The Shizz Set to Launch Record Label

Over the past decade, TheShizz has gradually grown into one of the most popular local music websites in the Valley. This month, The Shizz is launching its own record label, starting with a 17-track compilation of songs from Arizona bands called The Shizz Presents: AM or PM? I Don't Know...

The compilation CD goes on sale Tuesday, April 13, but local music fans can pick up a free copy (with $10 admission) at a release show this Saturday at Trunk Space. The show kicks off at 6 p.m. and is set to include 12 of the 17 bands from the comp playing on three stages throughout the night.

Emperors of Japan bassist/vocalist Tony Poer is serving as managing director of Shizz Records and sent us an advance of the new comp. When we asked him whether we could stream a song from it, he pretty much gave us free rein. What Poer failed to realize was that when you give control of the stereo to the metal guy, shit's gonna get loud. So, with apologies to local faves like Fatigo, Necronauts and Peachcake, here's Let's Go To Fucking Hawaii performing "Unfinished Bidness" from the new comp, followed by a Q&A with Poer about the new label.

Q&A with Shizz Records managing director Tony Poer

Up on the Sun: How did the Shizz get started and how did you become involved with the site?
Poer: Donald Martinez started it back in 2000 -- it was originally a website that had directions to a New Year's Eve party/concert with a bunch of locals -- and it just sort of grew from there. They had links to the bands playing, and as time passed Donald added links to more bands, and a show calendar, and a message board, and now there are something like 5,000 members from all over the world. Donald would be a better person to get a complete history from, but I'm pretty sure he had no idea it was going to get as big as it is now. 

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Personally, my involvement started back in maybe 2004 or '05 -- I had read about the Shizz online somewhere and checked it out. I started posting shows for the bands I was in, and then started meeting people from the forums out at those shows. I wasn't really heavily involved until a little over a year ago, when Donald asked several of us if we wanted to get more involved doing things like organizing Shizzfest and helping build the local music/arts community. Myself and Chad Knapp (from Cagematch) were really interested in working on a Shizz label project, and so he and I sort of ran with it. 

There are a LOT of people working behind the scenes to try and get projects like this off the ground -- I just happen to be the guy that e-mailed you to talk about it. Chad did a ton of work organizing the bands, and he and another local artist named Dan Sitzler [from Fatigo] did all the artwork. Anyway, all tangents aside, I sort of fell into it by accident. A year ago, I didn't think I'd be helping run the Shizz Record label.

It seems like a bad time to start a record label, with both the economy and the recording industry facing serious ongoing problems. Why did you decide to go ahead with it?
It's important to note that we don't think of ourselves as a label in the traditional sense -- we're not signing artists and paying for their recordings or world tours, we're not pressing 100,000 copies of the CD and blitzing radio stations across the country. We're operating under a "pay as you go" philosophy, so in that sense, there's not a whole lot of economic risk. We financed the mastering and production of the CD from the other Shizz events that have been put on over the last year, and the bands involved were all really cool about donating their tracks. 

We also recognize that the concept of a "label" is kind of dying -- we see ourselves as more of a collective of artists. Our philosophy is to make as much available digitally as possible -- it's going to reduce our production costs and give us a wider reach for distribution. The compilation was designed to be a marketing tool to get people to go to the Shizz website, and there will be a lot more available there to download -- both free and for purchase. Any money we make is going to go back into promoting the bands and financing more compilations. No sane person would invest in our business model.

Will most of the releases be physical releases, digital releases or both?
Mostly digital -- but with a slight twist from the standard album/song download format. We are going to make releases available as "packages" from the Shizz Records website (theshizz.org/records and coming soon to shizzrecords.com). It will be sort of like an extended compilation, but with more tracks from each band. For example, let's say you really like Fatigo and want their album. Instead of downloading just the album from us, you'd download the file that contains Fatigo as well as maybe three or four other albums by other similar bands, and maybe a couple of live concerts, and maybe an older album by one of those bands as well. And you'd maybe pay $8 to $10 for that whole package -- you wind up getting way more for your money and we also expose you (hopefully) to some new music that you didn't know about. 

The biggest difference, aside from the fact that we're offering bundles of music instead of individual albums or songs, is the fact that we're selling directly to the person buying. There's no cut for iTunes or Amazon, no cut for any middle man or record store. We're the label and the store and the distributor. Will that change? Who knows. This is all kind of a grand experiment anyway.

What does the Shizz offer bands that other labels don't?
We're not signing bands to any sort of exclusive deals, and we're not bankrolling anything. All we're doing is trying to give some bands more exposure. And for people looking for music -- whether it's new stuff they've never heard of, or albums by bands that they're already into -- we want them to know that if you come to the Shizz looking for music you're going to get a lot of it. And if you buy it, that money goes directly to the bands involved. But it's also worth noting that we're not just going to be a free resource for any band to upload their music -- we're not Craigslist. There is definitely scrutiny on any music that we will distribute, and our intention is to only put really, really good stuff online. If it sucks, nobody's going to want it no matter how cheap it is or how many albums we bundle together. Take note, bands that sound like Nickelback.

Are you planning to keep this a strictly local affair, or can we expect to see some bands from outside the Valley on the Shizz label in the future?
The initial focus is going to be local, although you'll see some fair representation from around the state. Feel Free is from Flagstaff, and they contributed a track to the compilation. We'd like to get more bands from Flagstaff and Tucson involved, but our focus for now is Phoenix. Ultimately, I think (hope) we'll have some really strong representation from the Shizz community that's based outside of AZ. A lot of those musicians are into chiptunes/VG stuff, and the Shizz is a huge gathering point for a lot of people in that community worldwide. We hope that once we get rolling, we can help promote more of that music whether it's something on the Shizz label or one of the other independent labels out there.

Care to give us a scoop on what releases are in the works following the compilation release?
If I had a scoop to give you, I would. Chad is already starting to work on the next compilation (we'd like to do one CD like this per year, but there's no official timeline) and I'm talking with some bands about being part of the first download package, and while we've got a couple people confirmed we don't have a final lineup or a release date yet. For the time being, we want to promote the hell out of the compilation, take the bands on tour around the state for the CD release shows (coming up in Phoenix, Tucson, Bisbee, and more in Flagstaff), and get people coming to the Shizz.

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