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April 19, 2007

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It is an honor for me to bring you this interview with Darren Walters of Jade Tree Records. Jade Tree has long been one of two of my biggest influences when it comes to indie labels that I absolutely respect. I think one of the things that have always stood out for me is the fact that Jade Tree has put out so many incredible records from so many different genres that no matter what new release they have coming out, I have to check it out. They were also one of the first labels that I noticed to take the packaging of the release just as seriously as the music itself. Jade Tree is best known for the legendary releases they put out throughout the mid to late 90’s which included some of my favorite records by acts like Lifetime, Jets to Brazil, Kid Dynamite, and Promise Ring. Since that period though, Jade Tree have continued to put out some of the most exciting bands in independent music including Strike Anywhere, Loved Ones, Snowden, These Arms are Snakes, Lords, Denali, From Ashes Rise, Pedro the Lion/David Bazan, and so much more.

Darren was kind enough to share his thoughts on music sales in a post file-sharing/post Tower Records world, the start of Jade Tree, their best selling album, and what they look for in a band. I will admit that he kind of did a cop out answer when it came to the question of the one release he would suggest that everyone take a listen to. Since he didn’t answer that question, I ask all of you to pick your favorite Jade Tree release in their catalog and add it as a comment. My favorite Jade Tree release would have to be Jets to Brazil “Four Cornered Night”, but Lifetime “Jerseys Best Dancers” is a close second.

And I forgot to ask Darren when the Against Me / Lucero split was intended to come out. I think they were supposed to put it out. Maybe I can get him to answer that and add it to the interview.

Thanks Darren for taking the time to do this interview. I urge everyone to keep an eye on this label as they are seriously one of the best independent labels on the planet.

IndieHQ: When did your label start? What inspired you to start the label? Where is your label based? Do you do the label full time? What don’t most people know about you/your label?
JadeTree: 1990 In Wilmington, DE. Part-time until about 1996 (post-Lifetime/Promise Ring) when we went full-time. Both Tim and I had done 7” labels and we both wanted to do something more involved and on a bigger scale. It was Tim’s idea to start another label and he was able to pull me in as his partner. What inspired both of us were the bigger DIY labels like Dischord and Touch & Go that had grown fairly large without compromise. We thought that if we could do that without relying on specific genre, philosophy, or geographic commitment, that the sky would be the limit.

I suppose that something that most people do not know about the label is that Tim is also a realtor and that I am teaching in Music Industry department of Drexel University.

IndieHQ: What active bands are on your label? (please include myspace urls or website urls)
David Bazan
From Ashes Rise
Fucked Up
Micah P. Hinson
New Mexican Disaster Squad
Paint it Black
Panda & Angel
These Arms are Snakes
Young Widows

IndieHQ: What do you look for in a band? Have you ever signed a band from a demo? What advice do you have for bands trying to get your attention? What band or bands would you kill to work with?
JadeTree: The best way to get my attention is to be a good, honest, and hard working Artist. That makes all of the difference. In this day and age everyone wants thing to come easy and they will not. I respect the Artist who make it a point to write good music but also struggle to get their artistry heard. In general those types of people are hard to find-they are even more scarce in the music business.

Usually a demo doesn’t work. I wish I could say why that is?°¦it just doesn’t. The difference would be if I heard the demo on my own or got it from a friend. Again, I’m not sure why that makes a difference, but it does.

I would kill to work with Government Warning. I’ve been digging them a lot lately. I also really like The Boy Most Likely To as well. I could go on and on, but there’s two for you.

IndieHQ: What one marketing/promotions tool do you find is your greatest asset? What vendor/manufacturer that you work with do you recommend the most?
JadeTree: I think that hands down that the internet in general is the biggest asset anyone can have these days. It has changed everything and will continue to be at the forefront of change for years to come.

I think the best manufacturers for Jade Tree have been Mercantile (printing) and MCOM (CDS) as well as Alan Douches who does most of the mastering for Jade Tree records.

IndieHQ: What release is your best selling title? How many has it sold?
JadeTree: Jets to Brazil “Orange Rhyming Dictionary” 100K+

IndieHQ: Music retail is tough these days, what steps, if any, have you taken to adapt in the post-file-sharing/post-Tower Records music retail landscape?
JadeTree: We have made sure to get more involved in the digital arena on every front available to us. I truly believe that the future is being made now and I refuse to let Jade Tree fall behind.

IndieHQ: Who handles your distribution?
JadeTree: Touch & Go / ADA.

IndieHQ: What do you see as the future of music sales?
JadeTree: Clearly, it will be limited in the physical world and will gravitate towards the digital and online worlds. As DRM (Digital Rights Management) is removed, I believe this will grow to epic proportions.

IndieHQ: Are your releases available on Emusic? Why or Why not? Are your releases available for streaming on sites like Rhapsody, Napster, and Urge? Why or Why not?
JadeTree: Yes, they are available on:
iTunes (US, Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand)
Best Buy
and Music Gremlin

If they are not on any other sites it is only because the contracts are still being negotiated. To not have Jade Tree Artists included on these sites (in a very general sense) would just be silly at this point in history unless I am given a good reason not to have our music sold through them (poor sales, economics, treatment, etc.)

IndieHQ: If you could tell the world to buy one release on your label, which one would you tell people to purchase? Why?
JadeTree: Hmm, that is one thing I can’t say. All of the Artists are dear to my heart! I think that the ones that are the most popular with people are my faves too. I’ll just leave it at that.


Virgil Dickerson