Stone aged 

When label head Scott Hamilton founded Small Stone Records, he wanted it to be the Sub Pop of the Midwest. A decade later, the label still hasn’t had any cash cows as fat as Nirvana or David Cross. But, come this Saturday, Small Stone rings in anniversary No. 10 at the Magic Stick with three of its most popular bands: Aquarius Void, Nova Driver and Halfway to Gone.

Hamilton will be celebrating a decade of housing shag-carpeted stoner rock, as well as artists who never fell under the head-banging rubric, not to mention a few — guilty by association — who got lumped in.

He grew up listening to what his parents did: the Who, Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd and what he describes as the “’70s drugged-out stuff.” It’s reflected in Small Stone, which to date has released albums by more than 33 bands, including Porn, Acid King and the shit-kickin’, moonshine-sluggin’ Honky, which is led by ex-Butthole Surfer J.D. Pinkus.

Hamilton, who by day is a stooge for Clear Channel, is very vocal with his opinions about the music industry — especially when it comes to music from Detroit. Having been raised in New England, he doesn’t pledge allegiance to the Motor City, and it shows. He once called the Romantics “Beatlemania” to their faces, and is quick to dismiss so-called garage rockers who feel they’re owed something.

“The reason the White Stripes are big is because they worked, not because they were part of a scene,” Hamilton says, adding, “Too many guys now think, ‘Oh, I’ll just wait for Jack White to get me a deal.’ This is possibly why so many people don’t think of Small Stone as a Detroit label.

“I’ll be surprised if 300 people show up for the anniversary show,” Hamilton says, referring to the small fan base. Many of the Small Stone bands aren’t even from around here, and the ones that are have found success not by mooching off the Stripes or Kid Rock, but from touring with such bands as Monster Magnet. It’s a relatively modest label, but the stable seems to like it that way.

“The bands act like adding others [to the label] will steal their thunder, and I’m like, ‘No they’re not, shut up. We’re networking, assholes,’” Hamilton says.

Not that the label has ever been a big moneymaker. Saved in part by licensing rights to video games and overseas exposure, Hamilton has had to work his ass off. Not an easy thing to do when there’s an old lady and three young’n’s involved (not to mention a full-time job). But Hamilton does it for the love of the music. Just don’t call it a hobby.

“It’s not a hobby because I spend 50 hours a week doing it,” Hamilton says. “But I love doing it. I’m not stopping any time soon.” Although, when faced with what the next decade might bring, he seems to hum a different tune.

“In 10 years I’ll be 46, I won’t be cool and I should be out of the business,” Hamilton says. “Hopefully some asshole from Warner Brothers will call and buy me out before then.”


Saturday, Nov. 12, at the Magic Stick (4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700). Halfway to Gone, Aquarius Void, Nova Driver. All ages.

Luke Allen Hackney is a freelance writer. Send comments to

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