Inside is a new in-depth PropertyOfZack feature that focuses on a label, artist, or company in our music scene over four weeks in ways you’ve hopefully never seen before. Over the next month, we’ll have separate features on one of our favorite record labels, Run For Cover Records.
There’s a great story behind the label’s success, and we wanted to share it with an Oral History of the label done with founder Jeff Casazza, with some extra commentary from different people that have seen the label grow over time.
The Oral History piece is certainly long, detailed, and interesting, so we truly hope that you will take the time to read it whenever you can. Enjoy the first part of our new Inside feature, and we hope to see you back next week!
Run For Cover was born ten years ago out of your dorm room with a release by These Days called Death Sentence. I think a lot of the RFC fan base would be interested and maybe surprised to know that the label was hardcore driven for the majority of its first releases. Why did you start there? Can you shed light on the beginning of the story and those first bands?
In the early 2000’s, I met this guy who became pretty infamous in the New England hardcore scene around that time. He had a label he just started called Championship Vinyl, and their first release was a split between Suicide File and R’N’R. The details are fuzzy because this was so long ago, but somewhere along the lines this person (who I essentially didn’t know at all) asked me to help him out with the label after I showed interest in the release. He took a few hundred orders for the record, got test presses, and pretty much disappeared and it never came out.
It wasn’t like he dropped all this responsibility on my shoulders or anything, I would have loved to have taken it over and made it happen properly, but I had really no control over the situation, no knowledge, and was 16 or 17 years old. During this whole thing, a bunch of older guys in the hardcore scene told me I didn’t want to be involved with this person and to just do my own thing if I wanted to put out records, so I started my own label. As frustrating as it was watching something with a lot of potential slip away out of the laziness and irresponsibility of someone else, without that all happening I probably wouldn’t have ever realized that I should just do it myself.
Hardcore was very important to me at the time. It still is, but in a different way. I started there because, to me, hardcore and punk were something I already was interested in, but also something I felt that someone could be involved in to any extent they wanted. I made zines when I was 15-16. There were classes I had in high school where I would spend the whole period emailing record labels asking them to send promo CD’s to me to review. I would then spend tens of hours laying out interviews, reviews, and photos on my mom’s first generation iMac. It was crazy to me that bands I looked up to like Converge, American Nightmare, AFI, Boy Sets Fire, were all willing to sit down and do an interview for my zine, which I pretty much created to give myself something to do. I remember I got a call at my house about confirming press passes for Warped Tour and my mom picked up. After I talked to them she was just like “What the hell are you doing? Do these people know you’re 14?” I was like, “just don’t worry about it!”
Was it as simple as, “Hey I like your band, can I help you put this out?” for bands like These Days, Sinking Ships, and Revenge? What about bands like This Is Hell and Crime In Stereo? There’s more history behind those bands with the Long Island emo/hardcore scene.
Each one sort of has its own story, but, in general, I would say it was that way. Our first release was These Days, which was a small band from California with just a demo out. I had spoken to their guitarist Alex about either design work, or trading AFI records, or something like that. I am sure somewhere down the line I heard his band and said something like, ‘Hey I want to start this thing, let me put out a 7” for your band’ and he said okay. Alex ended up making our website and being a pretty integral part of the first few years of the label, designing stuff and whatnot for us. These Days eventually put out a few records after the 7”, and then broke up. Their members went on to form Ceremony, Skin Like Iron, Sabertooth Zombie and a few other bands.
The “big three” in our corner of the scene for kids growing up is looked at as Run For Cover, No Sleep, and Topshelf. Growing up for you, it was Bridge 9, Deathwish, and Revelation. Things were different in terms of money, touring, and the Internet ten years ago.
You didn’t start RFC just five years ago — it was more like ten. Tell us what it was like figuring out how to run a label then. Putting the dorm room aside for a minute, how did you learn where to order from? Who to order from? Was it a disaster? There was no Tumblr to ask your favorite label owner how to start a label.
With how easy it is to communicate and transfer information these days, it definitely is different, but still wasn’t very hard. My first real foray was interning at Stab and Kill Records, who had to change their name to Perfect Victim somewhere along the way. They were a relatively small record label definitely in their infant stages when I helped out for a few months. I would actually take the train an hour into Boston and then the T for 45 minutes to go put 7”s together for 5 hours. I am not sure I necessarily learned much about running a record label, but it instilled motivation in me and was proof that you could really just start a record label in your living room. By the point of putting out a few releases, I had met people along the way that I could talk to and get advice from. I had a friend who worked at Bridge 9 who I actually tried starting the label with, but he sort of faded out of the equation before ever getting involved. Either way, he was definitely knowledgeable and I would go to Bridge 9 and help him do mail order or whatever and just see how ‘real’ labels functioned.
I wouldn’t say the beginning years were a disaster, but things could have gone better for sure. They also could have gone significantly worse. The problem was almost always that I was selling too much stuff to keep up with. There are obviously worse problems to be having, but it was still pretty frustrating. Considering 99.9 percent of our sales were directly through our store, pretty much from the second release it was too much to keep up with while in school. By the time Sinking Ships was selling 3-4 thousand copies, it was way too much to keep up with and insanely overwhelming. People would say to get help if I couldn’t do it myself. Problem was, I was in college full time, and that was a pretty big thing that I couldn’t get away from.