Jonathan Poneman is the owner and co-founder of Sub Pop Records, a little local label you've probably heard of that's celebrating its 14th anniversary at the Crocodile on April 14. Everyone in this town seems to have an opinion or personal story about Poneman, and the volume of urban lore make it hard to distill what's painfully true and what's silly rock gossip. I can personally attest to the truth of three Poneman facts, though: He's ridiculously health-conscious, he loves roller coasters, and he still gets really excited listening to the Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed.
Have you ever experienced that phenomenon of disliking a record upon first listen, but then finding yourself blown away once you give it a second chance?
"I think that is a super-common experience in my case. Well, not so much anymore. But back in my 40s--when I was a young person--I was challenged by music and I'd be taken aback by new stuff. But now that I'm in my golden years nothing shocks me anymore." [Laughs.]
So there's this old Seattle rumor that you passed on Liz Phair's demo tapes before Exile in Guyville came out. Is that true?
"Passed on?! Oh my God, definitely not true. I was in Chicago and met up with [producer] Brad Wood, who turned me on to her about a week after she signed to Matador. I was all like [mock weeping], 'Why did you sign to Matador?!' I loved and still love that record.
What accomplishment are you most proud of in the 14 years since you started Sub Pop?
"Bruce Pavitt actually started Sub Pop. The accomplishment I'm most proud of is simply the fact that we're 14 years and going strong."
Does it bother you that The Stranger picks on you a lot?
"If it's not in the movie listings, I don't know about it."