Say oink to Jeff from Pig Baby Records, home of the Schizophonics

pigbaby

With Pig Baby Jeff, Lety and Pat from The Schizophonics, and Mighty Manfred from The Woggles at The Redwood (July 1, 2017)

Anyone who reads this humble blog knows how much I love The Schizophonics. I’ve been stalking them for since seeing them play with El Vez at Bar PInk in 2013, and last spring they played our twelfth Save Music in Chinatown benefit matinee. Like most music lovers, after buying the San Diego band’s amazing 10″ EP, I got to wondering what the oddly named and previously unknown record label was all about. Where did Pig Baby come from? What other cool bands are on its roster? That mystery was solved when The Schizos played the Redwood in July. There was Pig Baby’s main man Jeff Byrd, wearing a Swami Records T-shirt, saying hi, and turning me on to his next few releases including the aptly named “invincible blues” of Sir Coyler and Liquid Sky-era new wave of Light FM.

Plenty of somewhat sane people form bands out of their love for rock ‘n’ roll but what sort of lunatic dives embraces the headaches of starting a label? Here’s Jeff.

As a fan of music, what are some of your favorite labels of all time and what do you dig about them?
There are so many, and it’s not just the labels but the people that run them. In short, some of my favorites are Billy and Miriam of Norton Records, who have uncovered and dusted off some pretty amazing rock ‘n’ roll discoveries as well as put out some really odd and off-the-wall music. Pioneers like Greg Shaw of Bomp! for records and the zine. Where would underground music be without that guy? Long Gone John of Sympathy–the sheer volume of great records he put out by himself, out of his house is remarkable. I’ve always admired Jeff and Ian from Discord for their integrity and the way they do things. Growing up a punk rock kid in Chicago, Touch and Go and Wax Trax were also huge in my early life. Of course, all the classics like Chess and Stax. I still try and go to one or two record swaps a month, and love discovering new music. Doing that on the computer doesn’t do it for me. It seems so stale.

How did Pig Baby come to be? Why the pig? Why the baby?
After telling me more than ten times, my friend Kevin got me to see The Schizophonics out at Pappy and Harriet’s in the desert about two years ago. I have been going to punk and underground shows since 1982 but I was totally blown away. Pat Beers is one of the best front men I have ever seen in my life. Watching that guy really inspired me and made me feel excited about rock ‘n’ roll. We became friends and, seven months later, they played my annual barbecue. I think they are a really important band and I really wanted to help them. After a dozen beers, I asked them if they wanted to make a record. That’s all it was going to be: just to put out one record and help them.

A few weeks later, I was having lunch with Deke Dickerson and telling him about doing the record. He said, “Any time you are in a position to contribute to the arts, I think that’s really important.” He said it with so much conviction, a light went off in my head and I thought, “I’m going to start a record label.” I knew I didn’t want to do it by myself because that would be no fun, so I asked my pal Kevin if he wanted to do the shipping and admin. His wife Emily is really talented with graphics and computers, too, and they seemed like a great team to partner up with. Then Kevin and I were having a meeting with Lety from the Schizos about putting out their record, and I was really impressed with her no BS attitude and her business hustle. I knew she’d be a great asset for the label and her husband Pat is super creative, so we all got together, had a meeting, shared some ideas, and Pig Baby was off and running.

As for the name, I used to enter barbecue competitions and I have this little creepy doll dressed as a pig that became my team’s mascot. Pat Beers was doing the artwork for the Schizo record, called me, and asked, “Do you have a name for the record label? I need to put it on the record.” I didn’t have a clue. I looked around my den and the creepy little pig baby was looking right at me. I said, “How about Pig Baby?” That’s how it went down. It happened that fast.

smic12e-schizo

Schizophonics at Save Music in Chinatown 12 (May 7, 2017)

Your bands are from all over the place! What do they have in common and how have you met them?
It has all happened really organically. I was at my friend Laura’s wedding, ran into an old friend Josiah, and he’s in this really cool, kind of new wavy pop band Light FM. I asked him if he wanted to do a 7″ and he said sure. That was the second record. I asked my friend Chris up in Seattle, who has some experience with press and radio, to help me with writing the Schizo press release. He’s in Sir Coyler, he sent me some his stuff, and we all loved it. That’s how the third record came about. I met Steven El Rey at a Rosalyns show. He also plays with the Little Richards, Pat and Lety’s band with El Vez, and he came up to my house and played me some of his jams and that’s how that record came about. The Schizos played a festival in Orlando and Lety called me, raving about this band the Woolly Bushmen. She said, “They’re amazing live and we gotta get ’em on the label.” Thus, record number five.

My good friend Gary from Deadbolt said he and Harley would be up for reissuing some of their classic ’90s records on vinyl, so I called their old label Cargo and we’re making it happen. That’s going to be a fun project since those records were only put out on CD. We’re also talking about putting out some new stuff by them.

We kind of have a system where we all vote yes or no on a band. I figure there’s safety in numbers and, if we all like it, we’ll go for it. We don’t care about genre as much as we care about good songs. Yesterday, I signed a band from Chicago called the Flesh Panthers that I’m really excited about. They were on my friend’s Tall Pat record label.

050617-nela3-schizophonics

Schizophonics at Cafe NELA (May 6, 2017)

Now that there are so many Pig Baby bands, will there be tours or a fest or something?
Yeah! The Schizos and Woolly Bushmen are both great live bands, so it makes sense for them to tour together. They’ll be doing an eleven-date West Coast tour in January that’s already booked and then hit the East Coast in the spring. I’d like to have those two bands tour the world together. People would leave feeling they got their money’s worth! Lety and I were also talking about doing a festival at some point in Pasadena or San Diego, but that probably won’t happen for a while.

This is a real labor of love! Do you have an entrepreneurial background and business sense that you are suppressing to release cool music?
No, not really. We are all huge music fans and we are learning as we move along. The other day, I told Lety, “We are building the plane and flying it at the same time. Let’s hope we don’t crash it!” I’m a tenth-grade dropout who has just worked my ass off all my entire life. I work hard and try to figure shit out as I go along, I have built a couple companies that I am proud of and I really enjoy taking ideas from nothing and turning them into something.

Pig Baby will probably be my last hurrah. We have made a few mistakes, but it’s to be expected. I’m hoping to give it a good 10 years and then turn over the company to the other four partners when I hit 60. The music business is so crazy and uncertain at this point in history, so who knows? If we stop making records that means we ran out of money and are broke, ha ha. But we definitely want to put out quality over quantity. Sound is extremely important to me, so we have teamed up with Dave Gardner over at Infrasonic mastering. He has done such a great job of mastering and cutting all our records to vinyl. When people pay money for a Pig Baby record we want to make sure they are getting a great product.

Schizophonics at Cafe NELA (December 17, 2016)

Any other news we need to know about?
Actually, last Friday I was talking to my friend John Reis from Rocket from the Crypt. I have this this crazy idea where he and Deke Dickerson make a record together, kind of like a modern-day version of Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry’s Two Great Guitars. Their styles are so different but hugely influential to so many guitar players. I think it would be a great record if we could pull it off, and definitely a dream-come-true for me because they are two of my all-time favorite modern-day rock ‘n’ roll warriors. After about four tequilas, I built up the nerve to ask John and he said yes. Then I texted at Deke at 2 a.m. and he said yes. Let’s see if we can get them together and make it a reality.

We are also going to start working on the second Schizophonics and Woolly Bushmen records, which will both be on Pig Baby. I’m flying to Orlando the first week of October to start listening to some Woolly demos and the Schizos are gonna do a recording session in Spain when they are on tour. (The Schizos are headed to Europe for a month to tour their first full length, Land of the Living, which just came out on Sympathy for the Record Industry).

The Flesh Panthers are also gonna start recording. They have one song that’s done and it’s really amazing. I can’t wait for people to hear it. We have a lot of other irons in the fire and 2018 is gonna be action packed. Also, we just singed a one-year exclusive worldwide distribution deal and it’s great to know our records will be in stores all over the globe soon.

Hopefully, Pig Baby will also be able to contribute to your Save Music in Chinatown project, as well, Martin. I just wanna say all of us at the label think that is such a great thing that you do for the kids and if there’s anything Pig Baby can do to help just let us know. Maybe once we are more established, we can get some bands together, make compilations, and donate all the funds. I think that would be really awesome!

pigbabyrecords

Get your Pig Baby goods at your favorite record store or pigbabyrecords.com and find the latest news on tours and releases at facebook.com/Pigbabyrecords.

Advertisements

Save Music in Chinatown 12 preview with The Schizophonics

The Satellite, Los Angeles (February 22, 2017)

I distinctly remember the first time I saw The Schizophonics. Following the last day of the San Diego Comic-Con in 2013, a bunch of us went to see El Vez’s Punk Rock Review at Bar Pink and holy cow! The opening band was not only a red-hot, garage punk and soul dynamo but they actually played with the former Zero as well. I was in the front row, hoping my dropped jaw wouldn’t get detached by singer Pat Beer’s out-of-control guitar playing. Next, I saw them in Pomona, opening for the newly reformed Drive Like Jehu and they were just as sweaty, animated, and nearly impossible to take a decent photo of. Nonstop rock!

After seeing them rip it up with El Vez and then the Little Richards last summer, I finally got to see the proper lineup in quick succession at The Echo and Cafe NELA. At this point, I started saying hi to drummer Lety Beers and becoming friends with them on Facebook or else it wold be getting a little weird. One thing lead to another, and now the trio is one of two San Diego bands coming up to play our twelfth all-ages punk rock matinee on Sunday, May 7 to raise money for the music program at Castelar Elementary. The other commuters will be My Revenge with Hector from The Zeros–a real plate-of-shrimp development!

This is actually perfect timing, since The Schizophonics just released a 10″ EP and have a full LP about to drop. A perfect opportunity for a quick Q&A with Pat and Lety about their past, the new music, and the Save Music Chinatown cause. Plus bonus answers from bass player Brian Reilly.

Bar Pink, San Diego (July 21, 2013)

MW: The first time I saw Schizophonics was with the punk review with El Vez at Bar Pink! How did that bond form with him?
LB: At some point we made friends with Pony Death Ride, a San Diego duo that knows Robert. They took him to see us at Bar Pink and he really liked us. That is such a huge compliment coming from him, let alone him asking us to play with him. He does a Punk Rock Review that he wanted us to back him up in that’s composed of a lot of his early punk influences. That was the first time we ever went on tour and our first time we ever had such an intricate set to learn. He definitely has taught us to be a better band and taught us so much about putting a show together. He’s our band guru.

MW: Am I crazy or did you spell your name with a T back then? What happened to it? Have you come across people with tattoos with the old spelling?
LB: We DID! There is still a 45 out there on Munster Records with the old spelling. Then we realized there is no T in schizophrenic (and also wanted to get away from being called shitty) so we switched it to the correct spelling before we made more records and merch.

MW: Pretty sure the second time I saw your band was with Drive Like Jehu in Pomona. Do you feel like part of that whole tradition of San Diego underground music?
LB: I don’t see it as underground. We moved here in 2008 and didn’t know much about the music history until we started meeting talking to more people.

PB: That was a real honor because John Reis was a big influence on us when we started the band. His Swami radio show opened our eyes (or ears?) to how much cool unheard music is out there.

Glass House, Pomona (April 8, 2015)

MW: You play so often! Do you keep track of how many shows you’ve played so far? Who plays more, you or Mike Watt?
LB: Haha, they’re in my Google calendar or we’d be so lost!

MW: Your ratio of playing shows to releasing music is freakishly high. Is that on purpose? Is putting the songs on wax something you’re doing reluctantly or has it been a flood waiting to happen?
LB: When I joined this band I didn’t know how to play the drums, so I think some of that has been a learning curve with how to write and play songs to the point where we feel confident enough to record something we are happy with.

PB: The Ooga Booga 10” EP and Land Of The Living 12” LP are a mix of brand new songs and songs we’ve been doing live for a long time.

MW: The new EP is a real ass kicker! How did you split songs between it and the LP? What can we expect?
LB: The 10″ is a few of our older songs that we never really put out properly, along with a couple of new ones that we wanted to put on the Pig Baby release. “2017” was a riff that Pat had been working on that I really liked. I wanted to make sure the Pigs got that one.

PB: The two records have all different songs, and we didn’t want the 10″ EP to be like the songs that were left over after we did the album. So we wrote new stuff for that one until we had enough tunes we were happy with so both records to stand up on their own.

Cafe NELA, Los Angeles (December 17, 2016)

MW: What’s your secret to being on fire every single time for every single configuration (Schizophonics, El Vez, Little Richards, probably a ton of other bands I don’t know about)?
LB: Our favorite musicians and heroes are bands like Little Richard, James Brown, The Woggles, Iggy Pop, The Loons, and El Vez who, when they hit the stage, are like a bolt of lightning. That style of performance is what really moves us as music lovers so we draw so much inspiration from that.

MW: I think I told your about our show—how it’s for music education at an inner-city elementary school, how it is inspired by the punk rock tradition of the old Hong Kong Cafe. Got any thoughts about kids, music, life, and so on?
LB: We love seeing kids get into music!

PB: Music is one of the greatest things a person can have in their life. It carries you through the good and bad times, and it’s inspiring to see young people playing not just because they are the artists of the future, but because they are learning a skill that can give them peace of mind and strengthen their souls throughout their lives.

MW: I’m super excited about having you play our show and getting to see you on back-to-back days starting with Cafe NELA…
PB: So are we! Thank you for inviting us and thank you for all you do!

Cafe NELA, Los Angeles (December 17, 2016)

MW: Brian, can you tell us the best thing about being a Schizophonic?
BR: The best part about being a Schizophonic has got to be traveling and playing new cities. I’ve always been a bit of a wandering soul, so to get the best of both worlds is alright with me.

MW: Got any thoughts about music education, all-ages shows, and stuff like that?
BR: As far as my thoughts on kids in the music community, I’ve always loved it when a kid gets it and learns a new bit of music. Especially if it’s something heavy and on the garage vibe. I’ve been teaching kids for quite a while. To say it helps them form their identity would be a bold understatement. Find a kid that can mirror your playing and you’ll get a session player. Find one that can’t do what you’re doing? They’ll change rock and roll.

Find out more about the Schizophonics at schizophonics.com and get their brand-new 10″ EP from your favorite local record shop, pigbabyrecords.com, or the merch table. Get Save Music in Chinatown 12 tickets at eventbrite.com.

catsssflyer3