Seventh Dagger records is a reputable name in not only the Straightedge movement but also in today’s hardcore scene. Since 2001, this small operation (which started as a clothing company) has put out releases from some of today’s biggest straightedge up and comers (Rhinocerous, the Miles Between, Represent, Tyrant, The War) not to mention the latest release from the mighty Earth Crisis! If your not paying attention you should be as this is one hard working label that is intent on sticking to their core belief of putting out quality, affordable releases with a message. In this interview we step into the shoes of Danny (the labels owner) to share his wealth of knowledge and first hand experience with running a successful record label/ clothing line. Enjoy!
SP: First things first, who is the face behind Seventh Dagger Records?
SD: My name is Danny, I have been straightedge for 20 years and vegan for 15. I am 35 and live in North Carolina. I have a wife and two kids, run a screen-printing shop and Seventh Dagger.
SP: Do you have any other employees or interns as well?
SD: I have one employee that is in house and everyone else is contracted out by the job, mostly artists and graphic designers. We do tend to use the same people over and over. When you find a good artist or designer who is reliable hang on to them! My one in house employee is a very talented man by the name of Garrett Scales. I would be lost without him on most days, haha.
SP: Fill us in on your background in the scene and give us the Seventh Dagger records story? Did you have any formal education in running a business or just an idea and the will to persist?
SD: I was booking shows in Winston Salem, NC as well as working in a screen-printing shop. My friend Dave and I decided to start printing straightedge shirts on the side. After a while they took off and we were making a little money off of them so we took that money and used it to start releasing bands. I have no formal training or education in this area we just knew what we wanted to do and went for it. Trial and error is the best teacher.
SP: Is Seventh Dagger records your full time job or do you also work on the side?
SD: If it’s based on the number of hours a day I put into it then Seventh Dagger is a full time job. I have a full time job that is how I make a living, which is owning and operating a screen-printing shop. Seventh Dagger does not make enough money for me to live off of it and I have no ambition to take it there.
SP: What does Danny’s typical day look like from sun up to sun down running Seventh Dagger records?
SD: The average day goes about like this…Take daughter to school, go running, shower, around now my son is waking up so I get him up and get him ready, then my wife takes over and I head to work, make sure the print jobs are on schedule, answer emails, work on mail-order, go to the post office and FedEx way too much, check inventory, order shirts, think of ideas for future releases for the label (bands, shirts, etc), get orders off to get Cd’s or vinyl going (currently that is getting the vinyl moving for the new ONE CHOICE record and preparing for the arrival of the BLACKOUT RAGE records), put together 7 inches, check in on progress on numerous art projects related to the label (again that is currently layouts and shirt designs for the new ONE CHOICE record). Some days are crazy busy others are pretty light it all depends.
SP: From reading a Wikipedia page on the label, it looks like you have been through quite a bit these last 7 years. What do you believe is your key to success in such a relatively small industry and what is the central message behind Seventh Dagger records?
SD: Just doing what I think is right and not compromising the vision of what this label is supposed to be. Certain people love Seventh Dagger and others hate it but either way I just do what I think is right. The people that support and love this label are the people I care about, the ones that talk shit and hate it, well lets just say that nothing ever written on the Bridge 9 board every hurt my feelings haha.
SP: I see that you initially had a distribution deal through a subsidiary of Warner records, that’s pretty huge. In the end though you ended up canceling it which certainly shows your commitment and hard work DIY-esque ethic, any comments on that?
SD: The Warner Bros. deal was really simple, we shared an office / warehouse space with Tragic Hero Records which is distributed by Warner Bros. Tommy who runs the label talked to people and Warner Bros. and had lined it up so they would distribute our releases. For about a week I thought that this sounded great then I smartened up and thought it sounded ridiculous. Since I did say yes even though I had signed nothing I still let the xAFBx, Winds of Plague, Loyal to the Grave CD go through Warner Bros., which I can assure you made nobody at Warner Bros. any money. I have not checked in forever but their sales on that CD were terrible. We did well with it selling it through the label and to our distributors and Warner Bros. did give us some free copies, which I passed on to all the bands that were on it. So it worked well for us and probably not so well for them. I doubt anyone at Warner Bros. would have cared about our releases at all and I am sure it would have been a disaster in the long run. Some things just are not meant for the mainstream and I think Seventh Dagger and its bands is one of them.
SP: Has the current economy halted Seventh Daggers growth or are you guys still going strong? What’s your strategy in regard to making it through this recession, borderline depression?
SD: I think we did pretty well through the recession it definitely got tight on a few occasions though. I think the key was to just not be greedy. During the harder parts of the recession we dropped our product prices down at least $2-$5 across the board to make them more affordable. I have a wife and two kids and I know how tight money can get. I would rather kids still able to buy our stuff even if we make a little less off of it.
SP: What are your thoughts on today’s hardcore scene? Is the message still there or are bands focusing more so on how many breakdowns they can jam into one song?
SD: Overall a lot of aspects of the “hardcore” scene these days makes me depressed. I think there are fewer and fewer bands and labels every day that really put something real out there. Honestly I could go on for days about all the things that bum me out about the current state of hardcore but instead lets talk about some good things, BLACKOUT RAGE from Syracuse, NY, ONE CHOICE from California, EARTH CRISIS! FOUNDATION from Atlanta is amazing, REPRESENT from Erie, PA, STAND UNITED from Iowa, HARMS WAY from Chicago, PLEDGE from Mass, CLOSED CASKET ACTIVITIES is a great label, A389 RECORDS is also, TRUST COMES TOUGH CLOTHING and THE WAR from Australia, EYES TO THE SKY from Milwaukee, WOLF CITY from Reno, SUICIDE PACT from Ohio and PARASITIC SKIES from Seattle and the list could go on for a while haha. There are so many good things out there that it is dumb to dwell on the negatives.
SP: Is the Straightedge movement stronger than ever today? What are some words of encouragement to the younger generation?
SD: We have dudes out there in there 30’s and 40’s that are still straightedge so I would say it is. Even if there is less of us than there used to be (which I do believe is true), those of us that are still here are stronger than ever. Match that with the young kids that are sincere and I think straightedge is in a really strong time now.
SP: Tell us what the rest of 2009 holds for Seventh Dagger records? (Current or upcoming releases, tours etc.)
We have a new record coming out from ONE CHOICE that has guest appearances by Toby from H20, Scot and Karl from Earth Crisis, Greg from Trial, Andrew from Strife and Mike Hartsfield from Outspoken. The record is called FOREVER WAR and it is amazing. After that is the new PLEDGE full length and for now that’s all that is planned but there are things in the works for sure. We are currently working on a lot of new designs for the clothing side of things as well.
SP: Having been in this game since 2001, I’m sure you have learned quite a bit over the years. Let’s share some of that knowledge with kids looking to start a label:
-If you are doing this to make money stop now because you are in the wrong place.
-Be careful who you work with because some people are not who they seem. Go with your gut, it’s usually right.
-Treat people fairly and do what you say you are going to do. You won’t please everyone all the time but if you did what’s right and what you said then you will sleep easy regardless.
-Don’t let your mistakes drag you down some of the best lessons are learned screwing up.
-Ignore trends and ignore the people that bad mouth you. I don’t care if you are starting a band, record label or a dog walking service there will be assholes standing around talking shit, if you don’t believe me just check the Bridge 9 board haha. These people are usually too pathetic to put the effort into actually doing something real so they sit back behind their computers and shit on the efforts of people that are really trying to accomplish something.
SP: What kind of budget do you think is ideal for a new start-up label?
SD: Honestly I started this label when I had no money at all. I think if you have the drive you can develop something from nothing. That said I think one of the worst thing I see young labels doing is spending money on their first release like they are the biggest label in the world. The momentary hype dies down and you are left broke and unable to push your label forward. I think slow and steady is the way to go. Get a good band you want to work with, invest something reasonable in them and then as you grow instead of buying expensive Nike’s and flat bill hats reinvest your money in your next project. Fuck being a flash in the pan develop something that will stand the test of time.
SP: The most important characteristic to have when running a label is______?
SP: What should a new label offer bands from the get-go? (Recording, distribution, publishing)
SD: If it’s your first release I think the ideal way to go is to offer the band a percentage of the pressing and then offer them a fair below wholesale price for CDs that they need to purchase after that. If you are starting a new label the facts are it is unlikely you will be making a profit on the first release so I would be fair to the band but also not offer too much as you have no idea how it will do and you don’t want your first release to be your last because you immediately went bankrupt. I know the first releases I did the bands paid for their own recording and then I gave them 20% of the pressing for free, then after that I gave them CDs pretty much at cost. They sell the CDs you gave them for free and recoup the recording cost and you don’t go into the hole on a big budget. As your label grows and money is available you can start paying for things like studio time, artwork, mastering etc.
SP: What kind of qualities should a label look for when signing a band?
SD: Look for bands that want to tour and want to work. Look at their track record as a band because EVERY band will tell you they want to work and tour but few really do. Look and see what they did in the past because actions speak louder than words.
SP: What’s the best way to approach a targeted band?
SD: I always just tell them straight what I am thinking. I don’t know much about bullshiting I will simply put it out there that I like what they are doing and would like to release something for them if they are interested. Schmoozing and slick talking a band with hype and promises is for jerk offs. Be honest, tell them what you can offer and go from there.
SP: Any recommendations on decently priced printing plants?
SD: www.ILOVEIMPRINT.com is amazing! They make poster, record jackets, postcards, CD manufacturing, the staff is amazing and the product is great for a fair price. I get vinyl made at www.UNITEDRECORDPRESSING.com they have proven to be reliable and a very good price though I wish they offered some cooler color vinyl options, though recently they have expanded offering some good new options.
SP: Lastly, where can we find out more information about Seventh Dagger records and any last shout outs?
SD: Thanks lists always leave people out or I forget someone so I will just thank all the people that support SEVENTH DAGGER. If you were not here throwing in your support the label would have died a long time ago! Thanks to Karl Buechner of ExC for giving me the pep talks I needed at a few low points to keep my head up and the label alive. Also thanks to you guys for doing the interview!
Let us know your thoughts and recommendations by commenting? We want to hear from you.!! Don’t forget to Support Still Proud Clothing by picking up a tee at the Store .