Thursday, May 6, 2010


In the digital age, the concept of D.I.Y. is as easy as plugging a crappy Radio Shack microphone into a PC's integrated sound-card, and with a little software magic you can have a decent recording. But back in 1990 when Fat Mike (from NOFX and Me First & the Gimme Gimme's) started Fat Wreck Chords in his Garage, eventually moving it to a warehouse in San Francisco, D.I.Y. really meant doing EVERYTHING yourself, from recording the album to the Xeroxing of "7 jackets with goofy hand drawn cartoons.

"I started in 1990, putting out a NOFX 7", 'cos no one really wanted to put out our records. That was the only game in town - if you wanted to put out a record, you had to put it out yourself" - Fat Mike

And little by little Fat Wreck grew. From "The Longest Line" which cost about $14,000 to record press and copy the first 5000 copies, the next band Mike signed was Lagwagon. He figured Lagwagon was a safe bet because they sounded "a little bit like NOFX", and their first album sold 2,500 copies. They're albums are now selling more than 200,000 worldwide. Mike also recouped a $50,000 advance to Chris Hannah and Jord Samolesky of Propaghandi for their record label "G7 Welcoming Committee" in months. Not bad investments at all.

"I think there's a huge difference between our label and majors. We treat our bands like family, we put out records because we like 'em and we have a lot of bands that we lose money on. We don't care as long as it's a good record." - Fat Mike

One of the things that makes Fat Wreck unique is the fact that they only sign one album deals for the bands on their label, so if a bands first E.P. is successful and they decide to move under the umbrella of a "major" label, they're free to do that, with no hard feelings or broken contracts. In fact they did a compilation of 101, 30-second songs from Fat Wreck bands and friends called "Short Music for Short People" which I am proud to say littered my High school locker floor. No one believed an album like that would make any money, but Mike says he's sent the bands over $2000 each for their 30-second efforts.

Well, Mike has shown that with some hard work and "Doing right" by people will get you far in the music industry. He's carved a nice piece of the major record label's dwindling profit margin for himself while at the same time supporting young up and coming acts and giving bands who have been on the scene since '83 reconnect with fans who may have never had the chance to see them. As well, Fat is involved in all sorts of charity projects, pumping out compilation records for the likes of PETA entitled PROTECT: A Benefit for the National Association to Protect Children, and most famously Rock Against Bush. Fat Wreck is also one of the only record labels to encourage new artists to release 12" and 7" records as well as re-releasing old albums that were only available on CD. On December 8, 2009 20 years of business Fat Wreck with the release of the "Wrecktrospective" a 3-disc compilation. Disc 1 is composed of the label's greatest hits, disc 2 is composed of unreleased demos and rarities, and disc 3 is composed the Fat Club 7" series in its entirety.

"On majors, if you're not selling hundreds of thousands of copies, you're gone. And I really don't care about the money. I want to do right by the bands. When I'm older, I want a bunch of friends, not stacks of money."-- Fat Mike

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