One of the oldest and most legendary Hardcore labels is without a doubt Smorgasbord Records. Bands like Up Front or Hatebreed released their records on this label. Last year was a more silent year for Smorgasbord with not too many releases, so I was glad when I received an e-mail from Jeff Terranova who runs the label and with whom I've been in contact for a longer time (see the interviews with Up Front and Windfall) where he told me Smorgasbord is still running and going to put out new stuff soon. So I decided to support this label by featuring it in the label special. Enjoy!
Hey Jeff, how and when did it all get started with Smorgasbord? If I'm right the label was founded a long time ago in 1986, but in the beginning it was a fanzine? Am I right here? What was the idea behind starting a record label?
Yes, that is correct. Chris Daily started Smorgasbord as a fanzine back in 1986. He was still in high school at the time, a fan of the music and he wanted to do a zine to support the growing CT/NYC scene. He released two full issues and an update or two and then in 1987, with the debut release of the X Marks The Spot 7" compilation, Smorgasbord Zine became Smorgasbord Records. I am pretty sure that Chris's main philosophy at the time was to support the local sXe bands and the local scene. While he lived in Stamford CT, he released CT bands and after he moved to PA he released bands from that area.
What is Chris (who originally started the label) doing nowadays and how did you become the new owner of Smorgasbord?
Chris and I have been friends since 1986 and he released three Up Front releases between then and 1994 on Smorgasbord. Basically, in late 1994, Chris sold out of all of the copies that he had pressed of the Up Front 'What Fire Does' 7". Around the middle of 1995, I started to get an urge to start my own label and re-press some of the older Up Front releases on CD and the 'What Fire Does' 7" on vinyl. I spoke to Chris about it and over the course of 3-4 months we came to a mutual agreement that I would buy the label from him. I was psyched because I always loved and supported the label and now I was going to be able to keep the Smorgasbord legacy alive. I am still in contact with Chris on a regular basis. We email each other every week and he is still a true friend. He lives in Harrisburg PA, has a pretty decent job, though I honestly do not exactly what he does, he is married for the 2nd time, no kids, likes to mountain bike, and still listens to all of the music that we listened to back in the day.
How many people are currently working at Smorgasbord? Is it a full time job for you or do you do the label besides another job? Jeff, you are playing in Windfall (and still in Up Front?), so how do you handle all this stuff, band(s) and label?
Smorgasbord Records consists of me and me alone. It has been my full time job for the past three years. It pays the bills, nothing more, nothing less, and I will continue to do the label in the future, even if it becomes no longer my full time job. As for handling all of the stuff that you mentioned, I don't even think about it, I just do it. It's my passion and love and I just do what I feel that I need to do to be happy.
Are you planning to hire more people to work for Smorgasbord in the future or do you think you can handle all the work with the current staff?
I have been handling everything for the past 6 years, so why change now...
You told me recently that the post Sept 11th economical situation was also very difficult for Smorgasbord and also the fact that more and more people download music from the internet. What do you think can you do to keep Smorgasbord running anyway? Perhaps the layout of a CD will become more and more important, so that people want to have the original album, what do you think?
That is a really tough question. I think that if and when the new generation of kids in the scene stop feeling like the world owes them everything for free, then CD sales will rise again. I have no problem with someone downloading an album for the purpose of seeing if they like it and then buying the CD. But many kids make it an obsession to get everything for free and then trade it with their friends. If you are truly HC/punk and you support the scene, you would fight the man and large corporations, not the small DIY labels and bands.
Is the difficult economic situation also a reason that you are still pushing Up Front, one of the most legendary Hardcore acts? Because I think the demand for Up Front is still high these days.
My premise when I took over the label was to keep the new releases in print and make the older releases available again. The Up Front 'Spirit' LP has become legendary and a staple for any new kid coming into the HC or sXe scene. I think that it is very important to have the CD available for people to buy regardless of the present economic situation. Same thing goes for the Wide Awake discography and the newer releases like Fast Times, Follow Through, and Hatebreed.
How do you see the development Smorgasbord has made since the the beginning?
I don't really know if the label has developed all that much, but the label has so far withstood the test of time and has remained in existence.
Is there a certain philosophy behind Smorgasbord? In other words: What do want to achieve with the label?
I want to remain underground and true to the roots of the label and the underground HC/punk scene. My overall philosophy is to give back a little something to a scene that has given me so much over all of the years. You cannot always keep taking, life is a two way street, and there comes a time to give something back. I like to be a stepping stone for smaller bands to move onto larger labels and I also like to be able to release 'classic' bands that records have been out of print for many years. My ultimate goal is to sell CDs and to exist in years to come.
As I said you are playing in Windfall and in Up Front. Both bands release(d) their records through Smorgasbord. Has this ever been a problem or do you think that's the best way, putting out records by your band(s) on your own instead of moving to another label? And what about the other bands on Smorgasbord, how do you avoid that they might feel they're not treated the same way as Windfall or Up Front?
To be honest, I would much rather release my own bands on a different label, because sometimes it is weird when you do every single thing yourself. I find it easier to push another band than it is for me to push my own band. All the bands and all of the releases on the label get equal treatment and I have yet to have a band complain otherwise. Windfall just released four songs on Pal-Tone Records as part of their RadioDick series Volume 1, with two other bands. It was really cool to have someone else do the artwork, manufacture and promote the CD for a change.
Where do you see Smorgasbord among other hardcore labels? I'd say that even though Smorgasbord is a very well known label you're still pretty much underground. Would you agree?
Yes, we sometimes seem to be the biggest little label out there. I strive to remain underground and you cannot compare us to the likes of Victory, Revelation, Fat, Epitaph, or any other label. One of the greatest things about music is that many different bands and labels can all co-exist on different levels.
Which release of Smorgasbord are you most proud of and why? Which one's your favorite?
I am most proud of Up Front 'Spirit' because I played on it and wrote a lot of the music. I am also really proud of the Fast Times 'Counting Down' CD. I helped to produce it and the band truly did a great job with the song writing and the recording. My favorite one to listen to would have to be Wide Awake. It brings back so many great memories of playing with, seeing Wide Awake, and hanging out with the band back in the day.
Which band/album was the most important one for the development of the label? Was there some kind of a crucial band/record that changed everything for the label and for you personally? I think many people would say that Up Front, the sXe legend, was the most important band on Smorgasbord, but would you as a member of Up Front agree with that?
I think that the 'Spirit' LP definitely jump started the label back in 1988 and will always stand out because it was one of the 1st releases. Hatebreed have been an important stepping stone for the label in the late 1990's and their release open up new doors that had been closed in the past.
A band like Hatebreed is very popular these days, not only in the Hardcore scene. They toured with Slayer etc. Did you ever think that this band who put out their debut 7" on Smorgasbord a couple of years ago would become that big? And how is the Hatebreed 7" selling these days (I guess it's still in print?)?
Yes, the Hatebreed 7" and CD/EP are both still in print and are still selling pretty well. I knew that Hatebreed would become big, but not as big as they have become. Smorgasbord worked very hard to get the band onto Victory Records, but I never thought that I would see them on Universal. They were one of the hardest working bands that I have ever seen and they truly deserve to be where they are today.
Talking about selling points: Which band sold the most copies of an album released on Smorgasbord?
That would be the Hatebreed 'Under The Knife' CD/EP.
Is there any band that you didn't sign but would like to sign now? Which one on a different label would you like to sign if you could choose?
For new bands, no. I feel that everything happens for a reason and just because a band got big does not mean that they would have achieved the same success if they were on Smorgasbord. I have no regrets and I am happy for them. There are though, a lot of re-releases by bands that I love and grew up listening to that I would have loved for the opportunity to release. Unit Pride, Verbal Assault, Stalag 13, and JFA, just to name a few have all been re-released this past year...
Who decides which band gets signed and how do you get to know a band? Do they send you demos and then you get in touch with them?
I decide. Ultimately I need to wholeheartedly like the music and the message. Every case is different. A few bands sent me a demo, some bands were referred to me by my friends and/or their friends and as in the case with Wide Awake, we have been friends for years and I was proud to propose the discography idea to them.
How about the deals with the bands: Are these deals made for only one record or for multiple albums? What do you think is the best way?
Once again, each case is different and different deals work better with different bands. There is no way to generalize or categorize each and every band the same and each one is approached in a different manner.
How do you finance recording sessions and tours? As I said I think that Smorgasbord is still very underground, so it must be pretty hard to find the money for all this? Especially for a record like the Fury for Another album that was produced by Brian McTernan at Salad Days...
Yes, most of the time it is definitely hard to find the money to finance recordings. Sometimes bands will pay for it themselves and we will pay them back with free CDs that they can sell at live shows and potentially make back their recording costs. Other times we are lucky and have some money in the bank to pay for the band's recording. I hate to sound repetative, but each band is different and each deal is handled differently.
What about vinyl, are you still pressing the new release on vinyl or are they only coming out on CD?
Full lengths are CD only but we still try to do 7"s on vinyl when we can. We will be releasing a limited edition split 7" release this summer with Windfall and Psychopunch, that should be cool.
Which other labels do you like and why?
I like Grand Theft Audio, Dr Strange, Alternative Tentacles, and any other label that is dedicated to preserving the true sound of HC/punk and are re-releasing the classic bands and albums. I also like Thorp, Blackout, Havoc, Malt Soda, and I am sure there are a lot more that I am forgetting right now.
How long do you think Smorgasbord will go on? Do you think that you will always be involved in the label or do you see the chance that Smorgasbord can go on without you?
I would like to keep Smorgasbord alive for many years to come. I guess that time will truly tell. As for the label going on without me, I guess that anything is possible, but for right now my heart is 100% into it.
Ok, that's all I guess. Did you like this interview and do you have anything to add? Thanks for taking the time answering my questions!
Thanks so much for the interview and for the opportunity to speak my mind. Thanks also to all of you for reading this. You can contact me through Smorgasbord Records. Always keep the true spirit of hardcore alive!
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