Why Jason Aalon Butler Has Started A Record Label… That Isn’t Quite A Record Label
Some people know no rest. Jason Aalon Butler – FEVER 333’s mouthpiece and all-round good dude – only got five hours sleep the night before his band’s biggest headline show to date at the O2 Kentish Town Forum in London. Not that you would know it, as he hangs in his dressing room talking a mile-a-minute with wired eyes that convey barely-restrained energy. As he reveals, his excitement is only partly to do with the filling venue below, but mostly because today marks the first release from his new ‘artist-oriented collective’, 333 Wreckords Crew.
Not a record label in the traditional sense, Jason explains that 333 Wreckords Crew is intended to operate as a means for him to release records and to help guide bands that he believes in. Of the utmost importance is that the artist comes first, with the venture operating with full transparency and, crucially, ensuring the bands receive the profits from their art before anybody else gets paid, in a reversal of the way most labels operate. The first band Jason has signed is Louisville, Kentucky hardcore-rap mob Guerrilla Warfare, and you will likely already have seen the gonzo video for their single NU.Wav, the label’s first official release.
Jason has also just signed South London rock duo Nova Twins, who joined FEVER 333 onstage at their Forum show. It’s clear his aspirations go much further than merely collecting a roster of artists like Top Trumps.
“I don’t think the idea of FEVER 333 can find its optimum position without building a culture around it,” says Jason of the ethos at the heart of 333 Wreckords Crew. “Artistic culture, people that want to do things alternatively. I think we should all be able to lean on each other to create. A lot of the bands and artists that we’re going to associate ourselves with have shared DNA, whether that’s in our ideology or the music we play and the way we play it. I think that’s really important to pay attention to.”
When did you first start thinking about starting a collective like 333 Wreckords Crew, Jason?
“Actually, after FEVER 333 had that first demonstration in that parking lot in Inglewood [outside of Randy’s Donuts in 2017] I registered a label, because I thought that this could be something that is bigger than just us. So literally the next day, I registered a label as 333 Wreckords Crew. Then I saw Nova Twins at Afropunk Festival 2018 and I was like, ‘I need to have them be a part of something with FEVER 333.’ I didn’t know exactly what that looked like yet, but then I started thinking about different ways to work with artists. About a year later I really got to figuring it out and I called Nova Twins and was like, ‘Yo, I don’t know yet what I’m doing, but it’s gonna be dope and I’ll make sure it’s good for everybody involved.’ And then right about the same time our photographer for FEVER 333 showed me this band, Guerrilla Warfare, and I immediately thought, ‘I need to sign them.’ So I did.
What did you decide would differentiate 333 Wrecking Crew from a traditional record label?
“Alongside all of this happening I started thinking about the way that FEVER 333 operate as a project, and why we’re doing this. Ultimately it comes down to culture. I want to create a culture where we can sustain ourselves and we don’t have to worry about how we’ve been told to do this for so long, and to make sure that when the money comes through, that the artist sees it. I think that’s crushing bands right now. I think bands put so much time and effort and money into just trying to operate that they can’t even focus on their art. So I’m trying to find a way to switch that system and switch the dissemination of funds so the artists can see what they worked for. I don’t think it’s fair that other people get money before the artist. That doesn’t make any sense to me. Yes, I believe other people should get money for helping the artist, yes, but why should they see the money first? How is the artist then going to continue to sustain their art if they can’t support themselves?”
How do you intend for 333 Wreckords Crew to operate financially?
“My first goal is to make sure my artists feel supported and that they can actually support themselves and their art. I’m having a meeting with two of my buddies, Omid Majdi and Christian Johansen, who work in distribution – they both used to be in my old band letlive., way back in the day. They went on to do other things in the [music] business, and they’re still forward-thinking, subversive, hard-headed dreamers, and they are so smart with logistics. We’ve set aside 12 hours to observe the landscape and then decide on how we’re going to seed the capital, and then how we’re going to distribute money when it comes in. We’re going to create a solid, sustainable foundation so that when we present it to the artists they can see it in writing and everything is clear. Everyone knows where the money is coming from, where it’s going, but first and foremost the money has to go to the artist.”
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What are your dissatisfactions with the current record label system as it stands, and what would you like to change?
“I don’t believe in signing all these bands, all these artists, all these creatives and hoping that one of them does enough work to get past the threshold and then you claim all the fucking spoils. How are you going to focus on someone when you have a whole sea of other artists? And none of these people know what it’s like to be broken down in New Mexico and they still get paid. I think [letlive.] did this one time where we reached out to one of our old labels, told them what was going on and they didn’t do shit. And that’s because they don’t understand what it feels like to put everything on the line like that – creatively, emotionally, physically – and then not get shit back. All we have is ourselves – and that’s another thing that I wanna remind artists. Every single thing you can imagine, from the worst pitfalls of being in a band to the more enjoyable elements, I have been through, and I am still experiencing.”
So if one of your artists is stuck on the road in another country, how would you handle that scenario?
“The first hurdle that everyone thinks is, ‘I’m not there so I can’t do anything,’ which is fucking crazy. I would rent them a car! I would call whoever I know out there, because I know people all around this world. And if they’re in America then me or somebody is gonna get out there – which we probably wouldn’t have to because we live in such global world now. You can send them a fucking Uber. You can get them from point A to B. If you signed this group, then you are on that trip with them. Would you just sit there in the middle of the road in Slovakia or New Mexico if it were you and your family? Of course not, you’d fix it.”
You’re a busy man in demand, though. You’ve got FEVER 333, your other band, Pressure Cracks, and you’re a father. How are you going to find the time?
“Sleep less, straight up! I sleep five hours a night, so that leaves me 19 hours of the day. It sounds stupid and simple, but that’s what I do. Like, I was up until 4am making sure everything was cool at home, and then I woke up this morning at 9am and started my day so I could get a Guerrilla Warfare premiere moving. But here’s the thing: it’s not just me. I’ve got people like Omid and Christian and my friend Sarah helping me out. We already have about seven people onboard and we’re all working for free. Having a small team is so sick if the expectations are a little bit smaller, but I want people to expect a lot from us in terms of offering guidance and taking care of them.”
You recently put out Guerrilla Warfare’s single NU.Wav. What made you want to sign them as your first move?
“I listened to their EP, C O N S U M E, in the bus while on tour earlier this year and it just hit me. What they’re doing is not middle-of-the-road, and when people are willing to take those risks, then that’s attractive to me. The presentation and energy and the vibe of what they were doing, you can tell that they mean this shit. I spoke with them over and over again through FaceTime and various conference calls, and everything they wanted to do and being so ready to risk it, I just felt that I wanna take the risk with this band. The music just spoke to me and it felt like it fit within what I wanted to do with 333 Wreckords Crew, so I called them and asked them if they would be down.”
What are the qualities you look for in a band that would make you want to sign them?
“First of all, you’ve got to have found something that is aberrant or left-of-centre and you’ve got to believe in it. I want you to be so confident in what you’re doing and the way you’re doing it that nobody can tell you it won’t work. I love to see that, because that’s what I did. You also have to have a vision, because I can’t see your future for you until you do. I met Guerrilla Warfare – and there are a couple of other acts I’m talking to right now – and they have a vision. And then I want to know that I can help you. If I see someone and think, ‘Fuck, you are the dopest artist,’ but if I can’t offer you anything [then it’s not right]. Again, this all has to be artist-first. Do I have anything that I can give to this artist that makes sense? Something that will catalyse and enhance what they’re already doing? This is another thing with labels. They don’t know how to help you as an artist, they only know how to give you money. So if I know I can help somebody, that has to be the final piece that it’s all dependent upon.”
Finally, then, what does the future look like for 333 Wreckords Crew?
“I want it to work like a proper collective, like a co-operative. Eventually, a headquarters would be sick, and I want people to be able to walk into it and learn about the history, as well as to see how everything works transparently. I want it to be that deep that you can see how we’re distributing albums and how we’re printing merch. Full transparency is not only good for the soul, but I think it’s good to show other people that might want to do what we’re doing to, again, make a larger community. I don’t think it should just be us and four bands. I want as many people as possible to be alternative with us. That is something we’d like to have happen, but right now we’re making sure that we make the proper first steps.”
Keep your eyes on Kerrang! for more news on 333 Wreckords Crew.
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