Did you know there is a big time comedy label based in Minneapolis featuring some of the top comics out there?
It’s called Stand Up! Records, and founder Dan Schlissel — who has more than 100 releases over more than 10 years in the label — has made Minneapolis his home.
I had the opportunity to preview the fall/winter releases — including Tracey Ashley’s “Two First Names,” John Tole’s “Reign in the Laughs,” Dave Mordal’s “(pronounced dāv mȯr-däl),” Paul Hooper’s “Tense & Uncomfortable,” Jamie Kilstein’s “What Alive People Do,” And Ari Shaffir’s “Revenge for the Holocaust” — and interview Dan about the label and what it’s like running the country’s premier comedy label…
Perfect Porridge: How does someone who produced the first Slipknot album come to found a comedy record label? It had to do with Lewis Black, right?
Dan Schlissel: I didn’t produce the first Slipknot album. My label picked up distribution of it once the band had already made the CD. My old music label became their label until such time as they got signed to a major. That being said, yes, the first comedian I worked with was Lewis Black.
I’m a failed musician who writes about music. Is yours a similar story? Do you do stand up?
I’ve never been a performer, though I do have a high appreciation for the art. I’ve always been more of a behind the scenes guy. It’s where I really belong.
How many albums are in your catalog at this point?
At this point, one hundred and eighteen releases in the catalog. The favorite shifts with the vagaries of time. Lately, my favorite has been Dan Naturman’s CD, Get Off My Property, because it’s hip and it takes me back to a Rodney Dangerfield sort of thing, tight jokes, the comedian himself as target, that sort of thing. My least favorite is probably the Best of WTF CD we did, primarily as a fund raiser for Marc Maron’s podcast. I don’t think it worked well at what it was supposed to do, raise funds, so there are a bunch lying around that we can’t really sell, and the cover art is recycled from his Final Engagement album. It just feels like a squandered opportunity on so many levels, though the content on it is spotlessly great. I wish I would’ve spoken up more about it then, but I love Maron so much, I didn’t want to be a pain. I regret it now. Sometimes a project is just doomed.
I listened through most of the albums, and at least a couple were local — Minneapolis and St. Paul. Were those particularly memorable shows?
Every recording session is memorable for a number of reasons regardless of where it is recorded, the main one is that the recording is documenting those shows.
How are midwest comedy crowds different from those on the coasts? Do you have a favorite locale or region where you like to hear/perform/record comedy?
To me, a crowd is a crowd is a crowd. In the Twin Cities we have a generally erudite crowd, which is nice, but that is just a sweeping generalization. My experience is that people anywhere are looking for a good laugh. That’s all I am really looking for as far as region is people who want to or need to laugh.
What’s the market like for comedy albums? I guess I don’t even know if you can hear them on Spotify. Growing demand? Do people listen to comedy albums more than once after they buy them?
Nearly all our albums are on Spotify, actually. There seems to be a pretty steady demand that’s held up over time. The download stores have been fantastically adept at helping us get the albums into the earbuds of the right listeners. I would assume a comedy album is not listened to as much as a music album, but if you get a good chuckle, you will want to let your friends know about it, and that’s where it becomes fodder for repeated play.
I’ve been listening to the review copies on my commute at 8 a.m., which is quite a different environment than 8 p.m. In a dark club with a few drinks. And you can’t always tell what gestures the crowd is laughing at. Are these considerations comedians on your roster consider when choosing which material will be recorded?
Sometimes. Not the time of day part. That’s on the listener. The gestures thing I try to warn comics about ahead of time. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they move ahead with it. Some of this stuff has to be theater of the mind. Let your head fill in the blanks.
How did you identify comedians for the label?
We have a tag and release program we use. Generally when we know we’re close, a six man team heads out on an inflatable Zodiac with ensnaring equipment and tranquilizer guns. Once the comic is tranqued we roll tehm onto their back to induce a catatonic state and either tag their ear or place a geo-tracking device subdermally, which allows us to check in on them as they progress. As soon as we’re done, we turn them back over, and let them go off. You’d be surprised at the migratory ability of an adult comedian.
Are you always physically at the show when you’re recording? Are all of the recordings from multiple shows, or is there ever a single show that just nails it and makes it to an album these days?
I prefer to be at the shows, but it is not a requirement. There are some recordings that come from one show, but I don’t really believe in a magic show. They are possible, but unlikely.
What’s the growth plan for the label?
I hope we continue to provide really great smart comedy and start doing some more video work. The first few forays have been OK. I’d like more of that. Eventually I hope to end up like Tony Montana.
What are your favorites out right now? (perhaps an unfair question, but I want to ask)
I tend to love all the records, or I wouldn’t put them out. Anything I am working on becomes a favorite in the time frame that I am working on it. That being said, there’s about ten albums in the works, so a whole lot of love among those. The most recently released records are getting nice reviews and join their older siblings in the lasting glow of my love as well, mind you.
Where can people get the albums?
We’re not that hard to find. Pretty much any of the online digital stores carry our releases. We also have lots of physical stuff up at Amazon, and are distributed into stores through Morphius and MVD. Hopefully our web store gets up and running shortly as well.
You moved to Minneapolis and stayed here. Why?
It’s a good place to live, the cost of living is reasonable, as is real estate and rent. We have a hub airport. Outside of the brutality of winter, what’s not to love? Even that is great. The reputation of our winters keeps house guests to a minimum.
What else should I have asked?
I think you forgot to ask about our catering and holiday party specials.
All of the albums mentioned above are out now, with the exception of Tracey Ashley’s latest, which comes out 12/3. More information at http://standuprecords.com/
It’s the sexuality and the fractiousness and the melancholy about aging (poster after poster cites Seger’s line about “autumn closing in”), but it’s also the way the specter of the song creates a soundtrack, pulsing through the pages, punctuating the lines, rehearsing its macho erotic moves.
Why even bother producing video if you’re going to hold it hostage? Ridiculous.
Pioneers of the “Akron Sound,” American blues rock and experimental rock band 15-60-75 (The Numbers Band) become sort of a force in the scene in Kent, Ohio, back in 1969. I had no idea who they were, but have really been enjoying their 1976 debut.
Jimmy Bell Is Still in Town, is a live double LP recorded at Cleveland’s Agora Ballroom while opening for Bob Marley & the Wailers.
Stream the opening track here (I never understand why labels don’t allow embedding. Ridiculous).
From the press release:
The album was recorded live on a night when the band opened for Bob Marley and the Wailers at Cleveland’s storied Agora Theater. The recording fully captures the trailblazing sound that the Numbers Band produced—wild blues meets the early foundations of punk, mixed with soul and rock and roll. For those familiar with the band and record—tracking down an original can easily cost you triple digits— this re-release provides a chance to own a piece of history at non-collector prices, which has kept us from owning an original copy!
Hailing from Kent, Ohio, 15 -60-75 (The Numbers Band) is a forefather of the Akron / Cleveland music scene of the 1970s and their musical pedigree is pretty impressive—including members who would later go on to found Devo, siblings of the legendary Chrissie Hynde, and one of the most noted influences on Pere Ubu. The band continues to play in and around Kent, Ohio and Robert Kidney was recently awarded a Cleveland Arts Prize lifetime achievement award for his decades long contributions to art and music in Ohio.
We are excited to be pressing 500 deluxe, 2 x LP Gatefold copies of the album—complete with liner notes by David Fricke (Rolling Stone), David Giffels (co-author of Are We Not Men?), and recollections from the band members about their thoughts on the night the record was recorded. Also included are 3 previously unreleased bonus tracks from in and around the same time of the recording of Jimmy Bell.
And check out this sax solo from Terry Hynde (the brother of future Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde).