Welcome to Local Music 'Mericans, where we'll be meeting some people behind the local music scene who aren't musicians, but more behind-the-scenes folk.
Brian "Torch" Idell's beat is the streets of Deep Ellum.
He's not a cop or reporter, though. Rather, he promotes local music. And he does it with good old-fashioned elbow grease -- he walks, posts fliers, talks to people, and hands out free music and promotional materials.
When a local band is just getting started releasing their first batch of original music into the unforgiving jungle of critics and clubgoers, not a lot of people will take them seriously, nor really listen.
Idell likes to think that he's one of the first that will -- and, if he hears some effort and talent in the songwriting and recording process, he'll do what he can to help them start to get the word out. He assembles freebie CDs at a cost that even the bands can afford (usually just above 20 bucks a track) and crams a few of them together into the occasional live showcase on a Deep Ellum stage.
And he's been a part of it all since was barely old enough to get into the clubs to see bands play. Idell cut his teeth working on former KEGL-97.1 FM The Eagle jock Robert Miguel's series of live shows that spotlighted the hard rock/metal genre. After a year or so, he branched out on his own and formed Torch Entertainment, which is aimed at creating buzz about regional bands of not only the rock and metal genre (clearly his main forte, though), but hip-hop, industrial, and other realms, too, through creating compilation CDs and the like.
After the jump, we'll find out if shoe leather is tax deductible, and what sparked such a local music enthusiasm in Idell in the first place.
Tell us about the compilation CDs you've released.
It's a pretty common concept that's been done by others, but not really to this scale. I take 20 artists of a specific genre and put one track of theirs on the CD. I've done rock, metal, hip-hop, industrial -- I'm willing to do just about anything. I make the CDs look good, in full color. The bands all chip in a very small fee with 19 other bands, and their track is featured along with their album website and show info. Once everything is done and printed, I go out on the street and I slip them out to people, like crack. The bands and I can only really afford to run a limited number of the CDs, so I do a run of 500, and choose carefully who gets them. I try to target the fans that are real big on crowd participation. I've gotten a lot of positive feed back from it. My newest compilation has 19 amazing metal bands and will be released at the next Torch Entertainment Showcase on January 21 at Reno's Chop Shop. I also have a hip-hop compilation due out in the spring.
Were you witness to one particular promotion, maybe at a local music show, that inspired you to become even more involved in all this?
There was a great CD release party on 6/6/06 for a band called LaME. They weren't really an evil band, and the $6.66 cover was very tongue-in-cheek. And it was on a night called $2 Tuesdays at Curtain Club and Liquid Lounge, so with the cheap drinks, food, and cover, it was a really fun night. That show was full of bands that were having a hell of a lot of fun and, of course, that onstage fun tends to translate to the crowd pretty easy, so it was a really great night. It definitely inspired me. Hell, now that i think about it, there are probably so many more shows I can name.
Whats your earliest memory of local music live in Dallas?
Element Eighty and Stillborn Nursery at Dreamworld Music Complex. Sometime in 2002. Both bands were equally heavy but contrasted in style, and you could tell they didn't care, and that they just wanted to rock out and have fun. I think I walked away from that show a little bit of a different person than who I was when I walked in.
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What bands do you feel deserve big success from our music scene?
That's a really hard question to answer because I like so many bands out here. If I were to be specific to, say, rock bands, I would say The Razorblade Dolls. Those guys are seriously underrated and under appreciated. I like Kennedy, Secret of Boris, Rivethead, Redefine, Night Gallery, Reckless Intent. I would have loved to have seen Spector 45 make it bigger.
Same question, but maybe struggling artists from outside of our own backyard?
Residue are a band from Austin that I feel are connected, and important to the rock crowd here. Same for The Sammus Theory. Even though they are from Arizona, I feel they are also just as much a part of the scene.
So, what exactly is Torch Entertainment, from your perspective?
Torch Entertainment is truly a way for me to get into awesome shows for free! Kidding. It's an indie promotion/booking/management company that offers many different forms of hand-to-hand promotion. Fliers, posters, compilation CDs and live showcases. I try to work with as many artists as possible. Some bands are more established in the scene, and I know I couldn't offer them a competitive pay scale compared to the shows they play, so I use my networking skills for them and promote them like crazy. I get out on the street and talk to people.
It sounds like you're really just a glorified fan.
I love music! It's my life. It runs through my veins 24/7/365, and I respect every single musician out there for having the balls to get up on stage and spread their music to the masses -- even if sometimes the masses might start out as five of your best friends, and not much else. If nothing else, I've been told I'm a damn good drinking buddy.