SUICIDE SQUEEZE RECORDS
Summer, 1996. The Pacific Northwest. Modest Mouse’s debut album, “This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About,” is released by Up Records. The underground - still swooning - holds its collective breath as Built to Spill signs a deal with Warner Brothers to record their follow-up to, “There’s Nothing Wrong With Love.” Pivotal times. The Riot Grrrl movement had re-claimed “the personal as the political,” heralding another wave of feminism and burgeoning movement that went beyond musical expression; yet, genres and subcultures still quarantined the conversation… All the while, Elliott Smith had begun to sing, alone on stage, acoustic guitar in hand.
Enter Suicide Squeeze Records.
A label operated out of a basement - an effort and an adventure - in the mid-nineties (when K and Kill Rock Stars really thrived). This was a prolific period for regional music. Even as the national spotlight burned off elsewhere, inspired sounds rushed from the suburbs and the capitol, and swelled in Seattle. There were countless exciting bands, and near as much noteworthy music - much more, in fact, then, say, indie labels could have hoped to document…
764-HERO’s “Now You’re Swimming” EP was the first release from Suicide Squeeze. The realization of this record marked the beginning of a loose (and still on-going) series of 7-inch EP’s. In some ways, these records (documenting early music from: Modest Mouse, Elliott Smith, Pedro The Lion, etc) remain the hallmark of SSR.
“Ten years after that (764-HERO) 7” single, the label has cultivated a diverse roster of acts that might not have much in common musically, but all preserve a “punk rock soul.” It’s clear that when Suicide Squeeze uses a term like “punk,” it means it in the same way Kurt Cobain did: as an ethos of honesty and authenticity, not a unifying sonic aesthetic.” - Pitchfork
Here, David Dickenson’s new label set its identity, chose its affiliations… His approach to selling records was (and remains) a simple one: Start with an uncompromising value set, a ‘be honest and straightforward in all dealings’ approach to the business-side of the equation, while maintaining mass enthusiasm for the music, and nurturing long-lasting relationships with the artists’ themselves - SSR lives and dies with these relationships - and, yeah, some do die; others thrive. Regardless, Dickenson works like a demon, usually alone, to make whatever next thing happen. He hungers after collaborations (documented by these recordings and friendships) the way musicians often seek each other out for inspiration. This is real, lifesblood stuff. Here, the attitude has always been ‘bands first’.
This commitment to ‘family’ musicians goes far beyond any single or album project. Support often continues after break-ups and/or member-changes, and many SSR-affiliated artists have multiple projects backed by the label. For example: John Atkins (764-HERO, Magic Magicians), David Bazan (Pedro the Lion, Headphones), Michael Nau & Whitney McGraw (Page France, Cotton Jones), Zach Hill & Spencer Seim (Hella, sBACH, Goon Moon), Brian Cook (These Arms Are Snakes, Russian Circles), Nick Thorburn (The Unicorns, Human Highway), et cetera.
The Suicide Squeeze back catalog confirms no single scene or geographic collective of musicianship; it represents a particular individual’s discerning, and cumulative aesthetic choices - his musical viewpoint, of course - as well as untold hours of creative effort from artists (past and present) such as The Aislers Set, Minus the Bear, Six Parts Seven, Iron & Wine, JEFF the Brotherhood, The Melvins, Russian Circles, The Black Keys, King Tuff, Dirty Beaches, Bleached, and Nobunny…
So, maybe the Touch & Go model (of a record label) was an influence - the fifty-fifty (even-money) split between bands and label, have been kept entirely intact… Fuse those idealistic qualities with Dickenson’s own idiosyncratic sensibility as curator, and you have the prime example of a ‘die-hard’ independent.
Since its inception, SSR has released music in hopes of replicating the indiscernible excitement that comes with first discovering your own favorite albums or songs. The label’s current roster of artists - Audacity, The Coathangers, Nü Sensae, Peace, Tammar, and This Will Destroy You - demonstrate a continuum, and provide hardworking testament to this fact.
Winter, 2012. The Pacific Northwest. What was once known as the ‘music industry’ has dissipated, the big labels and big money are all but gone. In many respects, the world is melting or self-destructing or, in the very least, becoming unrecognizable. Yet, Suicide Squeeze, holding strong, prepares to celebrate its 17th year in existence as a true independent record label.