Lasting Imprints 

Detroit-born music has never really left the cultural radar ever since Motown let loose the Big Pop Bang. But, as of late, there’s been a renewed interest in our homegrown talent from national and international record labels – you know, the kind that shape the public’s conception of a city’s cultural climate through marketing and forced exposure. From the pop-rock of Sponge and the Verve Pipe hitting a couple of years ago to the commercial explosion of hip-hop acts such as Eminem to the just-above-underground success of acts such as His Name Is Alive to Europe’s continuing fascination with Detroit-born garage punk, the cultural crossroads run ever-more frequently through our fair metropolis. Better still, there are more patrons among us – folks who create the physical manifestation of music. That is, there is an ever-longer list of record labels that provide the sort of infrastructure of a music community that keeps musicians and fans excited about the sonic world around them. Detroit-area-based labels are as diverse and idiosyncratic as the world around them, but they all have one seemingly obvious thing in common: They all want to release the best music possible. Whether the musician or band is from the Detroit area or not matters little in this ever-smaller world. Here’s a sampling of some of the more notable and prolific area labels adding to the cultural cross-pollination:


PO Box 4492
Ann Arbor, MI 48106

Proprietor: JJ

Fantastic has established itself as mecca for fantastic indie pop groups from as far afield as San Francisco and as near as here.

First Release: The Shapiros, "Month of Days" 7"

Recently: #poundsign#, Wavelength LP


• Teach Me Tiger 7"

• Policecat 7"

• Black Tambourine comp LP


780 Spencer
Ferndale, MI 48220

Proprietors: Mark Kempf, Rico Shelton, Darrell Williams The Detroit area’s most prolific and consistent hip-hop label, Federation has been instrumental in bringing the best sounds of the underground to Detroit hip-hop heads. Says Kempf, "MCs that I have a lot of respect for have been soliciting our label and it makes me feel really good. The industry is starting to know, the artists know and a lot of the fans know about us and our artists."

First Release: Infinite, "You Are the One" single, August 1998

Recently: Da Ruckus, Episode 1; Bizarre, Attack of the Weirdos (Outsiderz); Distribution for Third Kind’s Klose Encounters Uv Da Third Kind.

Upcoming Releases:

• Paradime, Paragraphs LP & single.


4530 Avery
Detroit, MI 48208

Proprietor: David Italy

Italy Records has proven that what some folks call Detroit’s "garage rock scene" is actually deeper stylistically and musically than any retro-punk tag could indicate. From the dark blues of the Soledad Brothers to the Stooges-esque bluster of Rocket 455 to the desperate punk of the Clone Defects, Italy gives rock fans a reason to take a longer listen.

First Release: Rocket 455 7"

Recently: White Stripes, "Lafayette Blues"; Hentchmen mini-LP


Clone Defects 7"

Greenhornes 7"

Piranhas 7"

The Go 7"


PO Box 611
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48303

Proprietor: Matthew Jacobson

Bloomfield Hills native Jacobson has made Le Grand Magistery into a label that defies geography in its search for artists in touch with their own aesthetic destiny. Now distributed by BMG, LGM looks to TCB ASAP.

First Release: Momus

Recently: Momus, Little Red Songbook LP and All Done With Mirrors (a compilation of label artists).


Momus, "Stars Forever" double CD — ("Patronage pop" – 30 people and 30 companies pay $1000 each for a musical portrait. Proceeds help to pay Le Grand Magistery’s recently acquired legal bills.)

• A rerelease of Little Red Songbook (without the two tracks that resulted in the above-mentioned lawsuit) plus three new songs; also rereleases of Momus’ Ping-Pong and 20 Vodka Jellies with deluxe packaging

• Louis Phillipe A Kiss in the Funhouse

• Mr. Wright, Startime

• Denim, Denim Take Over

• Toog, Easy Toog for Beginners

Added Bonus: Keep your eyes and ears peeled for a three-day summer pop festival in Detroit in conjunction with Fantastic Records.

(Click for our Web exclusive chat with Le Grand Magistery's Matthew Jacobson.)


PO Box 02007
Detroit, MI 48202

Proprietor: Scott Hamilton

Hamilton started Small Stone as an attempt to quell his own frustration that no one was joining the aesthetic identity and presence of labels such as Seattle’s Sub Pop and Chicago’s Touch & Go with the sonic vision of Bill Laswell’s eclectic Axiom imprint. He focuses on establishing Small Stone as a national label, based locally.

First release: Detroit Rust City compilation, 1996

Recently: Soul Clique, Only One Division LP.


• Five Horse Johnson, Fat Black Pussycat

•Morsel,Wrecked & Remixed (previously released recordings remixed by Ectomorph, Warren Defever, Robert Rich and others.)

• Roundhead, Creature Comfort

• Perplexa, The Moon and the Sun Getting it On

• Soul Clique two-CD compilation


PO Box 385
Royal Oak, MI 48068

Proprietor: Aaron Warshaw

Aaron Warshaw wanted to see how the world of record labels worked. Well, thankfully, he found out that it worked just fine when you’ve got a passion for finding music that lies on the sonically adventurous periphery of pop. The proof found on his first two releases is that quality is job one and a consistent visual aesthetic (à la English indies 4AD and Factory) can help make casual listeners excited fans.

First Release: Galicja 10", Summer 98

Recently: 57 Waltz, "Delaware" 7"

Upcoming Releases:

• Galicja,The Longest Wait LP

• 57 Waltz, Argentina LP

• Calculators 10"

• Richard Panic 12" ("Devo meets Squarepusher," says Warshaw) "Leopard Pillow"

(Click for our Web exclusive chat with Spectator Records' Aaron Warshaw.)


P.O. Box 1886
Royal Oak, MI 48068

Proprietor: Joe Greenwald

Over the past four years Greenwald has managed to release singles or LPs by not only some of his personal faves from across the indie-rock/pop spectrum – both local and national – but also by the crème de la critical crème (i.e. Pavement, Medusa Cyclone, Outrageous Cherry, Don Caballero). The catch is, his personal faves and critical faves are one and the same. They call this working?!

First Release: Slot, "Emma Peel/Juggernaut" 7"

Recently: The Wellwater Conspiracy, Declaration of Conformity; Medusa Cyclone, Mr. Devil

Upcoming Releases:

• Simon Bonney, Eyes of Blue

• Dump/Lambchop split single - "Die For Your Memory"/"Up With People"

Suzie Higgie/Conway Savage, Soon Will Be Tomorrow (New tunes from ex-Falling Joy Higgie and Bad Seed Savage).


PO Box 970021
Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Proprietor: Fred Thomas

Bridging the world of avant-sound and pure, idealistic pop music, Westside has matured gracefully from a tapes-only, energy-of-youth-guided-affair into a fully-functioning label that’s bringing together some of the most ear-seducing sounds from near and far. Says Thomas, "There’s always surprises, we are trying to stay severely busy, prolific & beautiful. Thank you…"

First Release: Chore, "Magic-Marker Redemption" 7"ep

Recently:Aloha s/t 7"; Lovesick/Emergency split 7"; The Triggers, "Demolish Babylon" 7"

Upcoming Releases:

• Teach Me Tiger, "Honey" b/w "Wonderful" 7"

• This Robot Kills/Lovesick split LP (Detroit team-up: TRK = all science, no joke; Lovesick = Michigan heartcore)

• flashpapr, Do What You Must Do CD/LP

• Ugly Cassanova 7" (Issack from Modest Mouse solo acoustic)

• Alivia Zivich LP Chris Handyside is a freelance writer for Metro Times. Send comments to

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