Collective Mindset of Selfishness: A. Star Recordings, American West Free Society Press, Magic Goat Music

A. Star
Owner/Founder: founded by Michael Biggs & Garrick Arthur
Year Established: 2004
Current artists: Stag Hare, The Tenants of Balthazar’s Castle, Hew Mun, Sly Aye, WYLD WYZRDZ, The Grizzly Prospector, Paper Cranes collective, Mothers of Sons
Number of releases to date: 26
National Distribution: None
Is Roster Available on itunes? No
Number of albums sold: Unsure, but at least 500

Magic Goat Music
Owner/Founder: Braden J McKenna
Year Established: 2004
Current artists: Navigator, WYLD WYZRDZ, Mothers of Sons, Sparks and Spools, Wyerd Children, Dark Sea of Awareness, etc ...
Number of releases to date: 22 (12 Physical, 10 Digital)
National Distribution: None
Is Roster Available on itunes? No
Number of albums sold: Unsure

Photo by Adam Dorobiala

The swagger of the self-proclaimed artist abounds in Kaysville. I’m still unclear what it is about that area of Utah, that sits between Ogden and Salt Lake, which allows it to produce so many prolific musicians. I have a feeling it may have to do with its isolation and the oppression of suburban sprawl. The members of A. Star Recordings (ASR), American West Freedom Society (AWFS) and Magic Goat Music (MGM) are bonafide weirdos, but the best kind of weirdos. The major question these labels should be asked is about the mass quantity of albums produced (20+ this year alone). Unlike the majority of labels, they seem to have no discretion when it comes to what they choose to release. Instead of promoting a few albums and hosting large release parties to sell as many records as possible, it appears that they choose to release whatever comes there way. Ultimately, these guys don’t really care if anyone listens to what they are producing. They produce the music for their own benefit and enjoyment. Their attitude about creating is obvious—the more the better.

SLUG: Why did your label start? What is your label like?
Michael Biggs (ASR, AWFS): When I was in high school, I’d hear people talk about having their own record labels, and I thought that it would be really cool to have my own record label, although I had no idea what you were supposed to do. The band I was in recorded an EP and instead of just releasing it with no name on it (like I had done in the past), I made up a record label called “Anti-Star.” That probably would have been the end of it, but when Garrick [Arthur] made his first We Are Seagulls album, he decided to put Anti-Star on it, and it turned into a record label. After the first six releases, we shortened the name to A. Star, because the name Anti-Star sounded too much like we were trying to be punk rock. Until 2007 the label was a venue for Garrick’s and my music, but more of our friends had stuff to put out, and we were all inspiring each other to make lots of good music. The main people actively involved with A. Star are (alphabetically): Andrew Alba, Garrick Arthur, Michael Biggs, Skyler Hitchcox, Braden J. McKenna, Matthew J. Munn and Parker Yates. We all help each other out with everything—recording, playing and putting stuff together. We tend to think of A. Star as more of a community than a label, and our music has branched out to other labels like American West Freedom Society Press and Magic Goat Music. We still don’t really know the business side of what record labels are supposed to do, but gradually we’ve learned enough to do most of what we want to do.
Braden McKenna (MGM): Magic Goat is whatever I feel like. It’s something I started in high school in 2004 when I lived in Washington to put out CD-Rs. I resurrected it at the beginning of 2008 because I know way too many people making rad music. The focus was initially on free digital releases (we have released 10 free digital albums this year so far).

Photo by Adam Dorobiala

SLUG: What are your guidelines for releases?
MB: We pretty much put out our friends’ stuff. I think most of the good indie labels are like that. We are friends, so we’re on similar pages. We aren’t competing against each other, we inspire each other. Although there are a variety of styles, we’re coming from similar mindsets and the music groups together well. Quality is selfregulating. I think it would be a mistake to try to build a label out of some arbitrary sense of quality. I think only the artist knows when something is ready to put out. We’re not trying to put anything on the map. We don’t care what is commercially viable. We are in it for the art.
BM: Magic Goat is pretty low key, so no one is officially on or off the label. Some of my favorite bands that have released on Magic Goat this year are Mothers of Sons, Sparks and Spools and Dark Sea of Awareness (from Florida). I guess what makes the label unique is we have been releasing a lot of music in a short amount of time. We’ve put out an EP or LP every month digitally for free this year, plus the three physical releases. While I plan to start putting out more physical stuff, the free digital albums will still be finding frequent updates. Plus we have comics, and really what more could you want from a label than poorly drawn web comics!?

SLUG: What are your goals as a label? What is your motivation?
MB: We are more worried about helping the individual artists than the label itself. We want the label to help meet individual artists’ goals. That being said, I would like to get to the point where there is enough interest in our music that we can put everything out on vinyl and break even. Also, I’d like to put out other kinds of things like DVDs and books. The business side of A. Star is probably the weakest side—we would probably be making a lot more money right now if we were good at advertising. We are hoping that eventually word will spread and more people will know about us without us having to force it.
BM: I don’t think there are any official goals for what Magic Goat Music will become—I just want it to evolve naturally. It would be really nice if the label could get to the point where I’d be able to put out vinyl at runs of 500 and actually get money back. I’m not really planning on getting the money back from the vinyl—I just want to hear myself on wax. Pretty selfish, I guess. Aside from music, a few of my friends and I, on a not-so regular basis, post comics. I also plan to sell some of my friends’ visual art from the site. For now, the label is just a creative outlet. Hopefully, people will be able to enjoy the music we put out.

The energy created by these labels is infectious and has no sign of slowing down. Check out Astar-recs.blogspot. com and for a continuous barrage of sound art.

Discography: A. Star Recordings
ASR-001: The Coming on – Masquerade at the Firefly Ball – CDR Run of 50 (2004)
ASR-002: We Are! Seagulls – Crazy Magpie – CDR Run of 50 (2005)
ASR-003: Paper Cranes – Peter Panda & the Paper Cranium – CDR Run of 50 (2005)
ASR-004: Melvin Duane, Jr. – Hey Camcorder! You’re Easy! – CDR Run of 50 (2005)
ASR-005: We Are Seagulls – We Are Doomed – 2 CDRs Run of 50 (2005)
ASR-006: Hew Mun – Live at a Basketball Court – CDR Run of 30 (2006)
ASR-007: Joaquin McCloud – Shannon Sossamon – CDR Run of 50 (2006)
ASR-008: Paper Cranes – Escape to Wicked Mountain – CD Run of 1000 (2006)
ASR-009: Paper Cranes – Remixes – CDR Run of 50 (2006)
ASR-010: We Are Seagulls – This is My Airport in D – CDR Run of 50 (2006)
ASR-011: The Tenants of Balthazar’s Castle -–Terror in Twelve Parts – CDR Run of 50 (2006)
ASR-012: We Are Seagulls – Silent Heart Violin School 1 – A Flutter of Wings – CDR Run of 30 (2006)
ASR-013: We Are Seagulls– Silent Heart Violin School 2 – I Breathe Hair – CDR Run of 30 (2006)
ASR-014: The Grizzly Prospector – These Are Songs. – CDR Run of 50 (2006)
ASR-015: Michael Biggs / Matthew Munn– BATS – CDR Run of 30 (2007)
ASR-016: The Tenants of Balthazar’s Castle / Stag Hare – Mean Girls / Th’ Fheather Dust Work Songg –Cassette Run of 30 (2007)
ASR-017: Hew Mun – Scintillated Garble – CDR Run of 30(2008)
ASR-018: Stag Hare – Ahspen (re-issue) – CDR Run of 100 (2008)
ASR-019: Navigator – Throwing Tongues – CDR Run of 100 (2007)
ASR-015: Michael Biggs / Matthew Munn – BATS (Reissue) – CDR Run of 100 (2008)
ASR-020: Aye Aye – Saint Delay and the Golden God – CDR Run of 100 (2008)
ASR-021: Wo0 – Come Blue – CDR Run of 200 (2008)
ASR-022: The Tenants of Balthazar’s Castle – The Moon – CDR Run of 200 (2008)
ASR-023: Stag Hare – Black Medicine Music – CD Run of 1000 (2008)