TVD Radar: The Podcast with Evan Toth, Episode 23: Howie Klein

It’s not always about money and it’s not always about fame; sometimes an artist has a desire to just share the music that they can’t help but create, but every so often the industry gatekeepers also have more of an interest in art and creativity than just dollars and cents.

Meet Howie Klein, a writer, concert promoter, disc jockey, music producer, record label founder, record label executive, progressive political activist, and adjunct professor of music. He’s about as music industry as you’d like to get: he was general manager of Sire Records and was the president of Reprise/Warner Bros. Records. He was responsible for signing Lou Reed to the Reprise label and was an early industry champion of Wilco. Currently, he helms DownWithTyranny!, a popular political blog.

Through it all, he didn’t care about the money. He cared about the music, the people, the message. You know what he didn’t care about? He wasn’t entranced by those gaudy baubles that hypnotize most of the folks who reach the top of any industry. No way, no how. Howie plays by Howie’s rules.’

I would jump to discuss any number of fascinating subjects with Howie, but this conversation is focused on the reissues and re-releases of a record label that he founded with Chris Knab and Butch Bridges, 415 Records. The reissue campaign is led by another record label, Liberation Hall. The goal of the label was simple: to release independent music focused on local punk and new wave bands from the fertile San Francisco music community.

Even though they weren’t searching for success, it came anyway. They signed such bands as Romeo Void, the Pop-O-Pies, Wire Train, SVT and—one of my personal faves, Pearl Harbor and the Explosions. Of course, larger audiences craved this unique brand of rock and roll and, well, you know how the story goes; the familial label just wasn’t the same after they connected with Columbia Records in an effort to get their artists more visibility.

So, listen carefully to a man who knows his way around the music industry, perhaps more than he’s comfortable with. He can tell you some secrets, this guy. Maybe he’ll share one, or two, right now.

Evan Toth is a songwriter, professional musician, educator, radio host, avid record collector and hi-fi aficionado. Toth hosts and produces The Sharp Notes each Saturday evening at 6pm and TVD Radar on Sundays at 5AM on WFDU, 89.1 FM. Follow him at the usual social media places and visit his website.

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