Lord knows it's not easy to keep a DIY record label afloat. The music business is unpredictable. You're obliged to spend money you don't have>"/>
Lord knows it's not easy to keep a DIY record label afloat. The music business is unpredictable. You're obliged to spend money you don't have to make a record you're not sure more than a hundred people will buy. And even if you're lucky enough to break even (a rarity as a small label), you'll still be right back in the hole again whenever you decide to put out the next album. But that hasn't stopped Mike Toschi.
When he's not taking his fourth- and fifth-grade class from Seattle's Alternative School #1 on habitat-restoration field trips or educational visits to EMP, Toschi runs Global Seepej Records, a progressive record label turned artists' collective. In 12 years, Toschi's managed to put out a bunch of awesome, locally-revered records on his teachers' salary, from now-defunct band The Plains' indie pop effort On Earth as It Is In Heaven to the Bonobo Project's raucous heavy-metal debut.
Toschi, 36, started Global Seepej in Portland for his own band at the time, The Help. He says he wanted to make a label that, like his band, "was supporting ideas of social, economic, and environmental justice. Almost every show we played was a benefit for farm workers or the Zapatistas in southern Mexico. It was very literal. And I think now I still want to work with people who care about those things, but it doesn't need to be so overt." Now the label includes visual and film artists, who show their work at Global Seepej shows and create oft-subversive album art for the label's records—like Chris Crites' crimson-lit rendering of a white cop taking an American flag from the hands of a young black protester on Sonic Resistance by Toschi's current band, At the Spine.
In keeping with the recent local emphasis, Global Seepej's newest offering, Sounds From the Seattle Underground, is a joint compilation created in partnership with Matt Ashworth, editor of Seattle music 'zine Nadamucho.com. And even though some of Seattle's indie-rock royalty wanted in on the compilation, Toschi went for promising up-and-comers over the usual suspects. The result is an impressive sampler of punk, alt-country and indie pop, from Hazelwood Motel's "Break Myself in Two" to Iceage Cobra's "Baconface Sweepstakes." And the At the Spine rocker "Meteorite" contains one hell of a breakdown.
Even so, when it comes to one-man labels run by guys named Mike who also front punk bands, most Seattleites would probably think of Mt. Fuji Records, run by Sunset Tavern booker, singer for the Cops, and all-around scene darling Mike "Jaws" Jaworski. In its six years of existence, Mt. Fuji has gotten a lot of attention from Seattle music hounds for releasing records from popular local bands like Lillydale (which is no more) and Slender Means (whose debut album did so well that Mt. Fuji actually broke even), not to mention the Cops themselves.
So it's hard to choose which label is best, especially since both Mikes are motivated, passionate guys who would rather collaborate than compete with other artists. And when it comes to music, their similarities far outweigh their differences. Like Global Seepej, Mt. Fuji also began as a means to release a record from a former band—Hello from Waveland. That band morphed into the Cops, whose legendary live shows earned them a gig at Sasquatch.
Now, between the music community's warm reception of the Cops' second LP (Free Electricity, a joint release with The Control Group), Jaworski's new business partner (Richard Green, founder of Noise for the Needy), and a new distribution deal, Mt. Fuji should become an even more formidable player in Northwest music. Plus, they've got a new Whore Moans album in the works for the fall, and Jaworski's so busy now that he's in the market for an unpaid intern. Any takers?—Sara Brickner