The Buddha Den

Everything you wanted to know about the Dayton music scene and more but were afraid to ask

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

PROFILE: Tony Gilbert of Squids Eye Records

...this Friday night, Squids Eye Records will celebrate their first year with a big show at the Nite Owl. We caught up with label founder Tony Gilbert recently to talk about Squids Eye...

The Buddha Den: What led to the formation of Squids Eye Records? When did you decide to start the label and how long did it take to launch it? What labels were you involved in before? How did you make the jump in running your own labels? What contacts did you make that enabled you to do this? Why did you decide from the beginning that you wanted to be involved in running a label?

Tony Gilbert: The frustration I had releasing music from people who I had no personal relationship with and in which the only conversations we had were business related led to the formation of Squids Eye Records. I decided to start Squids Eye Records in early 2007 but had the idea for a structured local label when I was doing Net31 and went to The Sailing and Yakuza Heart Attack show at Oregon Express. The show was amazing and still holds up as one of my favorite local shows. I started my first label in High School. It started out as a fake little CD-R label with my best friend Mike Cooley. By the fourth release it became real, sold a few thousand copies of our first official release and then from there on each release sold better. The main contacts I got were just from networking with different artists and labels. Anticon and Sage Francis did a lot to help me out in the early days along with a handful of other labels and bands.I decided I wanted to be involved in some aspect of music since music consumed my life anyway, so at the time I thought the easiest way to be involved was to start a label, was I ever wrong.

TBD: What climate led you to believe that it was a good idea to have a Dayton-centric label? How did you envision selling the music of Dayton to the world? Why did you decide to call it Squids Eye Records? What were your goals with setting up this label?

TG: Just the fact so many people I knew were making great music but no one seemed to care outside of our little circle. Squids Eye is on a 3 year plan as for sales numbers and everything. I didn’t expect to begin the label and automatically start where I left off. That being said, the label is doing better then expected and the response we have gotten from outside vendors has been great. Putting out records from Neotropic and Ceschi really helps the catalog, because they already have a built in fan base which leads to their fans checking out more of our artists.

Dozens of names were tossed around, none of which stuck. Then one night I was talking to Keith online and we were tossing names back and forth and he said Squids Eye and that stuck out. He then followed it up with a rough draft of what would become the logo. I checked into it and the name was available, so Squids Eye was born. Since then it's spun off into different sub labels – Squids Eye Limited for Limited Edition projects under 1000 units and SE Direct which distributes Squids Eye directly to hundreds of stores worldwide. We will also be doing the manufacturing and distribution for Ceschi and his brothers David new label ‘Fake Four Inc’ which I am excited to get started on. My goals with the label is to just get the music heard by as many people as possible and not lose the ethics that were put in place on day 1. The main goal is to remember and make sure the artists remember this is an art project above everything else, not a record label in the traditional sense. Sometimes with so much money involved it’s hard to remember that. In the end if the label is monetarily driven, then regardless of its success the label has failed.

TBD: Since the inception of SER, what has been the reception from the Dayton music scene? On the national/international level? Do you feel that having such an active label in Dayton is helping to attract attention to the city?

TG: For the most part the reception has been good, there are a ton of supporters and that makes all this worthwhile. When I approach stores they laugh when I tell them we are based in Dayton. I then send them promos and they call me back and tell me they just ordered the catalog from the distributor. It's just getting people to give it that first listen. That’s all the records need. For the most part we try and package everything as appealing as possible and I think that helps spark peoples interest as to what’s inside. We sell more records in Boise, Idaho then here in Dayton, but I’m not disappointed. Here they pay to see our bands monthly and come out and support in that way. I hope what we are doing is attracting people to Dayton. I make sure that everyone knows we are from Dayton.

TBD: What have been some of the best selling releases? What is your favorite release from the last year? What sort of musical theme, if any, do think runs through the SER catalog? What type of label are you trying to be?

TG: The best selling Squids Eye releases thus far is Yakuza Heart Attack and the compilation [Dayton, OH Vol. 1]. both have been doing very well all around North America and overseas people have begun to take notice. Picking my favorite releases is trouble, so I will just say it’s the compilation since it represents all of our bands, and I really love the artwork on that one. Keith killed it. In the beginning I would say the musical theme would be synth heavy, but since then we have added bands spanning all genres. We really don’t have an ongoing musical theme, except for good music made in Dayton basements. I look up to labels like K, Touch and Go, and Dischord – their sense of community is amazing, bands help out other bands, labels help out other labels. I’d love to see this sense of community come to life in Dayton. We all have our little cliques and rarely leave them, and we all need to break that.

TBD: What role do you think SER plays in the current Dayton music scene? What more do you think SER could do to bolster the scene at this time and for the future? What are your long-term goals with the label? Do you think there is enough talent in Dayton at this time to really make an impact nationally?

TG: The role I think Squids Eye is playing in the current Dayton scene is the same as the majority of the other bands. Just trying to get their music heard by as many people. Squids Eye like other bands could bolster the scene by doing more touring. The long term goals are not much different from the goals I have right now. Down the road I hope to hire a few people and concentrate more on doing physical and digital distribution for other artists and labels. I would love to see more labels and more artist self-releasing, I’ve started a CD Manufacturing broker service just for that reason, to help local acts get their music manufactured with out getting screwed. I think there is enough talent in Dayton to make an impact nationally. I think there are a few records coming up that will help Dayton make some noise. I think the upcoming Captain of Industry album and tour will knock some doors down.

TBD: What bands/artists do you think are poised to break out of Dayton (SER act or not)? What bands/artists would you like to work with in the future? What are your plans for helping your roster get out of Dayton? Do you plan to have more showcases elsewhere?

TG: I will not include Squids Eye bands. I honestly think all given the chance could break out of Dayton. I really believe Human Reunion and Captain of Industry could and will break out of the slums of Dayton. They have put in a ton of work and it’s their time. As for what bands and artists I’d like to work with; Human Reunion, Captain of Industry – I think we will work with both these bands in the future in some form. Once this initial batch of records is out, we will set up a proper tour. Right now the majority of my time is spent on manufacturing, distribution, publicity and sales of the current and upcoming releases. But a proper tour will be setup around Summer – I’d like to get Grizzzzy Bear, Toads and Mice and the Sailing out there as soon as possible for all parties.

TBD: How do you think this showcase on March 14 will affect your label's visibility locally? Why did you choose these 4 bands to represent your label? How do you think they define what SER is all about, or do they? What are your hopes for this show? Why the decision to give away a sampler at the show? How does that disc represent your label at this time?

I’m hoping people pay attention and come out for the show. This year has been 22-hour days pushing the Dayton music out to the world. I’d like to have a proper celebration here locally just for my own psyche, to know people are paying attention in town. I wanted to give something back to the people that I see at each show who pay to get in week after week. I figured a sampler CD would be appropriate. The CD has 20 tracks and showcases a track off of all our upcoming releases and available releases. This is the definitive representation of Squids Eye Records in 2008.

TBD: With such an active release schedule, do have any concerns that you may be saturating the market or overextending your labels capabilities or do you think it merely demonstrates the vitality of your label and your commitment to consistently offer the best of Dayton music?

TG: The only reason the release schedule is currently so active is because the bands here in Dayton have been working on these records for years but never had a proper outlet, now with Squids Eye we are playing catch up and putting out all these debuts. At the same time as long as friends are making great records I will release them, at this point, if we don’t put out these records they sadly won’t get heard outside of Dayton. I just don’t want anything to slip beneath the cracks; the music deserves more then that. Squids Eye is just here to document the current scene, I understand money is tight, I don’t expect people to buy everything, but when they want it, it will be here. sure to head out this Friday, March 14 to catch Squids Eye Records Anniversary Party featuring performances by Grizzzzy Bear, Toads and Mice, The Sailing, and Romance of the Young Tigers. Everyone will get a free copy of the Squids Eye Sampler just for coming out. This one will be huge and you know we'll be there...

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