Mr. Brett, as his friends refer to him, is the guitarist of legendary punk rock band Bad Religion. He’s also the founder of Epitaph Records which has produced, promoted and distributed records for Bad Religion, NOFX, Social Distortion, Pennywise, New Found Glory, Rancid and the band that put the label on the map; The Offspring.
As the label grew and the stresses of running it weighed heavily on him, Gurewitz was pulled in and out of Bad Religion. Fortunately for fans, he’s contributed to the band’s last four albums and is hard at work on their next.
Having joined Bad Religion at the age of 17, Gurewitz has been in and around the music business his entire adult life and yet he still sees it through the fresh eyes of a fan.
CBS: We wanted to pick your brain about Record Store Day (Saturday, April 21st) and the potential impact or non-impact that the day has on both owners, producers, someone like you who’s behind a label.
B: Well, you know, I’m behind the label, I’m inside of the label, and I’m in front of the label because I’m a fan and I’m in a band. And I own the label so I can really talk from the different sides. I think Record Store Day is really cool. We’ve been doing it for a number of years now and one of the great things about it is that it’s gone international. It started out as a U.S. thing and now internationally, independent record stores all around the world on this day are celebrating together. And for Epitaph, it’s really about celebrating our partnership with independent record stores and the indie music business community in general. And that’s what it’s about. And we always use it as an opportunity to make something really special for those stores that nobody can get anywhere else. It’s cool. I think fans are starting to know more about it. It’s a special kind of customer: people who like to collect things, people who are into rarities, people who are into vinyl and stuff like that.
CBS: If Record Store Day continues to be a music geek holiday, is it something that can grab the attention of the youth? Or are record stores permanently a thing of our father?
B: I think it’s something in between. It’s never gonna be like May Day or some kind of a huge holiday, but I think there’s always gonna be super geeky music collectors out there. Just like there will always be the crazy comic book collectors and fans of all kinds that like to get together and celebrate what they’re into. For the video game and comic book kids, there’s ComicCon now. Record store day is sort of that celebration for vinyl collectors, really. That’s what it’s come down to. I don’t think that’s going away. I don’t think it’s only for old geezers, there are plenty of young kids collecting vinyl, which I think is super awesome.
CBS: For a lot of kids it is punk rock to do the opposite. The norm is to get mp3s, and its kinda punk to get yourself a big 12′ disc.
B: I completely agree and I’ll give you an example. This Record Store Day, we’re doing the first reissue of Operation Ivy’s first album in forever. We’re reissuing that on vinyl. Everyone’s excited about that. We’re doing the new Social Distortion album on colored vinyl and the majority of them are signed, so people are stoked on that. Then Nick Cave’s band, Grinderman, his sort of super, wild, heavy band, we’re putting his remix record out on vinyl. So those three records will appeal to all different sorts of people, but you’re right, there’s definitely a punk rock vibe to it. But then on the other side of things, this guy, who I think definitely encompasses the punk rock thing, but he’s definitely not punk, we’re doing a very rare Tom Waits t-shirt for Record Store Day. He’s not a guy who does merch. You can’t even buy a merch item at his show. But he really is a guy who cherishes record stores, so he wanted to do something special for them. It’s a combination of sentimentality and enthusiasm around collectors.
CBS: Do you think we’ll see a day when it goes full circle? Where record stores will make a comeback?
B: I’m not a guy to make predictions, so I wouldn’t even hazard a guess. The music business has been taking some wild turns lately, but I’m really enjoying it. I think it’s pretty awesome that I can now buy a record on my phone, my tablet, my computer, where I’m buying coffee. It used to be there were only record stores, now we’ve got record stores in almost anywhere. I could buy a record if I was in the bank today on my smartphone. I think all those things are really awesome. The retail space is what it is. The Internet’s having an impact on it, not just in the record business, but across the board.
CBS: Does Record Store Day have a bottom-line impact on Epitaph?
B: No. It’s just a day. But Epitaph’s trajectory has been intrinsically entwined with the indie music business. From the moment back in 1995 when I decided not to sell the company, when we had the big hit with The Offspring and that record sold 10 million copies, it benefited the independent music community all the way up and down the food chain. From the record company to the f**king trucking company that shipped the pallets to the indie distributors to the indie record store who for the first time could buy a hit record without having to go to a one stop like they used to. It just injected all this wonderful life and adrenaline and this whole vibrant ecosystem grew from that. To me, Record Store Day is a celebration of that thing that we started so long ago that I think is a community that is very fertile ground for tomorrows bands. So I think to acknowledge that independent music community with a thing like Record Store Day is just a positive thing for music and for music fans. Whether they call it punk rock or indie rock or whatever you want to name it. The bands that are gonna be huge in five years that no one is expecting are probably gonna come from that community.
Follow Brett Gurewitz on Twitter at twitter.com/brettgurewitz.
Follow his label, Epitaph, on Twitter at twitter.com/EpitaphRecs.