We spoke to Gerard Cosloy of Matador, whose most recent success was a #1 indie lp by Liz Phair.
Tell us more about the label, Gerard...
I co-own and manage Matador with the label's founder Chris Lombardi. We are old pals from our days working at Dutch East India...he started the label in late '89, I joined up a few months later.
Who are your greatest hope for success?
Depends how you define success. I hope everyone we work with ends up being successful in some way or another.
The Blues Explosion have that 'something'; do you think they're capable of making it big?
Well, I think they already have made it pretty big by most standards I'm familiar with. in the states, they sell plenty of records and headline in large halls. And Sean Penn wants to sleep with them.
How likely is an indie band to get any measure of commercial (as opposed to critical) success in the USA?
Once again, it depends how you define commercial success. Bands like Pavement and the Blues Explosion have proven that you can sell into the low six figures on indie labels...and the Offspring are somewhere in the millions. On the other hand, I think it's pretty cool that Unwound are selling however many records they are (I really have no idea how many, 7-15,000 is a big guess).
Would it take something like a hit in the UK to get impetus, or would they still need to get signed to a major?
Having a hit in the UK can't hurt, but it really means nothing where US status is concerned. No one really pays much attention to what's happening in the UK weeklies (unless they're a hopeless anglophile or sleep w/ Oasis or something). And no, you don't need to be signed to a major to do OK in the US (see Fugazi, Seam, Rancid, etc.)
How do you feel when bands walk away to a major?
Are you refering to bands I work with? 'Cause it only happened once...if you're talking about bands in general, well, I usually think they're making a mistake, but each situation is unique.
Do you exercise any sort of quality control over bands' output?
Nope. Once we sign somebody, we have no role in the process of writing, recording, etc. Better to leave that stuff to the artists...if we didn't trust them and believe in their right to do whatever the fuck they wanted, we wouldn't work with them in the first place.
What's your (Matador's) role? putting out music you like, helping bands that deserve to to reach a wider audience, or are you like a major in that you're running a business (only with decent music)?
We're just trying to help the musicians we admire have a chance to be heard by more people each time out. Anything beyond that is overly ambitious and kinda bogus. Yeah, we're running a business, but we'd like to show that it can be done while still treating people fairly, still having the proper respect for art, and toughest of all, respecting the intelligence of the folks who purchase these records.
Any other news on signings/releases you want to share?
New releases on the way: Pizzicato five _The Sound of Music_, Silkworm reisusses for Europe, SF Seals _Truth Walks In Sleepy Shadows_, Two Foot Flame album (w/ Jean Smith, Peter Jeffries, Michael Morley), Flying Nuns _Pilot_ EP...new Run On 7" and new Frogs album in the pipeline...new albums by Silkworm, Guided By Voices, Liz Phair, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Run On coming in '96.Everything else is just a big rumour.
Reprinted from bigwig 1996