Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Donut Crew Records-After School Special

We’re just a Donut Crew

Releasing the Colorado Krew 7” EP was an exercise to test the waters, to explore the viability of starting and maintaining a record label that documented what my friends and I were doing music wise. The 7” format for putting out music was a relatively inexpensive undertaking with minimal financial risks. 500 copies of the Colorado Krew including mastering, covers, and inserts, ended up costing a little over $500.

My friends and I had been anticipating the box of records arriving. Rich would call every evening to get an update, asking the collective question, “Have they arrived yet?” My response always resulted in disappointment on both ends of the line. Rich reminded me he had his troops ready to send over for a folding party.

Finally, the day came when UPS left a big box at my front door. With one phone call and no hesitation, later that evening Rich and company were spread out on my bedroom floor folding covers and inserts. Holding a finished product in hand made it feel like we had accomplished something. We felt like our music was legitimized from that moment forward, and the records was the documentation to prove it. I don’t think there was a person on the record over 19 years old, with the youngest being 14 or 15. The big question was: How were we going to get rid of 500 records?  

It should be noted that during the late 80s and early 90s, releasing a 7” record was almost as common as waking up in the morning and walking to the toilet. Practically anyone who played in a band had a record out. While putting out music helped give bands exposure, record collectors scooped up vinyl from unknown groups, hoping to discover what might be the next underground sensation and/or the next collectable. Distributors were privy to the hype collectors were carving out in the punk scene; they hoped to get in on the action.  Several distributors called and sent me letters asking to carry my catalog long before records were reviewed or in many instances, released. It was like punk rockers were infected with a fever to grab ahold of everything new coming out.

Donut Crew was one of the labels mixed in with a bunch other newbies at the onset of the 7” craze. We were a very minor dot on the map of the record label business. From 1988-90, I was only able to release seven titles. By comparison, more established labels like Dischord and Touch and Go were constantly releasing sought-after new titles. Big or small, anyone running an independent label wanted to make his mark. Similar to publishing a fanzine, making records put you in the company of like-minded people in a global arena committed to the DIY punk ethos.

Two significant labels from the class of 1988 were Revelation Records out of New York, and Nemesis in Long Beach. Like Donut Crew, the pair was regional in promoting their local music scene, much like Amphetamine Reptile in the Midwest and Sub Pop in Seattle embarked upon a couple of years earlier in 1986.

In response to the blooming 7” craze, in late 1988, Sub Pop seized the opportunity and started a singles of the month club.  Meanwhile, titles on Revelation Records were going out of print and becoming collectable as soon as they were released. Revelation had exemplified the art of making represses equally as collectable with slight variations to the cover and color vinyl pressings.

With Donut Crew, my main ambition was to give exposure to Denver bands while hoping to recoup my costs so I could release the next record. Fortunately, a couple of titles went into a second pressing, only delaying the inevitable. I always felt like a salesman banging and scratching at people’s virtual doors carrying around a vintage 45 box filled with vinyl. I would go to shows, malls, coffee houses, and any hangout spots punk kids gathered hoping to pawn off a couple of records. Shops like Wax Trax, Trade-A-Tape, and Albums On the Hill were always kind enough to take my releases and pay cash. On the other hand, dealing with distributors became one perpetual game of chasing down checks before they could bounce. Though most companies eventually made good on their word, a couple simply skipped out, conveniently lost paperwork, and seldom returned phone calls and/or letters. The primary reason Donut Crew folded was rooted in the losses incurred by distributors gone bankrupt-morally or financially.   

In the post-Donut Crew era of the early to mid 90s, the 7” record market was flooded, and many titles fell by the wayside, ending up in bargain bins for pennies on the dollar. I recall rescuing a couple of the titles I put out for less than what they cost me to make. It made me feel slightly sad to see them tucked amongst other once hopeful, but forgotten records. If anything, running the label was a testament and a snap shot of a moment during our youth.

Recollections and notes about each release:

DCR 001 V/A Colorado Krew 7” EP
500 copies (red, white, and blue covers) 

Track list:
Side A:
1. Acid Pigs-Survive
2. Keep In Mind-Multiple Choice Test
3. Stomp-River

Side B:
1. Atomic Dilemma-TV Addict
2. End of Story-Telling Me How to Die
3. Short Fuse-Sharp

DCR 001 Colorado Krew 7" EP. The blue cover. 
The original artwork for the insert.  
The original artwork for the insert. 
Notes: The front cover photograph was taken by and borrowed from Neal Wallace, my former high school art teacher. While I was preparing the front and back covers to bring to the local print shop, I realized I didn’t have a suitable front cover image. What was the solution to the problem? Easy, pay a visit my former high school and score artwork. I stopped by Mr. Wallace’s room and asked if he had any pictures laying around that I could use? (He acted somewhat surprised that I was attempting to do something productive after graduation.) He pulled out a photograph of downtown Denver, and perhaps out of desperation, it felt like the right image. The plan for the back cover was to invite all the bands on the record to meet on the steps of the Denver State Capitol Building for a group shot. End of Story endured a three-hour drive from Glenwood Springs to be included. One of their band members asked why we didn’t have a show since everyone had come down. Good fucking question!

Matrix/Runout (Side 1): R-11493  DCR-001-A  Piss Club (Side 2): R-11494  DCR-001-B  Bob Rob The Donut God

DCR 002 Acid Pigs/Short Fuse split 7” EP

500 copies (There were 70 or so variations of the Short Fuse cover featuring a passage from Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching.)  

Track list:

Acid Pigs side:
1. Salvation Or Sin
2. Crowley
3. Beer’s Gone
4. Bullshit King

Short Fuse Side:
1. Hidden Inside
2. Learn
3. Doubt

DCR 002 Acid Pigs/Short Fuse split 7" EP cover.  
Alternant cover for Short Fuse-the original artwork. Approx. 70 printed. 

Acid Pigs and Short Fuse insert. 

Notes: The Short Fuse cover was designed by Mark Putt, the guitarist of my former band Idiots Revenge. It was supposed to be our t-shirt design, but it never materialized. I thought it was a great drawing and had worried it would go to waste.

The Acid Pigs had recently kicked out “Jet” Bart so Arnold assumed vocal duties. All the tracks on the record were recorded by Arnold using his 4-track tape deck in the basement of his mom’s house. Beer’s Gone was actually a serious problem since members of both bands heavily consumed large quantities of the beverage. As for Short Fuse, the band was Arnold’s alter ego for writing tuneful melodic songs, songs that didn’t fit Acid Pigs’ gritty repertoire. Warren was the drumless drummer of Short Fuse who lucked out one evening by spotting a badly beaten set laying next to a dumpster. The two bands toured the East Coast in a VW Van and Ford Bronco in the summer of 1988. 

Matrix/Runout (Side 1): DCR-002-A  Bernie McCall Lives!  (Side 2): DCR-002-B  Never* buy* a Short Fuse   -  [drawing of Hardcorey] SORRY JET - REFER TO OTHER SIDE [drawing of Slammy]

DCR 003 Again!/Keep In Mind Split 7” EP

500 copies (There were slight variations of the Keep In Mind cover)

Again! side:

1. But You’re Not
2. Look Both Ways
3. Hiding

Keep In Mind side:
1. Not Sure
2. Dealing With Your Pride
3. Out Of Reach
4. What I Have Found

DCR 003 Again!/Keep In Mind split 7" EP cover
Alternant Keep In Mind covers. 
Original artwork for the Again! Lyric sheet insert. 
Original artwork for the Keep In Mind insert. 

Notes: Donut Crew aspired to be something along the lines of Dischord Records. With that in mind, Dave Clifford from Again! designed a Donut Crew logo to replicate Dischord’s. We considered it tongue-in-cheek at the time, but like many of our concepts, we were basically biting off of bands and people we respected. In retrospect, I felt like Donut Crew lacked originality design wise… and maybe the best input I had in developing an aesthetic for the label was my terrible ability to spell words correctly. I knew my spelling was a running joke with the bands I worked with. I think someone mentioned that each Donut Crew release came with a built in game of searching for misspelled words. I couldn’t disagree with the criticism; it was the truth. The permanent Donut Crew logo came by way of Chris Johnson. Chris was a sailor in the US Navy who had mail-ordered a couple of the releases. While he was out at sea, he made a handful of drawings and sent them to me with a letter stating that I could use what I wanted. In trade, I sent him a shirt and anything featuring his artwork.    

Matrix/Runout (Side 1): DCR-003-A Stand Up, Not Hard-Rich J (Side 2): DCR-003-B Boulder County Geek Core lives 1988 BxRx

DCR: 3.5/SER 001 Atomic Dilemma-Take This Kids 7” EP
500 Copies (350 in circulation and 150 where damaged)

Side 1:
1. Funny Weed
2. Rollercoaster Life
3. Help Him Up
4. Take This Kids

Side 2:
1. Scars
2. Romper Room Mosh
3. Intimidation Game

DCR 003.5/SER 001 Atomic Dilemma-Take This Kids 7" EP cover.
Atomic Dilemma insert.

Notes: This was more Rich’s project. He was publishing his fanzine, Skate Edge and wanted to release records. I agreed to pitch in financially to help Rich get his band’s record out. What really put Skate Edge on the map was releasing Brotherhood’s No Tolerance For Ignorance EP. Rich was always an independent spirit and had his own way of perceiving the world and making his art and music happen on his own terms. 

Matrix/Runout (Side 1) SER-001-A Ken belongs to the spanglorian society. Eat Pop Tarts and read Skate Edge. (Side 2): SER-001-B The most important things in life can't be bought - with exception to this record.

DCR 004 V/A Colorado Krew II-The Kids Will Have Their Donuts 7” EP
800 copies (First pressing: 500 copies, blue cover and black vinyl. Second pressing: 300 copies, black cover and red vinyl. There were 20 copies with a quickly made photocopied cover.)  

Side 1:
1. Again!-Seen Not Heard
2. Warlock Pinchers-Jolt Is…
3. Dead Silence-1/4 World

Side 2:
1. Keep In Mind-Overwhelmed
2. Expatriate-Sometimes Love Is…
3. Aberant-Scar Strangled Banner 
Colordao Krew II-The Kids Will Have Their Donuts 7" EP cover for first pressing.
Colordao Krew II-The Kids Will Have Their Donuts 7" EP cover for second pressing. Red vinyl.
Second pressing.

Colordao Krew II-The Kids Will Have Their Donuts 7" EP cover (aka the bad decision-20 made).
Original artwork for the insert.
Original artwork for the insert.

Notes: Some of the blue covers stated: “Root beer-colored vinyl.” It was a double meaning: color vinyl was all the rage, so we being cheeky about the craze. Secondly, the color of the vinyl was a translucent brown when held up to the light. In fact, it looked like a glass of root beer.

The story about the quickly made photocopied cover was the result of a delay with the real covers being printed. I needed to get the records in the bins at Wax Trax, so I put together something haphazard. In retrospect, it was an impulsive and shortsighted decision; I cringe each time I’m reminded of it.

The final cover for the EP is an image of kids storming the steps of the state capitol. It was a blatant rip off of Society System Decontrol’s The Kids Will Have Their Say 12” EP, but ours had a donut theme, so to say, a donut edge! By no means were we dissing SSD; we meant it more as a nod to their greatness. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?  

After finishing our front cover photo shoot, someone in the group spotted the then Colorado governor, Roy Romer, leaving the capitol and heading towards his car. I immediately thought we needed a picture with him. We eagerly charged in his direction, cutting him off before he reached his car door. Based on our excitement, Romer granted our request for a group shot. That WAS be the crowning image to grace the back cover.

The rationale for selecting the groups for this release was that I wanted to reach out and include a wider variety of bands and styles that represented the current punk scene. Dead Silence was overtly political; Expatriate had metal edge; Warlock Pinchers mixed rap, metal, and punk with Andy Warhol’s Pop Art sensibilities; Aberant misspelled aberrant and sounded punk as fuck. Finally, the Donut Crew franchise bands, Again! and Keep in Mind. I loved watching those two evolve into their own sound. 


DCR 005 Again!-Trainwreck 7” EP
700 copies (First pressing: 500 black vinyl and black cover. Second pressing: 200 copies, red cover and yellow vinyl.)  

Side 1:
1. Trainwreck

Side 2:
1. Wait the Turn
2. Watchful

DCR 005 Again!-Trainwreck 7" EP. Black cover first pressing.
DCR 005 Again!-Trainwreck 7" EP. Red cover second pressing.
Second pressing.

Notes: I had hoped Again! would be one of the bands to break out, perhaps breakaway and give Donut Crew a little recognition. They had a crossover sound that appealed to listeners beyond the punk community. The band’s brand of songs was easily digestible with Boulder’s college rock crowd. Had Dag Nasty desired an opener on their Field Day tour, Again! would have been the ideal match. Perhaps if Trainwreck had been released in another city and on a label with a farther reach, the band might have gained a little more mileage. The group’s lack of touring and the fact they were immersed in their studies didn’t help matters, either.   

Matrix/Runout (Side 1): DCR-005 BRADIN' FULL ON! Matrix/Runout (Side 2): DCR-005 I FUCKED UP ON THE BRIDGE: SO BUY US A VAN! -MEGGIT IS A SISSY-

DCR 006 Keep In Mind-Downstairs 7” EP
700 copies (First pressing: 500 copies, green cover and red vinyl. Second pressing: 200 copies, black cover and vinyl.)

Side 1:
1. So Stained
2. More

Side 2:
1. Out Of Convenience
2. Yours

DCR 006 Keep In Mind-Downstair 7" EP. Pressing pressing green cover and red vinyl. 
Second pressing.

DCR 006 Keep In Mind-Downstair 7" EP. Second pressing black cover and vinyl. 
Keep In Mind insert.
Notes: Musically, Keep In Mind clicked on this recording session. The group had smoothed out all of the rough edges from their previous attempts. The songs were solid, especially So Stained which remains one of my favorite tracks. High school graduation eventually brought an end to the group. I’ve always imagined what another year and a batch of new songs would have sounded like. At the band’s last show, opening for Fugazi, Keep In Mind threw out giant inflatable Gumbys to the audience and were returned back to the band stabbed. What else would you expect to happen at the Aztlan? 


DCR 007/008 Colorado Krew III-Is This My Donut?
1500 copies (First pressing: 1000 Burgundy cover. Second pressing: 500 Black covers) 

Record 1 DCR 007
Side 1:
1. Keep In Mind-Yours
2. Dogbite-Verge of Nothing

Side 2:
1. Again!-Bradin Full On
2. Jux County-Pick Your Brain

Record 2 DCR 008
Side 1:
1. Fluid-Don’t Wanna Play
2. Hobbledehoy-Turn Back the Clock

Side 2:
1. Acid Pigs-White Lie
2. Warlock Pinchers-Confrontation Yeah! Yeah!

DCR 007/008 Colorado Krew III-Is This My Donut? This Is My Donut. First pressing 
DCR 007/008 Colorado Krew III-Is This My Donut? This Is My Donut. Second pressing.
Colorado Krew III insert. 

Notes: This was the release that broke the camel’s back. Going into it, I knew one of two things would happen: the label would continue or close up shop. By the time the record entered its second pressing, it looked like I might squeeze a couple more years out of Donut Crew. Then reality hit when a couple of my distributors went belly-up still owing me large sums of cash. Knowing the funds to keep the label afloat had vanished overnight was a surefire sign that I needed to move on and devote my energies elsewhere.  Between booking shows, playing in bands, putting records out, and transferring to a university, I was burned out.

I’m glad Donut Crew ended on this release. It represented the best cross section of Denver’s underground scene. The record brought together members of bands from the early 80’s hardcore scene with kids who were barely finishing high school. While the styles of music were a little uneven at times, it was the most honest documentation of Denver’s eclectic underground music scene coming into the 90s.


It should be noted that along with Rich Jacobs and Dave Clifford and their bands getting Donut Crew on its feet, other people who helped along the way were Keith “Meekster” Smith, who was my short-term financial partner, and Matt Keleher who had always been a reliable friend, helping in any and every capacity. Bern from Lost and Found Records in Germany helped get hundreds of Donut Crew releases into Europe. There were kids in Australia and Japan who brought Donut Crew to their part of the world.   

Odds and ends:

Donut Crew ad for MRR. 
Donut Crew catalog summer of 1989.  

In Maximum Rocknroll I had placed an ad as a gimmick to generate interest in the label. Send a stamp and get a donut seed. This required me going out and buying a box of Cheerios and tiny zip-lock bags. It didn’t occur to me at the time that when the “donut seeds” went through the automated machines at the post office they would be pulverized into a pile of Cheerios dust. 
Photograph with governor Roy Romer.
Original artwork for label. Designed by Dave Clifford.
Editing by Rory Eubank.