Interview: Chris Hansen of No Sleep Records

Sean recently spoke with Chris Hansen, President of No Sleep Records, am independent label in California. Since forming the label in late 2006, it has become home to bands such as, The Wonder Years, La Dispute, Balance and Composure and All or Nothing.

Chris talked about his background, the aims of No Sleep Records, his thoughts on illegal downloading, their distribution deal with RevDistribution and more.

ATP: Tell us a bit about your background. Had you worked within the music industry before starting No Sleep Records?
Chris: Well, in 2003 after I decided college wasn't for me I started working at Smartpunk.com/Fearless Records doing Mail Order, shortly after I was in charge of buying and adding products to the then start-up company. After working there for a year I moved to Salt Lake City (SLC) for a break from California (CA). While in SLC I worked at a local record store, so was still surrounded by what I love most, music. I eventually moved back to CA and got a warehouse gig at Revelation Records just pulling orders and what not, then again got over CA and moved to Kansas City for a bit. In Kansas City I just did freelance graphic and web design, and yet again moved back to CA. I was a total nomad for a bit ha. Then in mid 2006 I was offered a job at Trustkill Records as the art director, and worked there until mid 2008, after I moved back home to CA.

ATP: Why did you begin No Sleep Records and what were your aims when you started the label?
C: No Sleep was something I had wanted to start for quite awhile. I’d had various failed attempts of past labels that just never got started, never put out the first releases and everything. When I was driving to NJ for the job at Trustkill, I was hanging with a friend in KC he told me he had a new band and they had an EP (Our American Cousin EP, which is a great 90's style indie/emo record) ready to be released. Knowing I wanted to get something started finally, he asked if I wanted to release it, and I did as my very first release. What I wanted to create with the label was something that was a very diverse roster so everyone could stand out on their own and be unique to the label in a way. I also wanted to release records that to me were pieces of art. I hoped that everyone that listened would enjoy what they were hearing, and to somehow return to what music use to stand for and bring some integrity back to the world.

ATP: Have these aims changed with changes that happening within the music industry? For example the use of digital becoming more dominant.
C: Yes and no. I haven't really changed things yet, but with the digital takeover, I feel there will be less art to music, which is a sad thing to me. Music is art and should be accompanied by pieces of art however they are presented.

ATP: What are your thoughts on people illegally downloading and sharing your releases?
C: This is going to happen no matter what, sadly. In a way it gets music out there, more people get in to a band and hopefully will go see the band play in their town. But it is still stealing from the bands pocket at the end of the day, and leads to bands not being able to tour or be a band… The days of bands being able to be a full time career are done when you get down to it; that’s why so many bands release a couple albums and are done, no more days of being around for years upon years.

ATP: Ultimately what are the pros and cons of illegal filesharing for an independent label, like No Sleep?
C: Yes, sharing music gets the music out there more, but it makes it hard to be able to keep releasing records. Kids don't understand all the costs that go into doing a release, especially if it’s a vinyl only release. Releasing a 7" especially, there is no profit to be made really. If you sell all the records in the pressing and you’ll basically (if you are lucky) come back even and with a few extra bucks for some food. If you are going to steal, at-least do the labels and bands a favor and buy some shirts, or better yet, steal from the larger labels that have no integrity and just release music to make a buck. Support the labels and bands that are trying to make a difference and release music with meaning. Help show that you can still have integrity in this industry and still succeed.

ATP: Like a lot of labels, you've given away label samplers in the past. Do you think releases like this can contribute to a labels success?
C: Getting music heard is one of the biggest impacts, I think. There’s so much crap in this industry these days that you need to show what is GOOD music, show what people should be listening to, show kids bands that truly love what they are doing; not just doing something horrible to make a buck from the impressionable minds of kids who sadly don't know what good music is.

ATP: When you started the label, was there any specific bands you wanted to work with?
C: Not really, just bands I thought were of quality. And whatever genre, also, since I like most stuff, and never wanted to be stuck as a "indie" or a "hardcore" or a "metal" only label, etc., kind of thing.

ATP: What do you look for in potential signings?
C: Hard-working, dedicated people that truly love the music they are releasing, and not just doing something that is a fad or to make a quick buck.

ATP: Your label has distribution deal with RevDistribution, which distrubutes your releases worldwide. How affective is this to the label?
C: I love everyone at RevDistribution, the best group of people out there for the indies. I feel, anything that helps get music out there more is good in my book, and when its working with great people, all the better.

ATP: How has 2009 been for No Sleep Records in terms of releases and signings?
C: 2009 has been somewhat crazy, the label and bands have grown and everything so much its crazy, stressful, but crazy... And the ability to reach out to bands that I love with members of bands on No Sleep, and for them to say yes to me releasing something has been an amazing experience.

ATP: What does No Sleep have planned for the future?
C: Keep releasing records, try and keep integrity while doing so, which most labels have lost these days. Just keep surviving as long as No Sleep can keep its head above water.

ATP: What releases can we expect in 2010? I hear the new Wonder Years record is expected to be released in January.
C: Some of the stuff that I can speak of would be the new Wonder Years full length, a split between Balance and Composure and Tigers Jaw, a Double Vision digital EP (and a full length later on), The Frontier(s) 7", Monument to Thieves full length, and who knows what else!

ATP: Any final words?
C: Listen to music, support bands and indies by buying their music, wether physical or digitally, help keep bands to be able to do what they love and to be able to eat at the same time. And lastely, throw stuff at Brokencyde.

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