Interview with Andy Dixon/Ache Records

Andy Dixon is the man behind Secret Mommy. He also runs a little label called Ache Records. Maybe you have heard of it? Mr. Dixon was kind enough to answer a few questions.

DOA: Can you shed a little light on exactly who Andy Dixon is? Where did you grow up, and what was your childhood like?

Andy Dixon: Well, I grew up in North Vancouver, a middle class suburb of Vancouver. I’m the son of two accountants. My childhood was great. I was into visual art at a really early age and my friends and I used to draw comics, listen to Suicidal Tendencies, and skateboard. My parents bought me my first guitar when I was 9, and I stuck to it very intensely.

DOA: What got you into punk rock, and what made you decide to start up Ache?

AD: Aesthetically, the transition from say, Suicidal Tendencies and DRI to Born Against isn’t too much of a stretch. I think just through older kids and older brothers, I started getting into early Bad Religion and stuff like that, and I felt like I could connect to it instantly. It felt way more important then metal, and it felt real; void of theatrics and spectacle. It’s a big leap, more then a decade later when I started Ache. I really don’t know how that happened. I was 20, and I guess I had a bit of extra money, since I was still living with my parents. My friends were in a band called Hot Hot Heat and they had only released a cassette at the time. I was like ‘hey, I’ll press a 7″ for you’ and it took off from there, I guess. I’m not a business man though, I never really wanted to be involved with “this side” of making music, since it’s a weird situation to be in.

DOA: How did you go from a band like DBS to something like Secret Mommy?

AD: I dunno. Honestly it didn’t seem so weird at the time. I think my personality type helped. I seem to be the kind of person that’s looking for new stuff – more interesting forms of artistic expression. It’s funny, d.b.s. had a syndrome where we where always a little behind in getting records out, so what people heard from us and assumed was current usually wasn’t. Sometimes when we toured on a new album we played all new unreleased stuff, which the audience was usually pretty pissed about. My point is that, because of that, by the time d.b.s. had released our last EP, we where all into some stuff that people might not have guessed we were into.

DOA: You say that you never wanted to get into the business side of music, but here you are with a flourishing and highly regarded record label. What makes you stick with it if you have an aversion towards it?

AD: Despite disliking the business side of things, there is nothing more satisfying then knowing that you helped put out some amazing music. It’s a great feeling to be able to help a fellow artist in that way. Plus, I’d like to think of Ache as a way to combat some of that business stuff. I try to stay away from those kind of specific avenues, like schmoozing at SXSW, shameless promotion and whatnot, so in a way, maybe I’m trying to use Ache as a model for inspiration to get things back down to a DIY level.

DOA: How do you see the face of DIY changing in our scene? You mentioned schmoozing at SXSW, which is extremely prevalent, and only furthers the ass kissing that goes on between pr people, labels, and bands trying to make it “big” in punk rock, which is a poor goal in the first place.

AD: Yeah, I think you nailed it…I mean, the scene can’t function with so much careerism involved. Years ago it was completely unheard of to make money off of putting on shows, and now it’s just assumed that the promoter is taking money from the door. It just ends up meaning higher ticket prices for the kids. It’s totally not what I think making music is about. To approach aspects of making music like ‘okay, so how can I make money off of this’ is totally a fucked up concept to me. That kind of attitude really kills the idea of a support system. I can’t break even on releases, and people might not care about that like they used to. The idea of “business” functioning in the scene as a community is being damaged.

DOA: It also seems as if bands/labels feel punk rock owes them something, especially in the way of that “big” break. Most young bands don’t understand that before it took years and even then you were lucky if the pressing of your seven inch sold five hundred copies. I think a large part of that is due to myspace and mass consumerism. How do you feel about the push of labels to promote bands via their myspace pages/social networking sites instead of the good old fashioned way of touring for ten months out of the year?

AD: I think that myspace and those kinds of ideas are actually a great way to keep some kind of communal vibe alive. I think the the scenario you’re talking about is occurring because of the simple fact that music is being created with the idea of ‘making it’ in mind. That’s not a punk ideal at all, and, in my opinion it completely invalidates your creative output. Yeah, I agree that consumerism is a plague these days, but at the same time, I can’t sell more then a couple hundred of anything my label puts out because everything is so over saturated and over hyped. It’s almost impossible to find decent music these days. We have to swim through the sea of shitty made-to-move-units music.

DOA: Do you think social networking sites have helped Ache out at all? How has sites like Limewire helped or hurt you?

AD: I wish I knew! I wish the stats on something like that could be tallied up for me. I would like to think that it’s helped more then hindered. I’ve met a lot of cool people via myspace, and it’s made things like distribution and booking tours a little easier. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not a die hard myspace advocate or anything – in many ways it’s a terrible thing, especially how self promoting it seems to make some people. But, when not abused, it can be a pretty simple and basic tool for getting in touch with like minded people, which is the basis for achieving a sense of community, I think. I’m not sure about what Soulseek and Napster do. In one way, I love the idea of sharing music, and taking away the idea of defining success with dollar amounts. It’s a great way to help promote the idea that music should be made purely for the expression of the artist. However, with that said, as a guy who runs a label, and invests a shitload of money and energy into putting out records, I’d like to think that there is a certain amount of respect for that out there, and that if you dig an album I’ve put out and can afford it, you should buy it. I just want to be able to break even on my releases and be able to put out the next one. That sounds a bit like a double standard, I suppose…But it’s not really. I’m basically saying that, within the “scene” we should support each others endeavors and artistic ventures; help each other out. But outside of that, for the people who make cookie cutter music to make it big, get rich and famous, then fuck them. Buy Fugazi, downlaod Good Charlotte.

DOA: I gathered from the lyrics to the Winning LP that you’re a politically minded person. Where do your politics lie, and how do you try to make a difference through your art/music?

AD: That’s a pretty broad question! I really don’t know if “politically minded” is the right term. I mean, I think about things, problems, and I try my best to create less problems for the world. I’m also not sure it’s a question of trying to make a difference…It’s more like I write about these things because that’s what I’m thinking about at the time. It’s socially conscious music because I’m conscious of, and thinking about social problems. If there is a basic and general idea to Winning’s stance, is to simply get people thinking about the problems that exist both in the DIY music community, and the world.

DOA: What are the problems that you see in the DIY/punk rock community, and what other ills do you see in society that you would like righted?

AD: I really see a problem with a lack of activism in the scene. I don’t necessarily mean picket lines and protests, just any kind of action. Zine making, DIY printing, or even just talking about things. It seems like people are too afraid to take a risk on sounding cheesy or preachy, so we’re letting businesses walk all over us and get away with anything. It’s frustrating to go to a show and see everyone taking part in things that I know they should know better about. For instance, smoking. All the health stuff aside, what bothers me about it is that you’re giving X amount of dollars to fucking Phillip Morris, one of the most underhanded corporations of all time, responsible for lying and murdering millions of people. Or watching a huge percentage of people driving their cars to a show in a neighborhood they live in and could have easily walked or biked to. Or people buying a bath mat at Walmart instead of the mom and pop down the street so they can save 25 cents. These are the kinds of things that I think we should be talking about as a DIY and creative community, because right now we’re losing big time. It’s tough to bring stuff up like this, as people assume it means I think I’m perfect, which is totally untrue – I’m just as guilty as anyone else, but I think chatting about it, and being conscious of it is a good place to start changing.

DOA: Is there anything new coming up in the world of Andy Dixon? Anything you want to hype or some famous words you would like to end with?

AD: Yeah! I’ve got a design book coming out in the summer sometime…That’s actually about it. Things are slowing down a bit right now at camp Dixon.