5 years, 4 albums: Kevin Meyer of Dusty Medical Records remembers his most notable releases
For the past five years, Dusty Medical Records has been one of Milwaukee's best and most prominent independent labels, putting out music by some of today's greatest underground garage-rock bands, including Black Lips, Greg Cartwright of Reigning Sound, The Strange Boys, and Milwaukee's Goodnight Loving. Dusty Medical will celebrate a half-decade of encoding scuzzy noise on wax in appropriate fashion with shows Friday and Saturday at Club Garibaldi featuring many of the bands the label has worked with over the years. Before then, The A.V. Club asked label head Kevin Meyer about the most memorable releases from Dusty Medical's history.
First record: Black Lips, Live @ WFMU (2005)
Kevin Meyer: I had already seen Black Lips a few times and I was a fan. But it didn’t click 100 percent. Then I heard this show and it was the perfect chaotic picture of what Black Lips are about. It was kind of a ridiculous proposition to press a live album of a radio show that was already a year old. But I pitched them the idea of making it look like a bootleg, and they were like, “Well, it’s kind of weird, but it would be nice to have something else on the merch table to make some more money.” It took over a year to sell 500 copies, but it’s now a collector’s item.
The A.V. Club: Did you start a record label just to put out this album, or was that an idea you had before?
KM: There never was an idea that I was going to have a record label; it just sort of happened. After I asked the Black Lips if they would do it, and they said yes, I was like, “What other bands that I really like can I put out a record with?”
Best-selling record: Greg Cartwright, Live At The Circle A (2009)
KM: It was the biggest pressing I did and it sold out in two months. I actually pressed about three times what I press of everything else, and it sold out so fast. I was getting orders from distributors for records when they were still waiting on shipments from the last order. It was a really amazing show. And I made sure to record it properly. It’s not often you can get such a perfect capture of a moment. For everyone there, it was such a special event: A $2 standing-room-only with this guy who has written and recorded some of the greatest songs of the past 15 or 20 years, and playing like he’s playing for a bunch of friends. The recording is just so perfect; it sounds like I’m back at Circle A.
Favorite album: Goodnight Loving, Crooked Lake (2007)
KM: It was dumb luck that it fell into my lap. Six weeks after they recorded [their first album] Cemetery Trails, they went to Andy Kavanaugh’s cabin and came back with this CD. They didn’t tell me about it. They were so lackadaisical about it. They wanted to do it because they had all these songs left over, and the studio was a stressful environment for them. When I heard it I was like, “This is your next album. This is amazing.” It’s probably my favorite Goodnight Loving record. This band has so much output, this is just another example of them tossing off 13 songs and ending up with this classic album.
Favorite 7-inch: Thomas Function, “Relentless Machines” (2007)
KM: It was their third 7-inch; it marked a turning point in the band’s trajectory, because the earlier 7-inches sounded more spazzy, and adding acoustic guitars was a huge step forward for them. They gave me a CD with seven songs and said, “Which ones do you want to use?” I don’t think they would’ve picked “Relentless Machines” as the A-side; they were surprised I wanted it, but I said, “That’s the A-side.” And it ended up being on all these year-end lists. You can only go with your instinct. I like the idea of putting the sleeper hit on the A-side. I think it’s a great record.