Gary “Pig” Gold is one of the happiest entrepreneurs in Hoboken. In fact, he calls his well-talked about indie label a hobby. It all started a few years ago when he partnered with Shane Faubert, who had a band called the Cheepskates that was popular in Europe and was signed to a record label in Germany. The Internet had just started to become a household name at the time, so Faubert was advised to set up a web page to sell his catalogue in North America, rather than have his American fans purchase a very expensive import from Germany. Faubert founded To M’Lou Music, and it began as a small mail-order project.
At that time, Gold was producing Faubert’s solo albums. The two always felt that demo versions of songs recorded at home furnished a quality that musicians had a hard time capturing during professional recording sessions. So the pair decided to record a demo version of Faubert’s second solo album.
Faubert fans found a coupon inside the professional album that they could mail in to receive a demo version of the CD with the same sequence of songs. The coupons didn’t work out too well, but the pair didn’t want to give up on the idea of putting out a demo-style album. They bounced the idea off of a few musician friends and quickly compiled their first compilation of demo recordings from various artists called Unsound.
“We decided to put out demos of his stuff and some of my stuff, and my friends wanted to send in their demos and then their friends and suddenly we had the Unsound series,” said Gold.
Now To M’Lou Music has gotten enough underground talk among musicians that tapes are constantly being sent for consideration.
“I have boxes full of demos now, and I’m still getting them all the time, and it’s really a cool thing,” Gold said.
Pick one or two
People send in their recordings of original material with about six or seven songs, and Gold and Faubert pick one or two by each artist and develop a theme.
“The first CD theme was pop, because we wanted to establish it with the most successful kind of music that most people would like, and it did really well,” said Gold.
Unsound has now become a series, and Gold said they have enough music to put out the next eight or nine albums, but they don’t want to release them on CDs. Gold wants to put them out a more controversial way. “We want to put it totally online, ” said Gold. “We don’t want to have to press the CDs out, which is time-consuming. We just want to set up a site where people send in their MP3s and people can download them if [they] like them. If you can do it at home, you can make great sounding recordings really quick and cheap at home.”
Gold says they’re waiting to see what happens to Napster first.
“We’re waiting for that whole mess to clear up,” he said, “but we’ve got all the material and that’s the important part, and we’re still getting so much cool stuff.”
But the most exciting project of To M’Lou was their recent signing of the band The Masticators, which is really starting to attract a buzz in the indie scene. Faubert and Gold heard the band playing at the International Pop Overthrow festival in California. They asked them to send them a tape to help them find a label, and when the band’s cassette arrived, the two decided to put it out themselves.
“When we got their album, we thought we could spend a few months asking all our friends to put it out, or we could put it out ourselves, ’cause we were really excited about it and we thought we could get it out in six weeks,” said Gold. “We asked every favor we could from people we knew, and it came out in February and it’s just about sold its first pressing. We’re working on licensing it, because there’s a lot of people interested in it in Japan, England, Canada. And I have to go out in October and work on doing their first videos now. So we became a record company by accident with a real success from our first album. In fact, we didn’t hear from [the lead singer] in a week, because she didn’t believe we would sign her in five days; usually labels want you to change things and want to remaster tracks, and we didn’t know any better, so we said it was great, it was great, let’s put it out. But that’s the way a label should be.”
The Masticators have gained such quick respect by fellow musicmakers that they’ve been asked to sign on a Replacements tribute album, and will be on Paul McCartney’s tribute album coming out in the new year. So what’s a typical day for Gold?
“Clean the kitty litter box, listen to whatever music comes in the day before while I eat cereal, answer e-mails for four hours, and then do other music stuff like producing, going through people’s songs, sorting through Unsound tapes, putting together press kits,” said Gold. “There’s always something, but it’s fun. It’s a hobby. I’ve been doing this for 25 years. I quit university after the first year, and I told my mom and dad to give me one year [to pursue music] and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll go back. And I never had to go back, because I managed to get into a band and go on the road, and I started a fanzine in Canada. That was around punk rock time, and I was the only guy writing about the Ramones, XTC and the Pistols in all of Canada, and that got me a lot of cool connections. And when Elvis Costello came to town, I was the only guy who knew who he was and felt like talking to him, and it was only because it was a brand new thing and it was in isolated pockets, like London, Toronto, L.A., New York. It was the same stuff I’ve always been doing; now it’s just with different people.”
Gold thinks the Internet will make his business and save the music industry.
“I think it will mean the indie labels won’t be indie anymore,” said Gold. “The people I know at major labels are incredibly frightened right now like you would not believe. The only reason you needed a major before was for the distribution, but you don’t now because you’ve got envelopes and e-mail. The orders come in, and most of the Masticators are being sold of Amazon, and they’re like 3,000-something. And we don’t have a big advertising budget; we’re just advertising in fanzines and stuff like that. They’re playing the Rocker Girl festival in November in Seattle with Ronnie Spector, so the word is really getting around and I think it’s because of the Internet.”
Gold added, “The Internet is exactly like the record companies used to be, which is you get someone you like, you knock on some studio’s door, he likes them, you press them and they travel to next towns. In the ’70s and ’80s, the business got off track, it got too businessy and now there’s so much money required to break an established act. And I like Britney Spears, that’s pop, but look out all the money that has to go into a product like that to do it; it’s a major thing. But Shane and I or any independent label can sell 2,000 copies off the Internet.”
Gold said that’s just tough luck for the majors.
“Remember when Amazon was originally based on books, Random House was asked to invest in it, and they said no one is going to buy a book off a computer,” said Gold. “The major labels said years ago that no one was going to listen to music on their computer, but they could have gotten in on it and now they’re trying to close it down but it’s too late. The genie is definitely out of the bottle, and it can’t get back in. They can shut Napster down and another one will pop up next week somewhere else. And they’re not doing anything but giving the music back to the people and to promoters. So I think the Internet is saving it, because it’s making the music important again.”