For the third installment of our "Label Profile" series (or whatever I'm calling it this issue) we focus on Daggerman Records, one of garagedom's finest and foremost proponents of real deal rock'n'roll. First rising to the surface during the "renaissance" of NYC garage-punk - meaning, the time period when DC Snipers and Livefastdie were reminding us that the Big Apple still had some punk rock left in it and the Dot Dash fest was a can't miss event - label head Eric Holmgren showed a knack for picking out the real rockers in the scene (VCR, the aforementioned LFD and DC Snipers) and backing that up with a taste of the "weird" as well (the stark post-punk of Imaginary Icons and an early Blank Dogs slab). And being more than just a "locals only" label, Daggerman also assisted in the reissues of both Hubble Bubble LPs and provided an outlet for Dan Melchior's post-Broke Revue recordings under the Das Menace moniker. Relocating to the Bay Area, Daggerman continued to aid his East Coast pals via the unreleased DC Snipers second LP, ex-Snipers offshoot Spider Bags and more, and also began to find the rock'n'roll gems buried in California soil. The Pizzas. Photobooth. Ebonics. And in matches made in heaven, releases by both The Outdoorsmen and Wild Thing. Yet another label I like to believe stresses quality over quantity, the Daggerman doesn't just pump singles out assembly-line style. He makes 'em count. With a great logo, a great catalog and discerning taste, Termbo is proud to provide some insight into the inner-workings of one of America's finest and perhaps most under-rated labels.

TB: So, the obvious first question is, how, when and why did you decide to start Daggerman?
DM: In 2005, I was living in New York and Iíd recently quit playing keyboards with the DC Snipers but was still going to lots of shows, buying records and I was into a lot of the garage and punk stuff going on. Mike Sniper used to badger me about starting a label because out of the group of degenerates we were hanging out with, I was one of the few with a regular job and a little bit of disposable income. So when the Shop Fronts broke up and Tom Dash started up the Imaginary Icons, I dug them a lot and took the plunge and put out their first single.

TB: Do you have any "mission statement" or specific criteria when looking for bands for the label? Do you get a lot of demos, or do you pretty much work with bands you know? Have you specifically "gone after" any band for a record?
DM: Thereís no particular mission statement or clear-cut goal with the label. Itís kind of weird because in my mind itís a punk label but Iíve put out some stuff that doesnít sound very punk at all. Itís just got to be something that Iíd want to buy for myself if another label put it out.
I get maybe three or four demos a month. Not a flood of them, but they come trickling in, usually via a CD or tape. It kind of sucks because my old tape player broke years ago and I never got around to getting a new one so Iíve got a stack of tape demos that I havenít listened to. Iím not really on the hunt for stuff to put out though. Itís more about working with friends for me. I still need to go through some of the CDs thatíve come in. I feel like a dick for ignoring demos but it happens.
The Pizzas were the only band Iíve put out that Iíd never met before or had any contact with. I heard them first from a link to their Myspace on a message board, probably either here on Terminal Boredom or on Goner. But, yeah, I was really into what I heard and wrote them an email and they were stoked to do it. I love that single so Iím really glad that it worked out.

TB: What inspired the name of the label?
DM: The label name, Daggerman, came from a dagger tattoo that a bunch of buddies in New Jersey have. I've got lots of pictures of people with the dagger tattoo.

TB: Explain the Daggerman tattoo and what is signifies and who/why has one. Did Sniper design it?
DM: My friend Joe Iazzetta swiped it from a book and our buddy Derrick Busch tattooed it on him with a sewing needle and india ink one night about ten years ago. Most of the people who have the tattoo are old friends from New Jersey but as we all scattered around the country a bunch of other freaks got it too. Every dagger tattoo has been given by Derrick. He lived in SF for a while but now he's in Orange County so there haven't been too many new ones lately. Derrick was up visiting a couple months ago though, and Dan from Wild Thing got one. The only thing it signifies is some kind of camraderie, being friends with a bunch of the other losers who got the tattoo and being up for getting one in what's usually a pretty drunken and crazed situation. I just tried to figure it out and estimated there are around 25 people with the tattoo. When I started the label Mike Sniper suggested naming it after the tattoo and I went with it.

TB: What pressing plant are you using and/or which ones have you used? Any recommendations/advice or bad experiences? Do you use anyone specific for mastering?
DM: Iíve used United in Nashville for all of the singles and Iíve used Pirates Press for all of the LPs. I havenít had any bad experiences with either of them. United had to re-master a single for me once because it sounded too thin but they were easy to work with and turned it around quickly. Pirates Press is based here in San Francisco, but acts as sort of a middle-man for a pressing plant in the Czech Republic. Theyíre good guys and easy to work with, especially if you want a one-stop shop to press sleeves, do digital downloads, shrink-wrap and all that stuff. You can find cheaper places if you have the time and inclination to piece everything together yourself, but the convenience of having the whole package done at once and the fact that I can pick them up right here in town makes it more than worth it to me.

TB: Where do you get your sleeves done? Again, any recommendations/words of caution/advice...
DM: There are a ton of choices for printing sleeves, especially for 7Ēs. Iíve used a number of different places. Iím not sure if theyíre still going, but Iíve had good experiences with Ad Nauseum through Todd from Hozac. Imprint out of Florida is fairly cheap and very easy to work with. Most recently Iíve been working with a Berkeley based guy who runs EconoPress . He has the best prices and quickest turnaround of anyone Iíve ever worked with. He printed the Wild Thing sleeves and Iíll use him for an Outdoorsmen 7Ē thatíll be out really soon.

TB: What is the standard pressing amount for Daggerman releases? What has been the best seller? The worst?
DM: On seven inches, my standard has been a pressing of 500. For the Ebonics, a San Francisco band who havenít played much outside of California, I lowered it to 300 which turned out to be about the right amount. For LPs, it varies. For the Hubble Bubble reissue LPs which were co-released with Radio Heartbeat, we pressed 2000 of the first one and 1500 of the second. I thought theyíd sell out quickly but Iíve actually still got a handful of each. Not sure if Radio Heartbeat is still sitting on some too. I pressed 1000 of the Melchior LP, 500 of the Imaginary Icons 12Ē and 1000 of the Golden Boys LP with 500 going to Alien Snatch for European distribution. The Blank Dogs 7Ē I put out was easily the best-seller with three pressings, and a total of 1200 sold. No comment on the worst-seller, but Iíve had a few releases that didnít get much pick-up. No regrets on anything Iíve put out though.

TB: Are there any specific record labels you took as an influence or inspiration, or whose model/catalog you've used as a blueprint?
DM: My favorite labels in the Nineties were (along with a ton of people reading this probably) In the Red, Crypt, Rip Off, Goner and Norton. I wouldnít say that Iíve used them as a blueprint, but they definitely inspired me.

TB: Did you know anything about releasing records when you started? How did you figure out what to do, or who did you go to for advice?
DM: No, I didnít know a damn thing about putting out records and basically just winged it. There were some helpful threads on Goner and Terminal Boredom talking about which pressing plants are good to use and where to go for sleeves so all of that was really helpful. Somebody in New York introduced me to this dude, James Flames, whoís done most of the mastering for me and heís been a big help as well. James is also a really good illustrator and already good guy, so if anyone needs mastering or flier or record cover artwork, they should hit him up. He has a website for his artwork and another for mastering.

TB: I assume Daggerman is a one-man operation. Do you handle all of the mailorder and packaging yourself, or do you have some interns or assistants? How many hours a week do you think you spend on label activities?
DM: Yeah, itís a one-man gig. I donít put out that much stuff so itís not all that time-consuming. Maybe I spend about an hour or two a week packaging and shipping records on a regular week. If Iím working on an upcoming release or just put something out, itís more like five hours work in a week.

TB: What do you do for a living aside from the label if you don't mind me asking? Does your day job fund the label or is it self-sufficient by now?
DM: Sheeeeit. I wish it were self-sufficient, but I donít think I could do it without the day job. Thereíve been a few releases that made a little profit, but more that lost money. Itís totally just a hobby. I work for a book publishing company based in Hoboken, NJ. We have an office in San Francisco which allowed me to move out here and keep my job. So, yeah, my job funds the label and I do it for fun.

TB: Give us a brief history of the DC Snipers - how did it start and end and such - how did you guys come to the decison to release the secnd LP posthumously? I think it was a great but risky idea to release an LP by a defunct band, but it's a lot stronger than the first LP I think...
DM:The Snipers started out around 2004 or 2005, mostly inspired by the Screamers and the Spits and some mid-tempo KBD stuff we were listening to a bunch. We were sort of considered a New York band I guess, but we never really wanted to be. We came together because we were all vaguely from the same area of New Jersey, central by the shore, and we hung out together a lot in Jersey City or New Brunswick or Red Bank. I was living in Brooklyn at the time but the rest of the dudes lived in Jersey City, Red Bank and Ocean Grove. Getting together for practice was a total bitch.

I donít think any of us took it very seriously. Mike Sniper had played in a couple of bands before, but the rest of us hadnít. I guess Dan, the guitarist, played in a band briefly in high school. But we were all in our late twenties by the time the Snipers got started and we just wanted to have a good time with no real aspirations for it, other than to open for the Spits. There werenít many other similar-minded bands around New York at the time, since the city mostly attracts ambitious douchebags who want to be famous. This was around the time that Tom Hyland (aka Tom Dash) started booking good shows in New York and luckily he liked us and put us as the openers for lots of touring bands that we were into.

The first album came out after we were around for about a year, and around the time that it came out is right around when I quit. I played keyboards really badly and never knew what I was doing. I had fun doing it, basically as an excuse to get wasted and joke around with my buddies, but I felt like theyíd be better off with someone who knew how to play since people were actually starting to pay attention. The second album was recorded maybe a year after that and Dan moved to North Carolina to start the Spider Bags before mixing was done. Its release was endlessly delayed because there were some vocal overdubs and other stuff that were needed and it took forever to get everybody together and actually finish it. Once it was done, everyone had kind of moved on to other things and nobody took the initiative to get it released. I always thought it was a good record so, after it had sat around for a year, I asked if I could put it out.

TB: Your first few releases were obviously NY-centric - I think the LFD/VCR split is the high point of the NY/NJ "thing" that was happening then. How did you hook up with VCR? Tell us your favorite Sarim story. I always thought they were a band that could've really made impact had they kept it together...
DM: Yeah, I agree, I wish there were more VCR recordings and I wish they still played. I think they're all still in Jersey so it could probably happen. I met Sarim when he was 17, I think, around five or six years ago. He got turned on to a bunch of good music by Alberto who ran Wowsville Records in New York and then Sarim started showing up at a lot of shows in the city. He played drums for VCR and I think around the same time he was in an early version of Titus Andronicus. Sarim rules, he's just a sick dude. Now he's got his band, Liquor Store, which has like four guitarists. I've been trying to get him to come visit San Francisco for the past few years. I'd love to see him unleashed on this city. I think he'd love it here. I wish I could tell a classic Sarim story but there isn't one thing in particular that comes to mind. Just hanging with that dude is an experience.

TB: What was it like working with a legend like Camero Werewolf and LFD?
DM: Camero's one of the coolest guys in New York. Another sick dude and super good guy. LiveFastDie was spawned out of his bedroom and was the first new home-recorded punk stuff I heard that was really good. The band was sort of a revolving cast and the shows were usually a good party. The DC Snipers played lots of shows with them at Siberia, and the nearby Port Authority. Those were some good times.

TB: You got on the Dan Melchior train a bit earlier than most. Did you know him while he was living in NYC? How did you hook up with him?
DM: I met Dan in Red Bank, NJ when he played a day show at Black Cat Records touring with Holly Golightly. He moved to New York a year or two after and we'd talk a bit when we ran into each other and I'd go see his band, Broke Revue, now and then. I always liked his music a lot. Coincidentally, he moved with his wife to Durham, NC around the same time that some of my old friends and my sister moved to Chapel Hill. So I was down visiting once and he played a show with the Spider Bags and we talked a little while which led to putting out a seven inch and then an LP. I was blown away when he sent me the recordings for the "Christmas for the Crows" LP and I'm so glad he gave me the opportunity to put that album out.

TB: How did you end up splitting the Hubble Bubble releases? I assume you guys paid some licensing/royalties to make that happen. Was it a hard negotiation or did everything go smoothly? Did you get the masters or use another source?
DM: Mike Sniper got in touch with Alfie Falckenbach, the producer of the Hubble Bubble records and head of the Sinus label that originally released them. He owns the rights. Mike worked out a deal with Alfie for Radio Heartbeat to reissue both albums but there was a hefty fee that he wanted up front which was preventing him from moving forward. I offered to help which is how it came to be a split release with Daggerman Records. There were some snags along the way but overall it went pretty smoothly. We used the CD masters that Alfie sent us. The 2nd LP we had re-mastered by James Flames to make it sound better on vinyl. I think we both regret not doing the same for the first LP.

TB: BLANK. DOGS. Did you expect the Blank Dogs thing to blow up like that? How long have you known Mike and did you expect that sort of music/project from him?
DM: I met Mike through Chris, the singer for the DC Snipers, probably around '98 or something like that. We both moved away from the area for a while and we started hanging out more after he moved to Jersey City and I moved to Brooklyn and he was working at Midnight Records. It didn't really surprise me because he's always had a pretty eclectic taste in music and, like me, he had an older sister who turned him on to Joy Division and some wavey stuff when he was really young so that influence was always there I guess.

TB: Tell us some more about Ebonics? I thought that 7" was great, very punk'n'roll. Where did you find them and who are they?
DM: Ebonics was started by a friend of mine, Colin Fowler, who was also playing drums for Les Hormones, another good and sadly now-defunct San Francisco band. He started writing some songs that didn't fit with Les Hormones so well and he recruited some other friends to start a trashy, snotty punk band. Ebonics shows are usually pretty chaotic, fall down drunk, broken glass kind of shows. That kind of thing always appeals to me so I was up for doing a seven inch right away. They've got a split out with Gestapo Khazi too and I think they've still got some unrecorded songs. Lately they've been on-again, off-again but I don't think that they're broken up.

TB: Tell us about the sleeve for the Wild Thing 7". Was that all their idea? Did you have a hand in the photo session? Whoever's room that is looks pretty cool. I'm sure MRR is going to be stoked on it...
DM: Haha, yeah, that's Brace's living room. No, I wish I could take credit for that photo session but I wasn't around that day. It was Brace's idea. He's the dude in the leather jacket holding a chain and a knife behind his back.

TB: What's the biggest difference between the music scenes in NYC and SF? Is there anything you miss from NYC in general? How do live crowds differ?
DM: I haven't spent much time in New York over the past three years so I can only comment on how things seemed to me before I moved in 2007. New York, sort of like LA, attracts people who're ambitious and motivated to climb toward some level of success. People like that can be a real pain in the ass to deal with when you're meeting them on some kind of a social level. It's easy to peg them because they usually ask you what you do for a living within a minute or two. So in the music scene in New York it seemed like the minority of the people were into making music for the sake of good music and having a good time and there were a ton of privileged egotistical dipshits with a sense of entitlement for some kind of fame or glory. There are people like that anywhere you go for sure, but in New York there's more of everything so it's harder to avoid those assholes.

I don't think that San Francisco draws as many people like that because its reputation is more associated with loser hippies and burnouts. While there are still cliques and people talk shit on each other in San Francisco, overall I think that people here are a little more laid-back and looking to party more then impress some one who'll help them climb some imagined ladder of success.

There's a ton of stuff that I miss about New York. There are a lot of really great people there and the city has a deeper history that you can explore for decades. After living there nine years, I still feel like I only hit on the tip of the iceberg. I miss the seasons, but not the winter. I really miss the beach. It's too damn cold in San Francisco. I sort of miss the bars staying open until 4:00am, but in the long run I'm probably better off being sent home at 2:00. New York has better and more diverse culture within the city and there's always something to do. San Francisco itself can actually get pretty boring, but there's a ton of stuff to do within a half an hour drive of the city so if you can get out and explore now and then, it's an awesome place to live.

TB: What's coming up for Daggerman in the future?
DM: I want to start doing more seven inches. I'm never really in a rush to get stuff out though so when I find a band I really like a lot, I'll ask them. There are a few things that might be happening but nothing's definite right now. A 7" with a new punk band called SF Blows is likely and a solo LP from Wesley Coleman is in the works.

Thanks very much to Eric for his help with pics and the discography and for taking the time to give us this interview and so many great records. All in-print releases are still available direct from the label, including the latest Outdoorsmen 7"...



Daggerman Records on the web here and here.

Pics provided by Eric. If anyone would like a credit please contact the editor.

Interview by Rich K., Fall 2010.

To read other TB interviews, go here.