It was a great year for Milwaukee record label Dusty Medical Records, which capped off its fifth year in existence with its 2010 releases appearing on a slew of year-end best of lists.
A half-decade after putting out Atlanta garage rockers the Black Lips' "Live @ WFMU", and somewhere between raising his two kids, booking touring bands and playing records as part of The Get Drunk and the Hot Dog! Classic Country Spin, Kevin Meyer has continued to churn out records that have drawn praise from the national music press.
Meyer said he stumbled into becoming a record label owner after spending years playing guitar and touring the country in acts like The Mistreaters and Night Terrors.
"I hadn't thought anything about starting a label but I had thought about putting out a DVD for the Black Lips with live footage and stuff like that," said Meyer. "The whole concept is kind of so far gone now because of YouTube but my original idea was to do kind of a music DVD like people used to do full of weird random stuff and live footage."
Meyer came across a recording of the band performing live on the legendary New York community radio station and fell in love with it.
"After hearing that live show there was something about it that was just perfect. It was really well recorded but there was something about it that was just chaotic. In the same conversation where I was asking them about doing the video... I mentioned this show and was like we should do an album," recalled Meyer,"They thought it was kind of a weird idea, but they went with it."
At the time putting out a live record of a radio studio performance from a relative little known band seemed risky, but the record eventually sold out and has become a collectors item as the Black Lips popularity has soared in recent years.
Meyer has never been afraid to take a few chances with his releases, as evidenced by his decision to put out local rockers Call Me Lightning's latest record "When I Am Gone My Blood Will Be Free" after the band's old label French Kiss Records declined it. Meyer said he was undeterred by the fact that Call Me Lightning's epic rock sound diverged from the typically garage rock rooted records he'd put out up to that point, and ultimately the album ended up drawing tremendous praise and landed a spot on The Onion's year end best of list.
"I definitely had wanted to work with Call Me Lightning for years. I am not one to have a brand identity or a sound. If anything the fact that there isn't a sound would be the sound," said Meyer, "I may not have had the confidence years ago to try and pull it off. But I've been doing it long enough to not give a f#ck and I've been doing it long enough where hopefully people start to trust your taste."
Meyer said running the label has allowed him to stay involved with music while he takes a break from performing, raises his family and finds less and less time to check out shows.
"Having the label and booking shows has definitely made it a lot less painful that I am not performing regularly. If I had just stopped playing and that was it, it would be sort of boring. But I have kept my self close to music as much as I can," Meyer said.
Meyer said he hopes to keep up the pace of his releases in 2011 with records from defunct Chicago punk band "The Guilty Pleasures" and locals Ramma Lamma and Drugs Dragons already in the works.
"Once I put out the first record it was like wow this is easy. Just finding music I wanted to put out became the focus after that. And really to this day that hasn't been hard either because there is always new bands or bands I really like that have a song or two extra laying around. Or I might be able to convince someone like Greg Cartwright to do something weird like a live acoustic show and they might just bite," Meyer said.
Meyer said he is happy to have had a part in helping put out music for acts like The Goodnight Loving, The Strange Boys and others who have grown and gone on to develop national followings. After celebrating the label's fifth anniversary earlier this year with a string of rowdy shows, Meyer he plans to keep the label going for years to come.
"The records are selling well and there is really no reason to stop. I am not all of a sudden going to stop liking music," said Meyer, "I'd like to think I could keep doing this for 15 or 20 more years."