An angular guitar line starts off the first 7"
single, followed by pounding drums— then comes the shrieking.
Released in 1993
by the Ann Arbor
, "Haters of Couch
" was the beginning of Bulb Records
, the experimental label from Adrian
, responsible for sparking the careers of Andrew WK
, Wolf Eyes
and 25 Suaves
The rest of the song is spasmodic, flailing and, well, weird. The rest of the songs on the single — "Green and Red Look Alike
," "The Coffe' Gun
," and "Time Travel Man
"— are even weirder. Noisy and raucous, sounding like they were recorded in the trunk of a car, they are an angry no wave
attack on the ideals of pop music.
"We had this band together named Couch, and we wanted to put out a record," says Pete Larson
, co-founder of Bulb Records. "We put a fake label on it. Y'know, it didn't mean anything. I was in another band called Prehensile Monkeytailed Skink
at the time, and we figured if we put out both records at the same time, it would help give us some credibility when we wanted to sell it."
Larson, a wiry man with mad scientist
hair and glasses, and Jim Magas
(who now records under his last name for Ersatz Audio
), started the label, which has now released almost 100 albums of, well, eclectic music.
Despite the small scale of Bulb's operations, their albums have become known worldwide, mostly through Larson's until-recently relentless travel (he has lived all over the USA
, as well as Japan
and toured most of Europe
. The label is reknowned for its dogged eccentricity, releasing many albums that other labels wouldn't touch, and providing an outlet for lunatic musicians shunned by the mainstream.
While most can immediately be placed as "Bulb records" on first listen, Larson denies having a singular vision for the label.
"I don't put out records in a certain genre, or anything like that. I just don't. I've always hated the idea. I've never felt the need to do that for my label," he says.
"People start going off on whether it's a noise
label or not. It's not. I put outlike three or four noise records and that's it... They just kind of latch onto the freakish noise thing that's a very minor part of the label."
Much of what is on the label defies direct categorization. The first year of Bulb saw no wave
releases from Couch and Prehensile Monkeytail Skink, garage rock
from the Monarchs
(who included Andy Clayton
, designer of the Bulb logo and much of their early album artwork), noise rockers Bullet in the Head
and off-kilter "sample-delic
" punk from Shriek
Since then, Bulb has released everything from primal girl rock by the Demolition Doll Rods
chug-fests by 25 Suaves
(one of Larson's current bands), to fey hippie folk
by Elvish Presley
. Along the way, the label has also provided a launching pad for Andrew WK
, arena rock
personified. Two recent albums were a metal album by British band Todd
and a psychedelic country
album from Oakley Hall
, a side project of Papa Crazee
from psych rock
All of them sound like Bulb.
"Bulb Records is the smartest label in the United States
by virtue of having released some of the stupidest music of all time," says WCBN
program director Jason Voss
, adding "Mr.Quintron
and Miss Pussycat
are the best live act in the world."
Quintron is the Bulb version of Prince
's funk, and Miss Pussycat is his wife and puppeteer
. Quintron has now moved to Three-One-G
records, but still performs with the Bulb roster and may record for them again.
During the boutique label heyday of the mid-'90s, Larson had a clear, consistent idea of what he wanted to release. Living then in Providence
, and sharing a music community with Load records
, he released music that moved with an abstract and aggressive aesthetic. As Larson came back to his home state of Michigan
, traveled to Japan
for a year to teach English, then returned to Michigan, Bulb's sound changed to reflect the diversity of his peers.
"A lot of people who are involved in this label are outcasts. They don't really fit in anywhere else. And that's usually because the people I deal with are unique and honest individuals," says Larson. "When you start talking about attacking rock, none of them are consciously attacking anything. They just do what they do. That's really the unifying quality of the label. These people can't do anything but what they do. It's honest, and it's part of them."
(Article appeared under head "The Illuminating indie rock
of Bulb Records" in Current Magazine
, Nov. 2003. It was written by the poster, Josh Steichmann