Here's a letter I wrote that was published in Flipside in 94 or 95. Very dated! For a more up to date history go to the news section and see the items about our lawsuit. I will get a better history written up once I find some time. -Blake
The original "No Tongue, No Taste" Comp. w/ Faith No More and others, was the start of Empty. It was put out in San Francisco in 1983 with two friend (Joe Raymond and Volker Stewart) of mine. We had all gone to high school in Frankfurt, Germany. I was an army brat and Joe and Volker both were German-American. We were called Masking Tapes then. We then took the initials (like a lot of people and bands were doing at that time) and that began Empty, Musical Tragedies, and numerous off shoots that haven't stood the test of time. We put out tapes for a year then moved to Germany. Joe had graduated SF State and I gave up on school and joined the army. Volker opted to stay in Santa Cruz.
Our first vinyl release was a band Joe and I had in Nuremberg called Thumper. We were proudly voted worst band in Germany and made Mykel Board's top ten for our horrible production (Boombox in our practice space) During this time we put out a a lot of cassettes of German/ English bands that no one remembers (except maybe the Subhumans). We use to sell strictly mail-order and at shows. No distribution to speak of. We were really into world punk at the time releasing a comp of many East Bloc bands, Philippine bands, etc... We also attempted to release a cassette with more countries represented than anyone pervious. God if I can remember how many countries we had. In 1987 I was discharged and decided to move to Seattle since Volker had moved there and SF was too expensive. I started out taking money out of my night job to do MRR ads. I was selling our imported European stuff for the first year. The first release that I did on my own was the Accused 7". They were some of the first folks I met when I moved here. They'd just been dropped from Combat and were looking to keep stuff coming out. That had its pluses and minus. On the upside they were huge so I was able to get distribution no problem, on the down side I was soon receiving demos from the most god awful metal bands and was viewed as a metal label. The next year I was kept busy repressing that 7". One of my next releases (besides the Accused 12" ) was the Fartz LP, great band and great recording that had just been collecting dust in Blaine's closet.
After that was one of my favorite releases, the Derelicts 7". Their first "Bullet For Fifi" was actually on Volker's new label Penultimate and he stuck our logo on as a favor. He also did the first Catbutt 7". Over the next year I wound up with Gruntruck through Tommy Accused. I got a lot of shit for that and MRR wouldn't review it but at that time grunge wasn't quite worn out and I really did like them. About that time I'd meet Julianna and she offered to help me with the label and booking my bands. Being the shy nice fellow I am and her having the gift of gab worked really well. I did the grunt work and she did the networking. That really helped and brought a lot of attention and bands our way. This is the time period that we hooked up all the band that the label was know for.
Up until that point I'd been using everyone and their brother for distribution and occasionally getting ripped off. Rough Trade took a dive with 5,000 bucks worth of my shit. I never really thought about a distribution deal with anyone but I was tired of holding new releases over peoples heads to get paid. A guy at Cargo had mentioned that I should consider doing an exclusive with them. That didn't interest me, but it got me thinking. I sent a package to Mordam not really expecting a response, but low and behold Ruth gave me a call to talk about it. Boy was I impressed, I could actually get paid and be in the company of really fine people who were doing this for the same reason as me. But it got better, these folks let me participate in their decision making and generally cared about my label and the way they conducted business. Mordam and the love for my bands have been the only thing keeping me going sometimes!
During this time Joe was still doing the European thing in Nuremberg. Seattle was such a buzz word that he was able to move anything from Seattle. As well as importing my stuff, (and anything else of worth out of here). He was doing quite a bit of licensing of records, my favorite being "Another DAMNED Seattle compilation" on Dashboard Hula girl. Only good tribute I've ever heard. Joe was also doing well enough to start licensing and pressing all of my releases.
Now I'd started the label on credit card and by this time I still wasn't making any money and my credit cards were max'd. I then turned to friends and family to keep stoking the fires. In Oct. of '92 Julieanne took off to do booking on her own. Right before this came about I brought Ms Watson (Tammy of Killsybil) on to do promo. She charmed us to death. 1993 was our biggest year 12 full lengths and numerous 7" in one year.
After working nights at the same shithole for 5 years and finally getting heat for shaming and unauthorized use of the copier, I gave them the fuck you and decided to really try the entrepreneurial thing. Well, we worked and worked, never a lack of that, but I was always barely paying my rent. Besides all the hype on Seattle none of my bands sold exceptional well aside from Gas Huffer even though we were sinking tons of money into promos, promotional people, full color 7" covers/ posters and advertising in AP and other very expensive mags, etc.... By the end of 1993 I decided that barely making my rent and never being able to afford to go out was bullshit. In 1994 with the break up of Crackerbash, Killsybil, Zipgun and the departure of the Meices and Gas Huffer, I decided it was time to stop trying to do the impossible. Namely make my little label know outside its loyal punk audience. We scaled back to a sane level and I went back to work and started getting Empty back into the black which I don't think it ever was after the Gruntruck record. Then nasty little rumors started that I'd declared Bankruptcy about the time everyone was feeling the pinch of a bad winter. Well this was not welcome as I was under a heavy debt and the people I did owe money to seemed to hear this rumor before me and got nervous. So after assuring everyone I wasn't skipping off to Mexico we got down to the business. Tammy took off to do promotions at Fantagraphics (Fine purveyors of culture like HATE magazine) Unfortunately for us part time on paupers wages wasn't enough for her to get by. Come on lets all be martyrs for RnR. Soon after that Ean Sicko did promo between jobs and has now been replaced by Meghan Smith an old trusted friend. Oh and don't let me forget Annee our beloved mail-order person and my financial organizer who has stuck through thick and thin and now works at Sup Pop but still find time a few days a week to come in and keep the record going in and out. It's been a great but, hard year slowly but surely getting back up to speed. The new Sicko record has been doing better than I ever expected and the new Steel wool is off to a great start!
Latest Empty news since my last letter... The Rolling Stone just ran a Putters LP review a year after said record came out and six months after the band broke up. Talk about being on the ball! We've got a Satins Pilgrims LP coming out in late April (ex-Crackerbash members but that's a secret) They do the instrumental biker movie type thing. They even were brought out to Idaho to open Bruce Willis club on New Years! The new Sicko LP will be out in May. Amazing stuff as always and they just brushed off the 4th major label pestering attempt. What a spirit! Also just put out a Solid Statesmen 7" and Statics 7". In the near Future will be a Fumes 7", Flies 7" and the Drags 7".