and then came the blog.

So Rich told me he thought I should write the story of Dromedary, because it was worth telling.

For some reason, I got to thinking about this toward the end of 2008.  Maybe it had to do with getting that Stuyvesant CD, or discovering the Mommyheads record, I don’t know.  I guess it’s probably more likely just because I was in my late 30s, and I think it’s natural to think about the old days as the old days get further away into your past.

So I went upstairs into the attic one day – I save everything – and pulled down a couple of boxes of files that were up there.  And I opened them up, and was immediately hit with some memories.

A package of coffee, autographed by Doug Larkin.  It said, in silver marker, “hi.  It’s doug.”

Our old rubber stamp of a camel that we used to plaster on every package of mail we sent.

A roll of “No Cavity Club” stickers that we used to stick on every envelope.

The master reel of the demo, Five Grown Men on a Quest for Pez.

The tool we used to silkscreen those fucking cuppa joe CDs.  And a stack of CD booklets, maybe 50 of them, all stuck together.  The paint was still tacky, 15 years later.  Really.

The Milan bio.

I started going through the boxes, and I realized that it would be a fun project.  Something to do that would take me a long time, and get me to flex my creative muscles again.  I enjoy writing, and in 2008, felt like I didn’t do it nearly enough.

I’m not really big on New Year’s resolutions at all.  I’ve made them, but I rarely keep them.  I can’t think of one habit I’ve started, or broken, as a result of a New Year’s resolution.

But I made one anyway.  I decided that I was going to take Rich’s advice and tell the story of Dromedary, in a blog, with scans and photos and MP3s.  I was going to write an entry every day, or every other day, and I was not going to skimp – I was really going to tell the story, including all the dumb asides and unrelated anecdotes that happened along the way.  I was going to relate the story of running a micro-indie, with all its warts and incredibly stupid things that we did, all the mistakes that we made, and all the frustrations.  I was going to write it in a way that was part “how to,” part self-deprecating humor, part memoir.  The story would recount the highs and lows, the comedy and tragedy, and also relate the growth and decline of the label to the evolution of my own life and that of my family.

The point of the story?  Well, there were going to be three.

First, I wanted to reach out to the people with whom we’d lost touch – basically, everyone but Ralph and Mark from Footstone – and let them know that we remember them, and we miss them (and in some cases, we’re sorry for the things that happened).  We lost touch with a lot of great people over the years, and we really do remember them all very fondly – so I felt that telling the stories would help document all those great memories.

Second, I wanted to tell the story.  I figured that at some level, people wanting to start a label of their own might be able to glean some useful shred of information (like, for example, don’t silkscreen CD covers) from it.  But I thought it also might be a compelling read – the story of a handful of people full of piss and vinegar who wanted to do something big, but eventually did something bigger instead.  Or something like that.  Every person in the story did something real, left some sort of mark.  At the same time, the story didn’t end the way any of us had envisioned at the beginning.  I guess it never does.

Third, it was supposed to be a gift, for my family and specifically for Ryan.  In fact, if you read back to the entry about the day he was born, the entire entry (the only one where the headline is all capital letters – in fact, the only headlines with capital letters are the three about my kids’ births) was written to him; he’s addressed as “you.”  The whole blog was, initially, for him.

He is my hero.

So I started chugging along, writing these blog entries, right after January 1, 2009.  I’d write four or five at a time, make some scans or some MP3s, and post them.  My basement (and, for a month or two, my dining room) became a disaster area, with 15-year-old documents and demo tapes and trinkets scattered all over – once again, there was a room in my house devoted to Dromedary.  After I had a couple of weeks’ worth of entries, I told a few of my friends about it.  And some of them liked it enough to start reading, or tell some friends.  The longer it was out there, the more people I told about it.  By March, I was actually advertising it on Facebook – I wanted people to read it.

As far as blogs go, this isn’t the most heavily-trafficked blog out there.  A little over 16,000 page views in a little less than a year, plus a few thousand more on Facebook.  I’m sure a lot of those page views come from the same people.

But Dromedary Records sure didn’t interact with people at that level in 1995.  In 1995, we got a handful of letters a week.  In 2009, more people interact with us in a month than they probably did in the entire history of Dromedary Records in the 90s, all put together.

The internet is magical, how it gives you the ability to touch people.

Which is why I thought it was so unbelievably cool when Paula Carino discovered the blog.  She was the first person from the old days that reached out.  We became friends on Facebook shortly thereafter, and have been in touch relatively frequently, almost all year.

After Paula came a bunch of others.  In fact, I’d say that 75% of the people I mention in the story are people I’m in touch with once again.

That’s cool.

A lot of them have moved on from indie rock, started families, gotten respectable careers, discovered some other passion that keeps them enthused.  Some of them have stuck with it, still doing indie rock, still full of the fire.  Others have discovered a balance that works for them, where they do the indie thing but still manage to behave like adults, at least some of the time.

It’s been great to reconnect with them all, regardless of what they’re doing now.  I sort of realized during the course of writing this blog that music may have brought us all together, but friendship or respect kept us together, and that’s a great conclusion to have drawn.  When I exchanged emails with Rich Masio, discussing the merits of coaching Little League, I realized that I didn’t view Rich as a guy from the indie days, I viewed him as an old friend, and we still have much to discuss.  And as Sandy and I sat and watched the Presidential election returns, with Facebook open and streams of joyous comments refreshing on my screen all night long – many from friends we’d reconnected with toward the end of 2008, I realized that Dromedary was a successful label, much in the way Steve Albini told me it could be.

I didn’t understand him then.  But I do now.

~ by Al on December 23, 2009.

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