By Reed Romanko
On his show ska is dead and we killed it that aired on June 29, WTBU’s Reed Romanko chatted with Bad Time Records’ Mike Sosinski. Read the transcript below.
Reed Romanko: So Bad Time Records is a DIY ska punk record label, but there’s more to every record label than the style of music it puts out. Could you expand on the more? What separates Bad Time Records from other labels in the scene?
Mike Sosinski: Yeah, I mean I think the first thing is that there aren’t too many other labels in the scene which are just doing ska punk music. That’s sort of one of the reasons why I started Bad Time, is because I’ve been playing in ska punk bands for longer than I should probably admit. But for about 20 years, and with Kill Lincoln I just sort of got fed up with all of the – we were working so hard and playing so much and recording and touring all the time – and labels didn’t seem to care, DIY communities also didn’t seem to care, major labels certainly weren’t interested. So, I said “Let me just do it myself, let’s just do it ourselves and let’s do our own ska punk record label, and let’s just focus on ska punk music.” And of course that’s a pretty wide net because I don’t want to just do ska punk. But yeah, that was sort of the idea behind the whole thing: just do ska punk and that would be different enough.
RR: Yeah, that’s awesome! Peak DIY right there. In that vein, what were some of the challenges you encountered starting from scratch, making this record label?
MS: I’d been in bands for a long time, but I’d never done a record label. I’d never worked with other bands’ music. But I found that it was pretty easy to just like – I started working with a lot of bands that I know. One of the first bands that I put out was we are the union, and I’ve been friends with those guys for a long time, and Catbite, I’ve known Tim from Catbite for a long time. So having a close personal connection with the bands made it a lot easier, cause there are a lot of little decisions that need to get made when you’re putting out a record. Being on good terms with everyone and being close and being able to communicate was really important. Then the basic logistics of setting up your store, being able to ship all kinds of stuff, keeping supplies, doing all the graphics and promos, and all this stuff. It was a lot to learn! I used a lot of what I learned from being in bands and Kill Lincoln, but there was a lot of new stuff to learn, so I try to pick it up [laughs].
RR: Speaking about other DIY labels, you know Jeremy Andrew Hunter of We are the Union and Skatune Network fame worked with Counterintuitive Records to release Pick it the F*CK up. In terms of DIY ethics and message, I see some similarities between Bad Time Records and Counterintuitive. Do you think we might see some collaboration with them in the future? A split EP, a joint tour, anything, or with any other labels in the scene?
MS: Yeah, Counterintuitive is an awesome DIY label, probably the pinnacle of DIY labels right now, the amount of work they’re doing is crazy. I actually learned a lot about them through Jeremy. I’d love to collaborate with them, especially because that emo scene – I hate to put a label on it “the emo scene” – but they’re so connected and they’re so supportive of each other, the bands on that label and the fans especially. I’d like to take a lot of that feeling and put it into our community. I’d love to collaborate with Counterintuitive, and actually there is a pretty significant collaboration that I’m working on right now. I actually can’t say anything about it because it’s big, big news, but getting to work with one of my personal heroes and we should have some news about that soon, so stay tuned!
RR: Phenomenal, you love to hear it! In regards to just Bad Time records, what’s on the agenda for you guys right now? Any soon to be releases or exciting announcements you want to make or publicize?
MS: Yeah, a record we just released back a couple weeks ago – I’m not sure when this is airing – we did a split with Catbite and Omnigone, Catbite from Philly and Omnigone from East Bay, California. Two very different ska bands that didn’t know each other at all, but through the internet and through being on the label became awesome friends, decided to cover each one of each other’s songs and do another cover and put it on the split. The split is excellent, it’s a lot of fun! They also decided, we put out a special variant limited to a hundred, that all of the proceeds from that variant are going to the national black arts foundation. Both bands decided they wanted to give back, especially during these tumultuous times. So that split is great, and I think by the time this airs, this will have been announced, but the new Kill Lincoln record is now available for pre-order. It’ll be coming out on August seventh, it’s called Can’t Complain. The first single called “Confession Obsession” is streaming everywhere now. I’m obviously really excited about that record because I’m in Kill Lincoln and I wrote those songs. So I’m very stoked about that!
RR: As you should be! Going on something you talked about with the Omnigone Catbite split, with the ongoing uprisings following George Floyd’s murder and countless others, many bands have used their platforms to help the Black Lives Matter movement. Bad Time Records and their bands have been sharing resources, encouraging petition signings, donating proceeds to causes, all that great stuff. There are also a lot of other prominent bands in the ska punk scene who are being kind of silent right now. What do you say to them?
MS: Of course, the phrase going around is “Silence is violence.” If you’re in a position of privilege like I am and a lot of people on the label, you need to use your voice and you need to speak up. You need to help propel and project black voices and causes right now. For a lot of bands, I can’t speak for all them, I’m sure there’s all kinds of… I really don’t understand it. I would say “Oh, maybe it’s politics,” but it’s not politics, it’s human rights. It’s life or death right now, so there’s no reason to be silent. It’s frustrating and I’d ask them to take a look at where their priorities are, really get their stuff together. I’ll not say a bad word cause it’s radio [laughs].
RR: Thank you, I appreciate it! In that vein, you posted a “Mission Statement” not too long ago, very well put, talking about Bad Time Records’s commitments to antiracism, fighting homophobia and transphobia, standing up for the oppressed, all that very important stuff. These are built into the roots of punk and ska, of course, but you know people are ignorant. Did you receive any backlash to that? How did people respond?
MS: I didn’t receive any backlash from that. People were extremely supportive. I have to say, I know on the internet especially, it’s way too easy to find people who want to be idiots, want to be ignorant, want to troll, or do whatever they’re gonna do. But actually people at Bad Time, in our comments, in our groups, especially in our bands and fans, have been super supportive, which makes me really proud of our community. Hopefully, maybe there are some people who didn’t really think about these issues and maybe now they’re thinking about them, that’s what I hope. On the base level, I think, hopefully we’ve just got a good crop of fans, so I’m proud of that! People are very supportive of that mission statement, and it’s common sense. I don’t know how you can be in punk rock, how you can be in ska, and not be antiracist, antihomophobic, antisexist, antixenophobic. It’s crazy! I don’t know how you can be any other way, to be honest.
RR: Of course, one hundred percent with you. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, although your latest full album release was with Grey Matter, right?
MS: The Grey Matter, that was a full LP. There was a split with Stuck Lucky and Still Alive, but that was staged at about like six or seven tracks, so it wasn’t a totally a full LP. But yeah, the last full LP this year was Grey Matter.
RR: Right, cool. An integral part of their music is, you know, their actively antiracist and antihate lyrics. How important is that message when you’re looking to add bands to the label? What exactly are you looking for when you’re thinking of who you’re going to sign to Bad Time Records?
MS: That message of antihate is the baseline, that’s like the lowest bar. You have to meet that bar or I’m not even communicating with you. Really, for bands I’m looking for, I want bands that are really trying to propel the genre forward. Ska punk, it would be really easy for it to stagnate, and I think that’s kind of what happened in the late nineties, early two thousands. It was flourishing for a while, then everyone wanted to do it, and then it just fell off the map because no one wanted to iterate on the genre. So I’m really interested in bands that are taking themselves seriously, not really– I mean not too seriously. Listen, we’re all having fun, it’s music. A show is a party, bands can have fun, but there’s a way to have fun and take yourself seriously, take your music seriously and your image quote unquote- I’m putting up air quotes [laughs]. If Skadillac Johnny and the Ska Skankers email me and their music’s great, I’d be like “Yeah, but your name, it’s kind of a joke. Why would you want to name yourself something that’s kind of a joke? Ska’s been thought of as a joke for too long.” So I’m looking for bands that take themselves seriously, want to move the genre forward, want to do something differently, and also are just good people. We do a lot of communicating, like I was saying earlier. I want to make sure we gel on a personal level. That’s why a lot of the bands that I’ve signed quote unquote again, so far I’ve known or at least have met one or two of them in the past. It helps to know that we’re real people out there, not just internet friends [laughs].
RR: I’m sure you know this better than a lot of people, live music and bands have been hit very hard by COVID-19. Could you talk about your experiences managing the label during a global pandemic? How have interactions with bands changed? Have fans been engaging more with Bad Time Records? What’s it been like?
MS: It’s difficult for everyone obviously. I feel for venues, small music venues the most, because there are so many of favorite venues that are going to be the last to open, and I hope a lot of them survive. So if anybody’s listening, think about your favorite small music venue and do what you can to support them right now, if they have a GoFundMe or something, because they can use your help. But for the label, it’s interesting because it was sort of like business as usual for a while. It was scary because I didn’t know what to expect, but the support for the community has been so strong, and I think people still want music right now. People have been buying records and being positive and the bands have all been supportive. You know it’s tough with Stuck Lucky and Still Alive, when we decide to put out a record, they’re like “Great, you’re gonna send me this many records, and we’re gonna go play all these shows, and we need these for our release show.” And then it’s like “Whoops, no more shows, no more tours, no more nothing.” What do you do with that, all those plans? So there were a lot of plans that were thrown out the window. I think generally we’ve been okay. People have been really supportive; the community has been great. The one thing I’m getting a little sick of is livestream shows. I think I’m not alone in that, and it’s great to do. It’s the only way to connect right now as a band. We gotta figure out some new format. I’ve got some ideas for a Kill Lincoln album release show, we’re gonna try and do something a little different.
RR: Oh, exciting! So this a bit of a personal question, I’ve been a huge Kill Lincoln fan for the past five years, ever since I stumbled upon the “Good Riddance to Good Advice” music video in 2015. Do you think a You Were There pressing might ever come?
MS: Oh my god, wow… I don’t know, let’s see how the new record sells! That will be a pretty big indicator. It’s a small label, limited resources. At the moment, I’d rather put the resources I have towards new music. If we sell out of all these Kill Lincoln records in a minute, I’ll definitely heavily consider a You Were There pressing, but I think that’s probably a long ways a way just because of resources. A lot of people have asked, it’s awesome and I’m very humbled that people would want that on vinyl, but yeah, I just don’t know. We’ll see, no promises.
RR: Alright, and to close it out, do you have any parting words for Ska fans right now?
MS: Ska fans, thank you for being ska fans! Take the risk and listen to new bands. Not just on Bad Time, there are tons of new ska and ska punk bands out right now. I know it’s hard when you have those ten bands in your roster that you’re like “I love these bands and I’m going to listen to them on repeat.” It’s hard to break out and listen to new stuff sometimes, you really get momentum and you just want to listen to the same stuff. Give new bands a shot, try it. Especially if you’ve been listening to the same couple bands from the late nineties. My favorites, the BossToneS, Less Than Jake. Try something new! There are bands doing really cool stuff. Bad Time is I think a good place to start, The Shape of Ska Punk to Come is a comp we did that benefits the ACLU, it’s got tons of great bands. There’s tons of bands so take a listen. Jeremy from Skatune Network has the best playlists, go check out their Spotify playlists because there’s tons of bands you’ll find, and you’ll discover something you love. So be active, keep searching for new stuff, and when you find something you like, tell people about it! Share it, be vocal, and let people know because that’s all we’ve got right now.