In today’s mainstream record industry, it has become increasingly hard for new music to circulate and grow. But there are still a few rebels who are dedicated to making their mark. Badmaster Records is one of those companies. Their list of bands is relatively small, but in their minds, small is good.
Founded in March 2005 by John Emory, 29, Badmaster is an eclectic homegrown business that started from scratch. Its fan base is slowly growing along with its music and point of view. The tunes produced by Badmaster are almost impossible to define, said Emory, who describes it as “weird pop, art-damaged punk and noise.” Bands like Pony Pants and Northern Liberties are among the artists they produce, all of whom tend to be cohesive both stylistically and emotionally.
“It started with bands we had relationships with, so we’re a close family and share a certain mindset,” Emory said.
Many of the bands, in fact, live together. Emory said he started Badmaster because “it had always been a dream, and there was a lack of what we wanted to see.” He was looking for something new with a sense of urgency.
During the day, Emory works as a coordinator for the Philly Fringe Festival. He graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, a visual arts school, and moved to West Philadelphia in 2004. He immediately became part of the Philadelphia music scene, booking bands and seeing shows. He said he is proud of his bands, yearns for the days when music was more original and artistic, and wants to revolutionize what people hear.
Badmaster produces music that is raw and brash, focusing on the music itself rather than on image or sales. They are a part of what is known as the “noise music” scene in Philadelphia.
Emory said the company wants to go back to the old days in every way possible, by ignoring commercial pressure and releasing music on vinyl.
“We are taking cues from early punk [labels] like Dischord and SST,” Emory said. “They fostered the scene and now we want to make Philly a nationally recognized music scene.”
Badmaster will soon phase out CDs to focus mainly on producing music on vinyl. “We want people to buy turntables and listen to music on wax like it’s meant be,” Emory said. Though it might run counter to what the iPod generation expects, Emory doesn’t care. Plus, Badmaster is also looking into digital distribution that will accompany its vinyl products.
What makes Badmaster unique is its passion for live music. Concerts are a way of life for Emory. “I started going to shows when I was 16, and I’ve never stopped,” he said.
Badmaster hosts shows every week. Emory attends nearly all of them, as does his business partner, Brendan O’Connor. The label’s band members also frequent the concerts.
At a recent show at Philly venue The Rotunda, Memes, a band featuring Chris Giordani, Anthony Perrett and Chad Huntington, played for a group of adoring young fans. “I’m here because I heard people are gonna smash their heads into microphones,” fan Natalie Mering said. But the scene was hardly mainstream, and devoid of drinking or drugs. “In the music scene, we are the cockroaches,” she said. “If the goth kids are the rats, noise music is the cockroach.”
Max McCormack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.