It’s Canadian Indie Label Week at Chart Attack! We’re celebrating Canada Day all week long by spotlighting the hardworking people behind our favourite independent music. Today, Richard Trapunski talks with the founder of Roberts Creek, B.C.'s Deranged Records.
You know the saying “no man is an island”? Don’t tell that to Gord Dufresne.
The skateboarder-turned-label-boss runs Deranged Records from his home in the Sunshine Coast beach village, Roberts Creek, British Columbia, as a solo operation. Since its launch in 1999, the label has become such a destination for rising punk and hardcore bands on both sides of the border that, according to Dufresne, many musicians assume Deranged is headquartered in a major urban centre. That’s at least 45 minutes from the truth… or at least that’s how long it takes to reach Vancouver by ferry.
“I was never a musician myself. I was a skateboarder,” says Dufresne over the phone from B.C., breaking from his day job working for SAMO Media, a vinyl and CD manufacturing broker. “But all my skater friends were either in bands or involved in the punk scene in some way, and putting out records become an avenue for me to get involved as more than just an observer.”
Dufresne has never strayed from those humble DIY beginnings, but as Deranged bands like Fucked Up and White Lung have crossed over from niche punk and hardcore scenes into the much more lucrative indie rock landscape the label has reached new ears with them. Ask Dufresne, though, and he’ll tell you his philosophy hasn’t changed, even if the punk scene has. Here, he tells me why the internet hasn’t erased the need for blood, sweat and a good demo tape.
On being a one-man, DIY operation
It could probably benefit from having more of a structure, but given the state of music and the type of music that I tend to focus on it’s not feasible to look at anything beyond just me running it off the side of my desk. If every record was like some of the bigger records that I’ve done it would be a different story.
I get publicists involved once in a while depending on the releases, which really helps out. The biggest challenge for me is always public relations, and typically a lot of labels will still outsource that. I mean, it’s rare that a label in the indie world will have in-house PR people. But otherwise, you get the stuff manufactured, you get a distributor, you promote it, you make sure that the bands get what they need when they’re on tour and that’s mostly it.
The challenges of working from Roberts Creek, B.C.
It’s really not that far in kilometres from Vancouver, but it is only accessible by ferry and the last ferry home is at 9. So that really limits what you can and cannot do in the city when you have friends and bands coming into town. You don’t go to shows where I live. That’s an unfortunate aspect. It also doesn’t help with respect to making connections with “industry people,” because people in the punk scene don’t really live here. But the bigger challenge is exposure or opportunities to see bands you may be interested in.
So much of it is done online and so much of it is done outside of my own house, because a lot of it is with distributors or manufacturers, that I could be pretty much anywhere. I mean, my wife and I have talked about moving somewhere even farther, like New Zealand. I’ve had the same distributor for so long and I can get the stuff manufactured without being involved. I don’t have to assemble the record. It just goes from the pressing plant to distributors and I’m not physically involved in the process aside from managing emails and phone calls. I can do that anywhere.
On the importance of blood, sweat and a good demo tape
[When I’m finding new bands] either they get in touch with me, I buy their record or I hear their demo. Whenever a new band comes out, you’ll typically hear about them online before you get to see them or get a physical product in your hands anyway, so the internet definitely provides me with that initial exposure. I can usually tell whether there is something that I like about a band right from a demo more so that I would a live experience.
I definitely get my fair share of demos, but often times I don’t think the bands that are sending out them out are quite ready. I get where they’re coming from. They’re eager and they want to get something out there. They’re excited and they’re proud of what they’re doing. But at the end of the day, I think a lot of bands are jumping the gun. They’re going from playing a dozen shows and practicing for a few months directly to putting out an LP. There’s no demos, there hasn’t been a tour. I really feel strongly about bands putting out demos and getting a feel for what their formula is going to be and what they’re going to sound like, mastering their craft before they put out something that’s going to outlive them.
[The internet] works to their advantage in some cases. Some bands would never have had any sort of attention or profile and now they can do that overnight, which is great for a band but not necessarily better than the old way. I feel that it should take a lot of sweat and blood to get the attention that a lot of these bands are getting. But there are also a lot of bands that are still working hard and paying their dues.
On staying grounded in punk ideals after the breakout success of Fucked Up and White Lung
The Fucked Up record [2006's Hidden World] was under license from another label, so there were some financial components to that relationship. But that worked out really well and I’m glad that the band went out of their way to get me into the equation since I’d done the majority of the records prior to that one. I’d say that with Fucked Up, everyone was expecting it to be a big record. That wasn’t the case with White Lung’s Sorry (2012). It was their second LP, and it did much better than their first. They had plenty of attention going into it, but I think it was that record that got them the attention that they’re getting now.
If I wanted to work with a larger band, I could use that as a reference point for what I’ve done. But I’m not changing the kinds of bands that I’m working with just because of the success of Fucked Up and White Lung. If I wanted to reposition the label then this would be a good opportunity to do so, but I’m not interested. Like, I’m working with a band from North Carolina right now and we’re putting out a 7”. No one knows about them but the record’s amazing.
I have another job working for a vinyl and CD manufacturing company out of Toronto called SAMO Media, so I can afford to run Deranged as a hobby and not a business. I’m happy to lose money on projects… well not happy, but I’ve learnt to expect that that’s how the record label runs. At the end of the day I just put out records that I like, and if they do well then that’s great.