Published Jan 01, 2006Headquarters: Toronto, ON
Date of Birth: 2002
Releases to date: 11
Best Seller: Closet Monster Killed The Radio Star (7,000 internationally)
Upcoming Releases: Protest The Hero, Bombs Over Providence
The maxim of Underground Operations is quality over quantity. Their 11 releases to date even include re-mastered (and in some cases re-recorded) versions of four stellar EPs already released by the label. A socialist label releasing music by politically-inclined punk rock bands, U.O. is an unlikely candidate for the kind of success that seems headed their way as evidenced by their recent acquisition for distribution by Universal. As Mark London Spicoluk, bassist and vocalist for Closet Monster and U.O's head honcho, can attest, the lesson here is that commercial aspirations only get you so far, but passion will carry you anywhere.
Angering animal activist everywhere.
Spicoluk: I was 15 and pressing tapes and putting on local punk rock shows, and the company name we went under was called Underground Monkey Operations. When I decided to actually step it up a notch, business-wise, we decided to take out the monkey. The myth is that we killed it.
They built this city.
In the very beginning, it was a 12-person collective. There were different guys from each of the bands, and we'd do weekly meetings and try to divide the labour. We tried really hard to apply our socialist values to the structure of the label, and tried really hard to keep it from being a top-down business and more of a community collective. A very difficult task, we found out, as it slowly fell to pieces.
Summerholidays vs. Punkroutine.
I want to promote the music and I want to promote the message that the artists have. If I have to put records in a chain store to help get more kids involved in punk rock and suck them out of that world, that's what we're attempting to do, while still upholding our beliefs. We've never signed a contract with any of our artists. Now that we're getting into a more serious realm of "the industry," we may sign very loose agreements that state "You are going to do a record for us!" but it's all about trust. It's a cool relationship to have with artists, rather than inking the words out in blood.
Canada is a horrible, horrible country to run a record label in. You're competing with so many other bands, and with the way technology is working these days, it helps as much as it holds back. It overflows the pool of artists, labels, bands, and everything else. And it's so spread out it's a ridiculous country to try and do what we do.
We've financed a majority of the recordings up until this point. We'd like to continue to do so, because I think that's a really good service for a label to be able to provide. It's like the bank lending you money to record an album, but you don't need to pay the interest. After we pay the bills, returns are split 50/50 between artist and label.
Home is where the heart floor punches.
We wanted to create some sort of home where we could put records out and help artists' careers, not just release records. It's about creating that label that people want to be on, that people want to listen to, that people respect, rather than just putting out records and not really caring about the bands. It's about a group of friends and family making art and sending it to the world.