steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

20 questions
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with important records' john brien

True to its name, Important Records has established itself as one of the prime progenitors of contemporary "experimental music," whatever that might mean to you. Since its two first releases - by Daniel Johnston and Merzbow no less - Important has carved out a discography that reads like a who's who of unconventional music. Simply put, if you could choose one label and listen to its releases alone for the rest of your life, well, Important wouldn't be a bad place to start.


1. Is there a special significance to the name "Important" or is it just a reflection of confidence?

Important was a word I noticed people use all the time when talking about records. Records are Important, of course. However, there have already been 3 other labels and a fake label on the Patty Duke Show with the same name so the special significance has been ruined for me. I wish I'd known about all the other labels when naming it. But, at the end of the day, it's just a name.

2. How did Important Records come together? How did an fledgling, upstart label snag Daniel Johnston and Merzbow for its first two releases?

I had called Dan's dad and he put me in touch with the label who was doing Dan's next record and they were willing to work with me. Same goes for Merzbow. The doors seemed to be open in both instances. It was a really exciting time.

3. What is your guilty pleasure?

I don't feel guilt in pleasure.

4. How important (guffaw) has Merzbow been to the Important label?

Extremely. We're honoring that significance right now with a 13 CD series packaged in a hand made bamboo box.

5. How did Important link up with John Fahey?

He died a few months before I started Important so I never had the distinct pleasure of working directly with him. His work has had an enormous impact on my life and listening. My children listened to him before listening to anything else.

6. Important releases a lot of records from already well-established acts, but there are also a few less recognizable names. what do you look for in a potential Important record?

If I love the record, ultimately, I'd love to release it.

7. Describe your clientele. Do you have any devoted customers that buy every release?

There seem to be a lot of dedicated customers who pick up most Important releases. A lot of customers also seem to have listening habits in line with what the label does because they purchase titles from across the sound spectrum of the label. I cherish these folks.

8. Who is your favourite philosopher? Explain.

Does Ayn Rand count? She must. The Fountainhead just makes so much sense.

9. Take us into the Important office. What is the average day like?

Cleaning yesterdays mess. Making today's mess to be cleaned tomorrow. Trying to climb to the top of the mess in order to see into the future.

10. Who on your roster would win in a barfight?

I guess it depends on who they were fighting.

11. Vinyl vs. CD - compare and contrast.

Vinyl, of course, though I'm perfectly fine with CDs as well. Only recently has my stereo attained a level where LPs sound noticeably warmer and more detailed than CDs. However, there are so many garbage pressings out there that CDs are often preferable.

12. Is there a release that is particularly dear to you?

Asa Irons & Swaan Miller. It's the best record on Important that nobody bought.

13. There's a label named Insignificant Records. Do you consider them your mortal enemies?

I'm unfamiliar with the label.

14. What is Important's all-time best seller?

Ocean's Here Where Nothing Grows.

15. Got any strange stories?

Oh god, yes. I'd prefer not to even think of them let alone repeat them.

16. What is your dream release?

The new Cave record on Important. The dream is becoming a reality.

17. Does anyone support themselves on Important's winnings?

Important employs a couple of folks in-house though I'm not sure if any of the artists are able to support themselves entirely on their music alone.

18. What is your favourite colour? Justify your selection.

I love all colors equally. Seriously. I try to never pick favorites.

19. Where is Important Records going to be in 5 years?

Bigger and better hopefully.

20. Where is Important Records going to be in 50 years?

I want to be sitting in an ocean-side sauna like Henry Jacobs. My goal is to own next to nothing by my 60th birthday so that means that Important fans only have 27 more years of enjoying this stuff.

interview conducted by Michael Tau
March 2009



all content copyright 2009