Where are they now: Jeff Castelaz
I also manage an L.A. band called The Vacation. We met when they were playing a tiny little club called the Kibbitz Room, which is part of the famous Canter's Jewish Deli on Fairfax. Imagine a place that's a cross between Benji's Deli and the Y Not II on Lyon Street, that's the Kibbitz Room. Anyway, they blew my mind, and we hit it off. Rick Rubin and Dino Paredes at American / Warner just signed them, and their record is coming out in June.
Peter Walker is another client I am really proud of. His new album "Young Gravity" came out last week, and it's gorgeous, heart-wrenching stuff. He is the modern Neil Young, putting his heart through a distortion pedal.
OMC: And you have a label, too. Tell us a bit about Dangerbird Records.
JC: Dangerbird Records is something I've been building toward all my life, without even knowing it. It turns out that the credits transfer: after years of managing bands and producers, you can take what you've learned, and the relationships you have, to go higher up the food chain, to actually own the masters and take the risk of putting your money where your mouth is.
I was bored of the game of only managing bands on someone else's label. I wanted to take the execution skills I had, and put them to work at a higher level. To put it in plain English: I was sick of beating up product managers at major labels in an effort to incite them to do what I knew needed to be done, and in many cases was doing, with them simply signing off on the budgets. I figured: I can remove that cumbersome step, do it myself, with my own staff, and get to the end goal much quicker, with much more enjoyment. It was that simple: the old game got old and needed a tune up.
Now, the bands I manage and the artists on my label have a dynamic benefit: we are doing so much business in all corners of the music world with Cast Management and Dangerbird Records; we have our fingers in so many things, that everyone on both sides benefits.
As the music business has contorted and shifted, there's an amazing new playing field, where anyone with indicting music, a budget to hire the incredibly skilled and passionate former major label employees who are now operating as freelancers, and the skill to manage the process can make a real difference. You no longer have to be a major label to compete. In fact, lots of bands no longer want to be with a major. They won't drink the Kool-Aid any more, either from personal experience, or the nightmares of their friends in other bands. We're distributed by Warner's independent distribution arm, ADA, so we have a great machine to put our records through -- the same as Matador, Epitaph, Sub Pop, Saddle Creek.
Our roster includes Silversun Pickups, Peter Walker and Darker My Love from L.A.; a Dublin band, La Rocca; Joy Zipper from New York. We are in the middle of signing an incredible Australian band, and the guitarist from one of the most loved and respected indie bands. To use Silversun Pickups as an example: we took them from being a local L.A. band to a band that has sold thousands of copies of its debut EP, can sell hundreds of tickets away from home, and are poised beautifully for the release of their debut full-length in July. We put a lot of effort to get this band to where they are.
So, Dangerbird is run on that old Milwaukee spirit: trying to change the world, in a very simple way.
OMC: Do you get back to Milwaukee much and keep in touch with what's going on here?
JC: I wish I had more time on my hands. My younger brother, Dean, still lives there, so I keep an eye on things via him. I have not been to Milwaukee for a couple of years. Having two kids and two companies is pretty demanding on my schedule. When I travel, it's usually to New York, London or some other market where I have to check in on a band on tour.
I always -- always -- route Milwaukee into my artists' tours. Grandaddy, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Phoenix, Peter Walker, The Vacation -- I have routed all those bands through. And they always -- really -- call me and say 'Milwaukee went OFF!'
That said, I guess I should go to Milwaukee soon!
OMC: Is there anybody here you're keeping an eye on or are excited about?
JC: I am really excited about the entire city of Milwaukee, even though I have not been there for a while. I went to high school at Tech, and spent a lot of time in the warehouse district in the Third Ward, and it's cool to hear that so many businesses and residences are populating those once forgotten areas. The Public Market seems really cool.
Kristian and Malcolm from CK still operate Bionic Studios, and have produced a lot of music there, which excites me. A great studio and great, creative producers are the two most important elements in a music scene. Like many smaller cities, Milwaukee has had a lot of incredible club bands that never became great recording artists. It's easy to miss that distinction, but it's why the music of New Orleans, Austin, Athens and Minneapolis, Omaha and Seattle have transcended the clubs in those cities. People get progressively better at songwriting by recording and moving on to writing and recording new songs.
Specifically, I think the BoDeans are a lost treasure of Milwaukee. They should be hovering alongside Aimee Mann, Ben Harper, Los Lobos and Dave Matthews in the pantheon of smart, song-based rock and roll. They should be on the front page of iTunes and Yahoo Music, like Aimee. The idea that they could make a great record and return to form excites me. The kind of music they do is one of the few genres where age not only doesn't hurt you, it actually makes you more cool! Kurt and Sam have the voices of a generation, and I have a feeling that they have more in them.
They just need direction and support from a label and a producer -- something all the bands I've mentioned have, and have prospered from.
<< BackPage 3 of 3 (view all on one page)
Clayton said: I remember hearing some people in Milwaukee always talking sh*t about this guy, when he lived & operated here...just nonsense. Well, people here can say whatever they want...Jeff made things happen. He was good for the city and helped get the music scene here some currrent, relevent recognition that normally wouldn't have happened. Glad to hear he's continued to succeed!
Grayton said: You should really write a blog!!!
Newbomb Turk said: Silversun Pickups are cool and I saw them in NYC a while back. I'll pass on the Vacation, however.
silversun fan said: great article. i love the silversun pickups. hope you can route them to mke.
deancast said: right on bro! the vacation, the shys, the sun and rockin local band-motivo loco PLAY LIVE !!!! FRIDAY 12 MAY @ STONEFLY (FORMERLY ONOPA)!!! GET ON IT! BE THERE! WITNESS THIS SHOW FOR THE HISTORY GIG BOOKS!
Show me the other Talkback
6 comments about this article.
Post a comment / write a review.
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.