Fifteen years is a milestone for any business to reach, but that goes double for any record label in this era of digital piracy and nose-diving revenues. Just ask Denver’s Suburban Home Records: Although label head Virgil Dickerson has been lucky enough to see his brand to its 15th anniversary—celebrated this month with a pair of shows at 3 Kings Tavern—he’s also watched as many of the label’s contemporaries fall victim to the industry’s hard times. Here, Dickerson honors those that came and went with his list of the shuttered record companies that have influenced and helped him through the last 15 years.
Liberation and New American Dream Records
Virgil Dickerson: They put out Punk Sucks. It was a who’s who of punk rock in 1994, or whenever it came out. On that compilation was a band from Orange County called Overlap. I actually wrote Overlap a physical letter saying they were great. Before you knew it, we were trading letters, talking on the phone. They recorded some songs and were looking for someone to put out a 7-inch, and I said, “Well, I’ll put it out.” That was the start of Suburban Home.
Liquid Meat Records
VD: When I first started Suburban Home, I started it as a fanzine. Liquid Meat were one of the first advertisers, so when I started a label, he was the guy who I called to say, “Hey, where do I go get 7-inch covers made? Who do I use to master this?” They were the ones who were completely happy to help me and hold my hand along the way.
Black Plastic Records
VD: [The first issue of] Suburban Home came out Sept. 1, 1995. That’s the date that I choose to be our anniversary. That particular day, I brought [copies of the first issue] to a show at the Aztlan Theater. The show was Schleprock, Mandingo, and Pinhead Circus. I went up to the merch booth and I gave Scooter from Pinhead Circus the first copy of Suburban Home. He gave me a copy of his record. It was the first Pinhead Circus record on LP. I was just blown away that there was a local label in Denver, and that they put out records. That LP came out before the CD ever came out. It opened my eyes that you don’t have to be in L.A. or New York to start a label—you could do it in Colorado. If you find a record you want to put out, you can do it.
VD: GSL was a label that Sonny Kay, who went to college in Boulder, started. When I went to college, I started going to shows at Club 156. Sonny was the guy who booked all the shows at Club 156. When he graduated from school, he invited me to take over his spot as the booker at Club 156. It was another example of “Hey, this is a guy who I go to school with, and he’s putting out records.”
Soda Jerk Records
VD: Most people in Colorado only know Mike [Barsch] from Soda Jerk as a promoter. He and I bonded early on, because we’d go to shows and we both started our labels at about the same time. He and I shared a lot of notes and had a lot of discussions about how to operate a label and how to get records into stores. He’s a really smart, business-savvy person, much more than I am. I learned a lot of that by interacting with him.
VD: We put out a four-way compilation with three other labels called Playing 4 Square. My Records was one of the other labels we did the first compilation with. I celebrate everything they put out. They put out Adventures Of Jet, who Suburban Home later started working with; they put out Armchair Martian, who Suburban Home later started working with.
Owned And Operated/Upland Records
VD: Upland had a huge impact on Suburban Home. That’s the label that started putting out Americana records. They put out the first Drag The River records that we reissued. Drag The River was the first band that made me realize that country didn’t suck. That was a chapter-starter for Suburban Home.