When the Ghost Spirit / Frail Hands split LP came out in August, it was one of my most eagerly anticipated screamo records of this year!
This emotional hellfire has been released in cooperation between Blue Swan and Twelve Gauge Records (TG rex). Surely, Will Swan of Dance Gavin Dance’s fame has an ear for some great post-hardcore stuff that he relentlessly release on his California-based Blue Swan label. Although, what was more interesting to me was the comeback of TG rex, who hasn’t released anything since Nervous’ Duration and Delusion 12″ in 2015.
Being curious to catch up with the San Francisco’s label—that put out such great bands as Set It Straight, Sabertooth Zombie, Throats, and Youth Funeral—I’m catching up with TG rex owner Jihad Rabah for what used to be a new label feature. Since his replies were so in-depth and thorough, I’ll keep them in their entirety. So, here’s a full interview with Jihad of TG rex instead!
Who are you, what’s your personal background and how did you get into hardcore punk?
I’m Jihad Rabah, born in Amman, Jordan into a Palestinian family. I spent my pre-teen years living in Jordan and later Cyprus where my brother played in bands and listened to “rock”—very mainstream things like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Metallica, Iron Maiden, etc. He pulled me in and I started venturing deeper and deeper into the heavier side of music which in one way or another led to hardcore.
When we moved to the U.S. I was a teenager and it was like a kid in a candy store in terms of access to music with stores like Tower Records, Amoeba, Rasputin, etc.. I remember buying Poison The Well “The Opposite December” CD from like BestBuy and thinking like “fuck, this is the heaviest thing I’ve ever heard”. It was around the same time that I found the local metalcore scene—but the good kind of metalcore, not reet-reet stuff. And shows! So many shows, big and small. Hung around a lot of local venues eventually starting to put on shows myself.
Anyway fast forward to now—Hardcore is in my blood and there is no way it’s ever leaving me. It’s one of the few things that keep me grounded. It gives me a sense of belonging or reassurance that I’m not the only person in the world who is and feels the way I do.
When did you start the label and what goal did you have in mind?
I started the label in 2004. I had been booking shows for the past few years at local venues and had also started a webzine and contributed to others.
I’ve always been drawn to the business side of things, I guess I have a mind for it and decided to go for it. Another big reason is probably because for whatever reason I always focused on what labels bands were on and would read the liner notes, look up the label, find more bands, appreciate what the label was and appeared to stand for. Labels like Bridge Nine, Deathwish, Trustkill and many more… I’d try to reverse engineer what it meant to be a label and what you had to do.
Actually, one super cool thing is that Chris Wrenn from Bridge Nine had written a document that was published online explaining how to run a label and that document was key for me. I don’t know if it’s still up but that was really fucking cool of him and I’m sure inspired many others.
The label is old now, it’s insane to think about but then again it’s been pretty quiet over the last 2-3 years as I’ve been moved around a lot with my job and wanted some me time.
Please, walk us through some milestones of the label.
There are a few phases and milestones:
The early days: I was pressing mainly just CDs with a little vinyl here and there. I was putting out hardcore, metal, and metalcore bands. My first release was the very controversial Heavy Heavy Low Low “Courtside Seats” EP, leading to the Set It Straight/Where Eagles Dare split all the way to Hoods, Molotov Solution, War From A Harlots Mouth, and others. Some of the early releases did super well and that motivated me to move at an even faster rate.
Then comes the next milestone: the Sabertooth Zombie and North Bay chapter (a forever on-going one). Sabertooth Zombie was a band Curt from Set It Straight turned me onto and we just clicked soooo well. We saw eye to eye, liked each other a lot, and went on to put over a dozen records together. That drew in other bands from their circle like Power, No Sir, Purple Mercy. And I was on the internet emailing and messaging (lol) bands that fit into the sounds of the label at the time.
Now-phase: I’ve been doing some skramz stuff since working with Youth Funeral, they reinvigorated my love for the genre. And I’m still just browsing the internet lurking around for new bands.
Have you been in any bands or any other projects besides the label?
Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I was in two bands but I don’t even know why. I played bass in a band called All In (later Out The Game. Not the All In from Florida), and So Help Me God (this band was so bad, sorry). I wasn’t a good bassist. I remember quitting So Help Me God because someone told me that the singer and drummer had said how the only reason they wanted me in the band was because I can get us shows. LOL fuck those guys, band sucks anyway.
Other projects… I started Family Drugs with Sam Pura from The Panda Studios. We had the idea to start a label where he records the band and I do everything else. It was a cool idea but we’re both just busy people and it died after two releases.
What does DIY mean to you when applies to running such a record label?
Few things come to mind:
- Not giving a shit about the business aspect. You have to be smart, like don’t just throw money away, but don’t make it the #1 motivator. I’ve joked around before about a pressing that doesn’t sell well with “well, at least I have a copy now” and I think there’s actually a lot of truth to it. Outside of the label, at my day job, I understand business from top to bottom and how to and not to run a business. But with my label this somehow all goes away and I make decisions with my heart and love for the genre.
- Forming good/real relationships with the people you work with—the screenprinters, pressing companies, the bands, venues, distros, etc. Trying to find the ones who also do it for the love of music and working with them. Doing whatever you can yourself.
Recently I asked my wife if she’d be interested in helping with the label and so she took care of some of the work that goes into a single release. As I was teaching her about it, and before she even did most of the work, she came back to me and said “wow, it’s insane how much work goes into it and that you’ve been doing this all by yourself this whole time”. Yep, it really is. On most days after a long day of work, I come home, and I get right back to work. Until it’s done and the release it out. But with a smile on my face (and a beer in my hand).
That is why I still think I’m a DIY label.
What future releases do you have in mind?
Frail Hands!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love them. Anything they want to do, I’m here for.
Other than that I’ll repress some older releases but no other plans. I’m looking for new, cool bands.