8 Up Records is an underground punk label run by Jason and Sam; a couple of good-natured, idealistic guys who embody the best of punk’s DIY spirit. They’re not concerned with money. They’re not concerned with fame. In fact, the 8 Up Records slogan is, “If you take the money and ego out of music, you will still have music.”
Jason and Sam are passionate about networking with punks from around the world, getting underground music heard, and promoting obscure bands. They do this by producing compilation CDs, vinyl EPs, and cassettes that raise funds for the hungry, the poor, and the mentally ill. They also work with bands who want to record full albums, who need merchandise to sell at shows, or who just have a shared enthusiasm for good, heartfelt music.
8 Up Records has releases featuring legendary bands like the Sex Pistols (!), MDC, Vice Squad, and Subhumans. But what is really exciting is the exposure they give to some really amazing punk talent that you probably would never have heard of otherwise; bands like Try Subversion (now Tri Subversion), L.O.A.D, The Dead Pawns, The Unpatriotics, Destructafux, The Wasted. Motherfucker Teresa, Die Panzerknakker, and many others.
Jason and Sam invited my band, Sacripolitical, to contribute tracks to a few of their charity compilations and I was so impressed by their attitude, enthusiasm, and energy that I asked them for an interview, which they kindly granted.
You can find 8 Up Records on Bandcamp, Instragram, and Facebook.
You can also find Jason’s tattoo shop, 8 Up Rolla, on Facebook.
Who are you guys and how did you get into punk?
Jason: I own tattoo shops in Missouri. I used to be a special education art teacher in a group home setting. Mostly kids that got in trouble from bad environments. Did that for 7 years. Loved the kids, hated the corruption of the school system.
I got into punk as an alternative to the glam rock, rap, and MC Hammer/Vanilla Ice stuff that was popular at the time. My sister bought me a guitar and I started writing songs while I was teaching myself to play it. I noticed a lot of corruption, violence, and hypocrisy around me and I was angry and wanted to express that. So I wrote songs accordingly. I did not have a lot of access to punk as it was pre-internet days. But my last year in high school, a few friends turned me on to the Misfits, Ramones, Sex Pistols, and DKs. When I heard it I was hooked. Something of substance and loved the sounds and energy.
Sam: I am just someone who likes what they like and doesn’t really care if others agree or not. Always been that way. However, I’m a kind-hearted soul who treats people the way that I would like to be treated and I always do what I say. I’m a very loyal individual, sometimes even to a fault. I got into punk rock back in sixth-grade when an eighth-grade friend let me hear the Misfits for the first time. I heard the Ramones on the radio when I was young, and never knew what it was. I started searching for any music with that sound that I could get my hands on. It was an “A-HA” moment as soon as my friend turned on the Misfits cassette back in the day! Never turned back and continued forward on the punk rock journey after that!
Who are the bands, authors, or artists that have most influenced you and do you have any favorites?
Jason: Sammy is the music guy. He is obsessed with music. I was heavily influenced by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Danzig, the Misfits, The Doors, and Tchaikovsky growing up. Schopenhauer, Plato, Herodotus, Plutarch’s Parallel Lives, for literature. But Sun Tzu’s and Frederick Douglass’ books probably are the ones that have changed my life. With visual art, I’m really into Classical and Neo-Classical as of late.
Sam: I would say Dick Lucas of Subhumans (UK) and Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys always were some of my favorites. What they were saying made sense, and when I looked into it further, it also seemed to be true. It taught me to appreciate sarcasm used in a constructive, thinking kind of way. There were many more, and it may just bore readers to continue rambling on about it all. HAHAHA!!
What does punk mean to you? Is it just music, or is it more than that? Is there a specific set of beliefs or an attitude that you think goes along with being punk?
Jason: Punk music is an odd genre. I always saw music analogous to fishing. Some people see fishing as sitting alone in nature. Enjoying it with a rod. To others it is a family bonding event. Then there are the people who make big money off fishing and utilize giant commercial boats, nets, canning factories, etc. And everything in between. That’s how music is. All genres are the same in that aspect, just different species of fish they are going after.
I can only speak of what punk means to me. I never liked arena rock or ticket sales, or VIP sections, or any of that nonsense. Nor have I been a fan of uniforms, drunkenness, drugs, or pop music, or gimmicks. I like genuine, regular people who are pissed about the world but are frustrated and can’t do anything about it, but know it isn’t right. That is punk rock to me. That’s the shit I get into. And if a band does that correctly, they’ll NEVER be mainstream popular or on a big national label. Never. No sold-out stadiums or limousines. Not from music anyway. To me, that is being successful in punk rock. Keeping true to your cause and ethics and ideological beliefs no matter what the temptation is.
Sam: To me, it is a lifestyle. It is where all the misfits, different, creative, or artistic people could go and lead a life where they would not be subject to the onslaught of criticism from average society. Average is boring. Average is cookie cutter. Punk is a culture where people who think a different way can come together and create something awesome. So, to me, it’s a way of life and not just a music style. I think the specific attitude is to be yourself and do what makes you happy. Don’t follow society’s bullshit standards. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are lesser because of how you live or think. Live your life the way you want. Punk can bring true happiness if you actually live it without allowing society’s stupid-ass expectations or other bullshit to get in your head. Be you, do you, and just live. The rest of the world can bugger off if they don’t agree. Who cares!
What was the inspiration behind starting your record label and why did you decide on the name 8 Up Records? Is there a philosophy behind the label?
Jason: The label started in the early 2000s. Remember mixtapes and burning CDs for your friends because you found some really cool song from a band and wanted to share it? That’s it. That’s all we were doing. We just printed out and glued our own sleeves and burned them by the 100s is all. Did that for like 10 years and gave them all away for free. Think one year I logged it in 2010 and it was 4,300 or some shit. Lol. All by hand. All free.
8 Up is a term meaning fucked up. Whenever I would do dumb shit when I was younger the kids would say, “Dude, you’re 8 Up.” So it seemed fitting. Named my tattoo shops after the label as well. The philosophy is the motto. “If you take the money and ego out of music, you will still have music.” It is printed on all our shit. I think a lot of people don’t understand that. We don’t want to feed other people’s egos and especially not our own; that isn’t our intent. We don’t want to be personally well know. Hell, my own wife didn’t think Sammy was a real person at first as he is very private and never posts personal stuff. Lol. I had to show her old pics and shit. We give freebies to the bands. Any sales are put back into projects or they go to benefit a cause. We are transparent with receipts with everyone. They know where everything is going. We aren’t in it to turn a buck. It is those things that so many people do not understand. I think mostly because they had pre-conceived notions of getting something out of us that would feed one of those things without having to work for it.
We put together compilations. If the bands promote them and they sell, we take the money and get them free CDs. All the bands introduce others to the other bands’ followers. Networking. But if you feed your ego and only put your solo band or your friend’s band on a split…. well, you won’t get spread much doing that. It is a simple concept. But that ego, greed, distrust shit. People have a hard time getting over that.
You deal in more than just punk music. You also have rap and country acts that you’ve released. How you choose the bands that you promote?
Jason: Sammy is obsessed with music. We both get excited about new music and he always sends me CDs in the mail. We like to share the music we find and the music we create. So, this is just a natural extension of that. We’ll basically work with anyone as long as they are not hateful. They all have different motivations. Some need merch to keep on hand for shows. For others it is an introduction to vinyl or to network with other bands and labels. And some just need a couple extra hundred dollars, so I pay them to write a song or license one. I do that stuff out of my own pocket so it doesn’t screw over Sammy and the other bands. Usually they are just in it for a project or two, then they go to other labels or projects or whatever. If they are cool and easy to work with and they do good music, we are usually down to give anyone a try.
Sam: When people come to us and are good hearted souls, we will work with them regardless of genre. Shit, just look at Body Count, Public Enemy, Bob Marley, John Lennon, Johnny Cash, etc. for example. They were more punk to me than some bands who title themselves as such! Also…. Assholes can go away. “Punk” or not. We have a slogan for a reason: “If you take the money and ego out of music, you will still have music!” We like to keep assholes away from us! AHAHA!!
You put together a lot of really great charity CD compilations that raise money for everything from feeding the hungry and helping poor Jamaican families to fighting depression. How is it that you choose which charities to support?
Jason: I think we just kinda fall into it. Usually we know someone who is affected by something and we want to help. Feed the Children was Dick Lucas’ suggestion, I believe. For Punk Rockers For Jamaica, I know the Jamaican family personally. When I had exhausted my resources and all my friends had helped, I figured the label would be a good platform. You can actually SEE what it went to and how it is improving lives. With bigger charities, you can never really visualize it. Brian Burx auctioned off a painting and a week later… a water pump. You can actually see it and know where it went to and what it is doing.
But we are humans. We see shit that is fucked up and beyond the control of the people it is happening to. Whether cancer, child trafficking, etc., we do our best to ask others or do research or someone asks if we can donate to a place.
Sam: Whatever comes to mind or is presented to us by others. We are open-minded people; if you have an idea, speak up! We may not agree or do it, but, we will at least listen and possibly consider it.
You’ve also pressed some very cool vinyl records and you have music for digital download on Bandcamp. What role do these various music formats play in the 8 Up vision? Ever thought of putting out cassettes?
Jason: I’m a vinyl lover. Been having releases pressed over a decade, but they can get expensive. Mostly the digital releases have to do with licensing. The more popular bands that contribute have stipulations of digital only, no physical copies. We have been getting into that with the Sex Pistols, Dead Milkmen, DJ London, Boosie, etc. Just because you talk to them personally doesn’t mean that they won’t send you to their agent or licensing agency; and the licensing always has specifications that need to be followed contractually. Need a permit and fishing license sometime when you go fishing.
Right now, I think we are going to do The Wasted, The Lousketeers vinyl thing… which I’m stoked about. Oh, yeah we’ve done cassettes. Last one was with 8 Up and Powerbomb records and we have some with The Wasted, The Ratz, etc. coming out. At the pressers still.
Sam: We have put out a few cassettes. Some still on their way. As far as vision: spread good music, love, fun, excitement, joy, and have fun while doing it!
It feels to a lot of people these days as if the world is falling apart. When I was young, the punk slogan was “No Future!” Do you feel that there is a future for us, and if so what role does punk play in it?
Jason: Yeah, lol. The world has always been falling apart. Same throughout history. I’m sure the Bronze Age Collapse hit some people hard. Or the Carthaginians with the Romans, Aztecs, American Civil War, World War 2…. every point in history has people who felt the world is falling apart. Things change. They evolve. Just different than what they are used to. I think there is a future. I mean, we are talking about and indulging in punk now. So that slogan may have been just wishful thinking. Lol. But we are the future to the speakers of that slogan in the past. By that logic, it would probably be safe to assume that punk rock has a future. I would hope that it is used as a catalyst for change for the better. I think the rebellious nature and skepticism of punk keeps it from ever becoming too commercial or corrupt or too politically correct. Punk thrives best when it goes against the grain. Makes people think, hopefully.
Sam: I have no idea really. It depends on how things change over the course of many decades. It will either progress or the latter will occur. My hope though is that punk morals and individualism become more accepted by all, including those who claim to be “punk.” I have seen many who dress the part, sing the part, act the part but not actually live it. Once you begin to get out of your comfort zone and tell others that interfere with your goals to get lost, that’s when your life really begins. Free yourself of society’s standards!! Not really doing anything different or destructive if you’re just following what the herd does! Oh, one other thing: give a shit about others. On social media and in society I am starting to see that people tend to act like who they are talking to is not a real person, almost like holier-than-thou-type-shit. Listen …life isn’t easy, just be considerate, be kind, and don’t be a dick!
Jason: I would like to thank you for taking the time to do this and would like to add another thing. Whomever reads this, hopefully it inspires you to do something. Start a band, write a song, start a label, do a painting, get people motivated to help others. I think that’s why we are here and such social creatures. Leave the world a better place than you found it and pull efforts towards positive goals. There’s enough negativity in the world. Inspire and motivate others to help people.