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You need to do two out of three things to be on John Lucero and Drak's new record label: You have to drink or skateboard or be punk rock. Drak's previous label, Vinyl Dog, required you partake in all three. "Two outta three ain't bad when you're 50," says Drak (yes, just Drak).
"Back in our 30s and 40s, we were into fast cars and beautiful women," Lucero adds. "Now, we're into old, rusty cars and big, beautiful women."
Give or take a few more doctor's visits, Drak and Lucero have lived the same since their 20s. They met more than 25 years ago ("In a gay bar," Lucero says facetiously), and they have always talked about opening a business together. In the past few decades, Lucero created his own skate company, Black Label, and Drak opened Vinyl Solution in Huntington Beach.
Now and again, over countless gin and tonics and tequila shots, they'd bandy about the idea of a collaborative record label.
"And breakups," Drak says.
"Heartaches, good times," Lucero says.
Then, together: "Bad times."
"The good the bad and the ugly," Lucero adds.
"Yeah, the real ugly," concludes Drak.
When Drak released Duane Peters' first 7-inch with the Exploding Fuck Dolls, American Bomb, in 1993, the two became good friends. Drak and Lucero affectionately call Peters the Master of Disaster.
In summer 2009, Peters invited Drak to see his new band, the Great Unwashed. "The first time I saw that show, I was seeing something new," Drak says. "It was just great seeing Duane with a keyboard behind him and the hard, dark, slow lyrics—almost like a Tom Waits deal. [He's] moving as fast as he can, the way Duane does—he's Evel Knievel about everything."
Peters—known for his caustic, wild take on punk as part of U.S. Bombs, Political Crap and Die Hunn—"toned it down and wrote some slow, beautiful songs," Drak says. "When I heard it, [it] made me want to start a record [label]. And John was like,'Let's do it!'"
And so, Black Vinyl Limited was born. Fittingly, the label's inaugural record is the Great Unwashed's debut, The Great Tragedy. "It was perfect because we're almost 50, and after fifty-some years, where do you go as a punker?" Drak asks.
Lucero agrees: "This record is so good [the band] could have put it on whatever major label they wanted."
The label plans to release The Great Tragedy on vinyl only. "Vinyl records are the coolest way to present music," Lucero says, adding that he believes it's a long-lost art.
"We want to get people starting to collect music again—for the music, for the art, for the inspiration you're going to get from it," he says. "A digital download is a fart in the wind. You don't own anything."
There isn't a complicated production method. Rather, bands give Black Vinyl Limited a copy of their mastered album. Lucero creates the artwork in collaboration with the band, as he did for Black Label. The label then presses and distributes the final product. "We give [bands] their freedom," Drak says. "It's a very punk rock attitude—you can't put us in a corner; you can't put us in a category. We're going to channel out and freak out, and things are going to change."
Each release will be produced in small quantities, around 200. "That's why it's called Black Vinyl Limited: Once it's done, it's over. We want it to be collectible," Lucero says. "Keep it rootsy."
Drak adds they don't have the money to be a huge label. "We're not there to do that," he says.
Black Vinyl Limited's next release will be a 7-inch with Fullerton punk band DimeRunner.
Drak and Lucero don't want to be a big fish, Drak adds. Instead, they want to create something small but awesome, then start again. "We hope there are enough of us little fish to get a pool going," he says.
This article appeared in print as "Second Spin: Black Vinyl Limited counts on vinyl's revitalized cachet of cool to press limited punk releases."