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Negative Progression Records
The Early Years
I started Negative Progression Records to put out the first 7" record for my pop punk band, Lipmonger, so we would have something to sell on our first tour in the summer of 1996. I was moving from Atlanta to Boston at the time, and the band was based out of Hartford, so it just made sense to join a fun (and silly) west coast-style pop punk with my best friend Reuben. The very first thing I did was design a logo inspired by the logos of other labels I admired like Dischord, Touch & Go, Sub Pop, and Lookout!. I then printed up some t-shirts with the logo and made a small mailorder catalog to distribute my favorite bands from Atlanta like Act of Faith, Crisis Under Control, Broken, Quadiliatcha, Thence Foward, Car vs. Driver and Inkwell.
Throughout the rest of 1996 and into 1997, Lipmonger played shows all over the Northeast on weekends with great local bands like Piebald, Endeavor, Weston, Digger, 5 Driver, Cooter (later to be Autopilot Off), Humble Beginnings, The Thumbs, Fastbreak, and others. In preparation to go on a west coast tour, we recorded two new songs with Brian McTernan at Salad Days Studio in Boston. Brian had been in many bands that I loved like Ashes, Battery, and Miltown and he recorded a lot of cool New England bands, so I was pretty excited. I decided the best way to introduce Lipmonger to more people was to put out a split, so I wrote letters to a few bands we liked, probably Sinkhole, Sicko, Zoinks and the McRackins. The Lipmonger/McRackins split was the first release on NPR with full color artwork, which was a big deal in 1997. On the first Lipmonger record, I photo copied the cover on color paper at Kinkos in Copley Square. Our great friend Brett from NJ Joystick immortalized us as cartoons for the cover and when setting up the art for the printer, I mistakenly reflected The MacRackins cover art! When I got the final product, I almost had an aneurysm, but I placed a small note in each record with instructions to look at it in the mirror for a secret message. I hoped people would think it was funny or some punk rock schtick, but it wasn't! The summer of 1997, Lipmonger toured out to California, and then back throughout the Midwest, with both great and terrible shows (as is the norm for a young punk band).
The very first CD released on the label was a compilation called "Oldies BUT Goodies!." While there have been many cover comps over the years, this was one of the first (only preceded by "Before You Were Punk" on Vagrant Records). It featured all unreleased tracks by great punk bands Face To Face, MxPx, Good Riddance, Autopilot Off, Bracket, Gob and a bunch more. In the 90s, not many punk bands had websites, but every punk band had their mailing address in their CD insert, so I wrote to all the bands that I loved and asked them to be part of this compilation. The only band to turn me down were Propagandhi, and in true Canadian fashion, were very nice about it. I wanted to get the big bands first and it just so happened that Face to Face were playing the Paradise Rock Club next to my dorm at Boston University on 10/23/96. I loved them, so after the show I stuck around and was able to pitch the idea of a 50s cover comp to Scott Shiflett. He thought it was a cool idea, so he took me onto their tour bus where I talked to Trevor Keith! What a great time for a punk rock kid. Trevor seemed excited and fortunately connected me to Face to Face's manager Rich Egan, who also happened to own the relatively new Vagrant Records.
It took until early 1998, but after I had the bands lined up, I asked the label co-owner Jon Cohen if they would distribute the comp and they agreed! The first pressing was distributed in Canada by Gob's label Landspeed Records, but Vagrant handled the re-presses in Canada. I didn't know it then, but one of my lifelong friends through music "Big Al" of early Fat Wreck Chords fame handled the distribution in Japan through his company CR Japan. Side story: the first 3 employees at Fat were named Aaron/Erin so Fat Mike re-named one "Big Al" and the other "El Hefe." I guess at a label of four people, three with the same name would be confusing. Another thing that was different about this release from others at the time was that the band royalties were donated to a (somewhat radical) environmental organization called Earth First! in the Pacific Northwest. They fought for our planet, hard. This compilation was quite successful for the time and really gave the label a great start.
Through Lipmonger, I met the guys (and girl) in 5-Driver, a fast melodic punk band from East Stroudsburg, PA. They previously released a 7" on GFY Records and were starting to build a following. They recorded their debut full length album "Self Proclaimed Rock Stars" at nearby Mountainside Studios run by the eccentric Rich Rescigno. The studio was in the basement of a house Rich owned down the street from his own house, and the bands recording there had the entire place to themselves which was pretty amazing. This was a popular studio at the time, partially because of the quality of the recordings and partially because Rich liked to play old VHS tapes for the bands he was recording of when he was a guitarist in an 80s glam rock band. Due to some interpersonal issues, 5-Driver had member changes shortly after the release which interrupted their momentum. Also, they bought a van that wasn't in great shape, so on their first tour the van died and they left it on the side of the road. Members of this band went on to be in Bigwig, Split-50, and Wisdom in Chains.
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