Nate: Scott, tell us a little bit about how BTV got started, the relation to Dwarf Records, and the hundreds of great shows you put on at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
Burnt Toast Vinyl
Scott: Well, I was doing college radio at Drexel. Doing shows sort of came out of the need to have some all ages shows with bands I wanted to see play. Burnt Toast Vinyl came out of all of this, making friends with some bands in the area that had some music to release. History always gets re-interpreted, you might say, but that's basically the short version and the way I like to remember it.
Nate: You have a pretty interesting job (besides BTV) that is unique in the independent music scene, tell us about it.
Scott: I work for a pharmaceutical company doing engineering work. I went to school to be a chemical engineer, so it's not so strange. I think there are a lot of people involved in music that have interesting college backgrounds, but there is a pressure to pick one or the other. I definitely feel out of place at work, as far as my philosophical and political views go many times, but I think it's good to be in a place where there is some tension.
Nate: BTV seems to embrace bands that are on the cutting edge of the independent movement, that are constantly redefining the rules. Why is that?
Scott: I'm definitely into a lot of obscure music, so that would be a lot of my musical tastes there, but at the same time, there are some more straightforward bands. Denison Witmer or The Trouble With Sweeney are solid musicians and doing creative things that are less weird. My parents really like Denison, for example, but aren't big fans of the other releases. Which is fine. Scientific or Ester Drang are a little more modern and different, but I think there is all something in common between all of the bands.
Nate: What is the difference in the type of releases you put out versus the major corporate labels?
Scott: We have much less money, which is the biggest difference. There's no choreography for our big music videos, either, which is a shame, I guess.
Nate: You travel a good bit (from what I have read). What countries have you visited and how has that impacted your outlook on your label?
Scott: I've been to England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Poland, Italy, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, and Singapore. Some of this was for work, some for fun, but I definitely think seeing the world and experiencing different cultures helps perspective a lot. People in Singapore, for example, could care less about what sort of music "scene" you are involved in. I have had a chance to travel around with some bands in Europe and that's been really interesting. I more identify with a European outlook on life, I think.
Nate: What are the positive and negative sides to owning a label? What goes into running a label that kids at the show might not see?
Scott: I've learned a lot about a record label. At first, it feels kind of cool to run a label, like "yeah, look at me, I'm cool." Now it's more like, "crap, I own a record label, look at all this stuff I have to do so I don't let people down." With each cycle of releases, I keep hoping to break even, but it doesn't happen. There are a lot of interesting and exciting (even famous) people to meet and I enjoy that a lot. I seriously work a lot on doing things for the label. Many times from 5pm-midnight I'm working non-stop after work. It can be really crazy and hectic. I like to be fully involved in the artwork, sometimes even doing the layout myself or with friends working on the designs. I like to visit the studios during recording, if I can, or go to the mastering sessions. I like to give my feedback and challenge my bands as best I can to help them make the records they need and want to do.
Nate: How many demos do people send you in an average week, and what is required to get signed by BTV?
Scott: I don't get many demos any more because I tell people not to send them. It might seem a bit rude, but it takes a while for me to get around to listening to demos. It's not fair to have people sending me things expecting a response, which is a bit ruder, I think. I've really decreased the number of releases from BTV after a lot of advice about the label from some good friends. I can't put out every record I want to release or help every one of my friends or bands that deserve to be helped.
Nate: Have you yourself ever been in a band?
Scott: I'm in two bands at the moment: White Trash inc. (orchestra) which was founded in 1994 on the way to Cornerstone where we decided to form a noise band and play on the impromptu stage. I've been a fan of chaos, noise, multimedia and this all finds its way into our sound. Our rules have always been to be entirely impromptu and never practice. We turned very political after everyone thought we were satanic and/or racist, both of which are quite untrue accusations. Perhaps it's a bit intense to see guys in black robes say things like "abolish the racist white overclass," but that reflects our community idea more than people suspected. We haven't played much since we went on tour with Soul Junk last fall. One of the original BTV 7" releases was the White Trash inc. 7" and there should be a European split 7" with Swedish experimental band Skapet (some members of Soapbox) coming soon. Reels of White Softly Flow was an accidental band which started when I volunteered very late at night to play home movies to open a show for Denison Witmer. He got excited and asked me to add some music. I'm not a really solid musician, so I recruited some friends who used to be in Somerset and we gave it a name that I misheard from a Neutral Milk Hotel song. It's more ambient and droning indie rock, somewhat influenced by Mogwai, Yume Bitsu, Godspeed You Black Emperor, but still very much the musical brainchild of those guys with less input from me. On a recording we did, I played trumpet and keyboard and we all did some weird vocal harmonies. Probably if I went to art school I would probably be in several bands like this, but it's fun. We're going to be on a BTV multi-media compilation for the fall, maybe look for a little label to release a 7" or EP for kicks.
Nate: Why do you run a label as a business/hobby? Why not collecting stamps? What is it about music?
Scott: I guess I've been fascinated by music for a long time, especially all through college and my experiences as a DJ for the CMJ station. I've learned a lot and had many opinions to it all. It's so all encompassing now that it just IS music, that's the way it has to be. There are a lot of memories of my dad playing old records from the Beatles, The Doors, The Association, Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, etc when I was growing up. I think there is a lot of subconscious appeal there.
Nate: What is your favorite BTV release of all time?
Scott: That's not a fair question, it would be like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. There are reasons for me liking every BTV release. The current releases are probably my favorite at the moment. I think there is a solid batch of bands in the mix. I get excited about new and weird formats.
Nate: What was the first BTV release?
Scott: There were 3 7" records that came out at the same time: Live at Drexel vol. 1 with The Julies, Mack the Coffee Man, 274, and The Gilroys, Live at Drexel vol. 2 with Huntingtons, Ghoti Hook, Lucwarm, and White Trash inc.
Nate: What do you like to do when you're not working? How do you relax?
Scott: I like to watch movies, just hang out with friends. I like to collect old 8/16mm films. I really want to get back to playing some baseball.
Nate: What is your dream for BTV? Where do you see it going?
Scott: I'd like to reach the point where folks like Denison Witmer, really everyone on the label, could do music full-time with less money worries, have distribution, promotion, touring all set, and have some solid respect in indie music. I'd also like to put out weird limited edition releases with insane packaging. Lots of weird vinyl, too.
Nate: If a major label offered to buy BTV for obscene amounts of money, would you sell?
Scott: Yeah, if I could start up another label. It's about aesthetics and independence, sure, but I'm not an idiot.
Nate: Why is Philadelphia such a great city?
Scott: I've never billed Philadelphia as a great city. I guess I actually now live outside of the city, though arguably not in a suburb. It's closer to work and far enough away to actually devote time to working on records. I'm probably more of a fan of Chicago, Austin, NYC, or about anywhere in Europe. In fact, Philadelphia is down right unfriendly for music. I've seen more than a few unfriendly exchanges between jerks at shows and bands playing where they actually escalated into fights than is to be expected. But, Philadelphia is large and reasonably diverse. Good restaurants, now some good record stores for a change, good places to get beer, and lots of college students and that sort of creative, thinking culture that many cities lack. *(Interviewers Note): Don't be confused…Philly is the best.
Nate: Any comments?
Scott: I don't think I have much more to add.
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