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Tor Johnson Records

Indie Label Roundtable #4 – Whited Sepulchre Records / Crafted Sounds / Tor Johnson Records

Recent releases: Sullest – Fashionable Male | Leopard Print Taser – Teeth Are Not Bones | Heavy Mantle – Weights & Measures
What made you start a label?
At the time (2002), I had been living in Providence a couple years. I moved from Boston for college, but had still been commuting back up to book shows & such. I was starting to really get deeply involved in the PVD scene and was starting to book shows here. The band I had been in had just broken up and I decided I really wanted to do something for the community here. At first it was just a name to book shows under, but started planning releases at the 2nd show booked. It sort of just snowballed from there. And here we are 16 years later.

What are some of the challenges you see as a label owner?
The biggest challenge in my mind is how to get these records in stores across the world. I have some great distributors, but its tough. Wanting to reach a wider audience, but also not trying to go bankrupt, you know? Also, the balance of work, label, regular life, etc is something I normally have a problem with.

What is your take on Spotify and streaming services?
I fully support it. I sell records. Streaming is just cake on top. All digital sales get split with the bands and it is just extra money. My goal is to sell records. Streaming is just a tool to help that. I give away downloads on our bandcamp. I come from the age of napster & file sharing. If someone wants your songs, they will get them. Why not give them the songs & if they like them hopefully they will buy a record. Same with streaming except now we get a little extra money out of it. If someone streams the album and likes it, hopefully they will buy the record.

Is there a specific focus as far as genres or local/regional aspect of music you’re releasing?
For me, live music is what drives me to put out a record. There are some exceptions, but most of the bands I’ve put out have been bands I’ve seen live or have a relationship first. Naturally that means I put out more bands from New England than elsewhere. This isn’t by design, its just how it happens. In terms of genre, I joke that all I have left to put out is country, hip hop, & jazz. My personal taste is all over the board, so the label reflects that. I don’t try to limit what I put out to genres.

Do you believe that music could bring about social change?
I like to believe it can. In the second Bush years there was a lot of politically charged bands & tours. Ska Against Racism, Strike Anywhere, all the Crimethinc bands, etc. I think having bands that are out spoken about politics is very powerful and can help spread information….as long as they are not just “preaching to the converted” and try to make a point to play shows they don’t “fit on”.

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Indie Label Roundtable #4 – Whited Sepulchre Records / Crafted Sounds / Tor Johnson Records