Started in 1986 by Minneapolitan Tom Hazelmyer while he was stationed as a Marine in Washington State to release the music he had recorded with his band, Halo of Flies, Amphetamine Reptile (abbreviated as AmRep) went on to develop an impressive roster of bands from the Twin Cities and elsewhere playing caustic versions of punk taken to nth degree. Releasing a series of 7-inches under the banner of “Dope-Guns-N-Fucking in the Streets,” the label established its own hardboiled aesthetic which seemed to align with the noisy sounds it was peddling. Those sounds seemed unlikely to garner mainstream attention, but the release of Helmet’s Strap It On, which lead to the New York band signing to Interscope, proved that there was an audience for this stuff. Still, even after a distribution deal with Atlantic in mid-’90s, Hazelmyer decided in 1998 to shutter the label for several years while he focused on his since closed art gallery, Ox-Op and a small chain of bars, Grumpy’s. AmRep has been reborn in recent years, though, celebrating its 25th anniversary this past summer with a shebang featuring bands from its heyday like Boss Hog and Melvins, and has released a small smattering of records. We caught up with Hazelmyer to discuss AmRep’s past and present states.
Aside from your stint in the military, have you lived in Minneapolis your entire life?
No, I was born in Michigan and lived there until I was 14.
What are your favorite and least favorite things about the city?
Tom Hazelmeyer: It’s not Michigan. It’s not Los Angeles.
What is the current status of AmRep?
It’s morphed into an art project more than a record label, with insanely limited handmade releases for weird shows held in galleries, etc. and strange collaborations with other artists like Lydia Lunch and Gay Witch Abortion.
What made you decide to start a record label rather than get someone else to release the first Halo of Flies single?
Because nobody else would. We sent it to all the labels we would have wanted to be on at the time, but had no takers.
How would you characterize the music scene in the ’80s and ’90s and how is it different today?
It was the last era in modern music in which there were a sizable group of folks actually looking for new sounds and ideas. I have not seen any boundaries being pushed since then, as a majority of new bands seem more than content to just harvest sounds and ideas of the past. There was also an audience large enough to back and support those searching out new and different sounds that I’m not sure still exists.
AmRep's Tom Hazelmyer
How do you think the noisy aesthetic of AmRep related to the city? Is there something about the Twin Cities that inspired this kind of music?
I don’t know if the Twin Cities would/should be cited as a wellspring for noise-oriented stuff. A lot of that has come from here, but right along side of many other genres.
Were there bands in Minneapolis that influenced Halo of Flies?
Hüsker Dü were the one Minneapolis band that I not only saw too many times to count, but whose records I listened to as much as any national or international act I was into or influenced by. I loved the early stuff that was shear sonic terror. Threatening and dangerous, and yet still had hooks and more. It’s all too rare a combination. There was also a lot of interplay with ideas between Halos and the other AmRep bands while the two overlapped.
Was having a label identity important to you?
Yes, when it was advantageous, and no when it wasn’t (ha).
What spawned the idea for the Dope-Guns-N-Fucking singles?
It was originally supposed to be a give away 7-inch with a local fanzine. The fanzine’s following issue never materialized, so it became a release on the label.
Are there new bands in Minneapolis that you are excited about? Ones whose records you’d consider releasing?
Gay Witch Abortion most certainly are local band favs, and AmRep actually went out of its way to work with these chaps on a Halo Of Flies/Gay Witch collaboration.
And you started Ox-Op and Grumpy’s, correct? What is it that drives you to be so entrepreneurial?
Having food, clothing and shelter. Also, whenever I become obsessed by something, I need to immerse myself into it 24/7.
Would you consider yourself community-minded? I mean, do these endeavors stem from any desire to make Minneapolis a better place?
I don’t know about better, but I certainly have always tried to make it more interesting. There more than a few folks that have wished I had done so elsewhere (ha-ha).
I think the 25th anniversary show took people by surprise. Why did you think it was important to mark that milestone?
Not being an overly sentimental sort, it just seemed like the right time to throw a party. It was as good a theme as any, but folks did really get into it. The response was certainly overwhelming. I thought it would be a handful of old timers nursing our beer and playing horseshoes out back.
I was surprised Helmet didn’t play it, given they’re back in action. Any particular reason?
Scheduling conflicts and the roster jammed to bursting almost instantaneously. I rightfully caught a rash of shit about this.
Did you ever think that AmRep was something that you would do until you were a senior citizen?
I’m more than confident that I won’t make it that far.
Is there anything specific that makes you wish you knew then what you know now?
Yeah, to not work as much. About the only thing I would change is that I should have broken the chains to my desk and hit the road with bands a lot more than I did.
Fuente: LimeWire Music Blog