By Sarah Bennett
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Photo by Matt OttoSo you know those scary guys you sometimes see down at the beach, the ones with scuffed-to-shit surfboards and tattoos poking out the sleeves of their wetsuits? They're probably in a band on Hostage Records.
And you know those guys you slink past at Vinyl Solution, the ones laughing loudly with someone behind the counter and arguing about punk bands you've never even heard of? They're probably in a band on Hostage Records.
But you know those two regular-looking guys you sometimes see grinning and taking pictures at shows? Those guys who look like maybe they were trying to find the home-office section in Target and wandered into now-defunct Club Mesa by mistake? Those guys whose only apparent connections to punk might be as investment counselors ("You know, Mr. Peters, pork futures are about to take off") or as managers at Sizzler ("Excuse me, Mr. Thaxton, but you're only allowed one trip to the salad bar")?
Those guys are Rick and Paul Hostage—and when they're not watching Nickelodeon with their kids, watering their lawns or doing the 9-to-5, they run Hostage Records, the record label that put Orange County beach punk into record stores all over the world.
"We really are just two normal guys who dig music, pretty much normal guys who live vicariously through this cast of characters on the label," says Rick Hostage, who shares the label with longtime buddy Paul—like the Ramones, those aren't their real names and they're not brothers either. "The Numbers [one of many bands on the label] always say I'm a big poseur—I'm supposed to be the emperor of this whole self-created beach-punk thing, and I don't even surf!"
So in the sitcom that is the Orange County beach-band scene—home to such big boys as the Smut Peddlers, the Crowd and Smogtown and up-and-comers like Broken Bottles, the Main and D-Cup—Paul and Rick might be more My Two Dads than Arthur Fonzarelli or Vinnie Barbarino. But they're definitely some of the main characters.
Besides, Rick did go to the beach just last week, and Paul really does surf, even though he looks like Big Bird when he's doing it. And they really do love the fuck out of punk rock—whether it's Rick's trademark photos or characteristically hyperactive liner notes or Paul talking about how great it is to feel that engine inside every band start to kick in—so you'll forgive them for not dressing the part.
And they've done what lots of people said was impossible: started a thriving independent label almost exclusively focused on supporting the Orange County scene ("We aren't crossing the Orange Curtain!" Rick says and laughs). Where other labels hit the pavement, they hit paydirt, giving substance—largely in the form of the old-school vinyl 45s they're so fond of putting out—to a loose-knit but vital cluster of bands.
"I don't think other scenes have what we have," says Rick. "The core of the scene here is so group-of-friends-ish. Somebody said the Hostage Situation [a compilation Hostage released in 2000] was like a high school yearbook with a CD in it, since everybody was in it. And that's not a putdown!"
"To me, this is the area for punk rock—they got it nailed here," says Paul. "Nobody else does it better."
They've squeezed about two dozen limited-edition-of-500-or-so singles (for which they copied, cut, and folded every goddamn cover themselves—do the math and then weep for them), a respectable pile of CDs, one vinyl LP and two almost-all-local compilations out of the bands this side of the 605, starting with 500 Bonecrusher singles they thought they'd have to buy back themselves.
But now those old Hostage records go for big bucks on eBay, they get fan letters from Japan ("I always cheer Hostage Records. I have Internet and credit card so I send money. I want to buy!"), and they're celebrating the debut of their new compilation CD series Cuts this weekend at Huntington's Liquid Den. There are 18 bands on the CD, and all but three are gonna be rolling around onstage together. And somewhere in the mayhem are gonna be two unassuming, regular-looking guys loving every note of it.
"I've always been an avid supporter of local music—even when I was 18, I was buying OC punk stuff," says Rick. "If I really dig a band, I wanna be able to see that band on any given night. If I'm into the Exploited, what, am I gonna see them every three years? That's the beauty of local music—you can experience it. Instead of watching from afar."
"Yeah," says Paul. "And you can usually help carry their equipment in, too."The Hostage Records Weekend at the Liquid Den, 5061 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 377-7964; www.liquid-den.com. The Extortions, Cell Block 5, Beer City Rockers, the Put-Ons, Broken Bottles, the Main, Dodge Dart and the Smut Peddlers, Fri., 9 p.m.; the Fuse!, the Spooky, D-Cup, the Thunder Pistols, the Negatives, the Switch-Ups and the Fakes, Sat., 9 p.m. $7. 21+. Contact Hostage Records at P.O. Box 7736, Huntington Beach, CA 92615; www.hostagerecords.net.