this site is still in the works.
As you may or may not have realised we are a record label rather than an artist so here is some helpful tips to get around this site.
The blog section contains all the up and coming events for the label and the artists.
In the music section you will find mainly our recent releases. The title section contains the album/e.p/single title and the label section contains the artists name/band name.
Any other information can be found at www.rubberrecords.com.au
A Half-remembered And Embellished History or Stupid Is As Stupid Does
by Lauren Zoric
Empires dont start out as grand schemes; usually they begin as stupid ideas that somehow get out of control. And so it is with Rubber Records. Ever wondered just what the Rubber moniker is supposed to mean (apart from the neat pun in referring to the Rubber band roster)? The man who became the labels impresario, David Vodicka, dubbed his pet project, begun while studying the dry but nonetheless useful area of Arts/Law, Rubber Chicken. Fortunately, the designer putting together the artwork for the first seven inch decided the label name was ridiculous, and shortened it to the somewhat less slapstick title we know today.
Rubber came into existence around the same period as a number of other small independent labels sprouted up in Melbourne in the late eighties. Australia actually has a strong history of independent music making dating back to the late seventies, with labels like Sydneys Waterfront, Red Eye, Phantom and Citadel as well as Melbourne institutions like Au Go Go and Missing Link and Adelaide imprints such as Greasy Pop and Mr Spaceman. Rubbers late eighties indie label companions were Summershine, who produced a plethora of fuzzy UK oriented pop and Dogmeat which concentrated on Detroit/Geelong garage rock. For the ignorant and enthusiastic, it didnt seem out of the question to just up and start your own record label.
I had this wild thought, I was doing radio, RRR at the time, [the wildly juvenile and usually hilarious cult hit show Fast Fictions] and we were playing all these bands, which were even more obscure at the time, youd find all these records in various record shops around town and youd go, this is great, why isnt this being released in Australia? Because youre young and naive and got no real idea, Vodicka says.
I went to England in 87 and travelled to Paris for the weekend and was looking in record shops and I found this record by this French band The Surrenders, produced by this guy who was in The Barracudas, who I liked a lot, so I bought it and it was so obscure it was like my own personal thing, and it was good! I took it upon myself to write to them and lo and behold they wrote back and said, "Oh yes, wed love to come to Australia" and they really couldnt speak much English, but they said, "Is there anyone in Australia who would put our record out?" and so I went into Au Go Go which was my normal record store of choice and said, hey, would you guys be interested in putting this out and they said, "Why dont you do it, we dont want to do it."
In my usual stupid style as a youngster, I went oh, okay and assembled my group of friends and said, "Why dont we do this, itll be huge well sell all these records" and knowing absolutely nothing about the industry or how anything worked we pressed it with this company called Powderworks that went broke just as we were doing it and all the stupid things were happening, we got the covers printed and sat down and glued several hundred of them. Promptly didnt sell any at all and couldnt figure out why. Surely all you have to do is play it on the radio and people will buy it? So it was a bit of a disaster and lost a couple of thousand bucks.
But it was not all bad. Vodicka had just established himself as a repository for stupid rock n roll ideas that any other foolish hopefuls might have. Next up was a Melbourne Beatles-pop type outfit, The Believers and an American band, The Boys From Nowhere.
I went overseas after I finished my uni course while The Believers stuff was supposed to be happening and when I got back nothing had really happened after three months. I thought they might have got the cover artwork done. It turned out, just as I was getting it pressed, that the main guy had actually gone bananas. He was locked up in Larundel and had a psychotic episode, running around naked. The other two guys didnt tell me that he was the one who sang all the songs. I said, "Well, cant you just do some shows? What about some promotion?" and they said, "Oh no, were over that whole promotion thing man, weve done that, were not going to do that again." It just fell over. So the first thing I did was this French band and the next was this band that doesnt exist and wont do anything. But The Boys From Nowhere thing, I ended up visiting the guy in the States and it was distributed by Au Go Go [who were an independent distributor as well as a label at the time] and we did about 2000 of that.
Curiously enough, Rubber Records stumbled onto the phenomena which has largely disappeared, known as the overseas collectors market. There was a real hunger for it at that point, Vodicka recalls. People became temporarily enamoured with the obscurity of the Australian thing. So I did that. Records from Prisonshake, The Pontiac Brothers, The Liquor Giants and The Coal Porters eventuated from the ability to sell Australian imprints back to American and European record collector geeks. It was during this time that a connection was forged with the US label, Frontier.
Because I was doing radio, Id go off overseas and interview people I liked, Ward Dotson, Sid Griffin of The Long Riders who were both on this label, Frontier. So I ended up becoming friends with those guys. I saw this thing in The Bob magazine saying Ward Dotsons got a new band and it said, send off to this address for a demo tape. So I sent him a note and he sent me the tape and it had Just My Cry on it and it was great so I said, "Can I put this out?" I was in LA and Sid Griffin had done his first post-Long Ryders thing and he said, why dont you put this out? So all of a sudden I had all these releases.
However, it was a lonely experience and didnt really satisfy the rock n roll ideal of hanging out with arty musicians and drinking the bands beer rider at gigs. I was exporting most of the stock, I wasnt selling it locally. So it was kinda like, what am I doing a record label for if Im just going to sell it back to where I licensed it from?
Somewhere around this time Rubber jumped into bed with the newly set up Mushroom Distribution Services. People had mistaken Rubber for an operation that knew what it was doing. And also, importantly, as Vodicka adds, They offered to pay for the manufacturing. So I went to MDS and at that point MDS was a two person company stuck at the back of the Mushroom building exporting out of the corner. And then I did a Prisonshake album which sold a couple of thousand, did okay. Mostly export I think. So that was going along interestingly and at that point I was doing my articles, being a lawyer, pottering away. I ended up doing The BoWeevils, because I didnt have a local act. Which is some kind of endorsement. However, from there the local Rubber band roster started to kick in.
I was a big fan of the Dave Laing [Dogmeat label] stuff, Hoss, God (Joel Silbershers first band at 16 who put out the classic rock "n roll 7, My Pal) they probably were at that point, which Au Go Go did and I knew Joel, it was a fairly small scene, and he introduced me to Scott Crawford who was a youngster at 17, a friend of his younger sister, and Joel had produced an album of stuff by them. So I came to do [KISS-derived, long-haired, teenage guitar solo band] The Affected 7, Livin A Lie.
People might have visited the Rubber premises/lawyers officecreamhands/ Vodicka abode in Victoria Street, Albert Park. Staffed by young volunteers, lured by the promise of glamour and prestige, they were more often answering phones, stuffing envelopes and being completely disillusioned by the meagre offerings of names on the door at Rubber band gigs and the occasional stolen beer from a rider. While the Rubber label had legs, it didnt seem to be necessarily going anywhere.
I still didnt think we were achieving anything, Vodicka says. The direction was a bit all over the shop. It was a bit of a juggling of finances the whole time. We had The American Pie record [a 1994 compilation of US indie rock including tracks from Guided By Voices, Archers of Loaf, Rocket From the Crypt, a bunch of San Diego bands and the usual Rubber suspects] and that was starting to get there, that sold a couple of thousand.
I was a big fan of [Chuck Skatt/Charles Jenkins first band] The Mad Turks and we did [his follow up group] The Ice Cream Hands, which is funny because only now are people starting to come around. And [country singer] Sherry Rich I picked up around that time, so I started to develop the roster and I think it really started to kick in to gear when we got ["60s apologists] Even, which started to get more of a profile and was becoming successful. Which means that national radio actually started to play something local and current and glossy magazines filed slavering reviews.
By now Rubber had slipped between the sheets at rival indie distributor, Shock. Joel Silbersher had put out a solo record, Melonman, The Affected had mutated into the trio, Acer and Rubber had gained a weird kind of softie reputation for putting out pedestrian pop records by the likes of such memorable bands as the Genes, St Jude, Humbug and Oscarlima.
There was also a more hardcore element in Chicago/Albini flavoured outfit Ricaine and the bottom end heaviness of Tweezer, while The Underground Lovers took refuge from the horrors of major labels by setting up their own imprint through Rubber, Mainstream, and releasing two classic melancholy pop albums, Rushall Station and Ways TBurn.
It was Cordrazine who really changed the picture for Rubber. While having indie cred to burn is all well and good, Rubber had never had a genuine underground hit record. Nor did it expect to when former Summershine label band Blindsides guitarist/vocalist Hamish Cowan was signed up and proceeded to record an ep of suicidal ballads. The Time To Leave ep with its lead track Crazy took off out of nowhere onto national radio. Hamish Cowans jazz/soul sounds and soaring falsetto vocals struck chords with would-be wrist-slashers everywhere.
To celebrate, Rubber moved offices to its current Spencer Street corner position, with fanciful, as yet unrealised ideas about converting the downstairs basement into rehearsal rooms / demo recording studio. With the help of new label distributors, BMG, Cordrazines debut album From Here to Wherever debuted top twenty in the national mainstream charts, providing Rubber with the cash flow to finance typically obscure but strangely compelling releases from besuited undertakers The Dumb Earth, catchy oddball outfit, Bzark, and the superb compilation Original Seeds, which details the exact sources from where Nick Cave robbed all his ideas.
As Vodicka asserts, Ive never been groundbreaking, but who cares? A commitment to stupidity as strong as that of Rubber Records is not something one encounters every day. It just goes to show what you can do with a Law degree, a weekly public radio show and an inordinate supply of patience and good faith.