Total Punk

Total Punk Interview: with mastermind Rich Evans By Sal Lucci

How often does a label come along and just assert itself among your record collection? I’m talking about the kind of label where just seeing its name or logo makes you buy a record, regardless of whether you’ve heard the band or even heard of the band. Only a few labels have done this to me (Crypt, Goner, Rip Off.) I welcome Total Punk to this short list, hailing from Orlando, Florida. Masterminded by Rich Evans, (of the label/mail order Floridas Dying) Total Punk has proven itself almost from its start in 2011. Total Punk’s records look deceptively simple, with their mono-color covers and two-song 7”s, but Evans hand stamps each cover, sometimes spending more hours on a pressing than hours in a typical work day. I interviewed Evans in December 2013 and January 2014, as he was putting the final touches on his label’s third birthday party, the Total Punk Fuck Off Weekend.

Sal: Give me some demographic-type stuff: name, where you were born, where you currently live.

Rich: Rich Evans. I was born in Germany on an American army base. We moved back to the Orlando, Florida area when I was six months old. My parents got divorced and my mom packed up and moved me and my sisters to Ft.Lauderdale when I was seven. I moved back to Orlando when I was twenty-two and have been here for the last fourteen years.

Sal: How did you get into underground music?

Rich: I was a pretty stupid kid who was slow to learn a lesson. When I was a teenager I kept taking acid despite the negative effects it had on me each and every time. I had a series of really bad acid trips that completely scrambled my brain and left me even more of a social outcast than I was before. It was pretty soon after that I heard Minor Threat and Black Flag for the first time. It really resonated with me. All my Doors CDs went into the garbage and from that moment on I was a punk.

Sal: Would you say music is your life?

Rich: I wouldn’t say music is my life, but when times are hard it definitely makes life much easier to deal with.

Sal: What bands have you been in?

Rich: I’ve been in a bunch of area bands since I was about twenty years old. I sang for a band called Studdogs when I was in my early twenties. About six years ago I picked up the drums and have been playing them ever since. Right now, I play drums in The Golden Pelicans. We’ve got two singles on Total Punk, another coming out on Pelican Pow Wow in February, and a 12” coming out on Total Punk later this year.

Sal: Do you have a day job?

Rich: I worked in a bar downtown for a long time. For the last three or four years, I’ve been running the label/online store exclusively. A few months ago I got a job at a yuppie grocery store, but I lasted all of five days. Selling over-priced cheese to rich people wasn’t exactly gratifying.

Sal: Didn’t you have a record store?

Rich: Yeah, I had a record store called Vinyl Richie’s Wiggly World Of Records for four or five years. I’m really bad with dates. I closed it at the beginning of 2013. The only reason it stayed open as long as it did is I’m stubborn and it was fun to have a clubhouse. I’m much happier working from home, though. Can’t say I miss the store at all.

Sal: What made you start Floridas Dying?

Rich: Boredom mostly. I wasn’t really doing much else at the time. I had been booking shows in Orlando for about four years at that time. A lot of people would turn up for shows, but most of them really weren’t aware of who most of these bands were other than me bringing them to town. I figured I’d start a distro and get people turned onto stuff before bands come to town. In that regard it was mostly a failure in the beginning, but, luckily, I found an audience outside of Orlando to buy my wares. However, nowadays people in the area seem to be much hipper to what is going on musically. I don’t know if that is as a result of me or more the internet, but I like to believe it’s because of me.

Sal: What’s the Florida scene like these days? The only scene that I’ve really heard about is in Gainesville and the only labels I can immediately think of are No Idea and Stiff Pole Records, although their “sounds” are quite different. Seems to me like if you can do a Roach Motel record, you should be able to squeeze some Pink Lincolns reissues in there….

Rich: The Florida scene is awesome. Orlando, Miami, St. Pete, Jacksonville, St. Augustine. There are a lot of towns with shit going on these days, and a bunch of kids looking for something to do. Things get pretty wild in these parts, so I think when most bands come down they are pleasantly surprised with the turn out and reaction.

Sal: How did Total Punk come about? What are the major differences between Floridas Dying and Total Punk—I’m talking about sound, visual, packaging, bands?

Rich: After some years of doing Floridas Dying, I wanted to do something with a little more direction and cohesiveness. I wanted releases with a distinct look to them. Something once you saw it you knew who put it out. Hence the hand stamped covers. I went with hand stamped because I thought it would look cool and would keep costs down. It does look cool, but it ended up being much more labor intensive than I originally planned. It’s not as easy as just stamping a piece of paper. It’s an entire process.

Sal: Why do you like doing the stamps? Is it as much fun each time to make the covers?

Rich: There is a little mom and pop stamp store down the street from me that makes the stamps. At first they seemed really confused by my orders but they have warmed up to me. I like doing them because they have a very distinct look and no two covers are exactly the same.

Sal: Is it as much fun each time to make the covers?

Rich: I can’t say it’s always fun to make the covers, but, overall, I feel it’s pretty rewarding when you’re done. Some covers are more fun than others. I want to kiss the band when they keep it simple. Huge, blocky areas are a bit of a nightmare, but I always find a way to power through it.

Sal: How long does it take you to stamp covers for a typical pressing?

Rich: It really depends on the artwork. The Cheap Time and Bits Of Shit singles were very, very time consuming. The Buck Biloxi cover was a breeze. I would say on average it takes me about nine episodes of Star Trek to get through an entire pressing.

Sal: How much of your home and work space is taken over by sleeves in various states of assembly?

Rich: I used to be real bad about having my stuff everywhere, but now that I work at home and my girlfriend is a neat freak, I try and keep my mess somewhat contained. When I’m in the middle of stamping a pressing, though, it is a good six foot radius of sleeves, stamp pads, stamp blocks, inserts, and vinyl.

Sal: So you plan on keeping the uniform look/color scheme? I definitely like that. Do you do one color for first press and another for additional presses?

Rich: Yeah, for sure. On the 12”s we’re mixing it up a bit and taking each project on its own, but as far as the singles go, everything is uniform. Two song singles with hand-stamped covers.

Sal: Do you do one color for first press and another for additional presses?

Rich: First pressing is always red, second pressing is always black.

Sal: What makes it worth it to you to repress a record?

Rich: As far as represses go, if there is the demand for it, we will repress. We’re making records, not artifacts.

Sal: How far out do you have releases planned?

Rich: I tried to go into 2014 with the entire year’s worth of releases planned. I’m sure a few will get added, and a few more won’t get recorded this year. But as of now we have singles coming out by Baddat For Trubbel, Lumpy And The Dumpers, Manateees, Gino And The Goons, Cuntz, and True Sons Of Thunder, plus 12”s by Golden Pelicans and Buck Biloxi.

Sal: What’s the turnaround time from asking a band to do a record to the record hitting the shelves?

Rich: It all really depends on how long it takes a band to get me the tracks and how many releases I have lined up in front of it. Total Punk is a first come, first served kind of deal. We have a lot of releases lined up for this year, so whoever gets their tracks to me first gets put to the front of the line. After that, it really depends on how backed up the pressing plant is, which, lately, has been pretty backed up.

Sal: What goes into planning an event of such magnitude like the Total Fuck Off Weekend, or any festival, really? How do you make sure the bands are taken care of?

Rich: I think this is all motivated by self hatred. It seems I can’t keep myself busy or broke enough. It’s gonna be awesome though and completely worth whatever debt it puts me in. A lot of the Total Punk bands seem to be in constant states of disrepair. Break ups, member changes, breakdowns, fights. Getting everyone in the same room is a bit of an undertaking. We attempted this back in October 2013 and failed. Luckily, this time it just happened to work out, and I was really surprised I was able to get as many bands to come down. We’ve got a really killer line up. Live Fast Die, Video, GG King, Gary Wrong Group, Liquor Store, Buck Biloxi And The Fucks, Manateees, Gino And The Goons, Giorgio Murderer, The Hemingers, Sick Thoughts, Golden Pelicans. All in the beautiful city of Orlando, March 7th and 8th, 2014. I’m hoping for the turnout to be so great that this thing pays for itself. That being said, I am a realist, so I’ll just be eating boxed foods for the next couple of months so I have the money set aside to lose when that day comes. DIY, baby! Nothing more punk than losing money.

Sal: Do you feel akin to the “Budget Rock” labels of the ‘90s (Rip Off, Super Teem, Pre-B.S., Radio X)? It seems like they shared similar sentiments—getting records out as fast as they could from the time they were recorded. They also seemed to prefer limited releases.

Rich: Sure, those were the labels I grew up loving and who got me into all of this stuff in the first place. These are the labels I wanted to emulate when the idea of Total Punk first came about. One you could add to that list for sure is Boom Boom Of Renton. The coolest label of the ‘00s for sure. I’m a card carrying member of the Fang Club.

Sal: Do you see Total Punk sticking around for a while, or burning hot then just disappearing?

Rich: I hope that I’ll have the good foresight to put this thing down before it loses its legs, but I don’t know. Right now I’m having so much fun with it I don’t try to look too far into the future. Hopefully, when the time comes, I’ll call it quits and end this thing properly.

Sal: How did the Action Swingers record come about? Any other archival stuff in the works?

Rich: Oh god, The Action Swingers! What a nightmare, but what an awesome record. Gary Wrong was going to cover “Miserable Life” for the Total Punk/Jeth-Row Records 12”. About that time Ned Hayden contacted me, basically telling me everything he thought was wrong with me and every other week I would get an email telling me he decided that he wasn’t going to let a cover of his song appear on my “shitty label.”

So I figured why not see if I can get the original on my “shitty label.” He surprisingly agreed and we ended up not even using Gary Wrong’s cover on the 12”. I had heard all the warnings that Ned was difficult to work with and a bit of a nut, but decided to go forward anyways. Everything I heard was true, and he had his series of meltdowns along the way. I think I’ve been de-friended on Facebook like three times now, but I think the record came out great and I’m really happy I got to put it out. I’m sure Ned will read this and get really angry so, “Hi Ned!”

As of now, no other archival records are planned for Total Punk, but I am doing an archival LP of this really awesome old Miami hardcore band Broken Talent on Floridas Dead (the archival arm of Floridas Dying.) They only had a single and a couple of tapes come out back in the day. The LP will contain most of the songs from those releases plus a few other unearthed gems. It’s been in the works for over two years, but we are finally getting close to pulling the trigger.

Sal: Let’s play pretend and say Total Punk existed in the grand scheme of things in the ‘80s, ‘90s or early ‘00s, but for extra twisted fun, not through all three but only in each individual decade. What bands would you have put out from each of these eras?

Rich: [Laughs] I’ve played this game quite a few times before and don’t want to bore you with my entire laundry list, so I’ll just shout out the first ten or so that come to mind. It was pretty much the first thing I did when I started Total Punk. Man, there are a lot of dream bands so I’ll try and limit it. VOM, Penetrators, Gizmos, Sheer Smegma, Flipper, The Drags, Tyrades, Fe Fi Fo Fums, Supercharger, Reatards, Clone Defects, Mummies, The Eat, Antler Joe And The Accidents, and the list goes on and on and on.

Sal: What do you do on those days that you absolutely hate music?

Rich: Re-evaluate my life.

Sal: What are your favorite current bands, ones you might and might not be releasing records by? What are your favorite all-time bands?

Rich: Pretty much the bands I put out. Right now what I am listening to most is Lumpy And The Dumpers, Buck Biloxi, and Life Stinks. Favorite band of all time is without a doubt The Country Teasers. I don’t think I go more than a few days without listening to them

Sal: What defines Total Punk?

Rich: Total Punk is about putting out awesome punk records by bands who are probably too old to still be doing this, who work shitty dead end jobs, play broken instruments, they record with broken equipment. People with no illusions of fame or car commercial royalty checks, who play in bands to keep their sanity intact. You know, the bands that actually deserve to have their records put out. Total Punks!

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