Blue Skies Turn Black is a record label and a concert promoter in Montreal.
BSTB History ::::
BSTB started with the intention of being a record label sometime at the end of 1999. While we were both music lovers neither of us really knew any bands personally. Added to that, many of the bands we did like did not seem to play in Montreal or worse they would come through these parts and skip our fair city. Using our connections at CJLO radio (where we did a radio show) we contacted several labels and bands to try and attract them here. We met with very little or no success…
One label that did get back to us was DISCHORD. We had approached them not for a band but for a film. The Fugazi movie, Instrument, had just been released and to promote the film there were several screenings happening in different cities. We kept wishing someone would do one here when it hit us – we should do it! Although dischord was skeptical at first (who are these 2 guys with no experience…) they agreed to it and we set it up.
The date for this was March 16 2000. Having almost 2 months to promote the event we hit the pavement armed with just a bucket and some glue. We must have put up hundreds of posters wherever we could. We also printed up tons of flyers and left them at record stores and cafes. Then we reached out to as many media outlets (newspapers, radio, etc) as we could and hoped for the best.
The hard work we put into it paid off and we got several articles in many of the weeklies as well as college papers. We got over 250 people to our screening and Dischord was impressed. It turned out our screening was one of the most successful they had had!
We were really happy with how things had played out for this event and while we wanted to do more we again began thinking of our label. A friend of ours who went by the name YUL had just finished recording a full length album. He was shopping it around and met with little success. He gave us a copy and we were impressed. We asked him what he thought about releasing on our label and he agreed. Looking into costs and such the reality hit. Putting out a record was going to be costly. We decided to do as much of the packaging we could ourselves. We silk screened over a 100 covers (which Meyer actually did for an assignment for school!) and decided for the 1st batch we would just make Cdrs. The package came together but the release never saw a wider release as Yul could not commit to touring. While we sold a few copies of this record we were disappointed with the end result. We felt we had a great record on our hands that ultimately many people would never hear.
This experience however did not deter us from still wanting to put out records. The radio station we had worked at now had a studio to have record live bands on air. Excited by this prospect we sent out emails to many local labels and bands looking for interested parties. Again we met with little success. One band that did agree to come on Air was Lae-Tseu.
We had heard of Lae-Tseu through the grapevine but hadn’t ever saw them live. When they arrived we were surprised that we actually knew one of them, Marc, who had worked at a local record shop.
Unlike the Fugazi screening, this session did not go so smoothly. We had only 3 working mics that we had to alternate between the DJ booth and the studio. Also the studio was tiny and may have worked for 2 or 3 people but Lae-Tseu were 5 people.
We somehow pulled it off and in the end everyone had a lot of fun. We ended up speaking to Marc for a bit about our label and frustration about getting bands to come here. It turned out Marc also had a label and was promoting shows as well. We stayed in touch.
Not long after the radio station session we got a call from Marc. Having a very busy life he was finding hard to promote the shows he was doing and said he needed help. We ended up co-promoting quite a few shows with him.
The shows we did together were great. We met a lot of great people and bands and we were getting more known in the local scene. Soon bands stated contacting us for help with their shows (The Dears!, The Frenetics!, etc). We were surprised and shocked by this and excited at the same time. It seems people were noticing the name Blue Skies Turn Black.
Again though we really wanted to concentrate on our label and we ended up co-releasing the BLAKE 12″ with Marc and that record was received incredibly well. Through the shows we were promoting we met 2 bands who we thought were great and wanted to work with – Spengler and Kiss Me Deadly. Not long after we would meet the Marato and agreed to put out a record for them too.
In the year that followed we would release the Kiss Me Deadly / Spengler split 7″, the Spengler CD, The Kiss Me Deadly CD and the Marato CD. That was a total of 5 records in a year and half. All these releases were self-financed by us as the “company” wasn’t really making any money. We didn’t really care though because we were just so excited to be working with bands whose music we really loved.
Our next release would be the double LP by Rockets Red Glare. We first met these guys working on the Blake release as 2 of them played in that band. The first time we saw Rockets live was life changing. To this day they are one of the greatest bands we have ever seen live period. We felt so excited and honored when they approached us about releasing this record.
The record came out in august 2002. It would be the last record we would release for over a year.
In that time we would put on a lot of shows. We had gone form maybe 2 shows a month to an average of 8-10. The promotion part of the company began to take over. The label side things weren’t looking so great. Kiss Me Deadly and Rockets Red Glare were still working hard touring and such but the Marato broke up a week after their record came out and Spengler were playing less and less. We had sunk a lot of own money into the label and we weren’t seeing much of it coming back.
What we were seeing was the promotion side flourish. Most of our shows were actually making money. Booking agents who had ignored us before were willing to work with us. We were now putting on shows where 300 people were coming out. As the promotion side grew less and less people seemed to realize we even had a label.
Nevertheless In August 2003 (exactly 1 year after our last release) we released 2 new records- the new Rockets Red Glare CD Moonlight Desires and a 7″ from a new local band called Les Angles Morts. The Rockets record would be their last. The band toured a little bit for it and then disbanded. We were sad to see them go as it seemed more and more people were finally catching onto their incredible sound.
And that was it for 2 years for the label side.
2004 saw our biggest jump on the promotion side of the company. We began booking bigger and bigger bands. We were getting into bigger venues. We no longer had to rely on our personal money to fund our shows. The company was actually making money. In august of that year we produced our biggest show yet – Modest Mouse at the Rialto, over 1500 people. It was quite a milestone for us.
In 2005 the company continued to grow. We hired a Media Relations person, Dounia Mikou, and things were going great. While the promotion side was doing great the label was all but dead until we met Dirty Tricks. We had heard their name but had never actually seen them nor had we booked them. Passing us a demo of songs that were meant for a split release we were amazed by what we heard. It was the best demo we had heard in a long time. The split fell through and we agreed to release those songs as an EP.
So in September 2005 we released 2 new records – the Dirty Tricks EP and the long awaited Les Angles Morts full length CD. While the label was actually in better shape than it had ever been (i.e.: better distribution) it shocked many people to learn we had a label. With most of the bands broken up or changing directions in sound ( Kiss Me Deadly who had also switched labels to Alien 8 ) it seemed that the promotion part of the company was all people knew.
2006 continued much the same way as 2005 did. Shows continued to grow and we found ourselves sometimes promoting up to 25 shows a month! Again we only released 2 records this year – The Darling Arms CDEP (featuring our good friend Chrissy who used to front One Candle Power) and the Thundrah 12″ (local bad boys and girl who rock our world).
While we were really happy with this there was a downside. 2006 saw some of the lowest attendances for some of our smaller shows. While we could sell out venues of 700-1200 people easy we were struggling to fill rooms whose capacity was 100. As the year winds down we began to talk and discuss what we could do to ensure all our shows get the attention they deserve.
2007 will be what we hope is a fresh start for Blue Skies Turn Black. Our new website is finally done and we couldn’t be happier with the results. A huge thanks goes out to Ali Q. for taken on this project! His hard work has finally made this possible; also we are excited to announce that come January Andre Guerette will be joining the company. Andre has several years experience promoting show with his own company, Mandatory Moustache, as well as being a member of Aids Wolf. Andre brings with him a strong work ethic and with his help we hope to rebuild the foundation part of the company.
Finally, will the label continue? The answer is yes. In a world where less and less people actually buy physical records and the idea of a label seems ancient; we are committed to keep releasing records by these bands. 2007 will see the release of the first Dirty Tricks full length – Sauf Qui Peut! We are looking to move into the digital age and make our whole catalogue available for digital downloads. Blue Skies Turn Black will continue to be a Concert Promotions company AND a record label as long as it continues to be fun for us.
A BIG thanks to:
Marc Lucas – For helping us at the gate.
Gary @ Alien 8 – For pushing us to work with Casa Del Popolo / Sala Rossa which has turned into a long lasting working relationship.
Mauro and Kiva @ Casa / Sala – For listening to Gary and letting us book shows with them. For helping us in too many ways to count.
Dounia – For getting the Word out there.
Ali – For the new website.
All the bands we’ve put our records for.
All the bands we promoted shows for.
Alien 8 Records
Mahmood Shaikh and Robin Taylor – For being the first booking agents to take a chance on us.
And finally all the people who have come out to our shows or bought one of our releases. Your continued support is what allows Blue Skies Turn Black to keep living.
Meyer and Brian
November 30, 2006
1st Event – Fugazi Instrument screening – Concordia University – March 16 2000
1st Concert – Sweep The Leg Johnny + North of America – Barfly – Sept 2000.
1st Release – Yul Landing Space Cdr – Spring 2000.