Interview with Alison from SayonaraBeat.com
[Conducted in June 2004]
Naming the dream job of many fans out there would be working for Grand Royal in it's prime. We found one such person and had to find out what it was really like.
How did it all start? How did you get to the envious position of working for Grand Royal? And what was your time there like?
I worked for GR from May 1997 - July 2001. After reading an issue of GR magazine I decided I wanted to get involved because there was a comment about the lack of females involved in their zine/label. I met the Beastie Boys at a Luscious Jackson show in early 1997 and asked them if I could intern for their label, etc. I told them I wanted to do some work for them and they hooked me up with someone who worked in LA. After that meeting I was sent tons of stuff and quickly had to learn how to deal with people and product. Although I was located in NYC and GR was in LA, communication was amazing. I would get handwritten letters and packages from a gal named Stephanie P. E-mail wasn't as frequent then and things were still picking up over there, but Stephanie was so on top of everything. She sent me CDs & records so I could get familiar with some of the smaller bands on the label and it was a music collectors dream come true. Eventually I became a promotion and distribution representative for NJ/NYC record stores and venues. I gave out tons of goodies to kids at shows and made sure stores had stock of the latest releases and knew about upcoming shows and albums coming out. I walked miles around the city hitting every store and wasn't paid a dime - it didn't matter though because it was about doing something I loved and at the time the people I knew at the LA offices were so nice and would send me tons of goodies and get me into shows and events... shoot they even remembered my birthday!
The Third Annual Tibetan Freedom Concert was held just after you started work in 1997, did you help out at all?
I was actually busy with my band, Betty's Trash and had to decline, but otherwise I would have worked at the concert. Everyone I know had a time!
That same year, Hello Nasty (and the associated singles) were released. That must have been a busy time for the label.
I will try to answer that statement with another statement :) During the years I worked with GR it was always busy because they were always coming up with great ideas to promote new bands as well as the classics. When Bis and ATR hit the scene there was no resting time. They really wanted to have these international bands make it happen in the States and I think on some levels they succeeded.
Did you meet any of the artists?
Yeah I met the Beasties a few times as well as Bis (Manda used to do a kick ass zine that she gave me). I met Atari Teenage Riot (RIP Carl Crack) and my best friend interviewed Alec for a zine we used to do called "Trashcan Bangin' Culture" which was based on industrial/electronic/rock music. I got to meet the ladies of Luscious Jackson and would always see Kate or Gabby at other shows around the city. I also met Ben Lee, Buffalo Daughter and a few others.
Did you get freebies and pre-releases? What were some of the perks of the job?
Totally! When I first started they hooked me up with press kits, albums, stickers, photos, clothes and other goodies that filled my mailbox. Promo CDs were always being sent out - they were very kind.
Run us through a usual day at work
Well since I was in NYC and the HQ was LA, usually there would be phone meetings and e-mails. When I first started, I remember getting handwritten letters which was a treat knowing someone took the time for me.
Were there staff meetings?
Sometimes there were NYC meetings with interns & street teamers, but I would see GR staff at big events like CMJ or when the Beasties were touring.
Were staff encouraged to make suggestions on the running of the office? or to make suggestions as to who should be signed?
Not on my end, but I tried to suggest new ways to promote artists at stores and venues.
Who would you have liked to be seen signed to the label if it was still running now?
Oh snap, that is a tough one, but I could see Northern State or Tenacious D being apart of the GR family. It would have been great to have more eclectic hip hop involved.
What are your Top 5 Grand Royal Artists?
In no particular order:
Ladies Who Lunch
What are your Top 5 Grand Royal Releases?
Once again, no order:
Butter 08 - Butter 08
Bis - The New Transistor Heroes
Kostars - Klassics With A K
Luscious Jackson - In Search Of Manny
Ladies Who Lunch - Kims We Love
Why did you leave Grand Royal?
When the Beasties decided to let some other people/company take over their label that is when things went sour, at least for myself. The people I had loved working with over the years were replaced or quit on their own. I lost communication with everyone and the people that were contacting me seemed miserable and not very keen with their jobs. I was going to record stores with less product to hand out and the bands that were being signed couldn't touch the talent and creativity that the older artists and bands that once dominated the scene. I always asked for feedback from record shop owners and hearing that these bands weren't that good make me feel really uncomfortable with my job and eventually I was so annoyed with the way things were being handled that I sent an e-mail to everyone there including some people at "Nasty Little Man", which is the publicity office of the Beasties and other GR bands. I had no response and that really pissed me off especially since I was such a part of getting bands heard at shows, radio, and instore performances.
In the end I knew it was the best decision because I was stressin' and not getting anything done - on top of everything else I was graduating from college and moving out of the city and wasn't going to be on top of my stores and the info. I do miss people like Tick and Stephanie that really made me feel a part of something so far away. I miss the Beasties and the gals from Luscious Jackson. I miss Bis, Atari Teenage Riot and Butter08, damnit! Anyone who saw the CMJ GR showcase is special!
After moving on from GR, what are you doing now?
I'm a graphic designer freelancing in the big apple. I took a pause from the music industry. I have worked for corporate & indie labels and it's just amazing how scary and sad this industry can be. It's a lil crazy how each world operates! People forget that it's a creative and powerful expression that should be respected and not thrown around. [steps off soapbox]
What are your thoughts on why GR fell apart in the end?
Because of money and power. I really think the original family/DIY vibe was overtaken by people that didn't really know the philosophy of what GR was really about. As soon as I heard about new employees I knew it was over. It broke my heart.
Given a choice, is there any other labels you would like to work for?
Well, I have had a label since 1995 called Princezz Ov Power and if I could I would love to do work for any of the following whether it's design, promotional or A&R: Saddle Creek, Fatal, Five Foot Two Records, Chainsaw, Ace Fu, Absolutely Kosher, KRS, Villa Villakula, SubPop, there are tons of labels that I love!
Lyor Cohen went from intern at Def Jam to CEO. Do you have any desire to be in that sort of position?
Perhaps, but not at an ultra corporate level.
Do you keep in contact with anyone from the old Grand Royal days?
Once in a while I see the Beasties at a show or around the city. As for GR workers I talk to Tick once in a while and will meet some people I used to talk to who have moved on as well.
Thanks to Alison for taking the time to talk to us. Check out her cool website SayonaraBeat.com