Dionysus Records Past and Present
Dionysus Records was started by me, quite haphazardly and from scratch at the tail end of 1983 because I wanted to release a 45 by my then band Yard Trauma, pictured at left. The label was actually an extension of a cassette-only label run I ran out of the Roads to Moscow record store on Park Ave in my hometown of Tucson, AZ between ‘81 and ‘83. In 1984, I moved to Los Angeles and became pals with Greg and Suzy Shaw at Bomp who helped me to establish the label here in Southern California by financing and distributing the label’s first two albums (by Yard Trauma and Thee Fourgiven) and a couple of singles (by The Cynics.) Dionysus was asked to join the legendary indie label distributor, Mordam Records in 1985 and… well, a lot has happened since then of which may or may not be interesting to you thus I’m going to keep this short. Maybe I’ll write a book someday.
Within the Dionysus Records Empire there is a nifty mail-order service which has been going since the label started – click on the Store link to have a look – we not only sell Dionysus Empire product but lots of cool releases from other labels world-wide. There are also sub-labels in the Empire: Bacchus Archives, which releases reissued and previously unreleased music from the ’50s – ’80s, and the once active but now dormant Hell Yeah label (about 50 releases) and also now dormant Orange Sky Records (about 10 releases.) There is still some stock left from both labels which can be found in the cart.
The label was and still is run as you would expect from a music fan/record collector with ADD, completely self taught (and still learning) in all areas of conducting a business. I mostly put out stuff I like (with a few judgment lapses from time to time back in the day, not so much now.) Dionysus etc. has released over 500 titles since the beginning and despite a couple of attempts at walking away from it all, some powerful force commands me to keep releasing awesome records albeit at a much more relaxed pace than in previous years.
I’ve scaled back the Dionysus release schedule from 15-25 titles per year to maybe 1-5 per year. A portion of the back catalog remains in print in some configuration or another and I’m on a mission to repress quite a few vinyl albums, which now include codes so you can download (free of charge) the digital versions from the net. In regards to the “permanently” out-of-print releases, if you search the net you will find may of these preserved and presented on various blogs and YouTube, courtesy of several dedicated music fan / record collector types.
In the early part of the 00’s, Mordam Records was sold to Lumberjack who within a few short years completely ruined the company and went bankrupt owing myself and many other labels thousands of dollars. Let me state here in public that Dirk Hemsath is a thief. If you see him on the street punch him in the face for me and ask where my $20+ K is.
Some guys who worked for Lumberjack helped out the labels out while things were falling apart and in the process started a company called Independent Label Collective or ILC. The new company had promise but fell prey to a demise caused by a particular person’s drug addiction. Once again Dionysus was without distribution and out several thousand dollars. Did I give up? Not yet… fortunately I had the publicity company and mail-order to keep things afloat. Three ILC distributed labels, Lisa Fancher from Frontier Records, Mike Beer from Beer City, Matt Rudzinski from Tribunal Records swooped in and took over ILC and once again, saved not only Dionysus but numerous other indie labels. The new company, Independent Label Distribution is currently Dionysus Records distributor for both physical product and, via The Orchard, digital downloads.
Between 2000 and 2009 I was a club DJ in Los Angeles with weekly residencies at Bigfoot Lodge, Saints & Sinners, and The Lucky Tiki which also helped the survival of Dionysus and my personal finances as well. In 2006, I started a publicity company for visual arts and pop-culture events called Lee Joseph Publicity for the Visual Arts. My main client is La Luz de Jesus Gallery/Soap Plant/Wacko in Los Angeles and I also work with Tiki Oasis, DesignerCon and numerous other artists and events. I am also the co-coordinator of the yearly Beyond Eden Multi Gallery event.
I want to thank quite a few people for their help and support over the years: Carol Sue Baker at Ocean Park Music, who reps our catalog to the media, Aime McCrory who helped me run things during the indie-boom years of ‘94 – ‘00, Zebra who helped run things in the early days, Greg Shaw, Suzy Shaw, graphic artists Sunja Park, Andrew Brandau, Shag, Rockin’ Jellybean, Darren Merinuk, Coop, Pizz, Tom Neely, Lisa Petrucci, March Gooch, former employees Robyn, Deke Dickerson, Nam Kim, Ben Szporluck, Angela Davis, Dan King, manufacturing companies (by extending their credit and barely putting up with me through hard times, they allowed me to press records during days when I had literally no money) Alberti (as much as I hated those guys) Records, Erika Records, Rainbo Records, Stoughton Printing, Ross Ellis, Urzula, G&M and quite a few others, studios and engineers Randy McRenyolds in Tucson, Gary Stern at Silvery Moon who did my early releases, Brett and Donnell at Westbeach Recorders, the guys at Digiprep, Jim Bacchi and most of all Len Horowitz from HRS Records who helped with tape prep, restoration and some amazing vinyl and analog mastering on my vinyl records,) and others who helped such as Tim Gassen, Johnny D, Skip Heller, Ralph, Edgar and Rob when they were doing Tiger Mask together back when, Ruth who took Dionysus aboard at Mordam Records early on and a multitude of others I’ve surely forgotten. Oh and Tomas of Loves Simple Dreams in Germany who took the chance on bringing myself and Thee Fourgiven over to Europe back in ‘87. A heap of thanks goes to Chris Ashford for help on many levels, former assistants Sue Davis, Suzy Becker, Jim Freek, Kwithy Edmond, Cindy Hunt, and Debbie Wilk who I knew from back in the indie days of the early ’90s when she worked at Alias Records (note: some of us are what is called in this business “Life-timers”.) Thanks also goes to the numerous interns I’ve had at the label over the years. Thanks also goes to all the musicians, artists, writers, reviewers, DJs, stores, buyers, distributors and fellow labels for all their support and to those who knocked us at every opportunity (especially certain “writers” from the Bay Area), thank you as well cuz your constant attention actually empowered me! And the biggest thank you? To all the old fans who bought the records. Because you did, we could. Current and future thank you to all our current and future fans for discovering the magic that is the Dionysus Records Empire over three decades after it’s birth!
I made a slow transition from Burbank to the hi-desert town of Joshua Tree. In February of 2014, I began playing bass with former Gram Rabbit leader Jesika von Rabbit and in 2016, started Palm Springs monthly Desert Soul Club with my DJ Partner Bob Deck. In April of 2018, I moved the label full time to Joshua Tree. I also am a DJ at the legendary LuxuriaMusic.com.
See ya around!
Dionysus Records Founder, head honcho, etc…