Brian Jenkins started a record label as a teenager growing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Not because he was wise beyond his years, but because he figured that’s what he was supposed to do if he wanted to release his own music. Eventually it went from being a label in spirit only to an actual label and Jenkins was releasing 12″ and 7″ records for other artists. His record label, Riot House Records, took off and Brian packed up his family and moved to California.
Now with several artists on Riot House’s roster, Jenkins has dipped the label’s toes in cinema. His label got involved in the documentary Records Collecting Dust, a homage to the influence that vinyl records have had on artists and music lovers alike. Records Collecting Dust will be premiering at the Cinema Center in Fort Wayne on March 13th. Brian and I talked about the movie, his label, and the healing power of the ocean.
J. Hubner: Hi Brian. It’s nice to meet you. You live in California, but you are originally from Fort Wayne, right?
Brian Jenkins: Yes, I’m originally from Fort Wayne but moved out to San Diego in December 2013.
J. Hubner: So tell me about Riot House Records, your record label. When did you start it? Was starting a record label something you’ve always wanted to do?
Brian Jenkins: I started Riot House Records back when I was in high school as a way to label the music I was recording. At the time, I don’t think I was really aware of what a label was or even considering it an actual label. I just noticed that every record I owned had a copyright year and a record label name following it! It wasn’t until after touring with my wife in Black Jet Radio (2011) that I thought about actually launching the label and releasing other bands’ music. That band sort of set the plan in motion going forward.
J. Hubner: I’m aware of EmptyMansions and Rough Francis, but who are some other artists you have signed to Riot House?
Brian Jenkins: My first artist after Black Jet Radio was Richard Lloyd of Television. It was a total disaster! I actually flew him out to Fort Wayne and he recorded a 7″ here with my brother Michael on bass and Dave Trevino on drums. (This trio played a couple shows together including the Brass Rail that week.)
J. Hubner: I remember that show! I was pretty surprised that Lloyd was playing in Fort Wayne.
Brian Jenkins: The record’s great, but it’s still unreleased – maybe it’ll see the light of day in the near future… So moving in to the current active list of artists – we’ve got Spencer Moody of The Murder City Devils. He released his first single on Riot House in September last year. We’ve also got Buildings, they’re a mix of math rock and hardcore, think The Jesus Lizard and Metz. Another band on the roster is Porcupine. They’re on the lighter side for the label but the 12″ EP we released last year (I See Sound) is one of my favorite records that I’ve been a part of. Listen if you like Queens of the Stone Age, Swervedriver, Echo and the Bunnymen.
J. Hubner: Let’s talk about this documentary Riot House Records is putting out, Records Collecting Dust. How did you get involved with this project?
Brian Jenkins: I got involved with Records Collecting Dust after signing the San Diego based band White Mule. The film was directed by White Mule singer and guitarist Jason Blackmore. Jason’s also got a long music history, having toured for a number of years in the 90’s with his band Molly Mcguire. Many of the contacts for this film came from his touring years and being signed to Epic Records. When I came on board as the producer, most of the footage had already been shot and loosely assembled. We enlisted White Mule’s bassist Brian Desjean – also the bassist in the San Diego band No Knife – to edit and help us finish the project.
J. Hubner: So is the doc about vinyl collecting? What’s the premise?
Brian Jenkins: Records Collecting Dust isn’t a documentary about record collecting, it’s more focused on how vinyl influenced the artists featured in this film. What records made them who they are today and how did discovering music on vinyl influence them. There’s also a focus on the record store and that experience of buying records blindly. Today we are so overly inundated with digital content, you can sample any record or artist within seconds. I think people will also be really surprised at some of the responses and reference points. Jello Biafra points to Hawkwind – Space Ritual and states “There would be no ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ without Hawkwind.”
J. Hubner: Is film something you wanted to get the label involved in? Are there more film projects on the horizon for Riot House Records?
Brian Jenkins: I don’t think I ever saw myself getting involved in film prior to this. It was more of an opportunity to get involved with something unique and help to actualize Jason’s vision. There’s definitely more film plans on the horizon for Riot House now.
J. Hubner: How have the showings been for the film? What sort of feedback have you gotten?
Brian Jenkins: The screenings thus far have exceeded our expectations. We’ve got over 50 scheduled showings between January and April 2015 and the feedback has been great. I think people are leaving the theater feeling excited again about records. We’ve received a number of messages from people telling us that they started collecting records again after seeing it.
J. Hubner: That’s great to hear. Something else that’s exciting is that the film is coming to Fort Wayne. Records Collecting Dust will be premiering at Fort Wayne’s Cinema Center on March 13th. How did you get this set up? Will you be attending this showing?
Brian Jenkins: I will not be in attendance, unfortunately. We would have loved to travel as a team more with the film. Fort Wayne was actually one of the first places we set a screening date for. I don’t personally know Jonah Crismore but I blindly sent him an email and he got back to me immediately about setting up a screening! What most people don’t realize is that many indie theaters and art houses aren’t really independently run – they’re owned in groups by companies that run universal and predetermined screening schedules. They’re willing to rent their space out to indie film makers, but they’re not willing to work directly with a filmmaker to screen an indie film. Fort Wayne is really lucky to have the Cinema Center – most cities it’s size don’t have anything like this.
J. Hubner: Has moving to California helped you in running Riot House? Is it easier to connect with artists and the industry in general? Or is it just sunnier?
Brian Jenkins: It definitely has. I think there’s great artists all over the country and in every city but I think there’s a bit more of an understanding and competitiveness when you get to a bigger place.
J. Hubner: Does that competitive vibe help push you?
I feel like I really feed off of that competitive vibe so that’s been a huge boost for me. There’s also an industry here with resources to pull from. My distributor is owned by Frontier Records founder Lisa Fancher and being able to meet up with her and pick her brain has been priceless. (She’s also featured in Records Collecting Dust.)
J. Hubner: What other advantages are there to being on the West Coast?
Brian Jenkins: I think the other advantage is being surrounded by people who have accomplished far more than I have. It puts things in perspective and forces you to not relish too much in the moment.
J. Hubner: And the sun, right?
Brian Jenkins: The sunnier aspect helps too! I’m very compulsive and there’s nothing that helps to clear my head more than being in the ocean and surfing.
J. Hubner: So what’s next for Riot House Records? What else do you have planned for 2015?
Brian Jenkins: The next release from Riot House Records is a 7″ from Rough Francis in April. I’m hoping to get some more releases solidified over the next couple months and I’m also hoping to sign some new artists. It’d be great to get a Fort Wayne artist on the label in the future.
J. Hubner: Any more films in the works?
Brian Jenkins: As for film, I’m starting in on the next Riot House documentary in March. It’s about my uncle and his trip as a college student down to Selma in March 1965. I’ve got a lot of the people that worked on Records Collecting Dust signed on for this project as well as some exciting plans for the soundtrack!
Make sure you head over to the Cinema Center March 13th and see Records Collecting Dust. It’s a great documentary, and one that music obsessives and vinyl freaks alike will instantly connect with. And make sure to keep up with all of Riot House Records’ upcoming releases at http://www.riothouserecords.com/ and like ’em on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/riothouserecords.