Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Subterranean Pop & Show # 444

Sub Pop has a deep history, before becoming the label that produced releases by the Seattle Grunge music scene it had its beginnings as a fanzine. Its beginnings were in a radio program on KAOS FM in Olympia, Washington put forth by Bruce Pavitt. Calling his program Subterranean Pop he released his first fanzine issue of Subterranean Pop as an extension of the radio program in 1980 discussing a variety of independent and underground artists in the US. By the fourth issue the fanzines title was shortened to Sub Pop, which would stick as a name. With these fanzines in alternating issues there would be a cassette compilation tape, the fanzine would last for nine issues. Alternatively, Jonathan Poneman was a music promoter and DJ on KMCU FM a public radio station in Seattle.

The two joined forces to create Sub Pop as a label and brand. Coming together to release Soundgarden’s Screaming Life EP, both Poneman and Pavitt quit their day jobs and opened up shop in Seattle’s Terminal Sales building in 1988. Pavitt had put together the Sub Pop 100 compilation album in 1986, but when they opened up office in Seattle in 1988 this is considered the beginning of the label.  It should also be noted that Sub Pop put out the Sub Pop 200 compilation album in 1988.  Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman put together a look and brand that had a specific style. Jack Endino was hired as producer and Charles Peterson as the photographer, together the two would help to create a sound and look that would become what the label was known for in a similar fashion to record labels such as Motown and SST. Poneman and Pavitt were also on the cusp of a cultural phenomenon that would be labelled Grunge. Sub Pop put out music by artists such as Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Tad, Nirvana and countless others. They had to work for their status and reputation often times dealing with financial difficulties, but they kept their dream alive by always finding ways to put out music by their emerging roster.

Nirvana signed to Geffen in 1991 after releasing a few recordings most notably 1989’s Bleach. As part of the deal Sub Pop would get a 2 percent royalty from Nirvana’s next two albums (due to a previous contract that the band had with Sub Pop), one of which was the multi-million dollar seller Nevermind. Following that point Sub Pop continued to release albums from different and interesting independent artists not just from Seattle. In 1995, Bruce Pavitt left Sub Pop to spend more time with his family selling all but one percent of his ownership in the business. The label went through a somewhat turbulent period at this point in time from about 1995 to the early 2000’s where they had opened offices on a world wide scale and had major label support. But Sub Pop came out on top eventually with the assistance of its staff and vice president Megan Jasper who helped Poneman and the label refocus. The label continued to release music during these times.  Sub Pop had a Singles Club which would last from 1988 to 1993 and then again 1998 to 2002. During this time the label put out singles by bands such as White Stripes, Flaming Lips, L7, Ron Sexsmith, Modest Mouse, Fugazi. They restarted the Singles Club for one year in 2008 to celebrate their 20th anniversary.

Currently Sub Pop is host to new artists such as Fleet Foxes, Jaill, No Age, Wolf Parade, Pissed Jeans, The Ruby Suns and many others. In 2013, Sub Pop turned twenty Five years old and has managed to thrive and persevere through the adversity that they faced. When Subterranean Pop was started back in 1980 as a fanzine it was out of a love of independent American record label releases, Sub Pop is now a beloved American record label. They even have a subsidiary label now entitled Hardly Art, which was launched in 2007. In 1995, Pavitt declared in a statement that Sub Pop had a goal of building “into a label that combines the vision of an indie with the clout of a major” and that is exactly what they have done.

For more information on the label and their releases check out their official website.

Sub Pop Play List:

1. The Day And Nights - Split (Sub Pop 200 - 1988)
2. Jaill - Everyone's Hip (That's How We Burn - 2010)
3. Cool Rays - Diary of You (Sub Pop 5 Cassette - 1980)
4. Zumpano - Orange Air (Wraparound Cool - 1994)
5. Hot Hot Heat - No, Not Now (Make Up The Breakdown - 2002)
6. Obits - Let Me Dream If I Want To (Let Me Dream If I Want To/The City Is Dead - 2012)
7. Sonic Youth - Kill Yr Idols (Sup Pop 100 - 1986)
8. Scratch Acid - Greatest Gift (Sup Pop 100 - 1986)
9, L7 - Shove (Shove/Packin' A Rod - 1990)
10. Soundgarden - Sup Pop Rock City (Sub Pop 200 - 1988)
11. Green River - This Town (Dry As A Bone - 1987)
12. Eric's Trip - Anytime You Want (Love Tara - 1993)
13. Sebadoh - Rebound (Bake Sale - 1994)
14. White Stripes - China Pig (Party of Special Things To Do/China Pig/Ashtray Heart - 2000)
15. Iron & Wine - Dearest Forsaken (Around The Well - 2009)
16. Jungle Nausea - Job Club (Sub Pop 5 Cassette - 1980)
17. Jason and The Nasheville Scorch - Broken Whiskey Glass (Sub Pop 7 Cassette - 1982)
18. Reverend Horton Heat - Psychobilly Freakout (Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em - 1991)
19. The Shins - Know Your Onion! (Oh, Inverted World - 2001)
20. Pissed Jeans - Romanticize Me (Honeys - 2013)
21. Wolf Parade – You Are A Runner And I Am My Father's Son (Apologies To Queen Mary - 2005)
22. Handsome Furs - Cannot Get Started (Plague Park - 2007)
23. The Go - Meet Me At The Movies (Whatcha Doin' - 1999)
24. Dum Dum Girls - Bhang, Bhang, I'm A Burnout (Bhang, Bhang, I'm A Burnout/Last Caress - 2010)
25. Nirvana - Been A Son (Blew EP - 1989)
26. Mudhoney - In 'n' Out Of Grace (Superfuzz Bigmuff EP - 1988)

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for February 19. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.

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