One of the most important American indie labels was the legendary SST, whose roster included Black Flag, the Minutemen, the Meat Puppets, the Descendents, the Leaving Trains, Hüsker Dü, and Sonic Youth. The label was overseen by Flagís Gren Ginn in cahoots with a man named Joe Carducci, whose rèsumè also includes stints as a record producer, filmmaker, and author (most notably of the seminal 1990 revisionist rock history cum prole art-threat tome Rock and the Pop Narcotic). Not long ago, Carducci returned to the rock-and-roll fray by starting a new label, Owned and Operated, with members of the band All ó the direct descendants of SSTís the Descendents. And the labelís acts are embarking on a tour that comes to the Middle East this Tuesday.
So having reached Carducci at his home in the woolly wilds of Laramie, Wyoming, I ask him for his thoughts on the moribund state of the music industry. "Oh, Iíve been depressed ever since Steppenwolf broke up," he deadpans. But he still believes. And heís become convinced that the way to counteract the obtuseness of a vapid and gluttonous music-media-marketing juggernaut is to promote rock and roll the old-fashioned way. To paraphrase former Flag frontman Henry Rollins: get in the van and hit the road.
Thatís especially true for the bands Carducci has signed to O&O. Wretch like Me comprise "one alcoholic, two jerks, a felon, and a man known to have been in the vicinity of the Oklahoma Federal Building on the day of the bombing"; whatís more, the lead-guitarist recently had a brain tumor removed. Then there are the furious melodic post-punkers Someday I, and Armstrong, a trio cobbled together from members of Hagfish and GWAR. All three have brand-new albums.
But for Carducci, the tour doesnít just offer fans an impeccable line-up, it also gives the aforementioned younger bands the chance to shmooze with their bosses: the members of All, who are also O&Oís most bankable name. "If youíre a new band, you say, ĎIím lucky to be with these guys,í " he points out. "They know a lot, theyíre trustworthy, and in this case, they have a studio [Allís Blasting Room], so your album sounds better than it otherwise would."
The all-for-one ethic goes back to his days at SST, which also assembled label-oriented punk road shows that, aside from bringing the rock to bumminí kids entrapped in a Reagan-era America where bands like Mr. Mister ruled the charts, served as a sort of indie fraternity where bands influenced and informed and drew inspiration from one another. But hasnít the climate changed, a little, since those benighted days? After all, now there are projects like the Warped Tour showing punk to the sweaty masses.
"Itís stranger these days, because thereís obviously punk rock on major labels," Carducci admits. "But they only need one of those bands at each label. And when they appraise a band, theyíre looking for durability and malleability. Theyíre not looking for the new Iggy Pop fuck-up who is uncontrollable. Rock and roll ought to have some chaos." O&O bands, he avers, have that. "If youíve seen Wretch like Me, for example, you know that theyíre a much heftier proposition than these kind of identi-kit punk-rock bands that are all over the place."
So he feels sure that fans wonít regret spending a night getting manhandled by the O&O coterie, even if they arenít familiar with the úuvre of every band. "The only problem with this tour is, you canít blow it off. You canít say, ĎIíll just go to see Wretch like Me, or All.í Theyíre all good. You go there and you spend the whole evening there. No oneís gonna waste your time on this tour. And when was the last time that happened on a four-band gig? Had to be SST."
All, Wretch like Me, Someday I, and Armstrong perform this Tuesday, August 20, at the Middle East, 472 Mass Ave in Central Square. Tickets are $10; call (617) 864-EAST, or visit www.oandorecords.com.