The music-lover in LA has taken some serious hits in recent years. In terms of venues, Jabberjaw, the Alligator Lounge, and most recently, the Anti-Club have folded. The El Rey is in serious danger as a result of fascistic neighbors who more or less conspired to fuck the place up by walling off an emergency exit. But, being a hermit, the declining night life didn't hurt me as much as another recent and tragic event: No Life Records closing down. Existing in unfortunately close proximity to Aron's Records, home of one of the best selections of rock (etc.) music in LA and of a generally indifferent-to-spiteful staff, No Life refused to stock pandering commercial music nor to deal in re-sold promotional copies of albums, promos that so easily wreck bands' finances while lining the pockets of greedy rock crits. While holding so strictly ethical (and, some mistakenly argued, elitist) a stance, the people at No Life were one of the best things about the store-- friendly and totally unpretentious, loving music and attempting to build a community around it rather than bludgeon the "uncool" and elevate themselves and their egos. This little touch might not mean much to you, but this basic decency as essential to the philosophy of a bunch of hipsters earned No Life a place in my heart. The pinball, the Atari, the free coffee, the old couch all made for a homey atmosphere. The instores were great: Elliott Smith played to probably 40 people at No Life in May of '97, a year before he (deservedly) played to a billion on live TV; I was also able to catch sounds from home in the form of New Radiant Storm King; my best friend was introduced to the wonders of Rizzo at No Life. So it's about the music, and about the love. For both these reasons, No Life will be missed. We can look forward with hope to whatever Chuck, Peter, and the gang do next. Till then, we mourn.
Independent art can be hard to find. By its nature, it is elusive and almost always underground. The access to independent art is so very limited that often it just becomes ignored. Back in 1994, several friends and I searched around town for an album called There's Nothing Wrong With Love by Built to Spill. After trying many stores, we just couldn't find this record from this great and quite accessible band. The fruitless search for this one album led to the concept of opening a record shop.
As a record label, No Life started in Boston in 1992. I had put out several records and figured that I should just use the label name for the store. With lots of research into the market and after drawing up a business plan, I realized I would need a good deal of money to make this thing happen. After a few years in the music business, I knew a number of people who had done well for themselves while still believing in the power of independent music. One pitch meeting and I had the investors I needed, so I was off to buy records and prepare for an opening. (Contrary to popular belief, No Life was NEVER owned by ANY major label.)
The opening day was a huge success with That Dog, Franklin Bruno, Further and Emily's Sassy Lime all performing live. The live show trend would be our immediate trademark as we often had about 15 bands a month playing at the shop. All in all we had about 450 bands play free, all-ages shows at the shop in our short 3 year existence.
I have no regrets about how things went down. We tried our best to make a comfortable place and make people happy. Ultimately, our customers could go buy their underground music other places when 1998 rolled around. The big fish eats the little fish, that's capitalism.