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Label Profile – Sub Pop

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Perhaps most closely associated with alternative/grunge boom of the 90s, early SP roster featured the likes of Green River (which would later transform into Pearl Jam), Soundgarden, Nirvana, Mudhoney, Tad and many others. Throughout years (especially after the popularity of grunge went down), the label released countless singles by bands that had little to do with  Seattle scene, including Flaming Lips, Hot Hot Heat, Shins, Band Of Horses, Combustible Edison, Codeine and Wolf Eyes.

Prior to turning into a full-fledged record label (run by Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman), Sub Pop was  a fanzine active in the early 80s. Pavitt was producing Subterreanean Pop while attending Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. By the fourth issue, he started including tapes of underground rock bands with the ‘zine and shortened its name to Sub Pop. Fifth issue of  the fanzine (which came out in ’82) sold two thousand copies and in 1983 Pavitt moved to Seattle and release the ninth and final issue of Sub Pop.

1986 saw the release of Sub Pop 100 – the label’s first release, a compilation which featured material by the likes of Sonic Youth, Naked Raygun, Wipers and Scratch Acid, while 1987 brought “Dry As A Bone” EP by Green River. “Dry As A Bone” (described by the label as “ultra-loose grunge that destroyed the morals of a generation”) was initially recorded in 1986 but came out only a year later due to financial constraints.

1987 also saw the release of Soundgarden’s first single (Hunted Down / Nothing To Say) and their first EP “Screaming Life”.  Next year, both Pavitt and Poneman decided to quit their day jobs in order to concentrate on label.

After studying the stories of labels like Motown and SST, they came to conclusion that every succesful label had regional basis. Thus, a “Seattle sound” was born, thanks, in large part to work of producer Jack Endino, who worked with Mudhoney, Blood Circus, Nirvana, Tad and others and helped to shape the image/sound of Sub Pop in the late 80s.

1988 brought “Touch Me I’m Sick” single by Mudhoney, which was limited to 800 copies and went on to be recognized as a classic of sorts. Later that year, the band also recorded a split with Sonic Youth, where Mudhoney covered  SY’s “Halloween”  and SY covered “Touch Me I’m Sick”.

Late 1988 saw the release of “Love Buzz” – a debut single by Aberdeen, WA act Nirvana, with its centerpiece being a cover of 60s song by Dutch band Shocking Blue (the track subsequently appeared on their debut “Bleach”, as well as a single “Big Cheese”).

“Love Buzz” single also became the first entry in Sub Pop Singles Club, a subscription service that allowed subscribers to recieve the label’s singles on a monthly basis by mail. The original series was active until 1993 and in 1998 Sub Pop launched a second version of Singles Club, which was discontinued in 2002.

When Nirvana signed with Geffen in the early 90s, Sub Pop started to recieve royalties off of “Nevermind”, which allowed them to stay afloat for years. Eventually, the label formed a joint venture with Warner Bros. and thus stopped being an independent label. In 2007, the label also launched Hardly Art, a sister label which released records by Dutchess & The Duke, Le Loup, Pica Beats, Talbot Tagora and many others.

Selected Label Discography:

VA – Sub Pop 100 (1986)

Green River – Dry As A Bone (1987)

Soundgarden – Screaming Life EP (1987)

Soundgarden – Hunted Down / Nothing To Say (1987)

Soundgarden – Fopp EP (1988)

Green River – Rehab Doll (1988)

Mudhoney – Touch Me I’m Sick / Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More (1988)

Mudhoney – Superfuzz Bigmuff (1988)

Nirvana – Love Buzz / Big Cheese (1988)

Tad – Daisy / Ritual Device (1988)

VA – Sub Pop 200 (1988)

Sonic Youth / Mudhoney – Touch Me I’m Sick / Halloween (1988)

Tad – God’s Balls (1989)

Flaming Lips – Drug Machine (1989)

Les Thugs – Chess & Crimes / Sunday Time (1989)

Helios Creed – Nothing Wrong / The Sky (1989)

Afghan Whigs – I Am The Sticks / White Trash Party (1989)

Mudhoney – You Got It (Keep It Outta My Face) / Burn It Clean (1989)

Nirvana – Bleach (1989)

Tad / Pussy Galore – Damaged | / Damaged || (1989)

Les Thugs – Electric Troubles (1989)

Rapeman – Inki’s Butt Crack / Song Number One (1989)

Cosmic Psychos – Go To The Hack (1989)

Lazy Cowgirls – Loretta / Hybrid Moments (1989)

Mudhoney – Mudhoney (1989)

Mudhoney – This Gift / Baby Help Me Forget (1989)

Love Battery – Between The Eyes / Easter (1989)

Screaming Trees – Change Has Come (1989)

Fugazi – Song #1 (1989)

Thee Hypnotics – Live’r Than God (1989)

L7 – Smell The Magic (1990)

Soundgarden – Screaming Life / Fopp (1990)

Tad – Salt Lick / God’s Balls (1990)

Dwarves – She’s Dead / Fuckhead (1990)

Big Chief – Chrome Helmet / Blowout Kit (1990)

Tad – Loser / Cooking With Gas (1990)

Afghan Whigs – Up In It (1990)

Mark Lanegan – The Winding Sheet (1990)

Lubricated Goat – Meating My Head / 20th Century Rake (1990)

Babes In Toyland – House / Amoeba (1990)

Dwarves – Blood Guts & Pussy (1990)

Dinosaur Jr. – The Wagon / Better Than Gone (1990)

Rollins Band – I Know You / Earache My Eye (1990)

Nirvana – Sliver / Dive (1990)

Beat Happening – Red Head Walking / Secret Picnic Spot (1990)

Unsane – Vandal-X / Streetsweeper (1990)

Beat Happening – Black Candy (1990)

Soundgarden – Room A Thousand Years Wide / H.I.V. Baby (1990)

Coffin Break – Lies / Pray (1990)

Poison Idea – Taken By Surprise / We Got The Beat (1990)

Poster Children – Thinner, Stronger / Pointed Stick (1990)

Smashing Pumpkins – Tristessa / La Dolly Vita (1990)

Reverend Norton Heat – Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em (1990)

Mudhoney – Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge (1991)

VA – Sub Pop 200 (1991)

Tad – 8-Way Santa (1991)

Hole – Dicknail / Bumblack (1991)

Mudhoney – Let It Slide (1991)

Fluid / Nirvana – Candy / Molly’s Lips (1991)

Unrest – A Factory Record (1991)

Fastbacks – The Answer Is YOU (1991)

Codeine – Frigid Stars LP (1991)

Shonen Knife – Neon Zebra / Bear Up Bison (1991)

Urge Overkill – Now That’s The Barclords (1991)

Godflesh – Slateman / Wound ’91 (1991)

Earth – Extra-Capsular Extraction (1991)

VA – Smells Like Smoked Sausages (1992)

Vaselines – The Way Of The Vaselines – A Complete History (1992)

Big Chief – Face (1992)

Pain Teens – Death Row Eyes / The Smell (1992)

Beat Happening – You Turn Me On (1992)

Six Finger Satellite / Green Magnet School – The Declaration Of Techno-Colonial Independence (1992)

Big Damn Crazy Weight – Might As Well / Off That Cow (1992)

Antiseen – We Got This Far (Without You) / (We Will Not) Remember You (1992)

Sebadoh – Smash Your Head On The Punk Rock (1992)

Nick Cave / Shane McGowan – What A Wonderful World (1992)

Royal Trux – Steal Yr. Face (1992)

Mark Lanegan – Whiskey For The Holy Ghost (1993)

Fastbacks – Zucker (1993)

Earth – Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version (1993)

Sebadoh – Bubble & Scrape (1993)

Velocity Girl – Copacetic (1993)

Reverend Norton Heat – The Full-Custom Gospel Sounds Of The Reverend Norton Heat (1993)

Ween – Skycruiser (1993)

Eric’s Trip – Love Tara (1993)

Pigface – Empathy / Steamroller (1993)

Didjits – Dear Junkie (1993)

Lou Barlow – I Am Not Mocking You (1993)

Velocity Girl – ¡Simpatico! (1994)

Fastbacks – Answer The Phone Dummy (1994)

Sebadoh – Bakesale (1994)

Denison Kimball Trio – Landshark / Whirlpool (1995)

Earth – Phase 3: Thrones & Dominions (1995)

Six Finger Satellite – Severe Exposure (1995)

Supersuckers – The Sacrillicious Sound Of Supersuckers (1995)

5ive Style – 5ive Style (1995)

Sunny Day Real Estate – Sunny Day Real Estate (1995)

Red Red Meat – Bunny Gets Paid (1995)

Damon & Naomi – The Wondrous World Of Damon & Naomi (1995)

Godheadsilo – Skyward In Triumph (1995)

Afghan Whigs – Black Love (1996)

Fastbacks – New Mansions In Sound (1996)

Earth – Pentastar: In The Style Of Demons (1996)

Sebadoh – Harmacy (1996)

Six Finger Satellite – Paranormalized (1996)

Slayer / T.S.O.L – Abolish Government (1996)

Grifters – Ain’t My Lookout (1996)

Grifters – Full Blown Posession (1997)

Godheadsilo – Share The Fantasy (1997)

Sunny Day Real Estate – How It Feels To Be Something On (1998)

Murder City Devils – Empty Bottles Broken Hearts (1998)

Murder City Devils – TBA (1998)

Jesus & Mary Chain – Munki (1998)

Pernice Brothers – Overcome By Happiness (1998)

Six Finger Satellite – Law Of Ruins (1998)

Jesus & Mary Chain – Birthday / Hide Myself (1998)

Modest Mouse – Never Ending Math Equation (1998)

Luna – Everybody’s Talkin’ (1998)

Heroic Doses – Heroic Doses (1998)

Saint Etienne – Good Humor + Fairfax High (1998)

Hellacopters – Grande Rock (1999)

5ive Style – Miniature Portraits (1999)

Sunny Day Real Estate – Live (1999)

Dead C – Stealth / The Factory (2000)

Murder City Devils – In Name And Blood (2000)

Mudhoney – Murch To Fuzz (2000)

Damon & Naomi – Damon & Naomi With Ghost (2000)

Saint Etienne – Sound Of Water (2000)

Shins – Oh, Inverted World (2001)

Steve Fisk – 999 Levels Of Undo (2001)

Red House Painters – Old Ramon (2001)

Radio Birdman – The Essential Radio Birdman (1974-1978) (2001)

Rapture – Out Of The Races And Onto The Tracks (2001)

Hot Hot Heat – Make Up The Breakdown (2002)

Mudhoney – Since We’ve Become Translucent (2002)

Damon & Naomi – Song To The Siren (2002)

Hot Hot Heat – Knock Knock Knock (2002)

Kinski – Semaphore (2002)

Postal Service – The District Sleeps Alone Tonight (2003)

Shins – Chutes Too Narrow (2003)

Kinski / Acid Mothers Temple / The Melting Paraiso UFO – Kinski, Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO (2003)

Postal Service – Give Up (2003)

Kinski – Airs Above Your Station (2003)

Album Leaf – In A Safe Place (2004)

Iron & Wine – Our Endless Numbered Days (2004)

Wolf Eyes – Stabbed In The Face (2004)

Wolf Eyes – Burned Mind (2004)

VA – Sub Pop: Patient Zero (2004)

Kinski – Alpine Static (2005)

A Frames – Black Forest (2005)

Sleater-Kinney – The Woods (2005)

Wolf Eyes – Human Animal (2006)

Comets On Fire – Avatar (2006)

Band Of Horses – Everything All The Time (2006)

Mudhoney – Under A Billion Suns (2006)

Shins – Wincing The Night Away (2006)

Dntel – Dumb Luck (2007)

Pissed Jeans – Hope For Men (2007)

Band Of Horses – Cease To Begin (2007)

Flight Of The Conchords – Flight Of The Conchords (2007)

Gutter Twins – Saturnalia (2008)

No Age – Nouns (2008)

Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes (2008)

Vetiver – Tight Knit (2009)

Pissed Jeans – King Of Jeans (2009)

Vaselines – Enter The Vaselines (2009)


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