If ya like rock
n´roll, you probably haventmissed Norton Records. Theyve been putting out their fine shit for over tenyears now and if youve missed em, heres a chance to catch up. Theyvereleased albums with such fine artists as Link Wray, Esquerita, Hasil Adkinsand modern bands like The Real Kids, The A-Bones and Untamed Youth. And theyput out the greatest rockn´roll magazine ever, Kicks. I interviewed Billy Miller over the phone. He runs Norton togetherwith Miriam Linna. So, heres the second part of our rock`n´roll record labelspotlight series. Lets get real, real gone for a change!
Inteview by Martin. Photos by Gunnar Johansson.
I just bought the new Dictators single.
Oh, do youlike it?
They justleft today for Spain.
They did? Yeah, theyre coming to Sweden soon.
Are yougonna see em?
How come you released that?
Uhhm, Im abig fan of theirs, big Dictators fan and yknow, Im really good friends withthese guys, so they wanted a single for their…yknow, and they hadnt doneany new recordings for awhile and I think they are actually playing better thanever. So we just got together and did this new single. Cause theyve alwaysbeen on major labels before and stuff, now theyre on a good label instead.
Is there going to be a new album too?
I dontknow about that. I know theyre looking to do a kinda…like the best of theDictators type album.
How come you got so interested in rock`n´roll?
Uhhm, haha.Jeez, I dont know. Ive always liked records yknow. Just crazy aboutrecords.
What was your firstrelease?
Of Norton?Nortons first record… Well, first we had these Hipsville albums and that wasbasically… I kept getting bugged by Tim Warren at Crypt and he kept sayingOh, man you gotta do a record! Oh, man you gotta do a record! And I said,Nah, nah. I dont know about that. Because Tim was just startin out at thattime and I kinda got him going on collecting records and he got me going inmaking records so it was kinda like, Awrite. So we did that and then thruKicks, our magazine, we interviewed Hasil Adkins and Hasil started sendingtapes and then I said: Man, yknow, I hope to make a record out of this but Idont know if anybody else want it? You know Hasil… Am I crazy? And I tookthe best songs and we did this album Out to Hunch and at the same time Hasilwanted me to put out some new recordings that he had made. So what we did waswe put those two out and people jumped all over em. It was great yknow. Rightafter that, uhm, I got a hold of these unreleased Esquerita recordings. Andthen right after that I got a hold of unreleased Jack Starr recordings. And so, once I had that, I mean its agreat way to start. Yknow Hasil, Esquerita, Jack Starr… And yknow hehehehe…And suddenly all the crazies were coming to us and yknow then we startedrecording new bands and stuff like that.
When did you release the first Hasil Adkins,what year?
- Tenyears ago.
You gotta celebrate.
Ah, yeah.Im trying…he, he,he.
So Kicks was before Norton?
Yeah, Kicksstarted in the late 70s. Yknow, we were just kind of a magazine forlikeminded people. And yknow, there was a lot of people at first when we cameout, they were like, Ah, whats this soul crap?. We were writing about stuffnobody cares about, but when you look in those first couple of issues and yousee stuff like Ronnie Dawson, I mean nobody had written about him in years. Yknowall these other things… Now its like a common thing. You go over toanybodys house and they are all listening to those records. So its kindacool.
Is there going to be a new issue?
I hope so,one of these days. The record company has got us kinda swamped. Although we didget a bunch of great unpublished rock`n´roll photos and we are going to bedoing a book with that. In fact, the guy who took the pictures of Esqeurita onthe back of your Savage magazine, the guy who took all those pictures yknow. Itspictures of Esqeurita and all these other guys, so it will be pretty wild. Sothat will be before any kind of Kicks anyway.
When is it going to be out?
Hopefullyearly next year.
How much work goes into an issue of Kicks?
Hehehe, waytoo much. Everytime one of them are done I go Oh, my god. What the hell was Idoing? Hehe.
Theres no magazine like it.
I think its the best about old music.
Well,people just think that we, or I, dont like new music. But I just wanted to putstuff out and people could read it five or ten years later. And it would stillbe cool yknow. And the people who were making fun of me when I started, theywere all writing about, yknow, the Talking Heads or Elvis Costello and thisan that. Yknow, I just thought that was a bunch of crap. People are going tobe talking Sonny Burgess way after they talk about Elvis Costello.
Which was the first new band on the label? Wasthat the A-bones?
Ah, yeah.The A-bones or the Untamed Youth… The first two albums came out at the sametime. We got some other ones… Roy Loney, Jon and the Nightriders, PhantomSurfers. We get a million demotapes. People keep sending em and sending emand we only ever found one band off a demotape and that was the Hentch Men.
Who was in the A-bones?
Well… Itwas me, Miriam, Bruce Bennet, Marcus the Carcass, bassplayer and Lars Espensenon sax. That was like the line up for most of the time and then… Way beforethat we had Mike Lewis, whos in DMZ and the Lyres and Mike Mariconda from theRaunch Hands.
How long were the A-bones together?
Ten years.Ten years to the week that we started. Hehehe, were big on tenth anniversarysaround here!
What bands are on the label now?
The HentchMen, the Flat Duo Jets, theyre actually playing here tomorrow. Weve beenworking with them a lot. The Hentch Men, they were just here a couple of daysago. Theres actually been, the bands not together anymore, but weve got anew A-bones album coming out. With unreleased songs. And weve been doing a lotof singles on new bands; Jackie and the Cedrics, theyre like the best livesurfband there is. The Kaisers, theyre fantastic. Weve got new singles withthe Neanderthals, the Dictators… Plus weve been doing lots of Real Kidsstuff too. Theyre not exactly new but, I mean, I guess for Norton…its new. Hehehe.
How do you get a hold of the bands you release?The old bands?
Just kindof from record collecting, just kind of from knowing what I like, what Miriamlikes. Yknow, just one thing we just did, we just signed to get someunreleased Dale Hawkins recordings, which are real killer. You kind of… Thereare a lot of guys doing reissues and stuff but theres certain labels that Ithink are just mainly from people who started out as record collectors, yknow.Crypt with Tim Warren, Telstar, yknow Todd Abramson, Bob Irwin at Sundazed. Imean, those are guys that I respect, what theyre doing and stuff. Hang on asec…
That wasDexter from the Flat Dou Jets, he said to make sure that I told you about him.
Any upcoming re-releases?
We havesome more Link Wray coming out.
Actuallythe Missing Links albums that were on vinyl, theyll be on CD and therell be afourth volume on vinyl and CD. What were we talking about…. Oh yeah, otherlabels. Labels that we admire and stuff.
I guess all of you , Todd, Tim, you and Miriam,knew each other?
Yeah, infact, its real funny. I wish I could find it and send it to you to put in yourmagazine but… About 1983 I guess, when we all put out our first albums, wehave a picture of me, Miriam, Tim and Todd all holding up our first albums. Andone of these days were gonna look at this and laugh that we were making thesestupid records. Hahahahaha! And now its all we do. We could take the samepicture right now. Hehehe, in fact, Tim is probably wearing the same shirt. Hehehe.What else have we got coming up… Flaming Groovies, another live FlamingGroovies, a mini album. I told you about the Link Wrays. Were going to doEsquerita on CD. Id rather do stuff on records than Cds, but I did get allthese great pictures of him and I would like to use em. Do you like Cds ok?
Yeah, I think theyre ok. Compilations can bepretty good, cause you can put so many songs on a CD.
Yeah,thats the thing. Like some people wonder how come you put extra songs on theCds and this an that. Like yknow, theres room for em. Like when we used todo only vinyl and I would try to put more than twenty minutes on, to get peopletheir moneys worth. I just believe in, yknow doing your best with whateveryouve got. Like the Link Wray double CD, we just put so many songs on cause wehad room to do it. I guess a lot of people get, or are a little hardassed onvinyl, but now they go for CD a little more.