I started self-publishing with my friend Rob Syers while we were in high school way back in 1986, under the name Skin Graft Comix. We were kids living in the suburbs outside of St. Louis who had just discovered punk rock. It was a reflection of our enthusiasm and our way of getting involved. In 1991, I moved to Chicago and started the record label to put out a comic book and 7-inch single set by Dazzling Killmen.
What inspired you to start a record label, other than putting out the 7-inch?
I was starting to get interested in music that wasn't as easy to pinpoint as punk.... I didn't really know how far it would go, but right from the start, I had a general impression of what I wanted the label to be. I knew that a lot of the music and things I was interested in doing were not going to have a broad appeal. The intention, though, was never to create a label that released music to irritate people, to be a noise label, or to do the opposite of what all of the others were doing, simply to get a reaction. Humor was a big part of what I wanted to inject into the label.
How would you define the Skin Graft aesthetic/sound?
There was a [compilation] that Skin Graft put out called Camp Skin Graft, and I included this sticker with a big bold "( ! )" on it and the words "Now Wave." I came up with that term as sort of a joke when people would call up asking me what kind of music we released, because I was tired of saying, "Oh, it's sort of punk, experimental, progressive, jazz, electronic, blah, blah, blah." Since then, I've seen "Now Wave" used to describe lots of the new crop of experimentalesque bands, and that always tickles me a little bit. We get called no wave and art rock a lot [too], and I think those fit.
What would you like to see happen with the label in the future?
It's really important to keep reinventing the label to keep it interesting. We started as a comic book, started doing record and comic sets, then full-lengths, then absurdly packaged records, then these Oops! show events--then the website [www.skingraftrecords.com] started to come together, and now we're going back to the comic roots, and Brian Peterson has reinvented Oops!
How many times have you thought Skin Graft would go under?
That's sort of a constant. But the record label has been around for 10 years, and if you go back to the fanzine days, I've been doing Skin Graft for over half of my life now. Even if it was financially impossible to put out records, I'm confident that Skin Graft would carry on in one way or another. The secret to our longevity is that I don't know when to quit.