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One big pile of punk: Chris Lawrence.

Photo: Joe Putrock

Who’s Your Label?

Part hardcore fan, part punk-rock archivist, Chris Lawrence of Loud Punk Records releases the music of his mind

By Kirsten Ferguson

Chris Lawrence first became a fixture in the Capital Region music scene more than a decade ago, as a teenage clerk at Last Vestige’s Saratoga Springs store who put on his own DIY-punk shows, sported various high-color punk haircuts and displayed an exhaustive knowledge of punk bands on his former “Loud Blaring Punk Rock” college-radio show.

“I got into records when I was 14,” says Lawrence, now 28, who turned to mail-order punk catalogues to read up on bands in the days before you could find anything and everything online.

The Saratoga native became a fan of late-1970s and early-’80s punk bands from the United Kingdom like the Exploited, GBH and the Clash. “Being a young kid, I didn’t have access to money, but when I got $50 I’d drop it all on records.”

Three years ago, Lawrence, who now lives in Albany and works at the Last Vestige store there, made the jump to putting out records on his own label, Loud Punk (abbreviated from the four-word title of his radio show after zine writers frequently failed to get the name right). “I knew I was going to start a label for a while, but I was waiting for the right moment,” Lawrence says. “It happened when I finally found Bob Gori.”

Gori played guitar in an early-’80s Albany punk band called the Tragics (originally the Misfits until Glenn Danzig claimed the name), whose first and only release, a rare 7-inch EP called “Mommi I’m a Misfit,” had been playing on the Last Vestige turntable. “I had heard talk there was an Albany Misfits,” Lawrence says. “When I finally heard it, I fell in love because it’s a great record.”

But locating the seemingly elusive Gori, who had been a figure in the ’70s New York City glitter-punk scene, wasn’t easy. “He’s one of those guys who had been around but was real hard to track down,” Lawrence says. “People would say they’d seen him, but nobody knew how to get in touch with him.” Another Last Vestige employee finally ran into Gori in a local bar and got him to come into the store.

Lawrence’s fledgling label reissued the Tragics EP—a four-song blast of catchy, female-fronted punk—around its 25th anniversary. “For a long time, it was extremely hard to find. I’m a collector myself, but I’d rather see things be affordable and available,” Lawrence says, admitting his reissue killed the price for copies of the Tragics’ original rare vinyl, which were trading for up to $200 a pop. (Loud Punk’s reissue has since sold out.)

Since then, Loud Punk has put out vinyl releases by bands from the United States (the Pogo, the Bloodreds), Germany (Civil Victim), the United Kingdom (Burnt Cross) and Japan (the Equalities), along with local recordings from the Nuclear Family, the Jury, Legit! and Anal Warhead. “I’m very picky about what I like, but I like a lot of stuff. I’m a big fan of short, fast and loud,” Lawrence says. “The main driving force behind me putting out records is I want to see stuff I like put out. I’ve seen so many awesome bands that didn’t get a chance to do anything because they didn’t have the opportunity.”

So far, the label has been vinyl only (although it may “dabble” in cassettes, which never completely died out), with releases available locally at Last Vestige or through mail order from loudpunk.com. “I haven’t bought a CD in a couple of years. I don’t like CDs and don’t want to deal with them,” Lawrence explains. “With vinyl there’s a lot more you can do with the art. It’s bigger and more in-your-face than a tiny CD.”

Up next for the label is a full-length album from Germ Attak, a band from Ottawa, Canada, with a classic U.K. punk sound. Germ Attak’s Loud Punk LP, Cruxshadow, which will be released Saturday at a Valentine’s performance by the band, is their third and “best record yet,” Lawrence says. “I did a show for them on their last tour. The show was great and we got along real well. They approached me about putting out their album. You can’t beat a band you really like asking you to put out stuff for them.”

Loud Punk has an ambitious schedule for the year ahead, with upcoming releases by External Menace (unreleased demos from the ’80s Scottish punk band), Montreal’s Diskonnected, and a forthcoming album from Lawrence’s “favorite local band ever,” Albany’s Nuclear Family. “It’s nice to be in a position to help out your friends,” he says. “It gives me a chance to help get people out there and get them notice. We live in an area where unless you do it yourself, nobody’s going to do it for you.”

Lawrence also plans on unearthing and reissuing some other “local gems” in the future, such as Albany singer and former QE2 bartender Jim Romano’s band Capitle from the ’80s, whose compilation of demos and rare tracks will be coreleased by Loud Punk and Jay Krak’s Work N Stiff Records.

Loud Punk is still largely a labor of love—not profit—for Lawrence, who works two other jobs to make it happen (in addition to Vestige he also tends bar at Valentine’s). “This year is going to determine whether I can go full speed ahead or have to slow down,” he says, depending in part on whether the Germ Attak release can help the label become more “self sustaining.” But regardless, Lawrence doesn’t plan to stop his efforts to get his favorite punk bands heard. “Punk is what I’ve grown up loving and I’m not going to get sick of it anytime soon,” he says.

Loud Punk’s Germ Attak release show is Saturday (March 27) at 8 PM, downstairs at Valentine’s (17 New Scotland Ave., Albany), with Perdition, Fast Death, Anal Warhead and Neutron Rats.


ROUGH MIX

TAKES MONEY TO MAKE MONEY

Have you and your band ever dreamed of performing on the Saratoga Performing Arts Center stage? Until you can sell about 10,000 tickets, here’s your next-best bet. On May 21, SPAC will host a Battle of the Bands at the Spa Little Theatre as a part of the venue’s extended season. Ten finalists will be chosen to perform via public vote, based on YouTube audition videos (and an application form); winning acts will be selected by audience response at the event, plus input from a panel of local luminaries. The prize package includes a professionally recorded five-song EP, custom T-shirts and stickers, and airplay on radio station WEQX.

But, there is a but: Buried at the end of the press release trumpeting the band b battles is the following stanza: “If selected for one of the 10 finalist positions, bands must agree to purchase 25 tickets at $15 each, which can then be sold or given away to fans, friends and family.”

So: There is no entry fee, but a $375 fee if you win. Do with that what you will.

Check out www.spac.org for all the details and submission info.

AND: NOW It’s not just talk: The Interwebs really are the wave of the future for local radio. After a lengthy hiatus from broadcasting, Barbara Kaiser, host of long-running WRPI show Jazz & . . ., has announced her eclectically programmed show’s triumphant return. Kaiser’s three-hour weekly program is now streaming on Ye Olde Internette at www.live365.com/stations/jazzand.

THEY GOT THE JACK Just when you think you’ve heard it all, you turn on the car stereo and hear Steely Dan segue into Daughtry. “Adult hits” station The Bridge 100.9 FM recently took over the frequency formerly occupied by Magic 100.9 (now at AM 590). The station, owned by Albany Broadcasting, plays mostly ’80s hits with the occasional currently popular song tossed in—which means it’s kind of weird.

A second Albany Broadcasting band, hard-rock station The Edge 104.9, also flipped a few weeks ago—to a country format. 104.9 The Cat aims to put up a fight against country stalwart 107.7 WGNA in the ratings. The flip left an excellent local-music resource, the Ralph Renna-hosted Capital Underground, temporarily homeless. But Renna is quickly back up and running, having smartly taken his act to the World Wide Web. The show is streaming at capitalundergroundradio.com, and reaching a larger audience than ever before. Sounds like a win/win.

—John Brodeur

Let us know about local-music news and happenings for inclusion in Rough Mix: E-mail tips and information to tigerpop1@yahoo.com or metroland@metroland.net.



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