Windian Records head Travis Jackson on the art of reissues

WINDIAN-LOGOWindian Records, based out of Washington D.C., is a fascinating label. Not only do they put out a seemingly bottomless trove of obscure (yet assuredly worth hearing) reissues, but they’ve been on the cutting edge of garage rock ‘n’ roll lately, releasing singles and LPs from everyone from Heavy Times to the Shirks.

Label head Travis Jackson was fantastic enough to take time out from following a crawling infant and working to answer some questions via e-mail about the label’s releases.

The label puts out both new releases — upcoming stuff from Ar-Kaics, the Hussy, and others — and reissues of some pretty crucial Penetrators records. How do you decide what new bands you’ll release? Is it just a case of what appeals to you, or do some bands seek you out at this point?

It’s a little bit of both. The majority of releases I either knew from touring or really dug the band and asked if we could do a single. I think the only band I’ve released through the demo process was the White Faces LP. I plan releases early for the whole year, and sometimes more is added.

With the reissues, I’ve always just reached out to one of the members work from their. Getting to work with The Penetrators releasing their whole singles collection, Testors, Bizarros, and Crushed Butler has been amazing. Definitely learned a lot. I’m more than ever focused on the reissue side of the label, it’s a lot more work and research, but it pays off when you put your imprint on some classic sounds.

When and how did the Penetrators’ connection come about?

I contacted Spike a couple years ago about reissuing the “Gotta Have Her” 45 and the hopes of putting together a Fred Records retrospective LP. The single did really well and we decided to just reissue everything from the Fred catalog on 7″ just as they came out initially (printed paper sleeves, promo sticker) 30 years ago. We are still working on getting to the Basement Anthology Volume 2, doing a lot of digging.

windian box setSome labels choose to just say, “Hey, trust us,” when it comes to singles series, but yours listed all the acts out in advance. Why do the latter, instead of the former?

When I decided to start a subscription series, I wanted the restrictions that come along with most other series to be limited. One of the most important is not signing off on a series you have no idea what you’re expecting. Every year you get to choose if you want the next set. So far we’ve had nearly an 85% turn around for #2, and I’m beyond flattered. I’m glad people were happy with the inaugural set, and I’m working really hard to make sure this years set tops last years.

One thing that worked really well was the reserve. I never liked paying a large sum and waiting for it to arrive. Also, pre-selling 200 box sets and getting 200 emails every week asking “where’s my records” will drive a healthy man to the brink of blowing their head off. So we decided to take reserves for $1 and when the set was ready to ship, sent an invoice. Their were some that couldn’t pay right away, but we held their set for 2 months in some cases until they could. Once reserved, it’s yours.

What’s involved in setting up a subscription series?

Packaging and sound. It has to be presented very well for someone to pull the trigger on 5 singles if they are only interested in say one of the bands. The response we received from our subscribers from the art of the factory sleeves, to the booklet, the button, the stamped mailing box it was shipped in was huge. I’ve been cut, folding, and glueing our sleeves since we started, and I was very involved with the art book as I designed and manufactured by hand. Sound I think is vital with this series as I hired an old friend Eric Brady to do the mastering. He’s done everything since for Windian as I was just blown away with his work on the series.

Going back to the reissues: your next reissue is a compilation of DC “stompers” called Capitol Rock ‘n’ Roll Volume 1: Garage Unknowns. Where did you pull the twenty tracks from?

This project has taken a lot of time and research. I’ve been working with Mark Opasanek who wrote a book about DC Rock and Roll a few years ago. A lot of them are from a killer comp that was released in ’84 called “Signed DC”. Ever since I heard that LP, I wanted to reissue it. The others I found through research or by talking to friends who had some original 45′s. This first volume is mostly 60′s stuff while volume 2 will focus on the 70′s punk scene (not Dischord) and volume 3 going back further to the 50′s focusing on early Rock and Roll and Soul.

Did you have an idea of what you wanted to included going into Capitol Rock ‘n’ Roll?

Link Wray. In my opinion, he is the most important musician to make music here in Washington DC. He performed “Rumble” for the first time live at a dance in Fredericksburg, Va., the town I grew up in. It’s amazing I even have the opportunity to release anything he ever recorded. I named my kid after him!

What should people know about Windian if they’re not already familiar with the label?

Born to lose, out to lunch.