16 December 2010

Art Vs. Paper Chasing [OR] Who's gonna pay for this?

On December 4th 2010, there was an album release set for fAbrics at the Old Town School of Folk Music. We here at Rule 6 showed up with many copies of their EP Parathropus Boisei, video cameras to record the set, and high expectations for publicizing our label. The show went off without a hitch, the band played great, we sold 13 or so copies of the album. Our very first EP release show was a success (for a label with no street awareness or buzz in the city, as of yet). We're working on that. My plans for 2011 include posters, videos, stickers, and at LEAST 4 more releases. I'm thinking also of a one-year anniversary party... perhaps I can talk to some local brewers about a mutually-beneficial small-business collaboraction. (Pipeworks Brewing, holla!)

So, I've been watching a doc on Netflix called Paper Chasers. It's an independent film studying the entrepreneurial culture in HipHop. Frankly, I'm enthralled with this movie. (It's pretty deep; I'm taking it a bit at a time. The film is more than 2 1/2 hours long, and I'm only in hour 1!) There are so many levels of the entertainment industry to begin with, and then the niches in hiphop are even crazier, from clothing to production to labels to management...! Interviews in the film have business owners who have MBAs and have also done prison time. And they're successful, by my standards anyway. People you've never heard of who are (regionally) selling 15,000 copies of their own album or someone else in their crew. Self-produced. I'll tell you, these are EXACTLY the stories that made me want to start a label in the first place. Hearing the discouraging talk from every interviewee about how difficult it is to run your business, how hard you have to work, how little rest or pay you're likely to get until things REALLY start popping... I'm listening to all this thinking there's something wrong with me. It sounds like fun. Like FUN! I mean, not eating Ramen for the next 8 years, but the ability to walk away from other means of employment because you know you have to push for something more, to be your own boss & work for your own welfare (instead of the company's)... That's just really inspiring to me. It's the feeling I've had my entire life, while working for the primary benefit of someone else.

It's the getting paid part that I'm unclear how to accomplish. The fAbrics release got us started, that's for sure. As a label, I'm so concerned about getting music out to the people that I agree to a lower percentage of sales profits so that the artist receives more, feels better about working with such a small-deal (but growing!) operation, and therefore has their own incentive to publicize Rule 6. But that means that we have a frighteningly small budget for everything we want to do. (Maybe a small business loan in 2012?) So, besides asking you all (anyone who's reading this) to make a purchase from our bandcamp site, I'm asking you all to help get our name out there. Seriously, I'm talking to the followers this blog has RIGHT NOW:

-Jon Kanner, you're doing an amazing job. Thanks for putting a link to us on your KICK-ASS stop-motion blog. This concludes your return plug.
-Jon Extract, it's cool that you're following the blog. Help me come up with some more content for this page & if ANYONE you know reads blogs (do teens do that? at all? I don't.) recommend us, please.
-Beejay, you're the man. I'm going to need to have a discussion with you. Possibly over a sample glass of smoked porter?

I think that's all the asides for now. The point is, 2011 will have to be all about expansion, awareness, and promotion. RULE NO. 6, baby. Who wants to help us survive?

04 November 2010

It's Enough To Do The Work

Charles Bukowski didn't start writing poetry until he was 34. William Shatner took on the role of Kirk when he was 35, scoring his first hit show. I've been keeping these things in my mind since I turned 30 in August.

In the last year, I've been fortunate enough to be affiliated with some truly amazing musicians, dancers, directors, and artists who are slowly building what I believe to be the new Chicago Arts scene. See, I love the cultural exports this city is known for. But how many of the groups we see as cultural institutions today started as little more than a collective of like-minded artists in lofts or rehearsal spaces 20-30 years ago. (Steppenwolf began as a bunch of Northwestern acting students who couldn't break into the Chi-drama landscape of the time, so they started their own company.) We're known internationally as a spectacular Improvisation/Experimental music scene; but in the 80s-90s, the musicians who make up that scene were playing night shows on WZRD (like I did a month ago), or sparsely-attended loft shows, not yet in the rotating venues that host nowadays. My point is; I know many talented artists are struggling right now, but struggling in the best sense of the word. We're not making much money with the work, but the work still takes precedence over comfort or stability. To be pushing to understand what a full life is, and relentlessly striving for actualization of that life is the greatest feeling in the world, I've found. I look around & realize that the people I'm working with (or in proximity to) are doing the work that builds acclaim, that builds awareness; WE are the people doing the envelope-pushing work that will later become mainstream. I can't adequately put into words the feeling I get watching our little circles of influence expand outward into the city....

ANYWAY: This month we're putting the finishing touches on the Fabrics' packaging for our December release. I just yesterday finished mastering the 2nd RATSNAKETURBORAT Ep, and this time it will come with cover art by local artist Joe Padilla (NOT to be confused with the "dirty bomber" & former gang member from Chicago, Jose Padilla). We're excited about this one, because it's a mother. I'm also hoping to convince a certain well-known pianist/improvisational dancer to let us release his debut album.... but until or unless he agrees, I'm keeping his identity secret. As always, you can find our goods on ruleno6.bandcamp.com, our preview what we're doing on facebook.com/ruleno6.

It's enough to do the work, even when they don't get it.

05 October 2010


HOLY CRAP.   It took longer than anticipated; an awful lot of work, revisions, a lost laptop, and lost band members, but Fabrics' EP Paranthropus Boisei is finally finished! Jon Z. Extract & Barrett Laase make up this teen (I mention that only because the songs & performances are so precocious), psychedelic-minded, forward-thinking Chicago band. In spring of 2010, they (including former bandmate Devin Bragulla) came to me seeking to record an album of their best material (up to now); this was material written for the band that was then called Catatonics. We commenced recording, and over the course of the summer:
-Catatonics became Fabrics.
-Devin left the band. (amicably.)
-My laptop (w/ the full recording sessions, no backups) was stolen in Minneapolis, MN.
-The album became an EP (edited down to just Jon's songs, from a mix of their combined best material).

To many wussier bands, any one of those setbacks might have been a deal-breaker. But Jon & Barrett had a vision; a vision that involves being signed to an independent Chicago microlabel; a vision that involves selling CDs to an overly-enthusiastic arts-conscious (and largely female) teenage market; to plying their vision of psychedelia & consciousness-expansion into a royalty-returning endeavor that will eventually allow them to circumvent the traditional employment & higher education memes. Rule No. 6 wants to help them on this quest, & we're doing all we can. We're in the process of manufacturing physical copies of the EP now; BUT IN THE MEANTIME you can visit our bandcamp site to download the feel-good album of the fall: Paranthropus Boisei!!

Check back soon for updates! We're working on getting our catalog on iTunes, LastFM, and eventually, your computer.

07 September 2010

Free Live Music!

Hey! Just taking a quick second to mention that my free-improv-rockish trio RATSNAKETURBORAT just made a recent live set available on Rule No. 6's Bandcamp page! It's free, so there's no reason not to check it out....

There'll be another blog soon, this one updating everyone about the next Rule 6 release, Fabrics.

Until then, remember: It's Rock'n'Roll, and the message is DO IT.

04 August 2010

Packaging & Cover Art OR: the face of a label

Hey all, new computer to work on, slowly hunting down previewed/pre-distributed copies of the music I wanted to release, tryinta find new projects to start/finish/release, yadda yadda, here's a new blog fer ya....


OK, last year (when we started this label) I had a few points I wanted to use to design our "identity", or "brand", if you will:

- post-consumer materials: with the obvious exception of the CD-R, I wanted to spend absolutely NO money on basic packaging (pre-artwork), so that the actual cost to consumers would be minimal.

- simple construction: equally important to keeping costs down is keeping down the time required to manufacture. Also, as I figured I'd be doing most of the manufacturing myself, I didn't want to spend forever doing every individual freaking case. Amber Marsh conceived a purposeful cut-fold-glue system that has worked brilliantly thus far. This leaves us with a case that looks like this: (insert pic here, 1 unfolded, 1 glued but blank)

- open canvas: so, the concept I had led us to this next (very important, I feel) point. I envisioned the blank cardboard case as the "brand identifier" of Rule No. 6, in the sense that any artist or band that wanted to do a release would only have to agree to a few simple parameters: 1) low production run numbers, 2) low cost to the public, and a 3rd more ambiguous idea: cover art should be in a form adaptable to a stencil or stamp. I wanted to be able to produce extra runs of any previous release, at any time, by keeping an archive of said stencils/stamps. By keeping to these visual aesthetics, Rule No. 6 releases would always be immediately identifiable by the packaging, and the packaging for every release would be an advertisement for the label. All the CD artist had to do was decide on a front & back design, and we're off to the races.

BUT: as so often, clear ideas get muddled through discussion & growth. The stencil/stamp is still my ideal, but there are so many other awesome ideas that we've stumbled upon, I've decided to let each release decide its own method (to a point). This means that Amber & I will have to work a little harder, but shit, that was on the itinerary anyway.

SO: now we're going to offer multiple cardboard-palette options (we currently have two designs to choose from), and each artist will engage in the decision-making process to design their own record. Here are some of the concepts we're currently contemplating:

 -stencil/stamp of the band name, album name, or a (relatively) simple graphic of your choice.

- the "Lawrence Weiner". We invent a cover design, and write or type instructions on how to create the cover art on the album itself. The purchaser then follows our instructions to create a personalized cover that is still reminiscent of (or related to) the conceptualized cover. Bingo, conceptual art meets physical product.

- the "Puzzle Piece". This one is tougher to describe. Basically, it involves laying out all the CD cases (after folding & gluing) as one large connected canvas, then painting or otherwise decorating the entire run as one single unified art piece, then breaking the piece up into its constituent cases. Thus, each copy of the album is simultaneously a unique cover, and part of the larger piece. We will have documented the process so that each purchaser can then locate their individual cover in the greater piece, and share in the joy of owning a portion.

As I mentioned, these are just a few of the current ideas being kicked around. It is my hope that our concepts increase with the amount and caliber of artists & musicians that we attract (if any) to engage in this endeavor with us.

NEXT TIME: Fabrics: A show-and-tell of the recording process (so far), and some samples from the first non-me related release for Rule No. 6. We're breakin' new ground here, folks; and you're right here on the cutting edge with us.

12 July 2010




PREFACE: Whilst in Minneapolis performing with Schwinntonation this weekend, our van was broken into & my Macbook stolen. This is going to set the label back a month or two, not to mention the loss of projects, information & music that was going to be released. sigh. Now, on with your regularly scheduled blog post:
I've been, for weeks, trying to think about how I was going to start this post. I gave myself rather disparate-sounding bullet points last time, and kinda painted myself into a corner. I know I wanted to talk about what prompted me to start seriously thinking of myself (or this idea) as a business. A large part of this insecurity that plagued my 20's was due to my inherent lack of focused ability. I was born in 1980; so, not only were there not yet accurate definitions, but they also weren't really looking for ADD & ADHD in the Chicago Public Schools. So what skills I've accrued have less to do with discipline than obsessiveness, and then only about the things I REALLY REALLY care about, that can maintain my attention for more than a couple minutes. So I'm a decent musician, I play a few instruments, and I know recording. But there are many many more skills necessary to achieve anything close to a sustainable lifestyle that I simply don't have, and have been trying to learn (with difficulty) for the last ten years. Long story short, it was the example of others that have come from similar circumstances and have accomplished (what I consider to be) MUCH with their seemingly limited skill set, that finally put me over the top. ("If THEY can do it....!") Some examples (with lessons I've taken from them):
My Parents: Two Chicagoans from working-class families who provided a loving, encouraging, free childhood for an incredibly bright underachiever who couldn't commit to anything except music. Across 40 years, my mom has worked herself up from a bank secretary (out of high school) to the office manager of a business consulting firm that separated from Ernst & Young 10 years ago.  My dad got a double Masters' degree at the age of 23, and has pursued his talents & interests as a poet, editor of Down Beat magazine, jazz writer/critic, record producer, and integral part of Chicago's world-famous experimental music/jazz scene. Thanks to them, I had medical & dental insurance; a house with a yard to grow up in; a dog (don't underestimate how important that is to a child); I had INCREDIBLE access to art & culture that even the most educated children don't pursue; and the knowledge that whatever work I ultimately decided to do, I had the time to decide & the support to work through any problems that could possibly arise. Love & self-determination will help you build a life & provide a foundation for those you care about.

Henry Rollins: Self-described mediocre singer, his attitude & drive are of a level of intensity that I can only imagine. He sang for one of the most culturally & historically important hardcore bands of all time; self-published books until attracting a publisher; started a record label & distributed much more than just his own projects; he's practically solely responsible for bringing the genre 'spoken word' to the masses; he has a film/TV career (albeit not that well-known); and continues to be relevant to people like myself thru books, speaking engagements, USO tours, and radio. Geez. If you're brave enough (or don't have any other options) you can turn what you do naturally into your life's work.

Andrew WK: Just in the last couple years, this guy, with only his ideas & drive to make them happen, has inspired thousands of guys & girls just like me. Besides being a musician of pretty high caliber, he's relentlessly positive & optimistic, and his philosophy starts with partying! He makes non-music videos constantly; putting up (on youtube) strange interview/experimental footage collages, putting biographical narration to behind-the-scenes footage of himself, homemade exercise videos, concert footage and fan interviews. Now, AWK had a little help getting a national platform, but as I see it, he's combining the skills he has RIGHT NOW with his INCREDIBLE ambition to make something happen, and it turns out that the whole (his end result) is much more than the sum of the parts he has available to put in. You don't have to have a degree (or very much knowledge) in video art, online business, or design to make something meaningful.

Steve Albini: Boy, a lot of people don't like this guy. He's opinionated (downright mean on occasion), straightforward, uncompromising, and doesn't seem interested in ingratiating himself to anyone for any reason. And yet, he's one of the most well-known, well-respected producers in modern music; he owns his own (rather large, well-equipped) studio in an excellent location in Chicago; and he's highly sought-after for the qualities he brings to anyone's recording. (FYI: he produced "16 Stone" by Bush; "IN UTERO" by Nirvana; "GOAT" by Jesus Lizard; all his own albums across all his projects [Big Black, Rapeman, SHELLAC] and MANY MANY more bands & albums than you've heard of.)  Flying in the face of convention in the music industry, he won't work on a project unless he ACTUALLY likes the band & wants to have his name on the resulting release, and he'll adjust his rates to what the band can afford when he wants to work with them. By defining your principles & following thru on them, you can whittle away the bad or unhelpful elements & attract positive & gainful opportunities.

Now, there are a few more examples I have in mind, but this more or less gave me the groundwork to start seriously pursuing my desire to distribute & disseminate music. I guess what I'm trying to describe here is that I don't necessarily feel like I know what I'm doing, but I'm finally at the point where I'm no longer afraid of failing.

I'm going to go into describing the process of designing and manufacturing our cover art next time. It's a pretty expansive subject, and I need to focus on getting a new computer before I really feel on track again. Here's a little entertainment for you in the meantime: lookatthisfuckinghipster.com.

23 June 2010

The Past & Future of th' Label That Doesn't Exist

On this, our second post, I'd like to recap what we've done so far, and what's coming in the near future:

Rule No. 6 Records was formed on June 28 2009 as the result of a conversation with Amber Marsh. Right away, we started looking for artists or projects to feature, and ways to deliver the results to people. At the time, we decided we would disseminate at live shows & gigs of the bands/artists we serve. So far, so good. Our first attempt to offer services to a band began with a improv-rock band called RATSNAKETURBORAT {Full Disclosure: I play bass in this band.} The guys agreed to an EP release, & we started working on cover art & song selection. Before we could release that album, another local group {Full Disclosure: ... that I'm also in}, Schwinntonation, needed a number of CDs for a short Illinois/Kentucky/Indiana tour. SO, our first actual release was Schwinntonations' 1st album, sequenced/programmed by Charlie Universe & Rustel Weiss. Charlie gave me the cover art. I cut, folded, glued, and screened 40 copies. {We still have roughly 25.} Schwinntonation plays a mini-tour of the Midwest, I tell everyone I have a label, we sell some copies. Gratification. Another month goes by, and RATSNAKETURBORAT has a cover and 10 CDs in the first run. We play a gig at the Mopery in Chicago and sell a few. {I believe we still have 6.} Then winter of 09-10, revelry, festivus, and family, blah blah blah.... Still telling everyone about my 'label'.

Now its 2010. The Year We Make Contact. Year of Crazy Ideas & Unlikely Chances. I considered trying to have a "10 Releases in '10" concept, but I'll be honest with you, I'd have to cut a LOT of goddam cardboard; I'm in many bands, pick up recording work whenever posssible, and part-time it as well. There just isn't enough time. So, I'm currently soldiering ahead, telling everyone I have a label, and slowly working to flesh out what that means.


11 June 2010

The First Blog

My name is Christopher. I have never written a blog before. (Myspace doesn't count, let's face it. Myspace is like potty training for the internet: most of the same stuff, but in an antiseptic environment so you can't really do it wrong.) I'm not entirely sure what I'll be writing about from week to week. (or day to day, ideally.) It feels like a negative start is not really appropriate for this blog, so I'll try to start over:

I know that this page is about a record label focusing on local Chicago music, and networks of friends that I meet thru Chicago folks. You see, I'm almost 30, I've lived here my ENTIRE life, and I've been a (fairly) productive semi-professional musician for 15 years. (Now, if that doesn't seem particularly impressive, you probably don't realize that just about EVERY musician in Chicago (pretty much... of the ones I've met) only qualifies as semi-professional. You know that joke..."Oh, you're an actor? What restaurant?". Same thing. Even the MOST talented, MOST artistically active, MOST creative players I know have to find jobs. Chicago can be a relatively cheap place to live, but no artist I know makes enough for rent, groceries, commuting, pets, or any kind of social life. At least, not without being a part-timer.) So, based on the musical experiences I've had in my first decade of professionalism, and the music I've heard my friends/acquaintances make, Amber Marsh & I started this label as a means to disseminate some of this music; to create a distribution channel for good work. That's all.

Ok, I guess we have some other goals: Microlabel status lets us concentrate on manufacturing only 25-100 copies of any one release at a time. We're pursuing handmade packaging, made of post-consumer materials (mostly cardboard, some plastic). We're looking at ways to make all our music available for FREE download, and you can buy our packaging either mail-order, or pick them up at shows (which we will advertise here). RIGHT NOW, you can visit our FaceBook page (link at the top of the page) to sample some of our past & planned releases. (While you're there, "Like" us to receive updates on our future works.)

And the BEST part is, we're only about 2 releases behind our best plans, so if you'd like to discuss a release for your work, just drop us a line. We'll discuss it. I guarantee it. We're not in this as elitists, trying to push our own music as though nothing else in the city has merit; we're trying to DIY ourselves into a position of cultural newscasting (as it were), to let people know what's developing in Chi-rock. Kinda like Dischord Records, we're committed only to documenting the quality stuff in our region, regardless of the genre/style. (if you don't know who Dischord is, don't come back to this blog without Wiki'ing them.)

FYI: I AM rather opinionated at times. I'll try to keep my thoughts on politics out of the blog. (I recommend The Rude Pundit's blog here on Blogspot; I've rarely read anything by dude that I DON'T agree with.) As egalitarian as I'd like to be in releasing music on this label, my thoughts are gonna be presented as honestly as I can verbalize them. I apologize in advance for any offense.

LASTLY: Check out my best friend, hetero-lifemate & frequent musical collaborator JON KANNER's unique and indelible blog following his stop-motion animation pursuits. It will snap your mind around a bit: Jon's Stopmo Blog.

Till next time: good night & good luck.