Interview
Calvin Johnson
K Records Founder



adam Blackbourn (STYLUS): So when bands sign for K, what does K do for the bands and what do the bands do for K?

Calvin Johnson (CJ): I don’t know we all just kind of work on the project till we start working on the next one.

STYLUS: Where do you record most of your records?

CJ: Dub Narcotic Studios. That’s where the Microphones record. Mirah does most stuff on her own but sometimes uses Dub Narcotic.

STYLUS: What’s the hardware in there? A 16 track?

CJ: Yeah.

STYLUS: When you go to the studio do you know what you want to do? Where do you guys rehearse? Do you guys rehearse?

CJ: Yes we do, we’ve got some shows and we practice in the studio sometimes. It’s kind of a practice room and studio. Like the posters for our tour, [Phil Evrum and Calvin’s] Phil makes those.

STYLUS: How did K start?

CJ: K started because I wanted to have a label. That was in ’82.

STYLUS: Did you realize right in ’82 that that was what you wanted to do?

CJ: No, No, I realized before that. It took a while to get started.

STYLUS: Who was the first big artist?

CJ: I don’t know. There are just people who hang out here and make music and everyone does their thing.

STYLUS: Was there ever a point that you stopped and thought to yourself, “I actually have something good going here?”

CJ: Um uh [no], that’s a dangerous thought. You stop and you’re dead. No looking back. People ask that question a lot, “When did K start?” It doesn’t matter when K started. In fact, no body even cares when it started. All people care about is what’s happening right now. And what’s happening right now is actually more exciting than anything we’ve ever done. The Microphones and Mirah are marking the culmination of everything that is happening today. And their music is more exciting than anything I’ve ever had anything to do with, and working with them is more fulfilling. Cause they are *** artists and they just work hard and it’s really exciting to be around them, it’s inspiring. I’m really inspired. No writing, no writing – it’s just, they do it and they keep on doing it. It blows my mind, every day it’s like a joy to be there.

STYLUS: Yeah, when I first heard “It Was Hot, We Stayed in The Water.” I was open eyed, and amazed.

CJ: Yeah, me too.

STYLUS: It just sounded like so much going on but at the same time everything is so focused.

CJ: Yeah, see I stand in the same room with the same equipment he [Phil Evrum] does and he comes up with that masterpiece and I’m like “What did you do? How’d you do this? How did this happen?” Blows my mind.

STYLUS: When K gets involved with something like that, what does K take care of? What does K do?

CJ: Well, we try to make the records and sell them.

STYLUS: Are there a lot of people listening to what might be produced by K?

CJ: Good question. I don’t know what is out there; I’m so involved in my little world. I just have faith that somebody might like what we’re doing, that someone might be interested in, but I really have no idea.

STYLUS: Does the music come to K or does K go to the music?

CJ: Good question. I think there is a direct sweet and simple answer to that question.

STYLUS: Does K have a philosophy? When you want K’s stamp, does it have to be something that amazes you or...

CJ: I’m interested in artists that are inspiring and inspired and their work is a true expression of what they are and **** So I don’t think it has necessarily anything to do with music. It has to do with their own vision and their own sense of how to express that vision.

STYLUS: So do you think music today is as good as it has ever been?

CJ: Yup.

STYLUS: Ahh, what I’m really into right now is Click and Cut, experimental...I still really love pop and rock, but I really.feel lucky to be alive now. Like in 7th grade, I always wished to live in the late 60’s so I could be there when the White Album was released. Now, I just find myself more interested in now, getting excited for releases by the Beta Band and....

CJ: Yeah, I mean I think there is all kinds of music that is happening; that has been recorded and documented. There’s just all these different people expressing themselves in different ways. I don’t see the value of making it hierarchical, saying this is better than that or this is a better time than that. I don’t really view it that way. I mean I might have my own personal view of life that this is the best song that I’ve ever heard, but that’s going to change anyway. Then some other song will strike me so I think hierarchies in music are pointless or in art in general...pretty much in life. I mean, I view it as a very decentralized process and that’s what I’ve always found exciting about rock and roll music or pop music or whatever, is the decentralized nature like people are never doing one thing. Somehow they are drawn to the same roots but because they are living different lives, the music is naturally expressing itself in a different way and that decentralized nature brings about all the most exciting music that’s ever happened.

STYLUS: So not better, but more exciting?

CJ: You can decide that music sucks or music is great. It’s all about you it’s not about music. It’s how you are saying, “ I wish I was alive in the 60’s” because that was your experience at that time...White Album is amazing. It has nothing to do with the White Album; it has to do with the way that you perceive that artwork. So people are out there expressing themselves all the time and it’s not better or worse than it ever was. It’s better documented than it ever was. It’s easier to come in contact with it, like 30 or 20 years ago even there was a great deal of underground culture and it was based around the concept of discovery, hard to find music. Nowadays, that music is not hard to find. Nothing is hard to find. Orders, you know? 24 hours a day. So people still have that feeling of, “Oh Wow! Look at this obscure weird Brazilian Psychedelic band. But nowadays, you don’t just read about it, you listen to it. And that I think is exciting. The fact that right now music is completely accessible in whatever era if it’s recorded on tape. That’s great, but it doesn’t change the fact that the source of that music is personal inspiration and personal vision. And that’s going to happen whether people...and it’s often going to happen without contact...It’s like people are going to be like, “Oh my God, you must of heard such and such? No I never have, who’s that?” You’re just doing it and you’re making the connection. Yeah.

STYLUS: So do you like where K is right now? Would you like to see it grow or remain stable?

CJ: K is never in one place, it’s always changing. I just let it happen.


By: Adam Blackbourn
Published on: 2003-09-01
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