With the current situation being complicated for the music industry, it was an opportunity for me to highlight some DIY punk labels around the world. Here’s the Canadian punk label High End Denim Records, managed by Josh and Jason.
Could you please introduce yourself and present your record label to our readers?
Josh: My name is Josh and I’ve been playing in punk bands since the turn of the millennium. I helped co-found High End Denim Records and my role is to handle PR, so I spam all the blogs and radio stations and try to spread the word about the bands on the label. I also record and mix a lot of the tunes we are putting out. We’re super DIY at this point!
Jason: My name is Jason, but most people call me Ozone. Like Josh, I’ve also been playing in punk bands for a good chunk of my life.
What made you concretely get into the music industry and how did you start this label?
Josh: As previously stated, I’ve been in bands since I was a teenager. However, I never started actually recording and putting out music until around 2011. When you’re in a band, you have the choice to be another pub band who parties every weekend and fades into obscurity, or to try to take it to the next level. A good label can help with that. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some rad labels such as Dying Scene Records and Thousand Islands Records with a couple of my more “serious” bands, so it never occurred to me to start my own label. But when we had a side project all ready to go, we didn’t want to harass any labels (or get rejected), so we decided to just create our own to put it out. Next thing we knew, we had a crap ton more projects to release so we’ve kept it going.
With a worldwide pandemic going on, how have you handled the management of your label over the past few months?
Josh: We have relatively low overhead with this label as we do it all ourselves, so the management of the label hasn’t been negatively affected. The fact that we couldn’t play shows with our other bands actually probably accelerated our progress as we had nothing to do but write and record new stuff! In this age, recording your own parts at home and sending them to be mixed is quite common, so we were able to keep putting out new music throughout the whole ordeal.
Jason: I do think that when this is over, shows will be much more widely attended than before and I am looking forward to that.
How does a label develop its roster? Do bands approach you directly or is it rather the other way around?
Josh: The label was created to put out our own music so that’s what the majority of the bands on our roster are so far. I have my acoustic project, Burning Nickels, Boltergeist, and The Offsailors that I am a part of. We work hard to get the tunes heard and our friends in the music scene took notice and that’s how Robbie Morön approached us to help with his solo project. He was already playing in Burning Nickels with us, so it was a no-brainer to work with him on his own side project. We dig his tunes and he’s super easy to deal with so we’re happy to keep putting out his stuff for him. We’ve been hit up by a few bands since then but nothing official as of me writing these words. We would love to create a roster of awesome bands around the world and I think it’s only a matter of time before it happens as we continue to grow and can offer more to prospective bands.
Jason: It is pretty easy for bands to distribute their own music online nowadays. I think one thing that a lot of bands lack though is the connections to the radios, blogs, etc and we often get inquiries about how we can help with that.
Has the pandemic strongly affected the production of your merchandising and the pressing of CDs / vinyls / tapes of your bands?
Josh: I would say it has had the opposite effect for us. We’ve recently teamed up with a really cool cassette label out of Barrie, Ontario called Tarantula Tapes and our first release will be the first ever physical distribution of Ozone and I’s old band Chimp Change’s full length album “Type Zero Civilization”. They are killing it right now with their releases, so we were pretty stoked to work with them on this. If this one goes well, you can expect more tapes in the future!
If you had to choose between a vinyl or a CD, which one would you personally pick and why?
Josh: Vinyl. No question. CDs are kind of in that weird space where they are not vintage enough for the hipsters to like and too cumbersome and annoying to play compared to streaming services. If any band that signs with us really wanted CDs, we would accommodate but we have no real desire to produce any at this point. My laptop nor my car even has a CD player, so I really have no use for them other than supporting my friend’s bands who are selling them at shows. Thanks for the coaster, I guess!
Jason: Vinyl for sure. I have thousands of CDs in storage somewhere that I’ll probably never use again.
Out of all the experiences you had with your label, has there been one that has stood out to you?
Josh: Burning Nickels hastily wrote a Christmas original last year called Rum Nogs where we asked some friends to participate in the writing of the song and then gathered footage of friends from all over the world to create an accompanying music video. Much to our surprise, it was placed on the big Spotify punk Christmas playlist, so we saw our play count rise exponentially. We were pretty stoked on that and hope to replicate its success with future songs. Other than that, we’ve just been happy to connect with cool people who are supporting the arts all over the world. It’s inspiring to see how many people are engaged in the scene and just want to do their support to see it thrive. We’re thrilled to be a part of it and hope we are bringing people joy with our little songs and videos.
Jason: I think it’s been cool to see all the different collaborations between individuals on different continents.
To finish, what is one lesson you’ve learned that you think is important to pass onto other label managers?
Josh: Other labels are not your competition! Support each other and you will be left with a much healthier and thriving scene. I guess this might be different if you’re Warner Bros or Sony but for us little punk guys, it’s absolutely key to support each other. Plus, collaborations are fun and will only help you in your journey to expand from your own local scene. Also, you get out of it what you put into it. If you do a Facebook post and call that good and wonder why nobody is listening to your bands, you’re gonna have a bad time. Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself, with time and money, and if your music is worth a damn, you will start seeing the fruits of your labour before you know it. Finally, to quote those handsome devils in Ten Foot Pole: “Don’t be a dick.” The scene is small. People won’t want to work with you or have you around if you screw people over so like, don’t do that.
Thanks for your time!
Musically, What Happened to your Band?