Just say yes to the
classic punk and proto-Americana the label championed
By Blurt Staff
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Frontier Records, which was founded in Los Angeles in 1980 by Lisa Fancher. Frontier
was one of the first independent labels to document the nascent L.A. and O.C.
hard-core punk rock scene before branching out into other scenes and sounds
such as the so-called “Paisley Underground” and (always) guitar-based
bands along with genres such as goth, alternative country (proto-Americana at
that), pop and more. Bands releasing records on Frontier include: Circle Jerks,
Adolescents, The Weirdos, TSOL, China White, Redd Kross, Thin White Rope,
Heatmiser, Young Fresh Fellows, Christian Death, Dharma Bums, American Music
Club, The Long Ryders, The Three O’Clock, The Pontiac Brothers, Naked Prey,
Flop and many more.
To celebrate the milestone, Fancher will be reissuing the
classic 1979 punk compilation Yes L.A. (originally a one-sided picture disc LP from the Dangerhouse label containing
tracks by X, the Germs, Black Randy, the Alley Cats, the Eyes and the Bags; the
title was a play on the previously released No
New York no-wave compilation). This will be Frontier’s official 100th release – a milestone in itself.
“When I founded Frontier Records
in 1980, I had no idea what running a record label entailed, I just wanted to
turn other people onto the local bands I loved,” said Fancher, in a press
release. “It’s pretty cool to have outlasted so many independent – and major –
labels thirty years later but what really still makes me want to continue is to
continue to release great music that still needs to be heard. Especially now!”
In late 2010, Frontier will
re-release the digitally remastered Christian Death classic Only Theater of
Pain with Rozz Williams’ original artwork as well as Dangerhouse’s Yes
L.A. compilation and other nuggets soon to be announced. Additionally,
Frontier has always been a vinyl-oriented label, which considers the limited
edition colored vinyl LP their calling card – so expect more colored wax
reissues in the coming months.
A 30th anniversary
event honoring Frontier Records is in the works and will be announced shortly.
The back story…
Among the first to tap into the
punk scene, Frontier Records’ initial success was releasing the classic Circle
Jerks record Group Sex. This was later followed by Orange County’s
Adolescents’ debut known as the Blue Album TSOL’s Dance with Me and Christian Death’s Only Theatre of Pain. However, it was the
eponymous debut LP from Suicidal Tendencies that spawned the unexpected MTV
smash “Institutionalized” that put Frontier on the map. If you caught the
Don Johnson vehicle Miami Vice episode featuring Suicidal, you’d know the
mainstream finally caught up with the underground.
In light of these early
successes in punk rock, it is easy to overlook the fact that Frontier has also
released well-known records from bands from a variety of genres: The Long
Ryders, Thin White Rope, The Three O’Clock, Young Fresh Fellows, American Music
Club and Heatmiser, Elliott Smith’s first band. All of these groups and more
released full-length-albums on Frontier Records that were as important to the
labels evolution as any punk rock angst the label is best known for.
Perhaps most importantly, a
woman starting her own independent record label in an overwhelmingly male
dominated music industry in 1980 was key in shattering the notion that ‘chicks
can’t rock’. Simply put, women didn’t start their own record labels then,
especially in the testosterone-drenched L.A.
punk rock scene. For founder Lisa Fancher to have survived as an indie label
for thirty solid years on, having seen her fair share of record distributors go
belly up and put her label in financial jeopardy, makes its survival almost as
impressive as its inception.
Having begun her music career as a
teenage clerk at the Bomp Records store on Magnolia Blvd in North Hollywood-
concurrently fan club president for L.A.’s The Dickies and publisher of
Biff!Bang!Pow! fanzine- Lisa learned the ropes on how to jumpstart an
indie label from the best possible mentors a person could have, Greg and Suzy
Shaw at Bomp Records. While her first success came from releasing soon-to-be
classic punk titles by new bands, Fancher gradually delved into the world of
reissuing out-of-print catalog as well, including Born Innocent from
Redd Kross, two legendary slabs of punk vinyl from The Weirdos: Weird World
Vol. 1 & 2, Dangerhouse Vols 1 & 2 featuring crucial 45s by
X, The Avengers, Weirdos, Black Randy, et al.), the Adolescents’ Complete Demos
1980 – 1996 and The Middle Class’ compilation Out of Vogue.