Indie labels, wherever they're from, are usually a small operation. Southern is several small operations. Southern Studios manufactures/distributes many US indie labels, though in the past they've handled the likes of Crass, and sell these onto the punters through amongst others, Southern Records Distribution (SRD), who are also very involved in the UK dance scene.
Oh and Southern Records, who actually started out 10 years ago to accomodate Babes in Toyland, has seen such luminaries as Jah Wobble, Chumbawamba, Therapy? Carter USM and Silverfish pass through their books.
At the moment they have mainly US bands signed to the label, via their newest arm, their Chicago office. Running that part of the empire is Danielle Soto.
Your previous lineup contains maybe some of the most famous/successful bands about - Therapy, Carter, Babes in Toyand, and more major underground types like the Grifters. Do you think these bands could have been as successful if they'd stayed on Southern or do they need the major push to achieve sales success (as opposed to critical success!)
Or were they truly one-offs (in the US indie style)?
One obvious difference between the UK and the US is mere geography. Britain is much smaller with one "major" hub city, London. Therefore, the majors and the indies can all physically see and hear the bands at the same time. Whereas here, we have several hubs thousands of miles apart from each other. This seems to give indies a different footing than indies in the UK.
There's something I'm puzzled about - Therapy, Carter, Chumbawamba etc are all UK bands - were their signings made with the US or UK or both in mind?
No, honestly, it is has more to do with the growth and changes of personnel, as well as, direction for the company. Therapy and the others were during an "era" of Southern when there were different folks, different bands, different times. Also, remember, that distribution and manufacturing is the main stake of Southern; having labels like Dischord, Crass, Touch And Go (for UK/Europe), etc... is a full time job.
That may also be the reason that the Southern label catalog has such spurts in releases, if you look at the time periods.
Conversely then, the question that needs to be asked - why are your current bands mainly American? Britpop not good enough for you?
Oooo Ouch! Take that pen out of my back, please.
I came on with Southern about 4 1/2 years ago to head their US distribution.
Previously, they had been doing all the actual "sales" from England. About a year ago, I made an honest effort to find bands that we wanted to work with and that wanted to work with us. So, now our current roster is full of yanks or second rate colonials, as my good English friend says. I brought on The Smoothies, rex, Ui, Karate, Faucet, HIM, and a recent addition to our family, Slow Loris from Canada.
Quint are an English band - one of the women from Ut is now in Quint. They're a John Loder find (John pretty much started Southern Studios with Crass).
Quint have Steve Albini-recorded single out through Southern. US bands currently active are Rex, with their 'Waltzes' ep, while Rex drummer Doug Scharin, late of Codeine, has a dub project, HIM, with an lp out now. Noise merchants Karate and Ui (sometimes seen in the Tortoise pigeonhole) also have an album out now, all on Southern.
Thanks for Danielle for speaking to us and Dominica D'Arcangello for background on the UK operation.
Reprinted from bigwig, 1996