Words and music
Camarillo record label celebrates a milestone
By Chris Jay 08/06/2009
Keeping any small business running for a year is no small feat. Keeping the same business going for more than a decade, throughout all sorts of economic and cultural trends, including the current recession, is a major accomplishment.
Throw in the fact that said business is an independent record label in a music industry on the verge of utter collapse, and it’s nothing short of miraculous. Such is the case for Ventura County’s very own Missing Words Records and its tenacious founder, Matt Martin.
Throughout his formative years, the Camarillo native was driven by an absolute passion for all styles of music but bluntly admits, “I was and am seriously lacking on the talent side.” Though the creative aspect eluded him, Martin had a knack for the business side of things and, during his time at Camarillo High School, immersed himself in learning all he could. From interning at record labels to starting a short-lived ’zine, to attending countless shows and befriending local bands, Martin became a full-fledged music business expert before he even graduated from high school.
So in his senior year, he took the plunge, naming his baby after a song by the ’80s English ska band The Selector, a seemingly appropriate choice, as he was at a loss for what to call the label. Missing Words’ first CD was a compilation released in March 1999 titled Just Not Punk Enough, which featured several prominent bands in the punk and ska scenes, including The Hippos, Less Than Jake and the RX Bandits mixed with local and regional acts as well.
Indie labels during the late ’90s were something of a fad, and most started exactly the same way as Missing Words: Release a compilation to establish yourself, spend all your money on it, realize how time-consuming and expensive the process is, and promptly go into another line of work. What set Martin apart from the rest of the pack was that, despite all the aforementioned hardships, he liked the experience, and in between college, work and his other lifelong passion — Star Wars — Martin slowly but surely kept Missing Words alive and well.
The longevity may have to do with Martin’s quality control. He’s only had 16 releases over the past 10 years and has never chased a trend or style, preferring to sign bands based on three simple principles: “I have to like the music, the bands have to be willing to work hard and be able to tour, and I have to like them as individuals.”
Over the years, Martin’s label has also been a home to multiple local bands dating back to his first full-length release of local ska legend 19th Hole. MWR has also put out the entire three-record catalog of one of the more popular local bands in the last decade, The Return. Most recently, Martin issued the stellar debut of The Calamity and is preparing to launch End Transmission’s first full-length later this month.
It’s Martin’s contributions to the local scene that should ensure a packed house for the label’s 10-year anniversary show. Martin will be putting on the promoter’s hat for a night and throwing a full-fledged birthday party for the label, complete with seven acts performing and a reunion of The Return.
So with 10 years down, and an uncertain future for labels in general, does Martin foresee Missing Words existing for another decade?
“Who knows,” he laughs. “I’d like it to be. It’s a transitional phase in the music industry. The dust needs to settle. I still love buying CDs, admiring the artwork and reading the liner notes. But I’m a realist; that’s all going away. I honestly feel record labels aren’t that important anymore. If a band’s willing to work their asses off, they don’t need a label. I’d love to see it still exist in some capacity, but I could see it, and labels in general, moving towards becoming more like management companies. So if Missing Words is still here, I’m sure it will be different. It’s still my passion.”
Missing Words 10-Year Anniversary Show, Saturday, Aug. 8, 7 p.m. at Rock City Studios, 2258 Pickwick Drive, Camarillo. For more information, visit www.missingwords.com