Recess Records Annals of Time: Art, Live Music

12483914_10153376411168295_1349220654_n4th Street Vine has partnered with Todd Congelliere and his Recess Records label to host a collection of Recess related ad panel art created by Todd himself, plus miscellaneous Recess ephemera and surprises,  This art show will be curated by “4th Street Vine owner and veteran rock and roller, Jim Ritson, along with San Pedro artist, musician, author, Water Under The Bridge Records owner, and former SST Records graphics guru, Craig Ibarra, and the main Recess man himself, Todd Congelliere.” The show will run through Friday, March 11, 2016

Every Saturday night during the exhibit, there will be live music from the Recess Records family, including: Toys That Kill, The Underground Railroad To Candyland, Lenguas Largas, plus Mike Watt + the Secondmen, The Alley Cats, The Last, Saccharine Trust, and The Neptunas. Check out the schedule below. Todd and Halbadal will also be doing their slapstick “Recess Records Podycast” live and direct somewhere on the premises

4th Street Vine will be providing an awesome array of delicious craft beers and wines for affordable prices. 2142 E. 4th St. Long Beach, California, 90814


► SATURDAY, JANUARY 16 )))
• The Neptunas
• Bombón
• Baby J & Friend

► SATURDAY, JANUARY 23 )))
• Alley Cats
• The Last
• Clown Sounds

► SATURDAY, JANUARY 30 )))
• tba
• Childbirth (SEA)
• Lisa Prank (SEA)
( No Pop-Up-Recess-Store at this event )

► SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6 )))
• The Underground Railroad to Candyland
• White Night
• Die Group

► SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 20 )))
• Snowcones
• Mike Watt + the Secondmen
• Meat Market (OAK)

► SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 27 )))
• Toys That Kill (new song set)
• Saccharine Trust
(opening poem by Murray Thomas)
• Radiohearts

► SATURDAY, MARCH 5 ))) — CLOSING SHOW
• F.Y.P
• DFL
• Assquatch

Enjoy this intriguing conversation between Craig Ibarra and Todd about Recess’s past, its art, and its philosophy.

HOW AND WHEN DID RECESS RECORDS BEGIN?

In 1988, I made demo tapes of the F.Y.P songs that I recorded on my 4-track and sold them at skate contests. Eventually, I wanted to put out some vinyl, so I re-recorded some of the songs and got the F.Y.P “Extra Credit” 7-inch pressed, in 1990. I was doing the layout over at World Industries (skateboard company) and noticed they had a clip art rub off sheet with the teeter totter logo in one of their art drawers. So I slapped it on the back cover and called it Recess Records and took the art to the printer. I wasn’t planning on doing a full-fledged label at the time. I just wanted it to appear that it was on a record label. I had a record label, I guess.

I NOTICED THAT SPIKE JONZE TOOK THE COVER PHOTO OF YOU HOLDING A REPORT CARD ON THE FIRST PRESSING OF THE F.Y.P “EXTRA CREDIT” 7-INCH. WHAT WAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THIS DUDE?

He came to my ramp a lot when we were younger to take photos for skateboard magazines. We ended up hanging out a lot. We actually made a lot of music on my 4-track, together. Anything I was making at the time, like the Liberty “Horror” video, he would help me with. I never thought he would end up a major motion picture director, but he sure did have tons of talent even back then. He has what you’d call, “rippin style,” holmes.

WAS THERE ANY ONE PERSON WHO HELPED YOU GET YOUR FIRST RECORD GOING OR DID YOU GO ABOUT RESEARCHING AND FINDING OUT HOW TO DO IT ON YOUR OWN?

O from Olivelawn, Fluf, skate photographer, told me everything about putting out vinyl. I mean everything! It was super good to ask someone, “Hey, I wanna put out a 7-inch. What do I do?” and this huge floodgate opens. I think he knows everything about everything.

Also, Calvin Johnson from K Records and Beat Happening offered to distribute it before anyone or at least before I even knew what it was. K really pushed it without really having to. They justified it by saying they loved the underdog. Calvin would play it on his radio show and quote the lyrics after the song. Shit you really shouldn’t do with that godawful 7-inch! They eventually asked me to do a record for their label and my response was, “Really? Why?!”

AT WHAT TIME DID YOU DECIDE THAT YOU WERE GOING TO GO FULL SPEED AHEAD WITH CONTINUING TO RELEASE RECORDS ON YOUR OWN LABEL AND WHY?

I really didn’t make a decision in one day. I think once records started selling, and I got money from that to do more records, is when I thought maybe I could keep doing this. I have become spoiled due to the fact that I don’t have to deal with all the bullshit that other bands have to deal with by working with a bigger label. I know most bands think the only way to “make it” is through some sort of signing or other ritual to a big label, but it could be the exact opposite. Once I noticed that, it was real official.

ROBBIE O’CONNELL (SAN PEDRO SKATEPARK ASSOCIATION ACCOMPLICE) GAVE THIS QUESTION TO ME. WERE YOU STILL A PRO SKATEBOARDER DURING THE EARLY DAYS OF THE LABEL AND WHAT PRODUCED THE SMALLEST AMOUNT OF FULFILLMENT, THE SKATEBOARD INDUSTRY OR THE MUSIC/ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY? WHY AND HOW? AND DON’T LIE.

Damn. Robbie is like the Geraldo (Rivera) of Pedro. Now, this is just my experience with all of this, but the Skateboard industry gave me the smallest amount of fulfillment. I think being a vert skater in the early ‘90s, as opposed to a street skater, was like being the red-headed stepchild or punk in the ‘80s for that matter. But that was actually the fulfilling part. Being an outsider is good for the soul – even if people called you fat all the time! I hated the business part. Plus, some of the skaters I had to travel with were spoiled assholes. They made thousands of dollars a month to ride a skateboard and didn’t appreciate that. All they did was complain about their shoe sponsors. I saw people buying houses and boats with money that was supposed to go to me, but I didn’t complain ’cause I was young and dumb, which was way better than whatever they were. It was hard to have fun once I turned pro. Skateboarding itself is one of the funnest things you can do, but somehow that world made it not as fun. I don’t feel an ounce of bitterness though, ’cause I got some great experiences. Plus, it supplied me with enough dough to put out my first record!

I know the music industry is fucked up beyond belief, but I never had to deal with it. I was fortunate enough to be able to color outside the lines. I always felt like the tamale-man in a world operated by Taco bell. “Tamales! Tamales!”

WHO WAS THE FIRST BAND BESIDES F.Y.P THAT YOU DECIDED TO RELEASE AND WHY?

The Garden Weasel 7-inch was the first band that I wasn’t in that I released. They were originally called WD-40 and my friend Jim Shang, who I skated with a lot, was in the band and talked to me about the other dudes having a new band. Although I dug the band, I think the real reason I put it out is ’cause Jim introduced me to tons of punk that I have been forever grateful for. I remember him bringing over a tape of (Black Flag) “Damaged” and we had to sneak into my sister’s room to listen to it, ’cause I didn’t have a tape player. He jumped on my sister’s bed while doing his best air guitar impression of Greg Ginn and it became an impression that would never leave me, due to how great it was and the fact that I was scared that my sister would come home and see this dude jumping on her bed. Please don’t tell her!

HAS RECESS RECORDS MORE OR LESS ALWAYS BEEN A BEDROOM BUSINESS?

Well, I had a warehouse in Gardena for about three years in the ‘90s, but before and after that it’s been quite literally a bedroom business.

RECESS RECORDS HAS ALWAYS HAD A PLAYFUL CHILD-LIKE CHARM WITH THE ADS, RECORD COVERS, LABEL NAME AND OVERALL VIBE. WHAT IS THE REASON FOR THIS AND DO YOU THINK YOU WILL EVER OUTGROW IT?

Are you trying to tell me to grow up?! Well, the only art I feel like doing is immature stuff. When the bands themselves do their own art it’s not as childish. I think the reason was ’cause of F.Y.P. That was a “I hate school” type of project.

IS RECESS RECORDS A FULL TIME JOB FOR YOU? DO YOU HANDLE ALL ASPECTS OF THE LABEL SUCH AS LAYOUT AND DESIGN, ADVERTISING, MAIL ORDER, ACCOUNTING, ROYALTIES, ETC?

Yes, right now it’s my full time job and I handle pretty much everything with some help from Cheryl (Groff) and sometimes, Jack (Blast).

ARE THERE ANY CONTRACTS INVOLVED WITH RECORDS THAT YOU RELEASE?

Out of all the active releases and bands right now, I have contracts with one of them. I know it’s kind of dumb to not have contracts, but I feel like if a band doesn’t want me to keep doing the record, then I don’t wanna do it too. I’d feel too weird having it in the catalog if the band was not happy.

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP AND WHY AND WHEN DID YOU MAKE THE MOVE TO SAN PEDRO?

I grew up in Torrance ’cause my parents had me there and lived there. I moved to San Pedro in 1995 or ‘96. I lived in the (Recess Playpen) record store we had for awhile (in Pedro) and then eventually moved into a house.

CAN YOU FIND RECESS RECORDS IN RECORD STORES WORLDWIDE?

Yeah, sure. Not saturated in every store — more of the mom and pops.

WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF DOING THE LABEL?

Although there are tons of things I get out of this — just to be able to archive some of my favorite bands is enough. For instance, when the Arrivals asked me to do their next album, my heart started beating real fast and my palms became damp. They were one of my favorite non-Recess bands at the time. The album eventually came out and it was so much better than even I expected. Shit like that makes me happy to be alive. Plus, I still get excited to stuff records into sleeves. 20 years of doing that would make the normal person sick of it, but with this, I get to stop every once and a while, you know, ’cause I’m the boss and shit, and romantically gaze at the cover and vinyl, and think — OK, I’ll shut up.

WHO HAS HELPED YOU THE MOST WITH THE LABEL AND WHO ARE SOME OF THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE INSPIRED YOU TO KEEP THE LABEL GOING?

Halbadal has helped the most for sure! He was a full time employee for a few years. Hopefully we can get him back, soon. Tito was working full time for one hot minute, too. He even put in some of his savings to help with the 1999 Recess stimulus plan, which I still owe him for. Don’t remind him!

HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT HANGING IT UP?

I think everyone has thoughts of hanging something up at some point, but I really can’t remember ever thinking that. I have thought I was gonna go out of business ’cause of the way music was headed, or that I was too stupid to run a business, which is true, but fuck it.

I’ve been in debt for years and yet I can still do this ’cause I love it. I feel that as long as I don’t get bored, then I can do it. I feel overly confident that this would never bore me! I’ve always found ways to get out of debt, and then back in debt, or ways to get out of a sticky situation that might be harmful to the label. It’s almost like having a child. If you care about the child that you had then you’re gonna feed that fucking kid!

WHAT IS THE BEST SELLING RECORD THAT YOU HAVE EVER RELEASED?

F.Y.P “Dance My Dunce.” The Propagandhi/I Spy 10-inch and the Dwarves releases sold well too. Currently the Screeching Weasel re-issues are goin real fast. Plus there seems to be a bigger built-in audience for the label nowadays, so most everything I’ve been putting out needs to be re-pressed sooner than later.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IT IS THAT KEPT YOU FROM GOING UNDER, UNLIKE SO MANY OTHER GREAT LABELS THROUGHOUT THE PAST 25 YEARS OR SO?

I dunno? Maybe I’m too dumb to quit. I think it’s ’cause I always wanna do it. I get too much from it. I had to get a job at our distributor about 14 years ago just to keep it going. I don’t expect to always be doing it full time ’cause music changes like the Dylan song, but I feel like I always find something to help keep it going.

I just heard that Touch & Go is pretty much screeching to a halt. I guess the Butthole Surfers sued them and it wiped them out or something. Get it? Wipe out? Aren’t I a ball? No?! It works two ways, one “wipe out” as in surfers and “wipe” is also something done to the butthole after emptying it. I don’t know facts, but that’s just crazy! They have records that are all over mainstream radio and they probably sell really good. I’ve never had a massive selling record so I don’t know. It’s very mysterious why Recess has survived the record label holocaust, I guess I’m very fortunate.

Plus, I don’t fuck around with Heroin or Meth. That might’ve helped.

HAS THE COMPUTER AGE HELPED YOU OR HURT YOU AND DO YOU MAKE MUCH PROFIT OFF OF COMPUTER DOWNLOADS?

It’s helped for sure! I don’t think I would be able to do it like I am now without the Internet. Its super cheap to spread the word around about shows and releases on the web. I don’t give a fuck about downloading. I do get paid when people download legally, but I know not everyone does that, but I don’t mind ’cause if they get into the music then somewhere down the line it will pay off. Whether they pay to get into a show or buy a t-shirt, or just coming to their fucking senses and realize they should support something that made them feel a certain way.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ANYONE WHO IS THINKING ABOUT STARTING A LABEL?

Well, I’m still learning as I go, so I feel uncomfortable giving advice, but as long as you love a band, or whatever, then you can’t go wrong. You can lose your whole savings and still have no regrets that way, because you had something to do with releasing something by the band that you love. If you start it up as a “good business investment” and I was your accountant, I would strongly advise you to invest in the stock market instead. I never said I’d be a good accountant. 

Elise Thompson

About Elise Thompson

Born and raised in the great city of Los Angeles, this food, culture and music-loving punk rock angeleno wants to turn you on to all that is funky, delicious and weird in the city. While Elise holds down the fort, her adventurous alter ego Kiki Maraschino is known to roam the country in search of catfish.
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