Posts Tagged ‘Rontrose’

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…

But before I ask about the Hangmen, I’ve got a few other questions for Rick

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.


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One of my early Rockonomics posts was about my first impressions of the Supersuckers website and how I felt it needed a makeover.   I had also mentioned that people involved with the operations were fans.  I felt this was tantamount to the bands success. We had a few web Guru’s during my days, but something about “Hal the Web Guy” stands out.

With Hal’s help we were able to transform the band’s site from it’s humble beginnings into one that was easy to use and chockfull of useful and updated content (including press photo’s, music, video’s, and fan club information).  We added a personal touch from the band members, and a real community evolved on the message board.  Fans were even encouraged to submit photo’s to be included on the site, and share their own stories.

When I started the Rockonomics site, I turned to a few people for their opinion and obviously Hal was on the list.  I wanted to write about past experiences but most importantly, I wanted fans and other bands to find it entertaining and insightful.  A subscription service seemed a bit over the top,  so I decided to do donations along with giveaways.  I had no idea it would be this fun and successful, leading me to consulting work and even a speaking engagement in Washington DC.  Thanks everyone for your support!  And so it continues…

Below is my Q & A with my pal, Hal.

Q: With social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and website templates such as wordpress, I would suspect that the demand for custom sites has decreased.  What changes have you noticed in the past few years?

A: Yeah absolutely. And there are even more solutions out there now. But I think it’s great. It allows anyone who needs a web-presence to be able to easily “roll their own” without having to spend an arm and a leg or learn the nitty-gritty of html coding. And have their web-presence look really good. I can’t tell you how many smaller jobs I’ve talked my way out of just because I know the budget will be small and I can pass on some info for the client to do it themselves. But when it comes to my bigger clients, they still need a lot of custom content, hands-on support and a large team of web guys.

Q: You’ve done countless sites for a lot of Fortune 500 companies so how did you become the “Web Guy” for the Supersuckers?

A: I have a good friend who worked at MusicToday (the SSKs online merchandise company), and you must have put the word out that the band was looking for a new guy. She, knowing I was a huge fan, contacted me and said, “hey, get in touch with them.” So I remember calling you and I think you were in the van on tour (as always). You asked me who my favorite bands were. So I just rattled a few off and I think you said, “OK, you’re hired!”  [laughs]  Well not exactly, but you seemed generally interested. And we started working together pretty soon thereafter.

Anyhow, I’ve always said that the jobs that were most fun and creative, were the low-paying gigs. So as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to mix in a few fun gigs while also “Working for the Man!”

While I knew the SSKS gig wouldn’t make me a rich man, I just was so stoked to work with this band I had been listening to and seen live for many years. And you sporadically sweetened the deal when a package would mysteriously arrive with some really cool swag. Guys like Doug, Bartley, Brian and myself always appreciated that you seemed to really care about us minions.

As for the moniker, “Hal the Web Guy,” I just thought that doing the geek work wasn’t so cool, so I just stole a bit of your persona to make my title seem a bit more hip.  [laughs]

Q: What was your favorite Supersuckers web promotion?

A: I only came in on the tail end of the Paid EP, so I guess Get it Together. I thought it was an interesting idea to put all the gold-top members names in the CD jacket. While the album wasn’t really what the public seemed to want, it’s certainly a well produced piece and has a few gems. Also the 20th anniversary show, CD and DVD was great. Really the whole Fan Club (P.I.T.) was brilliant while it lasted.

Q: Was there ever a web promotion we talked about doing but couldn’t pull it off?

A: The main focus was how to keep people coming back to the site — keeping it fresh. The initial re-design was to keep it clean, simple and easy to navigate. When the web-store was run by MusicToday (MT), we had that “Merch Item of the Day” feature. It was a cool idea and a way to keep the home page fresh. Back when we first did it, there were so many different items in the store like shirts, caps, flasks, lighters, girl’s knickers, skateboards,  iPods, etc. –a huge variety. Not many bands at the SSKs level had such an inventory.

What I really wanted to do was link this feature directly to the MT database, have a “merch window” for every item in the store and serve them up in a more logical fashion. Even have a back-end interface so you could promote specific goods that you wanted to clear out or put on “special.” Also, if an item went out of stock, it would just not show anymore. This is something we do on all of my bigger sites. But I couldn’t get MT to figure out a way to make it work. And there wasn’t a decent budget that I could hire out to an engineer to build it. So we did it manually, and so many times you’d call me up (from the van most likely) and say “hey man, that T-Shirt showing on the site today has been out of stock for 2 weeks.” [laughs]  So I’d have to quickly swap it out. After a couple years, the stock was really dwindling, and we barely had any items to sell. We’d be rotating maybe 5-6 items for weeks. Eventually I just took the feature down.

Also, I remember when Eddie decided to answer the fans questions via a video blog, which I thought was a great way to interact with the fans from the band’s message-board. But he only did it once, which was a bit disappointing. If fans knew that every week or so they could log onto the site and maybe have their question answered via video, that it would have been a big hit.

Q: What did you take away from your experience with the bands site?

A: I really had a great time with it. It was great to connect with the fans. Early on with the fan club photo page, I’d be getting photos from people everyday to post.  Eddie was a great sport going out there after the shows and throwing the horns with one arm around all these people, posing for their cameras. They’d email them to me and were so jacked to see these up on the page. While I mostly interacted with you, it was nice to get to know the band as well.

It’s been over a year since I stepped down from my post. I was and still am a huge fan of the music. I’m really glad you and I have stayed in touch. One of these days I’ll get my ass out to the “holy land” and meet the rest of the Neal clan.

Q: What are listening to these days?

A: I’ve not picked up a ton of new music, but some of recent ones I did get and liked were recent CDs from Danko Jones,  Motorhead, the Backyard Babies, Nicke Royale’s new band Imperial State Electric, the new Michael Monroe (Hanoi Rocks/Demolition 23), and Alberta Cross. The newer Drive-by Truckers is decent, but not as good as when Jason Isbell was in the band. As you said, he’s the “secret weapon.”

Otherwise I tend to pick up a lot of older stuff I’ve either lost or never had.

Q: What are reading these days?

A: I read a bunch, albeit somewhat slow. Right now I’m in the middle of War by Sebastian Junger. It’s a real account of an embedded reporter in a remote US military post in Afghanistan. Really intense.

My brother-in-law gave me Bob Mould’s autobiography which I look forward to reading. I’ve been a huge fan of Bob and his bands for many years. I also enjoyed Keith Richard’s book Life. I know we discussed it many times.

Stig Larsson’s Millennium trilogy was great (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Girl Who Played with Fire, and Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest.). Each book got better the one before. Probably my favorite piece of fiction was Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. It’s all of 950 pages so it takes a while, but one page in and you’ll have a hard time putting it down. While it’s fiction, it’s based off the author’s real life events. Lots of action. Pick it up!

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The Field Recordings was a brilliant idea that any band should consider.  Why not make your live shows available for sale.  The overhead is low, and bands really have to separate themselves from the ordinary.  Let’s face it, anyone can make a record these days.   Unfortunately this gives the music fan more choices of crap but by the same token it gives the great bands, like the Supersuckers the ability to get heard.

The short lived “Supersuckers Field Recordings” captured a snapshot in the bands history, these CD’s were priced right, packaged well, sounded awesome, and each cover reflected the contents found inside.  The few Field Recordings released captured the band around that golden era of 2004 and 2005.  It’s important to mention that shows exist from the 90’s and early 2000’s but for some reason they remain unreleased.  Also noteworthy is that Mike Musburger was the drummer on all 3 of these recordings.  My wife, Stephanie, provided most of the photo’s along with Wilbur, the old tour manager, who provided some as well.  Tim Gabor did the art and Eddie would write the liner notes.

Supersuckers Live at the Tractor Tavern

Obviously, I loved the idea of the band releasing these Field Recordings  because it captured that Supersuckers raw energy that often eluded their studio releases.   Eddie’s stage banter and Ron’s ability to improvise a ferocious lead is always fun to revisit.  In fact, Live in Ferndale just might be one of my favorite live records of all time.

My theory was, if it was a great show, then it made sense to offer it to the fans.  While I understand a lot of bands are apprehensive about releasing live albums, I’ve never understood why.  If it sounds good, captures the moment, and provides the fans with a special quality then by all means don’t let it sit in on a shelf.

The Digital Download series would also provide the band another outlet for releasing music and providing fans with a glimpse into their incredible talents and history. I’m pretty sure the Supersuckers were one of the first bands to offer digital downloads as well.  We saw the future early and embraced it.

Between the Fan Club, Digital Downloads and Field Recordings, we were able to use the music as a community builder.  More fans, more people at the shows, equals more opportunities.

BTW it looks like Rontrose is going to put a few nuggets on this iPod that I’m giving away, so donate now to get a chance to win it… drawing is 12/31/10

Below are some specifics that Eddie wrote regarding 2 of the releases that I thought everyone would enjoy… Kinda cool right!

Chris Neal of Midway UT

“Mid-Fi Field Recordings Vol. 1: Live at The Tractor Tavern, Seattle, WA”

***Welcome to ‘suckers country***

Picking up where 2002’s Must’ve Been Live left off, this EP is the second live country offering from the Supersuckers. Featuring songs that have never been heard in a live setting before, this is anything but a “retread” of their last live country record. If you enjoyed Must’ve Been Live, then you’ve gotta add this to your collection. Recorded on a rainy night in Seattle at the end of a long rock tour, the boys were inspired and tired enough to let it loose and do some oddball country stuff. A bootleg? You bet. Good? Damn good!

This set features country recordings of:

1. Creepy Jackalope Eye

2. Doublewide

3. Sail On

4. Pretty Fucked Up

5. Killer Weed

6. Born With A Tail

7. Alabama, Louisiana Or Maybe Tennessee

(okay, we released this one before, but this version really smokes!)

“Mid-Fi Field Recordings Vol. 2: Live at The Magic Bag, Ferndale, MI”

***We’re The Supersuckers, we’ve come to rock the house!***

After years of trying and countless failed attempts, The Supersuckers have finally been captured for their first ever live rock CD. Recorded in beautiful Ferndale, MI on a glorious Tuesday night, “Mid-Fi Field Recordings Vol. 2: Live at The Magic Bag, Ferndale, MI” is here at last. Hear the ‘Suckers tear through 20+ killer songs spanning 15 years of ass kicking like it’s a Saturday night at the Enormo-Dome, because that’s what they do, every night is Saturday night and every morning is Sunday morning coming down for these rock-n-roll die-hards. So go get it, grab it and see how the rock show oughtta be done. If only all bands could be this good.

Supersuckers Live in Ferndale

1. Rock-N-Roll Records

2. Rock Your Ass

3. Bad, Bad, Bad

4. The Evil Powers Of Rock-N-Roll

5. Creepy Jackalope Eye

6. Bruises To Prove It

7. Supersucker Drive-By Blues

8. I Want The Drugs

9. Bubblegum & Beer

10. My Victim

11. Luck

12. Dirt Roads, Dead Ends And Dust

13. Fisticuffs

14. Gone Gamblin’

15. How To Maximize Your Kill Count

16. Goodbye

17. Pretty Fucked Up

18. That Is Rock-N-Roll

19. Jailbreak

20. Born With A Tail

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The First Annual Rockonomics Party was amazing. Hosted by my pal Mike in the heart of Hollywood CA, the guests were a stellar mix of hardcore fans and longtime friends. Some traveled from as far away as Kansas, some from Santa Cruz, and all over Los Angeles to reminisce about their favorite shows and songs over good food and cold drinks.

Jordan Shapiro and Mike Abdelnour

Steve, the contest winner, won a Fender Guitar and had some lessons from both Rontrose and Jordan. Trevor got to play with them too. I got to play DJ, and my main theme was Michael Bloomfield. It was an amazing evening catching up with some fans, as well as Ron and Jordan, who I haven’t seen in over a year.
A couple more highlights from the weekend was watching Jordan Shapiro’s incredible golf game and having Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone Magazine sign his latest book; Griftopia.

But the icing on the cake, was watching Rontrose and Jordan play guitar together while all of us watched in awe. The fact that these two incredible talents would get together and play for some fans in my pal’s living room, says volumes about them personally.

Chris & Rontrose

As I’ve always said, what the Supersuckers had was special. Beyond their catchy songs and tasty licks was a unparalleled bond with their fans. It’s a story worth sharing, and something I’m fortunate to have been a part of.

Steve, Jordan and Peter

While the music business crumbled around us, we were successful and that was because of the fans. The commitment we all had from the fan club, to the release of the Field Recordings, or even giving fans a chance to sit on the stage during a show. No other band did this and a lot of the so called superstar bands today aren’t even involved in their fan club often outsourcing it to a third party. We forged ahead despite the obstacles of very little radio, TV, and mainstream press. How does a band sell over 500 tickets in a market or 20,000 CD’s where mainstream media doesn’t quite embrace them? Well that’s the crux of this site for the fans and bands out there to read and maybe take away some of the lessons and experiences learned from a more successful and trend setting time with the Greatest Rock N Roll Band in the World.
Until Next Time…

Chris Neal of Midway, UT

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I’ve had people email me and ask about the Supersuckers and challenges that we faced at radio.  So here’s an exclusive Rockonomics Q & A with Michael Newman of Grill Marketing.  Newman was in the trenches with us while we did everything we could do get some radio play…

Most people don’t hear the Supersuckers on the radio but there were some moments for sure when it happened; WKZQ in Myrtle Beach, WRFF in Philadelphia, KIWR in Omaha to name a few…  Some bright moments  but not always easy.   Newman was one of those guys that we hired to help service the Supersuckers at radio.  Specifically he worked “Get it Together”.  I think it’s fair to say that Newman was always impressed with our contests, willingness to drop by a radio station, call a station, mail a CD, shirt, or an LP to a station.  If it meant that Eddie had to send a postcard or if Dan “Thunder” Bolton had to bake an apple pie chances are we would do it.  Because we had to do everything we could do to reach one more ear.  I can remember one time in Chicago when the band got back from the venue at 3:00 AM and then left at 5:00 AM to make the ManCow Show.  It was this Supersuckers dedication and perseverance that I loved to witness.  There was that magic that happened that words can’t really explain that I got to witness and I love sharing it…

Q: Am I right in assuming that the Supersuckers contests from the Les Paul Guitar giveaway’s to mailing shirts was impressive or is that really what a band has to do now to get some overall attention?

Contests always help. A Les Paul always helps. By the way, I never got mine… 🙂 People love free stuff. I mean, who doesn’t? It’s a bit trickier these days with what you hand over to a radio station thanks to a few boobs in this business but I know they certainly appreciate it. Even if it’s a couple of CDs for giveaways, it’s just a nice way of showing that you appreciate you showcasing the band on their radio show.

Q: Most independent bands don’t have deep pockets.  Is there a cost effective radio campaign that you can suggest to those on limited budgets for example a track on the FMQB CD?

Well, I consider my campaign pretty cost effective. Radio promotion is an expensive business. A full on modern rock campaign can start at $10,000 easily. I make my campaign cost effective for a couple reasons. One, as you mentioned, independent bands are working with limited budgets. I have no problem working within a band’s budget. I want them to have a shot at radio. they shouldn’t be excluded because they don’t have an RCA Records paying for their campaign. Two, I look at my campaign as a way of “dipping your toe in the water” to see if there’s anything there. If there’s genuine interest, then you may think about looking to do a full on campaign and hiring a larger company. If there’s no interest, then you haven’t bet the farm as they say and you can use your money to buy new instruments (kidding.) While tossing a track on a sampler certainly will help the overall visibility of a radio campaign, it’s nothing unless you have someone on the phones / email backing up that visibility.

Q:  What exactly is your specialty and how much can Specialty radio programs impact an artist’s career?

My specialty is, well, specialty! I’m the guy that gets to all the folks doing new music shows on terrestrial, internet and satellite radio. It’s these shows where people go to discover new music on the station they listen to without having the new Linkin Park crammed down their throats 50 times a week.

The second part of your question is a bit difficult to answer because there’s sure to be a difference of opinion with how people define “impact.” It would be egotistical (and ignorant) of me to say that had it not been for my specialty campaign for, let say, The Killers, they’d be still be playing lounge shows in Las Vegas. It just doesn’t work that way. I look at what I do as a grass-roots approach to marketing. The people I promote records to are the tastemakers. They’re lovers of music. They do their shows for the love of music. Most get paid peanuts for doing their show; some not at all. In my opinion these are the people that have the real impact on an artist’s career. If they like something not only will they be playing it on their show but I can guarantee you they’re talking about the artist to anyone who will listen. Especially in this day and age with the internet, word of mouth rules all.

I think like anything, careers are developed over time. It’s rare that I work with a new artist on their first album that goes on to be huge instantly. It’s usually after releasing a couple of EPs / albums that radio starts to pay attention. Does that mean they’ll like album two better than album one? No, but at least there’ll be familiarity and a better chance they’ll pick up the next release. I remember working at Virgin Records in the mid 90’s. We had an amazing roster (Gomez, Placebo, Daft Punk, The Verve) but none of these artists were instant successes. It was over a number of albums that we were able to build their profile at radio.

With my company, The Grill, I’ve been fortunate to work with a number of artists on their first albums that went on to bigger and better things. From Gnarls Barkley to Paramore, and more recently Neon Trees and The Temper Trap. Having said that, my specialty campaign alone doesn’t “make” the developing artist. I’m just one cog in the machine. A well put together team with radio, publicity, online marketing, etc can make a big difference. Oh yea… Great songs can help too.

Q: I remember I specifically wanted you to help work the Supersuckers to radio because you were a fan.  When did you become a fan and is there a specific story you’d like to share?

I am absolutely a fan. I think it was my first year of college in 1992. I was at UMASS Amherst and Sub Pop was in full stride. They had opened an east coast office in Boston that Joyce Linehan ran (Joyce now co-owns Ashmont Records with Joe Pernice) and soon they were signing bands like crazy. Sebadoh, Scud Mountain Boys from Western Mass and from the Boston area Green Magnet School, Six Finger Satellite, Combustible Edison. It was extremely exciting to be involved in the scene during that time so I started picking up almost anything the Sub Pop put out. I remember kicking around Northampton, MA one summer and I picked up a SPIN magazine just because it had a Sub Pop sampler in there. Sandwiched in there with Love Battery and Rein Sanction was the ‘Suckers “Mighty Joe Young” off The Smoke Of Hell. Even though they were something of an anomaly to the “Sub Pop” sound, I loved it. Anyway, that’s really all I needed to hear. I played that track for four weeks for anyone that came over to my place. A few months later I saw them with the Reverend Horton Heat and I’ve been a fan ever since…

BTW please send my best to Rontrose. I really like that dude…

the grill marketing & consulting

15106 crowne brook circle

franklin, tn 37067


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Thanks for tuning in…

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The new site had it all.  It’s still one of the best band sites out there.   Very easy to navigate and resourceful without giving the user a headache.  Video’s, Music, Bio’s, Photo’s, Tour dates, News and contact information.  I can assure you not one email or phone call went unanswered.  The voice mail number was set up so when fans called they heard a message from Dan or Eddie: “Hello This is Dan Thunder Bolton of the Supersuckers please leave a message,” and we’d call them back.    There was no customer service it was me, chris@supersuckers.com .  As Eddie Spaghetti said

“If you have any comments or questions just email, call, or write The Mid-Fi Guy, Chris Neal at chris@supersuckers.com He’s one efficient, friendly and thorough fella and he’ll be more than happy to help you with all your romantic queries”.

I felt we weren’t in a position to make ourselves hard to reach.  I wanted the fans to know they had someone they could count on and the fans were the most important part of the operation.  If someone wanted to book the band or license a song, I believed in making us easy to find.  This paid off a thousand times from the band playing private parties to getting songs on MTV.  My cell phone number was included at the bottom of the emails that once went out to 40,000 fans.  One time during a show in Eastern Europe my cell phone rang and it was Eddie Vedder looking for Eddie Spaghetti.  In fact this happened more than once.  I often wonder if the Supersuckers would’ve gotten those dates in Canada with Pearl Jam if we weren’t easy to find.  I’ll never forget that first call “Hello this is Ed from Seattle… I’m looking for Eddie”.  I mean I about died.  The Pearl Jam tour was a highlight for sure and it deserves it’s own chapter.  But first let me say, it was 5 shows in Canada and as much as we talked about it, you’d think we toured with them for at least 6 months.  And I was even able to get fan club members free tickets to the shows.  The respect and admiration I have for Pearl Jam is immeasurable.  Everything about them and their camp is top-notch.  And I’d work for them in a heartbeat if they ever called me at 213-944-9200…hint hint hint

All the work and set up we did for Must’ve Been Live, paid off for Motherfuckers Be Trippin’.  Some people thought it was a silly name for an album and that having that title would hurt sales but most retailers ordered it and only some had us put a sticker over the title.  I printed off thousands of stickers and problem solved.   No big deal.

I was thrilled with the album, title, art, and most importantly the songs.  Fox used the “Fight Song” during an NFL game and MTV used it a few times as well.  In fact, a lot of the songs off of this particular album were used in too many places to list.  I always thought the “Fight Song” would be  a stadium classic.  “Rock N Roll Records (Ain’t Selling the Year)” was Eddie’s obvious homage to Willie Nelson’s “Sad Songs and Waltzes,” “Rock Your Ass” was an instant classic, “Bruises to Prove It” I believe was inspired by someone close to the camp.  My least favorite song was “Bubble Gum and Beer” and I felt that song was an insight into how Eddie’s writing would begin to change.  One song that didn’t make the album was “Flying Into The Mid-Day Sun.”  This song appeared later on Devil’s Food. Regardless, the album was stellar and was one of their biggest selling albums.

We used Ken Phillips Publicity press (again), hired Planetary to work college radio (again) and we hired one of the larger radio consulting companies to work the single “Rock N Roll Records (Ain’t Selling the Year).”  And when KROQ in Los Angeles played “Rock N Roll Records (Ain’t Selling the Year)” one sunny afternoon in April, 2003, I knew we were onto something…

The band even had a video for the song.  Directed by Jeremy Hunt.  Jeremy was a huge fan and made the “Cracked” logo even more recognizable when he wore a Supersuckers hat in the internet movie sensation “405”, which yahoo named as “one of the most important events in the history of the internet.” I’ll never be able to thank him enough for the incredible video.  We mailed it to everyone from VH1, MTV, etc… We got turned down from a lot of the big places but it did get played in Europe, Canada, and on some local markets in the US.

I did most of the servicing (mailing out the video myself, including some record stores and online stores) and reached out to everyone I knew for help.  We hired a company called Rive Video to help with more serving and distribution too.  Even if we didn’t have huge success on a national level we still had it regionally and Rive helped a lot.  Also, it was a great promotional tool too.  Promoters could use the video on their web site to advertise a show, record stores could use it to advertise the release, and  sites like Yahoo would have something to feature.  We were lucky to have it and we included the video on the CD as a quicktime file too.  Years later, it’s still one of the highlights with my time with the band.

My Thoughts on Making “Rock and Roll Records (Ainʼt Selling This Year)” – Jeremy Hunt 8/24/2010

Where to begin? Well I’ve been a fan of the Supersuckers since the La Mano Cornuda record and probably saw every show that they played anywhere in Southern California for the next 10 years. I am a huge fan.

Fast forward to around April of 2000. I was a digital VFX artist working on various television shows. A friend and I wanted to make a short and set out to do just that. We had zero money to hire actors and on the day of the shoot, since I didn’t protest as much, I was tapped to star in our little movie. It just so happened that on that day I was wearing my trusty Supersuckers hat. The film went on to become 405 which is now considered the first viral original short on the Internet.

Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Hunt

That success got me and my co-director a lot of success and opportunities. One gig was directing a commercial for the Seattle film festival. While eating lunch on set with the agency creatives I mentioned that the upcoming weekend was going to be awesome because I was going to see the Supersuckers on Friday night and AC/DC on Saturday night. He chuckled and asked how much of a fan of the Supersuckers I was. He then informed me that he was friends from high school with the suckers and played in a weekly poker game with them when they were in Seattle. Wow..so cool. The next day, while we were in a transfer session for the commercial he whipped out his phone and called Rontrose to get me tickets and VIP access to the show.

After that show I was determined to find Ron just to say thank you for the tickets etc. I patiently waited while he finished a conversation with some ladies. I stuck out my hand intending to explain who I was and say thanks and he immediately said “dude! you’re the guy in that movie where the airplane lands on the old lady!” what?! Ron knew who I was? Turns out my Supersuckers hat prompted a lot of people to search for “Supersuckers” and they had a huge spike in traffic to their site. Over the next few weeks Ron and I chatted on the phone a few times about the band and what was going on, the heartbreak that was Evil Powers…he even sent me the original version of the songs that were recorded for Interscope. Maybe I’m not supposed to say that. Ron is a really cool guy and he hooked me up for the next show that they played in LA. At that show he wanted me to meet Eddie, so after the show I was backstage shooting the shit with Eddie, talking about everything from the band to his lip synch performance of Ratt’s Round and Round as a high schooler. If you haven’t had the opportunity to talk to these guys, yes, they are that cool. Just really nice.

Photo courtesy of Jeremy Hunt

Those guys have a really great way of making you really feel like you are a part of the band if you just get that first big toe in the door. And honestly, I never felt like they wanted anything, they were just into the idea that I was a fan and gave them some props on the net.

A couple of years later, my directing partner and I were writing a lot of music video treatments. It’s a horribly frustrating process because you fall in love with an idea and rarely get to execute it. We came up with one such idea. It was this concept where a band was going to perform in the middle of a nuclear explosion. Destruction and debris falling all around. The label ultimately passed on it, but I wasn’t willing to let it go. I knew the Supersuckers were getting ready to release MFBT so I pitched an idea to my partner. Let’s see if we can fund a video as a demo reel piece and see if the suckers want to be the band. I figured it was a win win. We would get to make the video we wanted and the suckers would have a kick ass video for virtually free. I pitched it to Eddie and he immediately bit. We rewrote the treatment to fit the vibe of the suckers, adding some humor etc and set off to get the ball rolling.

Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Hunt

The guys were coming through town so we secured a location in the Lucerne valley outside of LA. We got a production company to hook us up with insurance & producer and we begged, borrowed and stole all the gear we’d need. We ended up with a rather hefty and professional crew. I’ve since done a number of music videos and I can safely say that the Supersuckers just get it. A performance video has to have some good performance or it’s going to be boring. We had no problem there. Take after take, every setup, the guys were at 110% acting like idiots as we would yell “a huge chunk of plane is flying right at you! duck!” seeing Eddie drop down into some James Brown splits right on cue without missing a beat floored me. It was like that all day.

Once we got back, we spent the next month on post production and visual effects. It was a lot of hand painting the guys off the background in order to wrap them with the wind and derby and junk we added flying around them. It was a ton of work. Thank god they write short songs.

It was a really great experience. The band let us do what we wanted and in return I think we gave them a pretty memorable video. Chris ended up making me a lifetime fan club member and I have never paid for a bit of suckers merch or shows since. Not only that but I rarely had to ask. If they were coming through So Cal, I would usually getting an email asking if I needed any tickets.

A couple of years later they flew me up to Seattle to film Eddie as he recorded his second solo album, Old No. 2. We turned that into a little video that was included with the cd I believe. Another great experience.

I’ll wrap this up with one of my favorite stories from the shoot. Call time was 6am but I was nervous about being late so I got there a bit early. Slowly everyone started to arrive and we had an area

Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Hunt

sectioned off so that no cars would drive on it. I wanted a pristine cracked desert floor and tire tracks would ruin it. We had all of the production trucks positioned and people were setting up gear. Out of nowhere a little pickup truck veers off the road, flies past the production trucks, and starts doing donuts right in the middle of my set, totally tearing up the ground. I was fuming. I’m begging for this asshole to stop so I can literally kick his ass. It’s a fucking desert, I was willing to walk a few miles and bury a body. After five or six donuts the truck stops and I’m right there. Out pops Bolton grinning ear to ear. He looks right at me and says “Lets make a video!” I burst out laughing. Fucking rock stars… We had to tear down and move all the gear. But it was totally worth it.

Inside the CD packaging was a paper insert advertisement that was shaped like a CD and placed on top of the actual CD.  This insert was an advertisement for the web store. Another brilliant idea.  And Rontrose gets the credit.

And here’s one of the contests we did around the same time.  I’ve included the radio spot!!!  Hear the radio spot – click here

Do you like chicken? Do you like rock-n-roll? Do you like Arkansas? Well if you’ve answered yes to at least two of these questions then do we have a deal for you! The winner of our latest Ebay auction will receive two plane tickets to Little Rock Arkansas, (that’s right, you heard me, Little Rock!) to join us at Sticky Fingers Chicken Shack where we will be hosting a chicken wing eating contest and playing a rock show to help celebrate their 15th year of sticky digits! You’ll also be put up in a nice little hotel room to help you sleep it all off that night.

The contest will feature Mr. Dan “Thunder” Bolton and myself as well as at least ten to fifteen local contestants. The winner of the contest will get a free, brand new (and clean!) Supersuckers t-shirt AND they will get to choose five songs from our extensive catalog that we will play in a block during our show that night! Second place just gets the shirt and third place will receive a moist towellette, a firm hand shake and a hearty “nice try buddy” from the band (okay maybe a key chain or something too).

So get to bidding and come and join us in Little Rock. Who knows, you might even get to meet Bolton’s brother or my mom! The entire event will be dedicated to some good people in Arkansas who can’t make it for reasons beyond their control.

Eddie Spaghetti,
rock guy.
May 7, 2003

Some of my favorite contests involved ordering from the website.   We gave away loaded Eddie Spaghetti iPod’s, Fan Club Memberships, subscriptions to Rolling Stone Magazine, Snowboards, etc.  There wasn’t a band in the world doing this kind of stuff and there’s probably still not.  Everything in the store was set at a fair price too.

Oh, check this out. We recently auctioned off a couple of iPods loaded 
up with Supersuckers songs on Ebay and it was such a success that we 
want to give one away!  Here’s the deal – everyone who makes a purchase 
from our web store during the month of May will have their name entered 
into a drawing to win a brand new 20 GB iPod all loaded up with 
’suckers gold!  Also, any orders over $50 will receive a 10% discount. 
How’s that for good business? They don’t call me Crazy Eddie for 
nothing! We’re blowing it out! Everything must go! Good luck to you, 

Eddie Spaghetti, on the road between here and there, Cinco De Mayo, 

And of course we had the eBay auctions.  Now eBay accomplished a few things for us; first and foremost it was a great way to advertise…  I could list concert tickets on eBay as a means of advertising the show.  Also It was a great way to market potential new store items to see if there would be a demand.  We did this with the coloring books and bottle openers.  The New Years Eve shows were always terrific and the auctions we did in conjunction with the NYE shows were awesome  One show in particular, we provided a hotel room, van transportation to and from the venue, a goodie bag, and tickets to the show obviously.  And I got pretty close to having a show in Hawaii once where I was going to do an all-inclusive trip with the Supersuckers selling a certain amount of tickets on eBay at a fixed price…  I wish I could’ve pulled that one off.

We auctioned off guitar lessons, drum lessons, weekend trips with the band where we’d put you up at a hotel and invite you to soundcheck and of course load the winner up with merchandise.  And we always donated a percentage of the monies to the West Memphis 3 Defense Fund.  It was so fun knowing that not only were we doing something fun for the fans but it was a great cause.  And the band were good sports about these crazy ideas.  These auctions were so effective and fun. It was one of the highlights of working with the Supersuckers and we become known for it.

Do you like The Supersuckers? Do you like baseball? Wanna come see a great game with us? We’re offering you a once in a life time chance to come with us and watch the Seattle Mariners play the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 9th in Seattle from one of the best, private, VIP suites at Safeco Field. That’s right, see the game in style, with The Supersuckers, from right behind home plate and know that any profit (should there be any – these things ain’t cheap!) will be going to the Free The West Memphis Three Support Fund. We’re going to be putting a few pairs up to bid on over the next few weeks, this first pair comes with some deluxe hotel accommodations but we’re not sure if we’ll be able to swing that for all of the ticket winners. We hope to, but we want to make sure that we get enough money to make a nice donation to the WM3. So get to bidding! I love going to the Mariners games, Safeco Field is awesome, I dig the Red Sox and I’ve always wanted to check one of these suites out. This is gonna be a lot of fun!

Eddie Spaghetti

Everything we did seemed to have a marketing twist to it but we didn’t have a choice.  We had to be creative, take chances, set trends, and blaze trails.  We weren’t on the cover of Rolling Stone or USA today.  The band wasn’t played much on the radio and didn’t have much mainstream exposure.  We created our own excitement and embraced the help and support from the fans.  It wasn’t before too long that Billboard Magazine even did a feature on our marketing campaigns.  I think it was one of the few times we were ever in Billboard and it was a nice spread and a great article.

I always wanted to do an auction for “Tour with the Supersuckers for a Weekend” but we never pulled that off.  Although there’s still time to donate and enter to win a guitar and lesson from Rontrose.  This contest ends on 8/31/10 and it will be an amazing experience so please consider it and know how much the support is appreciated and how much it helps keeping this thing moving along…

More stories coming soon…  thanks

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