A chat with Le Grand Magistrey's Matthew Jacobson

Metro Times: What’s the story of Le Grand Magistery?

Matthew Jacobson: A few years ago, I had graduated from Parsons School of Design and I was working as a graphic designer in New York City. What got me through 12-14 hours a day (for about three years) what sustained me, was this wonderful music. It was literally like Cinderella and my bosses went out and had a good time and I’d stay behind and did all of the work.

There was this band on Teenbeat Records called the Eggs that did a cover of a Momus song. I thought, ‘You know, maybe I’ll put it out as a 7-inch – Not knowing what that meant. I never did that, but it was that that gave me the spark. I broke down and it was either become a magician or start a record label. I had been a magician when I was younger – I performed at the Palace at halftime of Pistons’ games, opening for Tiny Tim, for neighborhood birthday parties. So, I decided to do the record label. The first record was Momus’ 20 Vodka Jellies. I wanted to release music I was listening to. It was a way to get people together at least on a local level. That is a one-to-one level.

MT: How quickly did you learn the business?

Jacobson: I’ve got a lot of friends who’ve started labels or work for larger ones. They have some sort of background, which helped inform what I was doing. A record label is a real business and you have to treat it as such.

I’d really like to hire someone on to do some of the things I don’t like to do running LGM. I can’t be the good guy and the bad guy. I need a bad cop. I can’t say no in a way that wouldn’t jeopardize the relationship with the artist.

I’m the tiniest label on BMG. Probably the only one-man label they have. You’re talking to everything.

MT: What’s unique about Detroit in terms of your label? Jacobson: Well, I grew up in West Bloomfield. I moved back to Detroit a week after my first Momus record came out. New York City, once it becomes exactly like any other place, I think it’s time to move on and gain perspective. Now when I come back there, it’s a whirlwind. There’s just as many things to do here in Detroit, just less options.

I don’t think of the label as really even being a US label in a way. Out of many of the artists, there are really only two Detroit-area bands, Shoestrings (from Sterling Heights) and Mascott (Brooklyn via Grosse Pointe).

While most local labels find friends and bring them to renown, I’m the opposite bringing world artists to a local audience.

It’s not that I’m interested in local music, I try to be involved and try to get people involved locally.

I was in Tokyo in December. I was in a record store listening to the music and they were playing Shoestrings and in that same store they had a section for LGM and I also saw the Galicja and 57 Waltz records on display.

I actually think places like the Magic Stick and the Gold Dollar support local music, I’m going to get killed for saying this, but all the local bands, though they say they don’t sound like anyone, they all sound the same. They should be more like themselves.

I first moved back to Detroit like two-and-a-half years ago. I went to Neptune Records in Royal Oak and took them an informational catalog and newsletter. The very next day I heard from a friend of mine that he had picked up the record for $.99 from the cut-out bin. That just showed total disregard for the effort.

MT: What’s next for LGM?

Jacobson: We were slapped with a huge lawsuit involving two songs on the recent Momus record Little Red Songbook. That record had to be recalled. We’ve been dealing with the aftermath of that. Momus and myself were left with a heavy bill. Right when everything was going well. But we came up with the idea of doing musical portraits. Momus is calling it "Patronage Pop" – selling songs to people and companies for $1000 each. We’ve filled two thirty-song CDs and it still doesn’t cover all of our bills. I want to get to the point where I’m releasing a record a month or maybe two records a month.

Scroll to read more Michigan Music articles


Join Detroit Metro Times Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.