Published Mar 01, 2005Camobear Records was borne from the collective efforts of three long-time friends and displaced Nova Scotians: Cass Elliot, Miles Rubin and Matt Kimber (who records and performs under the MC name Josh Martinez). In just under two years, the trio have managed to establish themselves as one of the West coast's premiere independent hip-hop labels, boasting a diverse catalogue of releases whose only unifying element lies in geographical origin: nearly everyone behind Camobear and on its roster is a beer-loving, conscious-minded Haligonian.
The Josh Martinez Business
Camobear came to be when Kimber, Rubin and Elliot applied their somewhat different goals to one single vision Kimber wanted a home for his Josh Martinez releases after splitting with Vancouver label Low Pressure. Rubin explains that "there was some confusion at the beginning where we were like, Okay, is this going to be a record label for real, or is this going to be a Josh Martinez management company?' Rubin says, "at the same time, Cass and I were talking about starting our own non-profit label."
Camobear started with rather different aspirations in fact. "We were trying to put together hip-hop's response to September 11," says Elliot. The initial plan, he explains, "was to put out one political album, and to really knock people out. To join the hip-hop community and the activist community, and solve all the world's problems with this one CD." He laughs.
Elliot and Rubin's planning was encouraged by the positive response they received from political hip-hop heavyweights like Chuck D. But they soon found that they could not move forward with the project without first having established a solid presence within the hip-hop community. Putting the 9/11 album on hold, they hatched plans for a full-on record label, never once losing touch with their politically conscious beginnings. The compilation never materialised, but "instead what we've done is we've created a fairly sustainable place where artists that we know and that are conscious artists can get their music out," Elliot says.
With less than two years of operation and a half dozen diverse releases under their belt, Camobear is carving out its niche as it goes. "Our identity is clearly very Halifax," Elliot admits. "The difference between Josh Martinez's Midriff Music and 4/Four [by Halifax-based duo the Goods], in terms of sound there are not a lot of similarities between those two albums. When I make my sales calls down to the U.S., where they haven't heard of [Kunga219 from the Goods] or [DJ Skratch] Bastid, I get to sell them on this album that I truly believe in. It feels really rewarding to me."
Camobear's biggest problem has is familiar to almost any independent label in Canada: cash. They have a distribution deal inked with Universal Canada, but without any major investors, reaching a Canadian listenership has been a struggle. Elliot sighs. "We've had no influx of cash, not once. We have to turn to the U.S. to find a lot of our success that's where our sales are. We sell probably one tenth of our CDs in Canada."
"We're essentially a U.S. label in Canada on a lot of levels. In terms of where we're touring and where we're selling albums, that's what's going on. But it's so funny because we're sooo fucking Canadian! We want nothing more than to do well in Canada."