Victory Records has been a huge name in the many genres of music. This is a question I guess every interview will ask so could you please tell us how you got started?
- Victory started as a hobby in 1989 and in 2003 it became a full time company.
Has the company always been based in and/or around the Chicago area? You originally grew up in the city and everything?
And what bands did you grow up listening to?
- There was so many you know some of the first concerts I went to when I was like 12 and 13 were Youth Brigade, Social Distortion, The Exploited, Cro Mags, Bad Brains all the old school punk and hardcore bands.
What is your favorite part about living in Chicago?
- It's a great city and there is so much ethnic diversity you know if you appreciate other peoples cultures you will never get bored.
How do you feel about the music community here in Chicago?
- I think it's great I think it's pretty amazing you can go to so many different shows and see so many different types of people it just shows how many people are listening to good music.
What separates this city from all others regarding music, lifestyle.. etc.?
- When there used to places that were so different from one another I think the internet has changed all of that. I think and not just in America but worldwide you could have a kid from Tokyo who dresses like us who likes the same music who talks the same way. I think it has really brought people together.
What are you favorite unsigned bands out there right now?
- There is a few things we are looking at but to be very honest we have so many great bands right now we are not hurting to sign new bands so we're not looking as hard as maybe some other labels that need to beef up there rosters. We're just really fortunate to have the great bands that we do have.
It has been very unfortunate with what has happened with Bayside and The Junior Varsity how has the entire staff been taking that?
- Well I think especially the younger employees are more upset because some of them it's the first time they are dealing with the death of anyone. Some of them still have there Grandparents, Mom's, and Dad's. I'm 34 and you know I've lost family members so you know I've dealt with some of those things. But when you are 21, 22, or 23 and you are as close with the bands as close as we are and all the sudden you come into work one day and there is an e-mail from Tony saying something terrible had happened different people are going to react in different ways. I mean every single one of us is beyond upset about that because it is someone you worked with, it was someone who was part of the family. One day you are here e-mailing them at 1 in the morning and then seven hours later they aren't around anymore. It's one of those things that if you really think about it six months from now you're still going to be upset. But the best thing we can try to do is keep there legacies alive. When Raybeez from Warzone died we put the Raybeez logo on all of our releases and we are going to change that and and create a different logo and a special web site just for the other people that this has happened with. Because now that this has happened with Johnny Beatz you know we are going to create a different logo and we will honor any Victory artist when that happens. Unfortunately death is something we all have to deal with. I think the best thing anyone can do is try to keep there legacy alive. It's just a real shame man, it makes people really sad.
Is there any particular reason why it seems like just about any Victory band gets a deal with the label for there side projects and / or other projects that have formed. In example Grade breaks up and Black Maria gets a deal, Shawn and John leave Taking Back Sunday and Straylight Run gets a deal, Count The Stars breaks up and ActionAction gets a deal. I'm pretty sure that is a contract issue..?
- Sometimes but you know sometimes it isn't, there has been people that have gone on to do different types of music would be interested in and there are some people that when there new project comes together they automatically assume I'm going to put it out even before I had heard it. Every situation is different. But you know if you were to call Kyle of The Black Maria up who was in Grade Kyle and I have been close friends for many many years, so every situation is different.
Why did you choose a Bulldog as your logo?
- It happened before I started Victory I had gotten sick for about a week and I had a dream I started a record label and the logo was a Bulldog. So I've never owned a Bulldog, growing up we never owned one, I don't plan on getting one it was just one of those things where I had a dream and the logo was a Bulldog.
Victory Records is a very diverse label almost a little something for everyone is that how you would describe your music taste? Like, your music taste is your bands?
- Yeah but Victory has gotten bigger over the years so this isn't a fascist regime that we run over here. It's a democratic egalitarian state so when we sign a band everyone on staff here is involved. So for example there has been an instance where I really like something and then five or six people on staff are like "we might want to think about this" maybe they knew something about that band you know there could have been a variety of reasons but if the majority is not into signing an artist then we won't do it. It's not fair for the artist. An artist needs every person at the label fighting for them.
Yeah I also read somewhere that you guys do not have an A&R person.
- No it's everybody. Like right over there is a box of demo's that came in the last week every couple nights I'll take home a crate and yeah there is only 30 or 40 things in there so twice a week I'll do that. It takes me an hour or two hours I'll load stuff in and I'll listen to it. To me it's fun. And you know these people that take the time out of there lives to send Victory Records a package the least I can do is listen to what they sent to me. It's a tribute to me that they care enough about the company to send us there stuff. So I would feel like an asshole if I wouldn't listen. It's the least I could do. And I really enjoy it, I find it to be a lot of fun.
With any labels there is also a lot of rumors and controversy. Is there any particular ones you'd like to clear up or touch on?
- No because anything that is real people would know about. You know, most rumors are created on the internet and it's by spiteful, depressed you know, humans that aren't focusing on productive things for themselves. I go to shows and I talk to people and thatís all I can gauge what I do I listen to the demo's that come in and when people need help, or ask for assistance for something even if we don't do business with them I always go out of my way. Those are the only things I can control. If somebody is upset because we are selling to many records then I'm sorry but that is my job and you know I will be aggressive as I have to for the artists that are on my label. I think there are a lot of labels out there that do not work that hard they are not that aggressive and they don't work 18 hours a day like I do. So, if that makes me a bad guy, then yeah, I'm a bad guy. I love what we do more then I ever have in the history and everyone that works here feels the same way. The whole debate about major labels and indies I don't care about major labels and I don't care about indie labels I only care about Victory.
How do you think the label has been in the UK? What have you done to try and involve the UK and the rest of Europe? Would you ever sign any bands from over there? (You already have a few right now)
- Yeah we have a few now and it doesn't matter where the bands are from. We have more bands from Canada then any of the other labels. So if we like the band we are going to sign them. We have an office in London. We opened up that office a little over two years ago. I mean, Europe is very important to us. The UK is like another big state, in our opinion. We don't try to have these global constraints. Canada to me mind as well be apart of the United States, the UK mind as well should be apart of North America. We all speak the same language and everybody likes the same stuff. That is one of the positive
things about the internet, it's the great equalizer.
How many shows do you go to weekly? Do you check out all of your bands when they come through town?
- (other shows) It depends. For our bands it is pretty much mandatory for us to check them out when they come through.
Well are there any other bands outside of your label that you guys check out?
- Yeah we are checking out bands all the time.
If you could change anything about the music community what would it be and why?
- I think that there is to many people that are negative. There is to many people at other labels who are worried about what other labels are doing. I think there is a lot of people that lack originality that don't do there own thing. I think there is a lot of problems I think what would make it better for everybody if people just stopped worrying about what everybody else was doing, and just worried about there own world. So if you started, we'll call it "your label" and you started that tomorrow don't worry about what Victory is doing, don't worry about X Y and Z worry about your own stuff and try to do the best that you can with the bands that you represent and focus on them 24/7 and if they are good, and people hear about them you'll be able to kick ass because this record label stuff isn't rocket science. I didn't go to school. I went to high school and I moved in the city when I was 17. I left my house early so I'm not a rocket scientist. I don't have a degree, I've never had a resume. I don't come from a rich family. I started Victory with 800 bucks. It does hurt my feelings when people make things up because I feel like I'm fighting the independent war for everybody. I'm the ultimate underdog because if Victory Records goes out of business I've never done anything in my life I have no degree I have nothing to fall back on.
What can Victory Records offer bands other labels can not?
- Our tenacity, our knowledge of the market place and the fact that we are not just in the US we are in other countries and when you sign up with us you have 45 people that will kill to make things happen. At the end of the day I really think anybody who is into music these days with the internet and all the information that is out there is smart enough to know who is winning and who isn't. I don't even feel like trying to sell somebody on what we do is the best thing. When artists come to us they already have it in there minds that they want to be with us. Having to convince somebody means that they don't realize it. And if they do not realize it and already believe that we are the place for them then we are not the right place for them. It's either you believe or you do not believe. We don't have time for non believers.
Do you feel that Victory Records can better off a band then a major label?
- I don't like to think like that we are in competition with ourselves. We need to continually raise the bar on what we do.
Is there any major label you would consider working with?
- No, and there is no reason to. We are doing everything we want to do as a 100% independent label. We don't need those guys for anything.
I mean for the most part I always hear bad things about major labels. When I interviewed he Dillinger Escape Plan they were really naive to speak with any major labels, they were lied to as well about the situation. They were getting close and closer to signing and everything looked good but when they started seeing the intricacies of the there contract it turned them off. Are major labels really that shady with business?
- They are a large corporation so I don't know. I own an independent label. All I know is that our results speak for themselves and every single major record label company is downsizing and getting rid of staff when my company grows every year. I really don't care what those people to because what they are doing doesn't work. I try to pay attention to people that are doing productive and exciting things and I don't find what those people do exciting or productive. It's just a different thing, they are a very big corporation they are not in touch with what is going on with the streets. You know, the guys that are in charge of those companies they don't go to some show in a kids basement. I love that. Some of my guys will say they love shows at the big venues, my favorite shows are the ones where it is 90 degrees in some kids garage and there is 30 people watching that nobody knows about to me that is the most exciting thing man. I was like that when I was 12 years old and I started seeing stuff. That has never changed. It's always cooler to see something before it's big.
What is your favorite web pages on the internet?
- I don't really spend to much time on the internet I mean people will forward me things. Our web page I have to look at all the time. There is always things I need to know about like where is Between The Buried And Me playing tonight where is Action Action playing next week. To be honest my home page is the Victory site for my own information reasons.
Do you have a least favorite web page?
- I'm not on Myspace, I don't use Yahoo or anything like that because I have my own Victory e-mail. It's a good question though because when I interview people I ask them what web sites they go to for example one of my questions will be what are the first five web sites you go to every morning.
How closely do you pay attention to online zines maybe even Alternative Press, Spin, Rollingstone or any other magazines?
- Rollingstone and Spin and all the corporate news stand magazines I don't pay attention too. Alternative Press we pay attention too. We like those people. Mike Shea the editor I've known him since that magazine was basically photocopied and that was what 15 or 16 years ago that was before I started Victory. Rolling Stone doesn't care about our stuff. So why would I ever care what they wrote about? I do basically look at every website that is out there. Like on a Saturday or Sunday morning I have about a 100 or so various websites from the more melodic to the more metal type websites. So Iíll go and catch up on the news, see what records are coming out on which labels. Which bands are touring together. The gossip stuff I try to stay away from because it is usually not accurate. Iím always interested in which bands are in the studio, who has records coming out, what tours are being put together. I think itís such a great thing because there will be so many times if Iím up early on a Saturday morning by noon Iíve written down 15 things I want to go to the store and buy, and these are things obviously on other labels. I buy stuff on other labels all the time.
Do you have any quality control procedures on any of your releases? In example: do you listen to a CD and think ďitís not up to parĒ and release it anyways with out question?
- We usually leave it up to the bands. If a band has finished there album and that is what they have delivered to us you know we are going to follow there wishes. And if they say look you know this is our finished record then that is the finished record. I think we work with smart bands that know what they are doing. Iím not going to insult an artist and say ďyo you gotta go back in the studio.Ē We donít do that.
The funny thing is I have noticed that a lot of other labels, and I wonít name any, but they are telling there bands to go back and re-record songs.
- Yeah thatís just not what we do. I want to give my artists enough respect. If that is what they deliver then my job is to go out and make it happen. Iím not going to tell somebody we donít like your songs. How can we say that? That is there songs, thatís not my song. If thatís how you want your song represented we will try as hard as we can to make it work.
Yeah independent labels are supposed to be about ďindependent thinkingĒ so when these so called indie labels are telling there bands to go back into the studio and re do everything to me that is no different then a major label.
- Well I mean the bands are the ones that are in the van every night dragging there stuff out of the trailer, up late and driving through bad weather. If somebody says ďTony you gave us the money to make this, and weíre happy with it and we love it.Ē Then my job is to go out and do the work. Now if somebody says ďhey I really want your feedback, we need help.Ē I mean Iíll have a million ideas but Iím not going to start telling people what to do before they open that door for me.
Have you ever rejected a band only to have them release a record on a rival label and become huge? If so, which band or bands?
- No that has never happened.
How do you feel about up streaming? Like what Fueled By Ramen and The Milita Group are doing? And incubator labels like East / West?
- If that is what people want to do that is there choice. I mean I donít really have an opinion on it. Itís not anything I would ever do.
What is the deal with Rise records? Do you own them?
- No, we just distribute them.
Hawthorne Heights new album recently leaked on the internet. Were you really upset when you heard the news of the leak? Do you think this greatly effects the selling of an album?
- Itís not on any of the major P2P sites. Some of the songs were not even accurate. There are a few out there that are correct but they are already on samplers that we had made. And we want people to hear those. If 20,000 people heard the songs that are out there that is great because that is 20,000 less people that are going to get a sampler.
How do you try to stop the leaking of an album?
- We donít focus on it to much. Well the Hawthorne album that is coming out in February that is a big release for us. I just donít understand why somebody would for any band on any label would if itís 2 Ĺ or 3 months before the record is coming out why somebody would be so mean spirited just to do something like that. I donít get that, I think it is negative. I just donít understand why somebody would want to do that.
What other independent labels do you respect in the music business?
- Any label that is getting up early staying up late and doing every single thing they can do for the bands is a label that I will stand by.
Have you ever heard of Level-Plane records or Robotic Empire?
- Yeah sure.
I really do like a lot of Victory bands. But people are always like ďwell Robotic Empire and Level-Plane is operated from a one room apartment so we will give them more credibility.Ē It seems as soon as kids see any sort of success of a label they take themselves off the so called ďbandwagon.Ē Sometimes even these band on these labels will make a jump to a bigger label and kids usually will not say anything.
- No I think those bands should stick with there labels. I think it is a shame those bands didnít stay with there label that they started with. Now if they didnít have a contract I guess they are free to go. If they did have a contract, they should have stayed. People need to be loyal man. If you sign with a label then why would you want to leave? You signed an agreement. That is just being loyal and being a good person. There is a lot of bands that forget that sometimes and I think it is bad karma because at the end of the day if you are working with someone that has half a brain and your band has great music and a great fan base and people are coming to your shows you are going to sell records. What is wrong with that? People get greedy and forget where they came from and that is a natural human instinct. But nine and half times out of ten the people that jump ship regret it in the end. Because they are not doing it for all the right reasons. They are doing it because of money. When you do things because of money it is almost always the wrong reason. You should do things because of your passion, or of your beliefs. If you are doing it just because of money you are always going to get screwed. If someone ends up overpaying for you or spending to much money you are going to be the one that suffers.
Thatís another reason I have always been attached to Victory is you guys can have a band like Ringworm and sign a band like June.
- Yeah and Iím happy you realize that because I think sometimes I think people forget that. They only think about Hawthorne or some of the other bands that are in that area. If you look at our entire roster, you interviewed Dillinger last week right? (Yeah).. Well Between The Buried And Me played right before them. That place was packed and it was a great show. We love the bands we have and I think we have something for everyone as long as you are into rock music. We go from something like Action Action which is more alternative sounding to Darkest Hour, Between The Buried And Me to June to Hawthorne to Aiden to Bayside to Atreyu.. I think we have the best variety.
Well that is pretty much it for my interview, thank you for taking the time to answer the questions. Is there anything else you would like to say?
- People need to be more positive, and more supportive. Without independent music all of us are screwed so I see people fighting each other and disdaining each other and criticizing people they donít know. I just think it is a real shame because everybody can help each other collectively. Iíd rather see all these independent labels do well then more Beyonce and Madonna records selling.
Thanks. I really appreciate that you took the time out to actually read it. I know it's long but it's very interesting to say the least.
I have never had the oppurtunity to speak with any other record label owners... When I e-mailed Tony at 12:30 the night before he e-mailed me early the next morning and I interviewed him that day at 3:30. To me -- that says a lot about someones character.
yeah, it was pretty interesting. i mean it seems like he knows what he wants. i also like when you mentioned about the diversity of the bands on the label. i'm still mad about the thursday dilemma though
yeah, it was pretty interesting. i mean it seems like he knows what he wants. i also like when you mentioned about the diversity of the bands on the label. i'm still mad about the thursday dilemma though
I meant to ask about that... it didn't even cross my mind. I had always been curious what the situation with that was... I also wanted to ask about the Atreyu ordeal as well but ... I forgot.
I'm curious as to why he talks so much about being positive and stuff, even though Victory does so much stupid shit. Like they released a commercial on MTV that you guys may have seen. For Hawthorne Heights. The commercial said, "Pop music is DEAD. REAL music is our passion." If he's so damn positive, why does he have to run shit like that? Bashing an entire genre to sell records?
Oh, and then there was this marvelous poster that I wish I could find. It was basically a picture of him followed by a bunch of bullshit like "We are not some faceless corporation. We do not have a boardroom filled with fifty year old men talking about profits," or some such ingnorance like that. Way to be positive.
This guy and his label gets too much shit from people.
He seems like a stand up guy, and I completely respect him.
Good interview Pat.
Yeah, he gets trashed more than is neccessary. He makes it pretty clear that he loves music, and I think the fact that some people don't neccesarily agree with his musical tastes is what seperates them.
I like a lot of what he had to say in this interview. I just don't necessarily believe it.
Well, he bashes major lables, both in that poster and in the interview. His view, or so it seemed, is that major labels push solely for sales, regardless of music style or talent. He made i fairly clear that he and his staff have to like a band to sign them, whereas a major looks entirely at the profit end of it (see Ashley Simpson).