A couple of years ago, John Mellencamp said, "Rock and roll is dead...and it ain't comin' back."
For a long time, I agreed with him. My friends and I pondered the possibility, and it's implications. Is rock and roll a sound, or an attitude? If it's an attitude, who's exhibiting it? Is it in the mainstream? Only off the radar? And is it really rock and roll, or has it simply become too watered down and compartmentalized/fragmented?
Then I caught onto a music scene happening in my own backyard; South St. Louis City. Much of it was coming from Big Muddy Records, a small label based in STL.
I chatted with label head Chris Baricevic recently...
RYAN MIFFLIN: Tell us a little about yourself.
CHRIS BARICEVIC: My name is Chris - I am a producer and a musician, and I run Big Muddy Records.
What is Big Muddy Records all about?
Big Muddy is a group of tight-knit musicians based in the South Side of St. Louis City. We share a love of American music and work to keep that tapestry growing with our own contributions.
Who are some of the artists you have on the label?
Our big artists right now are Bob Reuter's Alley Ghost, the Hooten Hallers, and the Rum Drum Ramblers. There's a bunch a bunch of fringe artists who are part of the family – acts like Jack Grelle, Brice & the Cookers, the Hobosexuals, Little Rachel, Irene Allen – we’ve got some new friends as of late, too, who I'm sure will be folded in the gang with the rest of 'em.
We're friends and family on the South Side. The list is always changing but the core group of us stays more or less the same.
I read Bob Reuter's interview with the Riverfront Times the other day and loved how much he specifically talked about real rock and roll. That's a conversation I have with my friends a lot; is rock and roll dead? By listening to the free albums on your website, it encourages me that real rock and roll is NOT dead. Did you set out to feature a specific sound, or attitude, or did the culture build itself as things grew?
A little bit of both – we know what we like, but a lot of life is just letting things happen. You can't change reality to fit your vision, but you can't change your vision to fit reality either. It's a combination. As for rock & roll, it's not dead. It's changed, and it's not what's necessarily "in" right now, but rock & roll is a past-time. It's as American as anything else. As long as there are derelict teenagers with too much glue on their hands, rock & roll's nose will come around to sniff it.
Rock & Roll is also, to me, more about an attitude than a sound. And in that respect, rock & roll is alive and well.
How, and why, did you start Big Muddy Records?
Big Muddy began in November of 2005 with the Vultures self-titled EP. Why? Why not?
What's it like to run a small, independent record label in St. Louis.
It's stressful, it's fun, it's hard work, it makes you go crazy, it puts strain on your relationships, it deepens your relationships, it's a horrible idea, there's no money anywhere, get a job, don't do it, do it, it's a great idea, it makes you go crazy, it's fun, it's stressful, it has its own intrinsic rewards, it's hard work, it's fun...
How can folks find out more about you and your artists?
Head over to www.bigmuddyrecords.com to buy our records and check out the free downloads, and follow us on www.facebook.com/bigmuddyrecords. Keep an eye and an ear to the ground and come visit South St. Louis!
Anything else you'd like to share?
The more we as individuals make the choice to speak with our money for the arts and for independent music, the more we enrich the world around us. We control our environment with the choices we make and the money we spend. If you want to live in a world with a culture that is healthy, lively, challenging, inspiring, and real in any way, then go to shows, buy independent records, turn off corporate radio, give pop music a break, buy a painting, take a picture – get involved in your own reality.
Music and art has turned into an out of season tomato – it looks big but there's no flavor and it's full of shit. The only ones who can change that are us.