Based out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Fastlane Records is a great indie label which not only pumps out cool, unabashed melodic hard pop to hard rock and roll but they think big. I recently chatted with Fastlane Records owner and CEO Shawn C. Lane on what makes the label tick, what kind of music they are looking for and life in the iTunes generation. Part 1 runs today, Part 2 concludes tomorrow.
RRR: Tell me a bit about the label. How long its been going, what the mission of it is and what kind of music makes the FastLane grade?
SCL: FastLane Records originated in 1994 when I was managing a local band that was starting to take off at the time called Erotic Suicide. There was a buzz from Japan to England on this band as MTV-Europe called them one of America’s brightest hope in music, but remember at this time grunge had really reared it’s ugly head and had taken over the radio and MTV among others and gritty/sleazy rock and roll that we were doing at this time had all but died. We decided in 2000 to bring FastLane Records to fruition 24/7 as an actual Label and open our doors to find the best newcomers and undiscovered/upcoming talent we possibly could in the hard pop to hard rock genre with a guitar edge/crunch.
Our mission from day one is what it still is, which is straight-up, non-apologetic, slap-across-the-face rock and roll with a flair for showmanship as well as great musicianship..’audio for your ears and a visual for your eyes’ we like to say. Gone are the days of what I call ‘Shoegazer’s’..bands that look like the brother’s of a frat house. Anytime you can’t tell the band onstage from the kids in the crowd..it’s a problem (laughs). We stay away from the cookie-cutter approach as other major/indie labels go for which is the flavor-of-the-week, I personally think that’s about as contrived and artificial as you can get. We recieve many demos per week/month and it would be so easy to sign everything that comes across your desk, but I’m to old-school and believe in ‘quality not quanity’.
The kind of music we strive and look for is the kind that gives you that heart-pumping, unadulterated feeling of a ‘real’ rock show when you paid your hard earned money and you got a band that looked and sounds like a rock and roll band. Image is just important as the music to us..it’s actually 50/50 concoction that’s why it’s so hard to scour the globe for the band that meets the criteria. We specialize in hard pop to hard rock, but were a very guitar oriented driven label.
RRR: One of the things you state that you are trying to bring back to rock and roll is showmanship. What do you mean about that and how are you going about achieving it?
SCL: Showmanship is such a lost art form. In the last ten plus years we have been de-sensitised in thinking that everything you see on the video channels look like the neighbor’s kid practicing in the garage, etc. I’m a product/child of the 80’s and weened on Motley/Ratt, etc and I also know the big hair and over-the-top antics, big hair and lipstick will never come back, but it also made Hollywood and the world take notice between 1984-1990 or so. Everyone borrows/steals from someone else and if your going to steal..do it right (laughs). We like to think we borrow from the yesteryear bands (circa 70’s/80’s) and add a modern day twist to the mix. The audience have grown weary of today’s products and with the absence of rock videos on MTV, etc it really has taken away from a lost art that used to move product. I think that’s why all the nostalgia acts from the 80’s do so well on packaged tours because people want to be entertained visually as well as by the music..it really is a univeral language.
We just basically incorporate that mindset into the millinium and set-forth to put out a great product that will sell itself on it’s own strengths and hope it appeals to the masses.
RRR: What are the bands currently signed to the label?
SCL: As of now we have American Anthem (which you may remember toured with Bret Michaels in 2003 as his opening band as well as his band for his set playing the Poison songs). We also have a great band from N.Y. called The Meddling Kids which are great power-pop/edged rockers that are just fantastic. We also have from Nashville the Red Carpet Rats who just are incredible in their songwriting and performance as their finishing up their record with Jim Ebert (Butch Walker fame) and it’s just a mind-blower. We also house Annex from Green Bay, WI..these guys are over-the-top showman with a awesome stage-show as they deliver a fury of anthemic structures songs that stick in your head for days. As of now their first single were releasing (uncensored/censored versions of the audio as well as a video to accompany it) called ‘Brought It On Yourself’ has been a staple on the podcast network for the last few weeks in the top ten world-wide of podcasters and climbing everyday. Radio will be serviced with the radio-edit version this month..this could really be the break-out song of this year indie wise. (Rock and Roll Report Radio has already played the “radio unfriendly” version a few times already! ed.) We also have other bands were finalising as we speak.
We also have some great tributes we have out, such as the NY Dolls tribute ‘Jetboys Of Babylon’ we did in 2005 that features David Johansen himself redoing ‘Babylon’ (at the time we did this the NY Dolls reunion was on the table and I was the one speaking with the late great Arthur Kane about doing something for this tribute, I was also the one to make him aware of the Dolls reunion show in England put together from Morrissey) it also featured FLIPP/Steve Jones/ The Alarm and many more. Right now, we have just finished a Rick Springfield tribute called ‘Working Class Dogs’ and it flat-out rocks and modernizes his hits into the millinium. In the works (on the subject of tributes) we have one to Cheap Trick called ‘Tricked Out’ which we have pictures and liner notes supplied to us by none other than CREEM magazine (for you older readers, CREEM was a major staple in rock magazines throughout the 70’s and part of the early 80’s) and there’s talks about one to the Beatles called ‘Beatle-Esque’ and also the SWEET called ‘Sweetness’..those latter mentioned are still in the planning stages.
RRR: I like the fact that Fastlane artists tend to have great hooks and harmonies, something that almost seems old fashioned in this day and age. Is this a concsious decision?
SCL: Absolutely, 100% on purpose and we stand by it as well as resemble that remark (laughs). Rock and roll has always meant to be fun, tongue-in-cheek, raunchy and full-on debauchery at it’s finest. You take great hooks/harmonies with a soaring, guitar laden crunchiness for the structuring and your not only appealing to the college kids/power-popsters, but also metal fans who appreciate the guitar playing and musicianship as well…really, something for everyone. It’s designed for universal appeal..hate it/love it, but you can’t deny/ignore it.
We feel were onto a formula that is timeless and has a market in every major outlet you can find our releases in the rock/pop section and not the Indie section nor the Alternative (god, I hate that term) section way in the back that know one can find/see.
RRR: With the record industry in such disarray and the sales of CDs declining according to most estimates, how do you see a small indie like FastLane surviving and even thriving in this iTunes world?
SCL: You roll with the punches and keep up with the modern changes in technology as well as anything in cutting-edge. I wouldn’t exactly call FLR a small Indie. Maybe a medium Indie (laughs). We also take pride in our packaging of the CD’s (remember the old Alice Cooper/KISS packaging) we incorporate all the visuals as well as adding props to go inside. We also have taken upon ourselves audio-wise to master all our releases in high-definition which is a huge plus as most Indies do not want that costs it takes for this process..it’s costly, but well worth-it in our book. Only afew Majors have dabbled in the HDCD format. It might change now as the popularity is growing from HDTV’S/HDDVD’S to HD Radio, but we have been doing it since 2004 and will continue to do so..more bang for your buck. iTunes we have totally embraced as well as other knock-off companies..the more the better. Word-of-mouth will always be the best form of advertisement no matter how many thousands of dollars you spend on print ads, etc. If something sucks, it sucks…you can’t shine shit.
Check back tomorrow for part 2 of our interview with Shawn as we talk about everything from podcasting and the power of the amplified guitar. See you then!