Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chris Wrenn - Bridge 9 Records

Chris at the B9HQ, Photo: Future Breed

Chris Wrenn has built Bridge 9 Records into a hardcore powerhouse that has withstood a changing music landscape and proven that they have their shit together in a major way. We had wanted to catch up with Chris for a while now and pick his brain. More to come... -Gordo DCXX

How did you get into punk and hardcore? When and where was this? Who were your favorite bands from the beginning?

Like a lot of kids in the late '80s, I got into hardcore and punk through metal. The first cassette that I owned - the first time that I had my own music that I could listen to whenever I wanted to - was Motley Crue's "Girls, Girls, Girls." In 2010 you can listen to any band that you want at any time, if you have a computer, but back then, you didn't have the means. Not the punk-est story in the world, but when I was in 5th grade ('87), I was given a gift certificate to "Uncle Jim's Record Stop" in my town. I used it to get the Crue cassette, which had just come out, and it was my first step into heavy music.

After that, I'd go down to the the local pharmacy to look at heavy metal magazines like RIP and Metal Maniacs to see interviews with Motley Crue, and that just exposed me to a ton of metal bands. By 7th grade ('89) I was heavily into the Roadrunner Records catalog, buying anything that the label put out- Obituary, Sepultura, King Diamond and Deicide...I was also getting exposed to a lot of NYHC bands, because in the late '80s, the Cro-Mags, Agnostic Front and Sick Of It All were getting full page photos and write ups in those magazines on a regular basis.

I got into some of the more traditional hardcore/punk bands through the more mainstream ones - Metallica introduced me to The Misfits through their "Garage Days Re-Revisited" cassette, members of Slayer used to wear Dead Kennedy's t-shirts...bands like Nuclear Assault used to thank tons of hardcore bands in their albums - and back then that was how you were introduced to stuff. If you liked a band, you wanted to check out who they toured with, were friends with, or influenced by.

Skateboarding also defined me at the same time, so I was introduced to bands like Minor Threat and Black Flag through my friends who skated, and through bands covered in skateboarding magazines. I was exposed to music through a variety of influences back then - and you had to be active and involved to be exposed to music, you couldn't just learn about every band in your bedroom overnight. In '92 I purposely stopped listening to metal and would only listen to hardcore and punk bands, because I felt like I could relate more to the more personal, community style experience that I was having at hardcore shows, versus the big stadium style events that you had with metal bands.

Chris hits the Connecticut crowd during an Underdog set at the Tunn Inn, Photo courtesy of: Chris Wrenn

Before you did Bridge 9, were you attracted to the idea of a record label and having that type of involvement? What about playing in bands?

I started my first venture when I was nine. I made flyers advertising lawn mowing and raking leaves, and put them in all of my neighbor’s mailboxes. I was an entrepreneur before I knew what it was. I've always been proactive in that regard - so by the time I decided to put out my first record, I was comfortable with the process of taking that risk and working to make sure each step was followed through.

I never played in a band - and all of my friends were in bands, so putting out that first record allowed me to stay involved and contribute to the local scene. I wasn't looking to start a record label when I put out my first 7" - in fact I didn't include a catalog number on it, because I didn't think there would be more than one release. It was just an opportunity to try something new. I was going to school in Vermont at the time - a couple of states away from my hometown scene, and I wanted to stay connected. Two of my college friends, Mark & Ned, told me that I should put out a 7". Mark had grown up friends with Scott Beibin's younger brother so he put me in touch with Scott, who did Bloodlink Records. Scott allowed me to ask him a bunch of questions (I called him from my dorm room pay phone, likely using a dialer that he had made and given to Mark), and it helped me get started in the right direction.

I also had some help from my friend Jesse Standhard, who had just started his own label around the same time and had put out a 7" or two just prior to my first. We'd open up fanzines, look for distributors' ads and call them to try and get them to take copies of our records on consignment. Bridge Nine started during the fall of 1995, and the first record came out during the summer of 1996.

Roger, Chris and Vinny, Photo courtesy of: Chris Wrenn

Was Bridge 9 initially supposed to turn into a full-scale label, or did you just see yourself releasing maybe a few records done by friends? How did things progress, and what was your motivation for continuing?

Starting a full-scale label like what Bridge Nine is today was definitely not in the original plan. I just wanted to put out a 7 inch with my friends' band. I needed to raise money to put out that first EP, so I made stickers, canvas patches & t-shirts to sell and help promote it. Back then, it was pretty common for random kids to put out a few 7" records and then call it quits. It took a year to recoup from B9's first record, and by that time, the band had broken up, so I decided to take their last 3 songs and put them on another 7" and release it posthumously.

I was traveling to shows every weekend, and a lot of times I'd end up in Boston, so at one particular show, a band from that area, Proclamation, gave me their demo. It took another year before I could afford to do a 3rd record, but I called them up and offered to do their EP. Then another Boston band followed, The Trust - and in 1998 I released their EP as well - the same year that I was graduating from college. Being that the two active bands were from Boston, I decided to move there.

By this point I knew that I wanted to continue releasing records, but didn't have much of a plan, other than to try and make the money back from the last record, and put it into the next one. I was starting to get letters from kids from all over the world. Japan, Europe, Asia. I felt like I was becoming part of something a lot bigger than my dorm room or my first apartment on Boston's Mission Hill filled with other hardcore kids. That motivated me to keep going...



vinyl junkie said...

Chris rules!

breadman said...

Chris is a great dude. I've known him since I wrote to him back when he did the drug free manga shirts and put out the tenfold sum of all fears split!
people rag on B9 all the time but thats the price for doing something well in the hardcore scene.

Drew Stone said...

Chris Wrenn fucking rules.
Great guy, great label.

Anonymous said...

good read.

Chris- Do you know how Mark is these days? I was friends with him in high school.

Were you with Ned and Marc that time they came down for a show @ MCC?

Chris Wrenn said...

Thanks guys!

Re: Mark... Unfortunately I don't think I've seen him since '96 when he graduated - but I've kept up with him through email and he's married w/ two kids!

I didn't make it to a MCC show with them unfortunately...

Hit me up with an email and I'll forward you Mark's if you'd like...

Thanks to Tim & Gordo for the interview as well-

- Chris

Anonymous said...

Now that's a great interview!

Benj said...

I grabbed a B9 comp a few years ago and love every single song on it. This never happens with label comps. Chris obviously has an ear for great bands that will appeal to the kids as well as aging hardcore dudes likemyself. I'm sure that the bands on the comp are all half my age. Chris seems like a rad guy. Great interview!

David Rosado said...

awesome interview.