The Thursday Agitation: Jon Solomon

Over the years, Jon Solomon has released an abundance of striking music. My Pal God, the label through which I came to know him, has encompassed everything from precise, experimental rock to retrospectives of offbeat pop groups to compilations of skewed holiday music. More recently, Solomon began a new label, Comedy Minus One, which has released music from the likes of Bottomless Pit, Karl Hendricks, Obits, and Oxford Collapse. While both labels share a high quality of music, each has a very distinct aesthetic — and it’s the differences between the two labels that provided a starting point to this conversation.

[Previous interviews in this series can be found here.]

What led you to create Comedy Minus One as opposed to releasing those albums under the My Pal God banner?
You know how some comic books and long-running series try to hit a reset button and launch a second time from “year zero?”

I didn’t want to do that.

For a long while, I had been interested in trying my hand at something new, but I didn’t want to do anything that would brush aside the past work that had been put in to My Pal God.

Starting a new label gave me the freedom to do a number of things that were not possible with a label that was so firmly entrenched.

So, Comedy Minus One was born.

What do you see as the distinctions between the two labels?
Well, Comedy Minus One is able to utilize current technology in a way I was not able to do with My Pal God – Facebook, MySpace, electronic mailing list programs, on-line credit card processing, a blog, all that jazz.

With a long lead time between when I first agreed to put out the Bottomless Pit album “Hammer of the Gods” and the release date, I was able to sit down and draw up how I wanted to do everything and put those ideas into process. It was extremely exciting to build off this blank slate.

So far, Comedy Minus One’s releases have ranged from CDs to vinyl to digital-only; how do you and the artists determine which format(s) will be the most appropriate for a particular album or single?
Well, in a number of cases, I’ve been dealing with distributing records that weren’t available digitally. Those digital releases have helped fund physical releases and I think there will continue to be a split between the physical and the digital going forward. There are a vast number of out of print records I hope to be able to make available again to a new audience.

The lineup of artists who have released music on Comedy Minus One to date is an impressive one, with a history that could be called “storied”. To what extent do you find that the audience for new music from, say, Karl Hendricks or Rebecca Gates is comprised of people already familiar with their work as opposed to new listeners?
To some degree, it is reverse engineering. The Bottomless Pit record was better-received and further-recognized than I ever expected and I hope that allowed some folks to go back and discover the Silkworm catalogue. The same may be the case with the Crust Brothers digital release, with younger Pavement fans taking a similar step.

Karl Hendricks is a long-standing friend and when he told me he had put out his most recent album on his own (“The World Says”), I just wanted to make sure that the record was available digitally and reaching additional ears that may have had no idea this record existed.

I do think this Rebecca Gates remix record (which I hope to have a release date on soon) may interest people who aren’t familiar with the label at this point, but this release fits with the welcome trend of getting to work with some of my favorite musicians and people. Rebecca’s remixers are a varied lot and that should hopefully also bring people in who are interested in the artists that have reworked her source material.

Besides your record label work, you also DJ on WPRB and maintain a blog on Princeton basketball; is there a similar community-minded approach to all three?
There is more of a community built around a independent radio station or a college basketball team in central New Jersey than there is an independent record label. The label is a fairly solitary operation, with packages taped and records bundled early in the morning or late at night. Sometimes there’s crossover between the three (mostly between the label and the station) but the only connection I can draw is that independent music and basketball are things I both got into over two decades ago and are intrinsically tied to my day-to-day life at this point.

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