Steve Nawara is on a rant, and you need to listen.
"If music doesn't give you a physical reaction," he says, "it's not music at all. If you don't laugh, cry, shake your ass or pound your fists, you're simply listening to music for bankers. And bankers trick people by convincing you that the rest of the world thinks a song is good, by saturating the media with advertisements, and by paying off networks like MTV to tell you how great their shit smells."
All Nawara wants is to shake some (re)action, and soon he'll have the Beehive Recording Company at his command to do it. The online imprint, with plans to go live this spring, is the result of a decade-long immersion in the ever-changing, ever-vibrant, ever-fertile Detroit music scene, and the notion that maybe a label can be a rallying point for the whole damn thing. And Nawara knows a thing or three about the scene he's a veteran of such notable Detroit outfits as the Wildbunch/Electric Six and the Detroit Cobras.
Beehive's two-night label showcase goes down at the Holbrook Café on Thursday and Saturday of this year's Hamtramck Blowout. But before we lick the honey, let's hear about how the hive was built.
The Beehive Record Co. started in summer 2006 while Nawara was chatting poolside with the members of Cuckold at some friends' pool. The basic idea was deceptively simple: Create a record label that captures and unifies the Detroit sound. Nawara acknowledges that it's not a new concept, but says he's simply trying to express it in a fresh way.
"In the 'garage' days, Italy Records was the first to try to do this," he says. "However, with studio costs, production costs and all of us having a little too much fun, it was hard to release records as fast as the music was coming out."
Nawara reckons that, as a result, the major labels came to town, signed the marquee bands, reaped the rewards, and "nothing really came back to Detroit except a lot of attention towards the White Stripes. So the Beehive Recording Co. is simply a continuation of what Italy or even Motown started. Only this time, we're armed with technology that we didn't have before."
Here's how Beehive plans to stand out. First of all, it's Web-based. Beehive artists release their songs as MP3s, complete with artwork. Sales of those electronic singles will then raise money to produce hard-copy CD or vinyl releases, "but it's up to the artists if they want to release the single on vinyl or let the pot stew and release a full-length, double, triple, quadruple, whatever," Nawara says. "Try doing that on a major label and enjoy those three pennies you'll make for each record sold in the process."
Beehive works on a 50/50 split, and every artist will have an account they can log into to check up-to-the-second sales numbers.
Plus, on the front-end, Nawara has a 24-track home recording studio in his house chock full of vintage gear goodies where Beehive bands can cut new tracks for free. That's typically half the battle for most bands: just finding that studio space. (Naturally, they can use other studios too.)
Beehive singles laid down so far include the Expatriates' "Bedroom Game," esQuire's booty-shaking "Linda Lovelace for President" and the Cuckold singles "Blood on My Hands" and "Snowcow." In the pipeline are jams from such area folks as Troy Gregory and the Stepsisters, Slumber Party, the Moonlight (ex-Dirtys), Timmy Vulgar (solo), Human Eye, the Chrome Spiders (Detroit City Council/Bantam Rooster headman Tom Potter's new band).
There's something else that sets Beehive Recording Co. apart. Because Nawara is familiar with the local music community, he's aware of the challenges songwriters face here. So, songwriters on the Beehive roster will be able to release a song as a solo artist, band or side project. They'll even be able to give it to another band.
"For years I've been hearing musicians say, 'I have this really good song but it's just not right for the sound of the band,' and then this amazing song will eventually disappear," Nawara says.
To that end, he's written a song for Slumber Party for an upcoming release and has been actively recruiting such musicians as Troy Gregory, Johnny Krautner and Bobby Harlow from the Go, and the Expatriates' Dale Wilson to write songs for other singers and bands around town.
"Literally, every musician I've talked to is on board," he says. "So if you need backing musicians, Beehive can help put together a band for you, and I'm not talking 'Jimmy just got a guitar for Christmas' players. I'm talking musicians who have seen the world and who are world-class."
"Realistically," he says, "Beehive is simply a place where Detroit musicians can have their music heard and sold. So instead of crying in your beer about how unfair the record industry is, the Beehive will provide a place to get up and start doing something about it.
"The world seems to have forgotten the true power of music, how music can truly energize you, make you jump out of your skin and bring you to new heights," Nawara continues. "I'm hoping the Hive will at least get some healthy competition going among the musicians, encourage the best out of them, and show the world how it's done. So far, I'm confident it will."
For more on Beehive Record Co., see thebeehiverecordingco.com.
Chris Handyside is a freelance writer for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]