Rick Ballard of Acetate Records is one of the few folks still standing in the world of independent Rock-N-Roll. Not only did the Supersuckers tour with a lot of the bands on his roster including Throw Rag, Rhino Bucket, and the Hangmen to name a few but former Supersucker Rontrose is now in the Hangmen with an album coming out in a few months…
Q: How did Acetate Records start? What has been the labels biggest achievement?
A: I remember seeing the labels on my favorite records as a kid and just diggin’ the idea of working with so many different bands, whether it was producing or releasing them. Then I started playing guitar, eventually moved to Los Angeles from Virginia and got caught up in the hustle of trying to get signed. At some point, I was playing in a band and we had finished recording an album’s worth of material and I said “fuck it,” let’s just put it out ourselves. I had no idea just how much hard work that meant, but it’s been an awesome experience. Now we’re headed towards our 50th release.
I feel really lucky that we get to work with artists that we love and continue to put out music that might not be the “taste of the week” or #trending or whatever. I can’t say enough about the bands on the label, they are some of my favorite songwriters/artists out there. Getting them exposure is very satisfying, whether it’s radio, TV shows or films. I hear them played during NFL games, baseball and hockey games. It’s so great. The Hangmen even recently did a Dodge commercial. How’s that for completely surreal?
Q: I’ve mentioned before that music is an art and as we know anytime art and commerce meet there’s trouble. Personally, I feel that major labels have done a terrible job explaining to the public the dangers of consumers not paying for music and the importance of supporting musicians. I always felt that people were more inclined to buy a CD or download music if they felt the purchase benefited the artist. As an owner of an independent label how do you feel about the topic?
A: Well, major record labels are such notorious bad guys that I’m not surprised everyone felt free to loot the store at some point. Watch a couple episodes of Behind The Music and it’s always the big record label or management screwing the band in some way or another.
But much like Mid-Fi Recordings (a fine establishment, if I do say so), Acetate Records is hard working, blue collar, independent record label slugging away every day to make it, so… quit stealing our shit! We’re a small operation, we sell ‘em on our website, your order will be hand packed with love. When music is illegally downloaded, the band’s don’t get paid and that means there may not be an ability to record another record. Now is a good time for a plug – http://www.acetate.com
Q: Besides running a label, you and your wife founded Shaker Films and produced a movie entitled “Bob & The Monster” a documentary about Bob Forrest of Thelonious Monster, which has made the rounds at film festivals recenty. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’ve read about it and I’ve seen the trailer. I think it’s a great topic and Bob Forrest is a hero. Is there an official release date?
A: My wife is an amazing director and producer and what started as an idea written on a Post-It note stuck to her computer became a feature length documentary 7 years later. When we started the film I don’t think we realized the entirety of the prescription drug problem in America and it has gotten completely out of hand in the last decade.
Bob Forrest is an inspirational guy. If you haven’t heard of him yet, then Google him. He’s an addiction specialist who makes appearances on CNN and other media outlets and is a brutally honest straight shooter. Most people recognize him as ‘the guy with the hat and glasses’ on Celebrity Rehab, but they have no idea about his background, his band Thelonious Monster and their place in Los Angeles’ musical history. Bob is mad for living and the film is a wild ride.
The film has been playing the world and elsewhere since it’s debut at SXSW in 2011. We’re hoping to have it out commercially by the summer. We’ll do a small theatrical run and then it will be available on DVD, streaming, etc. Tell everyone to go check out the trailer on the website (http://www.bobandthemonster.com), “like” us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter (BobnTheMonster).
Q: I started this site to give music fans and bands an insight… As someone that follows it do you have any suggested future topics or thoughts on this blog?
A: I don’t know if I have a suggestion as much as I’m just a fan of the blog and what you’ve done with it. There’s great insight to how things really work behind the scenes, in the studio and in the shitty, caved-in seat in the van.
Q: Before you get involved with a band, how important is the bands own marketing efforts and willingness to work at a grass roots level?
A: The more the better. When I last looked, about 1,000 records come out every week, including re-issues, etc., which is insane! So that’s what the bands are up against, fighting for a precious inch of shelf space in what few record stores we have left. I won’t work with artists who aren’t hustling their asses off at least as hard as we are.
It’s not just other bands your competing with anymore, it’s Playstation, Netflix, Facebook and a bunch of other stuff. When I was younger music was king, it was the only thing to do besides skate or ride your bike. That was it. We hung out at Penguin Feather, our neighborhood record store/head shop, listened to new stuff, brought home what we could, snuck into shows. That’s all we had. Ah the good ol’ days…
Q: I was anxious to do this Q & A because I’m a huge fan of Rontrose and I know there’s a lot of people waiting to hear him on the next Hangman release. When is that release going to hit the streets? What did Ron bring to the table on the CD?
A: I’m a huge fan of Ron’s, too. He’s such a great addition to The Hangmen. Ron has that rare slow-hand feel that really suits Bryan Small’s songwriting and he’s been a Hangmen fan since before the Supersuckers were even a band. The record is called “East of Western” and I think it’s the best collection of songs that Bryan has written. It comes out May 8 in the U.S. and later that week in Europe. I’m really excited for everyone to hear it.
Check out and Pre-Order Now acetate.com or http://www.the-hangmen.net/
Q: We both grew up around Washington DC. With Football season coming to an end do you have any advice for the Redskins?
My condolences, it’s brutal being a fan, but I’m glad you asked, Chris. Like most people who watch football, I totally know how to fix everything that’s wrong. So here’s my plan – move the team to L.A., change the name, then restart it fresh in DC in a couple of years under new ownership, like they did in Cleveland after the Browns moved to Baltimore. As long as that douchebag Daniel Snyder owns the team, they will continue to drown in a pool of their own suck. Then again, that’s just my opinion… but I’m right.