An Interview with GrimSkunk Guitarist and Indica Records Owner Peter Edwards
Peter Edwards has been involved in the Canadian Independent music scene for over twenty years, and he has seen things come and go. He has watched as the music industry literally turned upside down on it’s head ate itself up and came out the other side. The Guitarist of GrimSkunk, the developer and part owner of INDICA Records was kind enough to sit down and share his experiences about dreams and success and what it REALLY takes to make it through the Dog eat Dog world of the music industry.
RR: How was Indica Records formed?
PE:The way Indica started was Cargo records was our record label. Cargo records was as you know a really cool label working with all the cool Montreal and Canadian independent bands, they also had some international distribution stuff going on, they where importers of a lot of stuff. They serviced Independent stores in Montreal and Canada like Duchies Record Cave . Anyways what happened was Cargo was building up and was doing really well. At the time they came out with some really popular independent music, Such as Offspring who was signed on Epitaph. Offspring signed an exclusive deal with Cargo for Canada. Although all sorts of labels where trying to sign them they stuck with Cargo exclusively. Offspring had HUGE sales and so Cargo became big with that band. So at the same opportune time the owner of Cargo sold it, the new owner was expecting the label to be great, after the success of that Offspring album Cargo was still what it was, an independent underground record distributor. The new owner was running as if it was a major label. So basically to make a long story short he ran into the ground and the company eventually declared bankruptcy.
So Grimskunk was like “Shit what do we do now?”. Us and like a whole bunch of other bands, like tons of brands in Montreal and straight across Canada were SCREWED. I don’t remember exactly who was on the label at the time; Cargo had represented bands such as Snfu, The Doughboys, and The Asexualsthough. So now every ones albums where basically locked up and held by the bailiffs for the bankruptcy. Everyone is suddenly out of a record label and their work is no longer available in stores as products where held by bailiffs. So we were like, what are we gonna do as there wasn’t that many independent labels. The industry hadn’t really crashed yet, but it was still…You know, there just wasn’t that many labels. There were these major labels interested in working with us, and we were like Fuck yeah, but we can’t handle these major label contracts. The contracts were really bad. So we started Indica with the intention of building up a record label. At the same time we signed to another label in Ontario that was working with Universal. So we released and album with them at the same time we released some independent bands on Indica and slowly we started to build it up. Eventually a few years later Indica was big enough and we signed ourselves, our complete catologe of music is available on Indica records.
RR: How long have you been involved in the music industry as a musician?
PE: It’s been since about 1986. Grimskunk was formed in about 88’. We formed Indica Records in 1997.
RR: How many Artists does Indica records’ represent?
PE: We have approximately 110 releases of both current and past. Currently on our roster we have 25 artist.
RR: What is the record company’s goal when it signs an act?
PE: We have different levels that we work at. Some bands require a lot of support and others just kind of work themselves. So some stuff has massive support from management, with massive production where everything is really well thought out and other acts are on a different level. The bands sort of promote themselves.
We also have artists at a developmental level, they have a lot of potential, but they aren’t huge, so we don’t necessarily expect to sell a lot, so then it’s like if this band sells 1000 copies that is a SUCCESS. It also Depends on how much time and energy you want to invest in something. So some of the stuff has massive potential, and we will put a lot more time and energy into. And we DO have the recourse to put time and energy on the bands that require it. A Band like that you are going to give as much importance by putting it on your website, making them available to the public , doing initial mail out and promoting, you also might just sort of let the band tour and let the album work itself.
You won’t take out massive amounts of advertising like that because why would you. You have to able to gage what the PUBLIC really wants. So if there’s something that’s a proven seller then sure you could go into advertising and other things like that because it’s a proven product. Really we are not here to shove bands down people’s throat we’re there to give people what they want. Which is why we have to be on what we sign too?
RR: What does Indica look for when it signs a Talent? Do you only represent Quebec artists?
PE: ORIGINALITY is SUPER, SUPER important. We have an artistic director, Franz who basically listens to everything and the music has to be GOOD QUALITY MUSIC. Also when we are working with a band we want bands that are REALY EASY to work with. There are some situations or reasons where you just can’t work with someone. So we Really look at the musical integrity.
No Indica does not only represent Quebec Artists. Actually, huge part of Indica Records is our international side. We have representatives traveling to conventions and stuff, things like MEDEM in France, South by South west in Texas, and we strongly push this aspect of the company. So we also sign foreign bands for their Canadian License. As example there is The Cat Empire From Australia, Joseph Arthur from the United States. Most recently we have signed John Butler Trio from Australia, The Gaslight Anthem from New Jersey, and a band called Phantogram from New York.
We are very open to continuing working with all these different niches. We work with world music, heavy metal, acoustic even pop.
RR: How have sales changed as technology and the music have changed? What sells more when looking at mp3 or hard copies such as CDs or vinyl?
PE: At first it started with a missive drop in physical CD sales in store, it was a MASSIVE, MASSIVE drop. That happened over the period of a couple years, the CD selling industry clasped. Lots of record stores closed other stores started selling DVDs, things like that have changed. Now it has kind of Stabilized. Initially digital sales came nowhere close to CD sales, now digital sales are getting more diverse.
There’s ITunes, then there are personal web stores, like we have our own Indica Records, where we can sell MP3’s directly to people, this is the best thing that we are doing. There are also these new subscription programs.
ITunes kind runs their own ship, they choose what they sell. They pay you according to you reported earnings. You don’t have any say how they promote it, and they do not want you to be involved. When you see one of our albums or artists we represent, you will see the Indica label and the royalties will come to us. ITunes takes a bit. So ITunes has a huge share of the market, there is this HUGE market out there also.
What I like best is selling them directly from the Indica store and that is great what I like second best is iTunes and other sites like it and what I like LEAST is this new subscription model because the artist get NOTHING, royalties are so small you almost wonder if it’s worth it.
Another thing we have been working on now, which has been pretty popular is, for 12.99 you can get CD in the mail and the mp3 immediately. With our online store we have jumped our entire sales of Canada by mail order direct to people. That is because the type of thing we are offering is often hard to find in regular stores. So now anyone from anywhere in Canada can get a real copy sent to them for about the same price as they would find it in the store.
RR: How do you believe music sharing has affected music sales and how in turn has that affected the artist and the label.
PE: Here’s the way I see it. The record industry had very unfair contracts. Where artist would make very little and labels would make allot. Labels would then burden the artist with tones of expenses for touring and stuff and at the end of it they would say “OH Well Sorry there is no money left… “ That was the standard thing happening to so many people in the seventies and what not. Then all these cool new bands started coming out, bands like Janes Addiction, Metallica hit number one on billboard, Nirvana came out and all this stuff started happening. At the same time technology was advancing to this point. At that point artists’ where starting to get good record deals and people were given better contracts. Companies started having bidding wars on Bands like L7 and stuff. So it’s GREAT finally artist are actually are going to get a bit of control on their own destinies.
THEN what happened the industry collapses, so it seemed just at the time when artist where starting to get a good share, it all clasped because of music sharing. NOW because of difficulties in the industry, the contracts have gone back to being like they use to be. So AGAIN the ARTIST is the one who suffers because now labels are signing artists for publishing, records and management not just for the RECORD , The band has to do everything, because of the way it is now. It’s just TOUGHER so the Contracts have gotten Tougher.
RR: Who is your largest grossing or touring act?
PE: Les Trois Accord. Les Trios Accord is one of the great Quebec Rock Humor artists of today. They have actually even opened for the Rolling Stones. They where double platinum on their first album, so they sold like 200 000. Last October they just released another. They are recognized internationally. This band by far is the top grossing act. Bands like that help the company work on other artists.
RR: What percentage of musicians or bands on your label makes their living off their musical endeavors alone?
PE: I would say 10%.I think Vulgaires Machins makes all their money off the music industry although they have a few different side things as most people do. There is Caracol who is defiantly making her living off her music. I think some of the guys who have high radio play they make more also because of the additional income of Radio royalties.
An excellent example of guy who lives only off his music is Vincent Peak the bassist of Grimskunk. He is involved in sorts of music endeavors. He is the bass player for Xavier Caffeine; he has subbed forVoiVod at one time he was in like twenty bands.
RR: In Your Career how many bands have you seen come and go?
PE: WOW, for Montreal I would say a couple HUNDRED that I KNOW of. I mean the music industry has changed so much and there are so many bands now. I would say back in the day a good fifty bands. That have come and gone
RR: Why do you believe some very talented musician never end up “making it” or lasting?
PE: I wish I had figured that one out by now. I think it’s like timing, luck, charisma and ah…sometimes there are a lot of bands that have things shooting them in the foot. Grimskunk as an example, over the years we have had major labels interested in us and stuff like and we have ALWAYS had a weird eclectic style of music. People have said “you know you are shooting yourselves in the foot” and we just keep doing it and making our sound.”. So there are sometimes it is just not meant to be. We have a large cult following so we appeal to a portion of the population our sound just prevents certain main stream companies and medias from working with you.
Some bands really are just at the right place at the right time and other bands have one or two key elements which prevent them from getting anywhere and they could be Really Good Bands
So basically the bands that REALLY make, it’s not only timing but everything seems to be really perfect usually it will work.
RR: What do you believe the key to longevity in the music industry is?
PE: I think not changing Members of your band is one and being in a band is a multi personal relationship. So the chemistry between members must be good, and you also have to be able to continually write the music. Some people might have a really great first album then have difficulty writing the second album. The more Ability you have in that the more longevity you are going have.
RR: If it’s So hard to make it the music industry why do so many people do it?
PE: People just LOVE IT. I think People work hard at their jobs and spend TONS of Money just because they love it. A lot of bands tour and lose money. MOST BANDS ARE SUPPOTED BY THE PEOPLE WHO ARE IN THEM. If a band is so, so, so active SOMETIMES they can start making money.
RR: How do you believe being a musician has affected your family life?
PE: Well I am super lucky because I have a family that is super supportive and my kids and my wife both really like it that I am a musician. They like that I travel and sometimes they even come with me to festivals and shows. I don’t think it effects them that I am gone some of the time, If we were a number one world selling band, I think it would be more difficult, cause I would be gone four months on a world tour and they wouldn’t see their dad. We have it done so we will go tour Europe for a couple of weeks and come back. We use to do these six week tours and they would drive us crazy. Tours like that will nearly break up bands. It’s just too much.
For me it’s kind of strange , It’s like I have the life I dreamed about when I was just starting, it’s just kind of different though. I am a recording musician, I have an awesome studio space, with all the accouterments imaginable, Grimskunk has an awesome cataloged of twenty years worth of music, I’ve toured around the world and I even own part of a record company, what more can one ask for. It’s just kind of different because it’s all based in the real world.
For Tour Dates
~ by Richard Rossetto on May 2, 2011.
Posted in deviant art, Heavy Metal's influence on Modern Art, Metal, Clasic Rock, Interviews, Music, rossetto ink
Tags: Canadian Bands to Watch, Canadian Heavy Metal, Canadian Independent Music, Canadian Rock, GrimSkunk, Indica Records, Labels for Independent Musicians in Canada, Montreal Music Scene, Who is who in Canadian Music