and can hear it with guitar. It's the same exact thing we do at practice. We take it to the stage. A lot of sound guys will like it too. They'll say, "I can take exactly what's on stage and make it louder up front." I bring my own DI for the vocals and keyboard.
LC: So you can split out the DI for them?
I have my filthy sound on stage, and it's still dirty for them; but they can clean it up a bit, compared to what I have on stage. It sounds fairly consistent. We set up pretty tightly. Everything's set up like it is at practice. Nothing's worse than writing something you're excited about, and then you go to a different environment and it sounds terrible. You're requiring some guy you never met in your life to be like, "Don't worry guys, I got you. You sound like a ska band, right?" No!
LC: The recording studio can be the same process though. Sometimes you go in and come out with something that doesn't feel like what you wanted to achieve.
That happens a lot too, but I think the way to cope with that is to try and make it better than you had hoped. I'll take songs in with Woodhouse that are really basic ideas that grow into something completely different. We started getting into the vibe where I'd write a song on guitar, we'd go in, I'd play it, record the guitar nicely, and get a scratch vocal. Then we'd orchestrate parts with a Mellotron, and have somebody come in to play violin, flute, and saxophone. In the end we'd take the fucking guitar out completely and have it just be the orchestra, and then re-sing the vocal. That's on "The Lens" from Drop with the cartoon video. That was one that was originally a guitar and drum song that has none of that left in the end. We could sound like Scott Walker by writing a shitty pop song and taking all the pop instruments out. That's a perfect example of going in and leaving with something completely different. I've started to embrace that.
LC: Do you do a lot of writing in the studio?
We did this time. We do. We had 13 ideas total, maybe nine of which were really written. We had four or five that were really just an idea. A few of them ended up on the record, kind of like jams. I love writing in the studio. That's why we do ten days, instead of five. It would be nice to have a month, if I didn't think it would kill Woodhouse!
LC: Someone's going to break. JB: You've gotten away from the PA thing exclusively in the studio on the vocals now?
We do both. The PA is disgusting sounding. There's no good way to mic a PA speaker. Woodhouse is like, "Maybe if I diagonally point it at the horn we'll get a little bit of woofer." You have to EQ the shit out of everything anyway.
JB: I took this photo of John and Chris' dry-erase board during the last sessions.
Yeah, that's a great system. I love that dry-erase board, man.
LC: That's everything, all the overdubs?
That's as we're writing. "Claps would sound good on this!"
LC: I've seen a lot of these kinds of boards, but that's a dense one.
That's not even dense, compared to some we had in the past. We had paper hanging off of it with more shit.
JB: Obviously you could start and finish a record completely on your 8-track, all by yourself.
I'm at the point now where I've learned so much by doing it, for so many years, that this next record I'm ready to do it all by myself.
JB: The next Oh Sees record?
At home, with me doing this by myself, or bringing in a drummer, it's really easy. When you get four or five people, it's nice to have an engineer to herd the cats. With Thee Oh Sees, it's such a big band, with so much shit, and so much volume. I like having the engineer there to help slightly produce, but also be the person who can say, "Do it again." It's nice to have that fifth element to help guide, and push buttons, and know what they're doing. I don't want to have to be like, "Oh, the tape machine's not working! Let me go put my guitar down." That kills the momentum, having to deal with the studio, on top of recording a live record. They get red light syndrome. The drummer's like, "I keep fucking up!" Woodhouse is like, "Let's do a dry run." I'm like, "Fucking record it. They'll fuck it up the second you tell them you're recording." We use a lot of first takes, because they nail it right out of the gate. Then they'll try to compensate later and fuck it up.
JB: That two drummer approach you did sounded really cool on the new record.
It's been great. People love it. They're both great drummers [Ryan Moutinho and Dan Rincon], and I've been watching them both get better. One's a guy who practices every day, and the other guy is a punk drummer. I wanted a real straight guy who could learn a couple cruddy beats. He's starting to come up with innovative parts, even now. They had to learn the old set. They played on all my old drummer's songs, so those are them playing in unison, synchronized. Now they're starting to do syncopation and playing separate shit. And there's a lot more that we're writing. This record has a lot more of that. If you listen to the fills, they're going back and forth. You can't really tell when you're looking at it, but when you listen to it in hard stereo pan, they're playing completely different shit that fits together. They do a lot where the bass drums will be going off of each other.
JB: How did you end up panning it all on the record? You put the toms left and right, right?
Woodhouse did that trick, which was nice. He was going for the one big drum set aesthetic, with the overheads, the kicks, and the snares. We ended up using one kick on each song, because it's the one thing that's going to be most off with two drummers, because they can't really hear them. The kick will be up the middle, and overheads and snares are panned. The toms from those kits would go to opposing sides, so when they'd roll, it would [go back and forth]. I usually hate that shit. In my opinion, the way a drum set should sound is not as if you were sitting behind it, but as if you were standing ten feet in front of it. It would be in this atmosphere, but Woodhouse would always do this thing. That was a super big point of contention. I'd say, "Don't do that! Now you have to remix it because you did that thing! I fucking hate it." I don't want the record to be from the point of view of the goddamn drummer. But this time he did it, and when I heard it I thought it sounded pretty cool. It's because we have two drummers, though. When you have one drummer, it's different.
JB: So the snares were panned out too?
No, the snares were on the appropriate sides. Overheads and snares [panned] out, toms opposing, and whatever kick we picked was dead center, so it sounded as if it was one big kick. It worked really well.
LC: What's it called?
A Weird Exits, and then there's a companion coming out called An Odd Entrances. The rest of the session is going to come out on that. We did two records while we were in there. We recorded quite a bit. You'll hear a lot of variety.
LC: You spend a lot of time on the road, as well as putting out a lot of records.
I feel like if you're fucking good, or you do it long enough, people will notice. I'm on the road all the time, and it's pretty rare that I see a band that blows my mind that people haven't already heard of. The way the world works now, with the internet and all that shit, in the underground, if there's good music, people know about it. Like that band Sheer Mag are doing really well right now. They're a fucking good live band; the reason that people like them is they're fucking good on stage, and they write good pop songs. The word spreads now. You don't really need a label anymore to get out there.
JB: With Castle Face Records, it's you and Matt Jones?
Yeah, Matt's my partner. We did an S Corp this year. We're getting murdered with taxes as a small business. Profit was going out the door.
JB: You guys can pay yourselves dividends.
I'm on a salary now, and we both have healthcare through the label, which is really nice. I've never had that in my life.
LC: You can pay all that pre-taxes.
It all comes out of our salary we make every month. With Thee Oh Sees, Ty [Segall], and White Fence, we have a few records that sell really well. We have others that sell okay, and then we have ones that don't make any money. He [Matt] was trying to explain to me how finances work. "Well, we sold $130,000 worth of records and all the other bands lost $140,000." This year we're starting publishing, doing books, and more, too, so we'll see. It's a labor of love.
JB: You have your photo book, Vinegar Mirror. You didn't self-publish that though.
That wasn't me. I'm doing a poster book this year — 80 pages, all the way back to 1995, with posters I've been making since Providence [Rhode Island, John's hometown]. I wrote an intro for it. There're a lot of drug stories. It'll be funny.
JB: Do you guys have any employees, or is it just you and Matt?
It's me and Matt. In fact, I beg him to get an employee every now and then, because he gets buried, especially when we do a big release. But he's a workaholic. He does all the shit I was never able to do, nor would I be able to do. I'm really good at selecting, putting it together, and orchestrating projects. And then says, "I'm going to make this happen."
JB: What's his project that he was working on recently?
He does a band called Male Gaze. He used to be in Blasted Canyons.
JB: Some of that Male Gaze music sounded really cool.
It is; it's strange. I like the really poppy stuff. They had some heavy shit, but I'm more of a fan of the English ‘80s pop. He's got a great voice too, like this Bryan Ferry/Scott Walker — like reaching for it all the time. Singing in a way I'd never sing!
JB: So how much do you get involved in the recording of the projects on the label, besides your own, obviously?
Not at all. Really, it depends. Sometimes a band will give us a batch of songs and it's like, "I don't know what the fuck I want to do." I think that's insane. When I was a kid I'd be like, "This is the record," and I was really adamant and opinionated. Now a lot of bands have this great set of songs and will actually let me and Matt pick out what we want, put together the order of the record, get it mastered, and everything. A lot of people want to write and record. We did that with Zig Zags. We helped put together the order of their record. POW! has sent us all their shit; we [still] need to go through and cherry pick all the songs we really like. As far as recording goes, not too much. If something sounds good, I'm happy with it. I wish we could use JJ Golden for mastering everything. I started using Golden for Thee Oh Sees, and fuck man, it sounds so good going to wax. He doesn't leave an essence of himself in the master. Somehow, really delicately and tastefully, he's made it sound better. The real gift of that guy, more than any other mastering person I've ever worked with, is he has this intuition of what it will sound like going to vinyl, so it's perfect. JJ just gave me something and it came back on record sounding exactly like what I had sent. It's like frequency-perfect for going to wax. That's a big deal, because a record can sound like shit if it's too loud going to the master.
JB: Does the vinyl record still feel like the final, ultimate format for you?
Yeah. I don't give a shit about CDs. We do CDs, but I like an LP with a digital download. I feel like that hits every base. It has the big format, with nice artwork. We have handpicked visual artists we like to work with. We do a lot of releases with no text on the cover, so when you rip off the plastic [shrink wrap] it doesn't say the band's name. The cover is a piece of art. That makes all the difference, holding that in your hands. I love records.
JB: Do you guys still sell a fair amount of vinyl?
Dude, vinyl's killing it right now. That's what we make all our money on. The way our label works is different than most, where we don't own anything. The reason I started the label, with Brian Lee Hughes back in the day, is because every deal I looked at was terrible. The record industry was going down the toilet, and these boilerplate contracts were like, "We own the masters for the record ‘in perpetuity.'" I'd be like, "You didn't write any of these songs. What the fuck? You're just paying to facilitate the pressing of the record and promoting it, basically." Which I could do. I got screwed by a label because they had eight partners and one of them pulled out at the last minute, so we couldn't do the record. I put out [Thee Oh Sees'] Sucks Blood on our own imprint, and never looked back. It's really nice to have control of everything. When a band comes to us… let's use Ty [Segall] as an example, because he's doing well. His first record came to us, and they're like, "What's the deal?" We said, "There is no deal. It's a handshake deal. I do your record, we take the expenses out first, and whatever the record makes from there on out is a 50/50 split. If you want to move on, move on. I don't want to own your shit. I didn't want anybody to own my shit." Now, when I sell a song of mine to a movie or something, I get to keep all that money for the band. Half of it doesn't go to a label. I understand the concept of a label owning half and wanting their taste, but 50 percent of royalties I think is fucking absurd, outside of the concrete product. We take half the money from the sales, but we don't really keep their digital.
JB: You let the bands do their own digital?
We have license people we use that they can work with, and they'd give them a percentage, but we don't take any cut of licensing. I feel like that's bands' money. That facilitates people doing what I've done, which is to not have to fucking work and continue making music. It's a big deal. I like to think of us as a band's label. Everybody gets paid, and we have really transparent accounting. I just went through it with a label who owned a bunch of my shit and never paid me. I said, "I want to repress this, and I'll buy your backstock." They're like, "No." I'm like, "Cool, here's my lawyer. He'll talk to you." He said, "Yeah, you never paid him, or gave him any accounting." I'm like, "Yeah, I'm taking everything back now. You can sue me if you want. You never paid me. The contract's null and void."
JB: So you don't do iTunes, or Spotify, or any of that?
No, we do. We do digital, and we offer the bands options. Like, "Hey, you can work with Terrorbird," who I pretty much work with exclusively. We're exclusively with Revolver for distribution, which has been great. With digital we use Revolver, but we offer them a really simple deal. Most labels do a 10-year [contract]. That's the one I always had to sign back then when I was a kid, and they take half the money. We do a 5-year contract, with 30 percent of the money, so it's a little tastier. After 5 years, they can either renew it or move on and do it themselves. The thing about digital that a lot of people don't realize is you can fucking do it yourself. As a band, you can sign on to The Orchard and sell your own shit. It won't get that push that labels spend money on, like putting it at the front of iTunes. Labels should start accommodating bands, but the precedent that's been set is, "We own you." I've even worked with labels that I've never signed anything with, and I'd get a commercial deal for Volkswagen. All of a sudden, it was, "We'll give you five grand to use a bit of your tune." I'd say, "Okay, I need money. Sure." Then the label would be like, "We get half that." I'd say, "No, you don't. I own the masters. You definitely fucking don't own shit. Dude, where did I sign any contract?" Now, if something goes wrong, it's either my fault or Matt's fault. It's very easy. I don't want it to be some guy on the outside.
LC: How do you approach recording budgets for your own projects, with the label and everything?
Well, Thee Oh Sees is a little different than other bands on the label. We don't usually pay recording budgets, except for records that we know will sell. I feel like we're a steppingstone label. Like inevitably Ty moved on to bigger labels that wanted to throw more money at him. We're like a mom and pop store. A lot of bands that approach us already have their recordings they did with a friend, or whatever. But we paid for POW! to record. Or Jack Name. I love his shit, so we'll pay his rent for a couple months so he can record. With Thee Oh Sees, I make the label pay for it because I'm half partner in it.
JB: It's a better tax write-off.
That way it doesn't have to come out of my pocket, and I don't have to figure out who in the band owes me what. The label gets that money back first, and then we get paid. It's nice and easy.