Reed Bruemmer has made a name for himself over the last few decades by playing in bands like the speed metal titans Speedwolf, the too-short-lived Poison Rites, and now the New York-based OVERDOSE. But Reed has recently shown himself to be a really phenomenal writer and a label exec with great taste for reissuing obscure metal and garage releases. I got to talk to him about his recent projects and what it’s like to do just about everything in the music business.
Reed, I knew of you as the singer of Speedwolf for a long time and then I met you when you were playing with Poison Rites. But most recently I’ve been seeing your name in bylines for Kerrang! Can you tell me about what got you writing about music in addition to making it?
I fell into writing by way of Christopher Krovatin. He's a friend who has interviewed me several times about bands I've played in and other weird topics. He used to live in Denver but had returned home to NYC shortly before I made my own move East. I called him two weeks before I moved and told him I'd see him soon. When he started his new job at Kerrang! magazine, he suggested that I try writing something for them. For my whole life I've juggled multiple jobs (upwards of five was my max at one point) and never had financial security or steady income. Although my work record on paper makes me look like an ex-con or drifter; I work incredibly hard, have never been fired, and leave 90% of my jobs known as one of their best workers. Needless to say, I was expressing my interest in breaking this cycle and working more in the music "industry."
Almost everyone I've ever met who gets paid the big bucks and is higher up on the food chain seems to be the most disconnected and least respected from yours truly (when speaking of the music "industry"). I applied to thousands of jobs here in NY for similar work and thought I could apply my 17 years of experience and be quite a good employee. I said to Chris, "my brain and know-how has to valuable to somebody..." He encouraged me to use that knowledge and write. I'm a blue-collar guy; artistic and creative, but generally a poor person with a job/s that keeps me in that bracket. I never thought I'd be a writer, but here I fucking am, damnit.
You did a really cool piece where you listed your fifty favorite bars in 50 states to listen to Motörhead in. How’d you go about writing that piece?
I appreciate you reading it. I basically just wrote about almost every bar I've been into in each state that I thought Lemmy would enjoy most. There were a few states that I needed help with, and for those I reached out to my top-secret alcoholic sources. But for 96% of it, they were all bars/places I've been to and drank in, whether it be on tour, motorcycle, or other strange inconvenience. Kerrang! asked me to write 1000 words. I guess they valued my opinion cause I'd actually been around in the real world. I turned in a 5000 word mess and we straightened it out.
Your label, Splattered Records, has been releasing obscure punk and metal releases for a while. How did Splattered come about?
Splattered started in 2008 out of necessity. I wanted to release my own music as well as my friends' in Denver. It also helped me keep all the finances in order for any of the bands I was in or was working with. File taxes under an LLC, setup wholesale accounts with distributors, etc. For the past few years I had been tossing around the idea of giving it one solid push and really trying to put out some releases that are hard to find. I've been a serious record collector my whole life, so I had a mental list of releases already in mind. When I moved to NY I sold a good chunk of my collection and just put the money back in to the label. I didn't really plan things out or come up with some innovative brand or hip aesthetic. I thought about a lot of the records that were coming and going in the past decade and wondered why so many that I loved were still lost in the wild. I knew I wanted to focus on reissue-ing 45s and work with a lot of obscure heavy metal, punk, and other in-between-rock 'n' roll stuff. All my favorite labels from the past were tiny little things that maybe did 50 singles in their whole catalog. Made sense to me to strive for that.
What’s your process for deciding what releases you’re interested in reissuing on Splattered? Can you describe the process from identifying the music to reissuing it?
Any die-hard music fan or collector always seems to have this endless tally within their mind of releases they need, are obsessing over, or titles that need to be resurrected. You think to yourself, "Shit, that one single from 1978 that is always selling for $400; fuck that, someone should just reissue it again so that it can be $5-$10..." You do some scouring and sooner or later you just may have signed up to reissue that very record, haha. Don't get me wrong though. The monetary value of these things does not mean that they are good and worthy of a proper re-do. I personally just know what I enjoy and also have seen how saturated the other genres are these days. So it comes down to taste, a love of music and its culture equally, and then the pursuit and correspondence with other artists and music fans. That’s how it's done.
Once I'm in touch with the artists I want to work with I just remain totally honest with them about whatever I do. I explain that I don't have much money and show them all the costs I pay. Saying I'd like to reissue their one lost record from almost 40 years ago, and tell them that this same record needs to be available again for younger generations. Almost everyone I've worked with has been very appreciative and supportive. I'm thankful to say the least.
What's your record collection like? I know you reissue and play a lot of NWOBHM-inspired stuff, but is that reflective of your record collection? Is there stuff in there we wouldn't necessarily anticipate?
It's hard to describe such a giant pile of records in just a short amount of words. I've collected all sorts of stuff throughout the years, whether it be punk, metal, soul, country, noise, rock 'n' roll, and other things in-between. I love music and have always had an affinity for older styles, cultural movements behind them, and their connections in music history. Proto upon precursor upon what came before that, and how they intertwined. I've traveled, literally, all over the world in search of records and somehow did it on a shoestring budget.
Nowadays most of the cool record collectors are folks that just throw huge amounts of money at rare stuff. And really it's just so they can get into a pissing contest with another collector or fulfill some sort of perverse narcissism over having all the titles in a catalog or being the all-knowing-music-person. It's a fucking joke and I can't relate to the majority of them. So I guess what you wouldn't anticipate in my collection is a bunch of affordable records [laughs]. I don't have a pile of holy grail 7"s worth $1000s, but I do have killer ones. Or if you wanted to really simplify what’s in there; I just love loud guitar and long live budget rock.
You’re a bit of an everyman for punk and metal music—you’ve been in bands, worked at venues, and now you’re on the label and journalism side of it. Is there anything in music you can’t see yourself doing?
Funny you mention that. Yeah, you're right. I've worked almost every position in those businesses. Been in the bar biz for 15 years, graphic design/art 10+ years, venue biz for 10 years, record store 10 years, label for 11 years, and I guess now I'm a journalist (fuck). I'm happy to have all the experiences throughout. They made me who I am today. But I will say that at my age, I'm dying to get something consistent for decent pay. Who knows? Maybe some mega wealthy brat will read this article and hire me to alphabetize his 45s on the Upper East Side [laughs]. Most likely, I'll still just be poor with a head full of knowledge that doesn't get you anywhere at Charles Schwab.
I've always lived by my own rules and done things my own way. I took a lot of pride in that, and still do. I did everything DIY, not because it was fashionable, but because I knew I'd be a lifer and had to figure it out in Middle America. I don't know what position I'll be onto next but as long as I can stay involved in music/art for it's sake then I'll be happy. God knows it's more within my budget to be dead than alive, so I'd just like find the few reasons there are to enjoy sounds going into my ears while the earth slowly pushes my body into a trashcan-grave. In the meantime, thanks for paying attention to what I've done so far. Oh and to answer question about future work. No matter where I go I will never see myself taking shit from anyone.
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