logo and photos taken from www.facedownrecords.com
In 1996 a guy named Jason Dunn became the drummer for a Christian hardcore band named “No Innocent Victim”. What started as a hobby in 1997 to be involved in one way or another in music has now become a full fledged record label for underground Christian punk and hardcore. After building this label up under the name of Facedown Records Jason and staff recently created a “farm team label” to help with the filtering and the building of prospective bands for Facedown the “farm team label” goes under the name of Strike First Records. Come on in and listen to our discussion at Cornerstone IL 2004 conducted by Len Nash from www.christcoremusic.net with the help of Doug Van Pelt from HM Magazine (www.hmmag.com) as the two interview Jason Dunn in……
…”The Dunn Interview”.
Len Nash: Jason can you tell us what you’re all about and what you do for a living?
Dunn: Own operate and do everything for Facedown Records.
Van Pelt:: Why don’t you tell us what kind of bands you look for when you’re thinking about signing a band for Facedown or Strike First any difference?
Dunn: All new bands we’re signing through Strike First now. Mainly just music I like obviously all within the hardcore metal and punk rock underground scenes and bands that have some sort of a ministry mindset. So that’s why we started Strike First to serve as a
filter a minor league team to learn about who we’re working with before we really get going with them on a Facedown level.
Van Pelt:: That’s awesome.
Van Pelt:: What’s the short history of hardcore and what made you get involved in performing first and then working with hardcore music?
Dunn: Well I got into hardcore in 1991/92 through NIV (No Innocent Victim) way before I was in the band. Their influences (secular) are Sick of it All Agnostic Front The Cro-Mags. I learned how to play drums from the drummer in NIV and became his road tech guy. He taught me how to play then he quit because he was too old didn’t want to tour so then I got to join the band in 1996 I believe and then did that until about 2002. Started the label in 1997 when I was on the road meeting a lot of young bands and knowing I wouldn’t be playing drums for a lot of years I just wanted to be involved in another way and not wanting to go to college.
Nash: With Strike First Records being spun off from Facedown how has the response been from people buying
cds and such?
Dunn: Strike First has been awesome. We have ten releases out now in about eight months (of operation of SF). By the end of the summer we’ll probably have anywhere between 12 to 14. We’ve got Disciple’s (xDisciplex A.D.) new band Jesus Wept and a lot of awesome stuff coming out. So far everyone has been great. it’s (Strike First) selling really well we have some good stores like Hot Topic that are really behind it so it has really helped us out a lot.
Nash: Many people have been confused with the difference(s) between Strike First and Facedown. They think it’s just Facedown and I’m sure you’ve heard it a lot they pretty much just want to call it all Facedown. There’s a difference I know what is it?
Dunn: Like I mentioned a little earlier. it’s mainly our farm team label every new band is now going to Strike First it’s just on one album deals we see how it is in a working relationship and a spiritual relationship between us and the bands. We just see how it goes after one record and if we don’t get along personally or if we’re not on the same level spiritually or if they feel that way then they’re free to go. Then hopefully they’ll be able to either if they don’t go to Facedown because of the groundwork that we lay with Strike First they’ll have success going to another larger label like a stepping-stone for them. So it is a giant part of Facedown but it is different. A lot of it is on the more business side ot it there’s not as much marketing dollars available for Strike First bands not as heavy advertising. Still really good to get the name out for those bands. We’re really able to do a lot more with Facedown’s resources and with our staff because we do have that available. Mainly just to focus on new bands to get them started.
Nash: Are all EPs released through Strike First? There has been Facedown band(s) that have released EPs through Strike First like Hanover Saints and Sinai Beach.
Dunn: Yes… and the reason is we do all of our own distribution for Strike First. there’s no middle man who takes a cut with Facedown and exclusive distribution deals we don’t make anything and we have the chance of losing money on EPs. Where with Strike First we know we can at least break even. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to release EPs because bands might not have 40 minutes worth of material or whatever the case might be.
Van Pelt:: I think I was at the show I remember it was Tom Fest where the old drummer of NIV kind of handed over the reigns I think he played half of the set and you played half of the set. I wonder if that was the very first show that that happened. I wanted to ask you a question to follow-up because that’s a yes or no question take no. You got to play with NIV for many years you toured with Hatebreed. What are some of the experiences and lessons that you’ve learned that you now apply at Facedown and Strike First Records?
Dunn: First yeah that was my first show with NIV and Kurt’s last. Being in NIV for so long working with a Christian label and doing our last couple of records on Victory Records I got to learn everything I liked and didn’t like and hopefully I try to always put that into force with Facedown having been on the artist’s side for so long and still playing as much as I can. We try to make our deals very artist friendly and don’t put any big debts on their
shoulders they never owe us money like re-culpable expenses we stay away from all of that stuff and just get their records out get them as well and as highly promoted as we can. Just work together as much as we can. That’s really what the years of NIV kind of taught me what it’s like to be a touring band and what bands need on their ends. I think that’s our advantage over a lot of labels.
Nash: Many of your bands on Strike First and Facedown have commented in the past how the “Facedown Family” actually does feel like a family of brothers sisters whatever. Do you feel it’s that way a family togetherness type of thing?
Dunn: Definitely. All the bands stay at my house when they come to California. Everyone knows where I live and everyone has slept all over my couches and wrecked my house and all sorts of fun stuff. That’s what families do right? They wreck their houses and eat their cereal that’s what the Nodes say. (laughs) Then we have our Facedown Fest every year where everyone comes together then after that its the “facedown Feast” which is the real reason for the fest so we can just all come together and eat. (laughs) it’s awesome we all get together everyone gets along well.
Van Pelt:: What are some specific examples of practical things that touring bands need?
Dunn: I mean the basics anywhere from good promotion an ad campaign that supports their tour to tour posters to a street team pushing it. Press people working with magazines while they are on tour. As much marketing promotion and advertising that a label can do not just neglect that and forget about their bands that are on the road. We really take it personally that these bands are promoting our label while they’re out there so we do all that we can to help promote them and just make them bigger cause that’s going to make us bigger.
Van Pelt:: Very cool.
Van Pelt:: What are some of the tidbits of your ideas
goals and dreams for the future?
Dunn: Hmm…. (thinks)….. I don’t know man I’ll see where God takes me. We just bought a house just for the label so I’m buying my block one house at a time so we bought next door for the label that will be awesome to finally get it out of our own house. We can enlarge our staff a little bit. I have no idea man I just want to keep on going in this direction honestly wherever God wants to take it I’ll go.
Nash: With the Christian spirit-filled scene kind of backing down a little bit from the spirituality of years past mainly ’98. What do you think needs to be replaced again to bring the “scene” back to Christ for Christian hardcore music?
Dunn: I think the main thing is for everyone that’s in some sort of leadership role and anyone that bands or kids might look up to just start walking the walk to really be an example and get deeper in their personal relationship with Jesus. People don’t see the big
picture it’s easy to loose sight of that. As soon as you get focused back on the big picture why we’re here and what we’re called to do on this earth everything else you don’t even notice. The scene or whatever it doesn’t matter it’s all going to end one day. If bands see record label people whoever they’re in contact with from press to Christian run venues that the Christians just really need to step up their game and just start walking a lot more then they have been. Lead by example like Paul said “follow me as I follow Christ”. that’s really what God has been showing me lately. Honestly have an army of people behind us not looking at me to look at me but looking at me because I’ve just got my eyes set on following God. I’m not saying that I’m doing that but I’m trying and I think the more people that do that have influence on people just the more bold people will become they won’t be ashamed they’ll be standing up for what they’re about.
Nash: it’s pretty good to admit that you do need more faith in Christ and God that’s really cool man… I know I need more faith that’s for sure.
Van Pelt:: Without naming names specifically. What are some examples of interaction you’ve had with mainstream press or mainstream distribution or places that you’ve had the temptation to maybe compromise or play down your faith and what are some interesting stories or examples of reactions you’ve had where God happened to come up or if it was scenarios that you have been in where you’ve kind of felt that tension?
Dunn: From a bands’ level with NIV we were on a lot of mainstream tours and we played Europe with Agnostic Front we were on the same bus with those guys and they’re awesome guys but you just have temptation all around you you know it’s just a darker society (Europe) and it’s a little bit more liberal being that they just kind of allow a little bit more things then we do over here in the States in honesty it wasn’t very much of a struggle it was just the four of us we were just so tuned in on those tours and being accountable that if anyone started slipping or just kind of slacking we had three other guys to kind of put them in check right away and we were really good about that. As far as the label and stuff. We have people who really don’t like us for what we’re about but we’d have that no matter what we were about so I’m not surprised. I think most people know what we’re about and they know we’re pretty bold and open with it. If they have a problem with it they have a problem with it we’ve never had anyone change what we’re all about or anything for any large business deals. We are who we are and we let people know that.
Van Pelt: Two-fold question; what can people like me and the press do for you and what can the average kid or consumer do to help you as a business or what you want to accomplish?
Dunn: Well you Doug can give me covers. (laughs)
Van Pelt:: I’m working on that.
Dunn: (laughs) Ok. We actually hired our full-time publicity girl Katie mainly just to focus on press and she’s doing an awesome job. Came into this never having any past experience and just kind of jumped into it. We’re really pushing that angle to get more familiar and friendly with the press as far as all the kids out there that support us and our bands we appreciate it buying the records supporting the bands when they come through by checking out their shows and buying shirts. That’s about it.
Nash: We’re at Cornerstone right now. Why do you like Cornerstone over some of the other festivals that you have been to?
Dunn: Did I say I like Cornerstone? (laughs) it’s just like a giant summer camp and it’s awesome. Its fun to see this many people not all of them being Christians but a lot of Christians that are into all sorts of kinds of music and different influences in their life but they all come together and have a good time. You never see any crazy problems here and in a group of 20000 plus I think that’s a pretty good testimony. So yeah I enjoy it the humidity is a little crazy and the bugs but hey I live in California.
Van Pelt:: I’ve seen this year its refreshing to hear a lot more people talking about God just walking through camps and stuff. I don’t want to make a big issue about cussing but I’m hearing less cussing I’m just seeing less bad attitudes and more good attitudes this year for some reason that’s my experience.
Nash: it’s my second year right now it seems that people are getting more in touch with their faith at this festival crowd does seem younger than it did last year that’s not a bother they still listen to the same stuff anyway.
Van Pelt:: Anything else you want to add?
Dunn: Thank you guys for the interview. Thanks to all of the people that support us at Facedown/Strike First and all of our bands we greatly appreciate it. God Bless.