Collective Confusion Records - Interview

I recently had the chance to interview Mike who runs Collective Confusion records.

For those who are unfamiliar with you label can you give me a little background on why you started the label and what got you interested in vinyl?
Mike: I started Collective Confusion around three years ago, while I was still in college. I started seriously tossing the idea of starting a label around when the restaurant I worked at at that time suddenly closed down, and I was sitting on my hands with a bunch of extra cash and even more free time. I decided to use the money I had saved from bartending every night to help out bands and artists that I thought were being unfairly overlooked and under appreciated. There's a whole lot of shitty noise out there in modern music today - both popular and unpopular - and Collective Confusion is my way of tuning you into something you might like and you otherwise wouldn't hear.

More abstractly and getting to the real heart of your question - it's something I had thought I always wanted to do. I love the music industry, loved playing and going to shows, etc but I never really had a band take off (or even really take things seriously). So, this was my way of still being involved in all that, on my own terms.

I had been collecting vinyl for years, so the choice to make that the "go-to" format was easy. I love everything about it - you can't beat the sound, the big artwork, the liner notes… a properly pressed LP is personal, and speaks to you on a level that a CD or an Mp3 can't match. It gives you the whole experience of everything the artist wanted to say with their work, beyond just the songs themselves.

A couple projects you have coming up are The Bothers EP and the charity compilation Call To Arms. When can we expect to hear those projects and what has it been like working on them?

The Bothers are a band from Brooklyn that I've been working with for the past few months. They're a great group of guys and they really work hard to get their music out there. More importantly, they write great songs - they're energetic, catchy, with a great live show. They're a blend of rockabilly, punk, surf rock, blues, and old fashioned rock and roll - if you've liked anything Collective Confusion has put out so far, you'll find something you love on The Bothers EP. You'll dig them if you're fans of The Gaslight Anthem, Murder By Death, Gary Clark Jr., Robert Johnson, or really anything your dad used to listen to. You can hear the EP over at www.thebothers.us/music, or you can pick it up on Record Store Day in the Collective Confusion web store. These will be hand-numbered, limited to 300, with the first 100 on red vinyl. The EP will also come with a digital download of tracks from a live set recorded last month - including a few covers and some new tunes.

If you want the record earlier (and want to secure a low numbered copy), you can come out to a show this month in the city:
    4/12 - The Bothers @ Arlene's Grocery - New York, NY
    4/24 - The Bothers @ The Delancey - New York, NY

We'll also be announcing a big record release show in May. Details are still being hammered out for that one.

Call To Arms is a project I've been working on for the last six months or so. When Hurricane Sandy hit, I was down in the village and luckily was only without power for a few days - a small price to pay compared to all of the people who lost their homes and their livelihoods from the storm. Once the dust settled and I got internet back I immediately ran a promotion where I'd donate all of the proceeds from my web store for a certain period to Occupy Sandy (a hurricane relief organization here in the New York and New Jersey area).  The response to that was great but I still felt like I wanted to do more to help, as well as further the CCR "mission" - help out the bands I love.

So, I came up with an idea for a charity compilation, with all of the proceeds going to hurricane relief. I've got a great list of bands and artists involved - almost everyone I've worked with in the past (John, Cassino, The Bothers), some city local bands, plus bands like Miracle of 86, The Ugly Club, The Republic of Wolves, and Adam Rubenstein (of Chamberlain). They all are contributing something you've never heard before. It could be a live track, an old demo, a new demo, something recorded specifically for this compilation - it's all new songs, which I'm extremely excited about.

Right now the plan is to do this digital only, although I'm leaving the option for a vinyl pressing open if I think it'll help the cause, rather than eat into all of our profits that should be going to the charity. It will be out around Memorial Day - I'll release more details and the full, finalized tracklisting once the time is right. This will be cheap - it'll cost no more than $5. Hopefully you'll see a track you want to hear and pick it up to help out a good cause… and maybe it'll turn you on to a new band. 

You recently released your second pressing of Cassino’s album Kingprince. How has the reaction been to the new pressing so far? Have you been pleased?

The reaction has been great so far. To be honest, I wasn't expecting the response the initial pressing got - I think we sold out one variant within three hours or so, with the entire pressing being gone within a few days. So, I had high expectations going into the repress, and so far I haven't been disappointed. There are still copies available, but it's been out for two weeks or so now and we've already sold about as much as the initial pressing. Packing up the initial batch of orders, I recognized a ton of names from those who ordered the first pressing, which I think is awesome. It shows how great of a band Cassino is, how passionate their fans are, and more importantly it shows that people are still willing and able to support independent musicians and labels like us. Nobody had to buy this twice (or three, four, five times over for you variant collectors), but a ton of people did. That means a whole lot to me both as a fan of the record and as the guy who helped to put it together.

One thing I really like about the Kingprince pressing is that you have (or had) this available in three different variants and all three variants have the cover art screened to match the color of the vinyl. What made you decide to that with this release?

To be honest, I'm not sure where that idea originated from - it was either myself or A City Inside (the printers) who came up with it. We were simply trying to make this release look as great as it possibly could on the budget we had. The beauty of screen printing is you open yourself up to a million different options you wouldn't have going the traditional LP jacket printing route - and you can easily make the pressing a little more special and personal by changing the color of the paper to match the vinyl, or using glow-in-the-dark or rainbow colored ink instead of black. I gave Patrick at A City Inside his free reign to come up with some cool combinations, and he definitely delivered.

When it came to do the second pressing, there was no doubt we were going to keep this method constant. We did use a different printer but we kept the idea the same - three variants, with three different jackets and inks.  The way I see it is, if you're going to buy a record you already own, you should have the option to get something a little different than what you already have. I could have just repressed the record on new colored vinyl, printed up a bunch of jackets and called it a day, but that's not what Collective Confusion is about. Like I said before - I'm selling music, but I'm also selling the whole package experience. I don't have any intention of ever simply pumping out an identical repress to meet demand.

There was word around that if the Kingprince vinyl does well you are trying to encourage Cassino to get back in to the studio. Is there any kind of update on that yet?

The guys in Cassino aren't in the band full time - so while I do know they're writing, how far along in the process they are is up in the air. When things go well I do reach out to them and try to nudge them in that direction, because as a fan I want to hear new tunes as much as you do. But, I respect that they've got other things going on and when they think something new is ready, we'll hear it. And once it's ready, hopefully they'll keep wanting to work with me, of course.

You’ve also worked with John Nolan to release some vinyl versions of his recordings. What was it like working with someone like John Nolan who has been so influential and out of the pressings you’ve done of his which one do you personally think is your favorite?

John has been great to work with. He loves his fans and truly cares about delivering them something he can be proud of. I'm lucky to have reached out to him at just the right time, where he had plenty of solo material saved up but no outlet to release it physically. He's also one of my favorite musicians (and I can say without a doubt that without Tell All Your Friends and Straylight Run, Collective Confusion would not exist), so it's really been a pleasure being able to not only work with him on one project, but on three.

I think if I had to pick a favorite, it'd be Height (The Acoustic Sessions). That record was the first one that I really was able to start from scratch with - all we had were the unmastered songs, whereas for example with past releases there was already artwork ideas in place. We got them mastered all nice and warm sounding, then I spent months reaching out to artists, finally settling on one (hey Jeff!), and worked with them to come up with the artwork concept from the first sketches to the finalized product.  It was an extremely rewarding experience and I am really proud of how the record came out, from the sound quality, to the artwork, the colors of the variants - even the center labels. You can still get two out of the three variants (and I'm even upgrading a few RSD orders to the sold out Half'N'Half variant).
One thing I like about your label is that you tend to be fair with your pricing of your releases. Everyone is now talking about the vinyl boom and that boom has really increased record prices, What are your thoughts on that and what has encouraged you to keep your prices fair?

I think it's great the vinyl boom is happening - it's turning a ton of people onto the format, and that can't be seen as anything other than a good thing. But, I do think it's a shame that with all of these new represses and repress labels coming out suddenly the price of a record seems to have gone up for no reason at all. Most of these records (especially the represses) that are coming out now are simply to make some cash - which is totally fine, it's a business after all - but when a record comes out looks terrible and sounds even worse but costs twice the price of what an LP did five years ago, it does rub me the wrong way. It's not usually the bands that have any fault in this - but somebody (the label, the distributor, some random guy on eBay) is taking advantage of their fan base. It's a bummer, but like anything else, eventually the bubble will burst and prices will go down.

In terms of my pricing… I'm lucky in that I don't do this to feed myself. I have a full time job that pays my bills - the label is my side gig. Because of that, I'm able to charge what I think is fair for an LP. I don't put out records to shake you down for cash, I do it because it's what I enjoy doing. That's not to say I haven't done some gimmicky stuff for orders - but I try to draw the line when it comes to unnecessary markups. If I had to worry about paying my rent from record sales, maybe I'd skimp and not get the tracks remastered for vinyl and charge an extra $15 for a gatefold - but that's not the case, so I can give you a double LP for $20. It doesn't make me rich, but it doesn't make my customers poor either, so it's all good with me.

I guess that about wraps it up. Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. Do you have anything else you would like to add or let our readers know?
I'd also like to quickly plug my Record Store Day sale - in addition to all of my releases, I will be stocking a few copies of sought-after records from labels such as Company Ink, Youth Conspiracy, Boshkung, Working Man, and Veggie Co Records. The labels mentioned with also have a few of my records in stock - so if you don't see anything you want in my store on RSD, go check them out! You might find your new favorite band.

I'm still working out the kinks, but I have a pile of cool stuff that I'll be sending out for free in orders that day - test presses both new and old (and signed), signed records, Golden Tickets, a few posters, and a few more things I'm not at liberty to discuss quite yet. I'll also be heavily discounting large orders - so save up and pick up some records! Keep in touch on Facebook and Twitter for the most up to date info on RSD.

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