Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Sub Pop Co-Founder Looks Forward to Next 25 Years, Wishes for More Surprises

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Sub Pop Co-Founder Looks Forward to Next 25 Years, Wishes for More Surprises

Article excerpt

No surprises? Not for Sub Pop co-founder


SEATTLE - Having just celebrated 25 years of Sub Pop Records, co-founder Jonathan Poneman isn't sure what the future holds.

And that's fine with him.

Asked about his hopes for the quarter-century ahead, Poneman says: "That it be surprising."

"I don't want to plan things out and follow some sort of scheme," he said in an interview in his office. "I want life to surprise me and life to surprise us all."

The 52-year-old Poneman in no stranger to life's surprises. He revealed in May he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

"And of course, while I wish that I didn't have it, now that I do have it it's been an interesting adventure in life. And interesting adventures come in weird packages," he added, stretching out the word "weird."

"You take weird paths and sometimes it leads you to some pretty amazing wonderful situations. So that's what I want -- amazing and wonderful."

Poneman has already achieved that at Sub Pop, the legendary label that helped launch Nirvana and Soundgarden and define the iconic Seattle sound.

Sub Pop's other godfather is Bruce Pavitt. Poneman calls him the label's creator, noting Sub Pop had existed "in Bruce's bedroom and in his magazine columns and his cassette tape series," before the two formally established the company in 1988.

Canadian bands who have found a home at Sub Pop include the Constantines, Eric's Trip, Handsome Furs, Hardship Post, Hot Hot Heat, Jale, and Zumpano.

Toronto's Metz is one of the label's brightest stars today.

"Bruce and I are in agreement that they're the best live rock 'n' roll band in the world right now," Poneman said. "I think the record that they made for us is extraordinary but I still think that live (the music) is transcendant ... As great as that record is, I would say they're even greater live. And that's not to diminish the record, it's more to exult the live experience."

The label found out about Metz after the band toured with longtime label member Mudhoney.

Sub Pop sits on the third floor of a non-descript building in downtown Seattle, above a killer bakery.

Posters and memorabilia adorn the walls like badges of honour. But they also serve as a reminder of the label's limitation. A journalist is asked not to film Nirvana and certain other posters because Sub Pop no longer has their rights.

Still the label has provided to be a survivor. In part due to Nirvana.

When the band moved to Geffen/DGC for its second album "Nevermind," Sub Pop received a buyout of Nirvana's contract royalties on future albums.

Poneman says Sub Pop prefers to look forward rather than back.

"The reason why I think the label survives is because me and other people at the label are not so consumed by what was, (we're) much more engaged with what's coming forward," Poneman said.

"New artists doing vital things," adds Poneman. …

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