Home-grown record label's execs content being inconspicous
In contrast to the local musicians who are highly visible and have become Milwaukee's popular icons of music, there are some inconspicuous music geniuses roaming the streets of this town.
Three of these low-profile music wizards are Jeff Baumann, Mark Moore and Erik Kowalski, the trio behind Wobblyhead, a home grown record label derived out of a pure love for music absent of pretension or quests for fame and fortune. Wobblyhead works closely with musicians so that the final product upholds the artist's original vision. By paying to help the artists produce and distribute their albums, Wobblyhead allows musicians to get their stuff out there and be heard.
"We're talking about really good, quality music that in a very unstudied way is very accessible. The music we're pushing is not difficult to get into," says Moore. "There's a certain notion of mood setting music that is nice to have. There's a certain type of place in space where that takes you."
What these three have done is build a public transportation system to take you to the music that will carry you to that mood, and the experience of listening to the music in and of itself feels a bit like travelling.
Sprouting in the fall of 1998, the seeds of Wobblyhead were planted out of the union between Baumann and Kowalski, who work together at Atomic Records. Before Mark Moore moved back to Milwaukee and completed the trio, Baumann and Kowalski bonded over evenings filled with sonic powwows. Earlier that year, Kowalski, and his former roommate, Scott Beschta (ex-bassist from Milwaukee's The Promise Ring), began making music. Moore's and Baumann's reactions to this provided the impetus for creating Wobblyhead, a label that could provide a platform for creative, unheard music.
The name Wobblyhead embodies what the record label is all about. "The term implies something a little off kilter, something's that's a little bit surreal or psychedelic," says Baumann. To Moore, "It's vague, open-ended, and it rolls off the tongue well."
Wobblyhead's first release was a collection of Beschta's and Kowalski's tracks issued in the summer of 1999 on a 12-inch EP called "Roommates."
"I remember thinking the music that we were listening to at (Kowalski's) house, at 1:30 on a Friday night was hands down better than 95 percent of the stuff that comes into Atomic and we're selling," says Baumann.
Their focus is not so much on production as it is on melody. For both "Roommates" and Casino versus Japan (Kowalksi's own brainchild), there are no sung lyrics, rather obscure samples and collections of layered sounds.
"We did it very hands on, without computers. It was all very grassroots and raw," says Kowalski about "Roommates". After that came the National Anthem 45 which utilized more original ideas and instruments.
Kowalski and Baumann, working at Atomic, experience what it is like to sell Wobblyhead albums first-hand. What's ironic is that most often those who buy the records have little or no idea that the dark haired men ringing up the purchases are the music makers themselves. No one really knows that they even do what they do and unless they're asked, they're most likely not going to talk about it. They're too modest.Page 1 of 3 (view all on one page)
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