FFWD REW

Ten years and still rocking

Meter Records and Sloth Records celebrate a decade of independent music

By any measure a decade is a significant milestone to be marked and celebrated. It’s longer than most Hollywood marriages longer than the entire career of that famous Liverpudlian pop combo from the ’60s and accounts for the entire lifetime of an average fifth grader. This week two of Cowtown’s venerable rock institutions are putting on their party hats and sticking a two-fister worth of candles on their commemorative cakes.

Meter Records began when musician Dean Rudd realized that a number of his rock ’n’ roll peers could use a little help in the shit-getting-together department. On the phone Rudd sounds as much like an accountant as a rock star throwing out terms like “business model” “infrastructure” and “revised copyright language.” Early on Rudd realized that his organizational skills were as essential as his musical passion. “I thought why don’t I do something in school that will help allow me to sustain this idea and this punk rock lifestyle? So I did a degree in applied business at Mount Royal.”

Rudd’s punk-rock businessman persona has enabled him to navigate the sea change in the music industry. “More often than not I get a little wrapped up in trying to be diplomatic about trying to preach sustainability to bands that for some reason don’t want to charge for their music” he says. “There are a lot of situations where I feel like I’m pressuring bands to charge more for merchandise because I feel like look if this is something you want to derive any meaningful income from to pay your rent and put food on your table you’re going to have to make some money somewhere along the way.” It’s not your typical punk rock approach but 10 years and 22 releases in it seems to be working for the label.

Meter is celebrating this milestone with a five-band showcase at Calgary’s favourite downtown barbecue pit and debauchery den The Palomino. Folker Jeffrey Caissie Vancouver post-hardcore cobra-killers Mongoose Medicine Hat’s One Shot Left political butt-rock pulverizers The Martyr Index and hard rockers The Browns will all share the stage with Rudd’s four-piece The Evidence. The event dubbed the Decade of Destruction “will be kind of loud more of a born-to-be-mild kind of destruction” he says. “I’m having a hard time saying something objective about this. Come out and help us tear down the Palomino.”

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Sloth Records the label began releasing local band singles and a pair of compilation CDs back in the late ’80s. Sloth Records the store opened its doors in 1998 shortly after The Record Store closed. Dave Muir owner of both is laid-back soft-spoken and immensely likable. On the phone or in person he doesn’t sound remotely like a businessman.

“As someone who had never done this before I had a lot to learn and it was hands-on learning” he says. “The concept was good and the passion was there to start with.”

A lot of Sloth’s initial stock of used records came from Muir’s own reserves. “I had to decide what from my own personal record collection to put in the store. It was a hard decision. Some of those records I put in the store I’ve never seen come around again.”

Muir is quick to credit his dedicated staff for much of Sloth’s success. “I could never have done it without my amazing staff. Todd Harkness (store manager) is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met and he’s brought a lot of his ideas to the shop not to mention his musical expertise. Sloth was never the store that catered to jazz or blues or country. It was always about independent underground [rock] music.”

Going head to head with Meter’s party Sloth is rolling out the red carpet at the HiFi Club with a show featuring Vancouver’s Pride Tiger and prog-poppers Bend Sinister along with local faves The Cripple Creek Fairies. Though the events are in direct competition Muir sees it as part and parcel of Calgary’s ever-growing increasingly vital music scene. “It’s a shame we’re on the same night ’cause I’d love to support those guys” says Muir. “Meter has always put out quality records.”

As part of our indie music community for nigh on 20 years Muir is eager to share the flame of musical passion and to pass the torch onto the next generation. “To see these kids coming in and some of them are buying some really interesting music not the typical schlock that’s marketed by major labels and sold in jean stores — the percentage of kids that are curious enough to lift up the rocks and find the cool spots and the music that’s not being force fed to them by mainstream media it’s very encouraging.”

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