Omnivore Recordings was started by four people that have all been in the music industry combined for over a hundred years. We all come from different areas of the business. One of our guys has been in sales for years, another one was an art director/designer, and I come from the film and television publishing area. Cheryl Pawelski, the woman that kind of put it all together, she comes from A&R. So we joined forces ten years ago. The name indeed reflects what we’re all about: we like all kinds of music. First off, we have to like it. And secondly, there needs to be a story. We released over 400 records over the past ten years. With the exception of heavy metal, which we’re not averse to, but that seems to be the only genre we haven’t delved into yet. I’m sure we will at some point.
If there’s something behind the making of the record, or that particular artist, that we find provocative. That could be anything. From Buck Owens to Emitt Rhodes, to The Knack, to the Beach Boys… Even with a catalog like the Ru-Jac archives on Tracklib. Ru-Jac was a rhythm-and-blues label based in Baltimore founded in the early 60s. There are great records in there, very authentic R&B. The music was sort of lost: records were going for large amounts of money on the second-hand market. We had the opportunity to purchase the label and the publishing rights, to repurpose everything and breathe new life into the Ru-Jac catalog. By doing that, we told the story of Ru-Jac Records through various compilations, which hasn’t been done before, really.
I’m not sure if it’s always “rebellious.” “Interesting” might be a better way to describe it. A few acts that come to mind are Big Star and Jellyfish. We’ve released more records by those bands than they released during their time. Reissues and records that didn’t exist before. We have to like it; we have to find it interesting. We’re the curators, so to speak. Or better yet: music historians. Unearthing things that didn’t exist before, that we feel is important to the history of music. That listeners—and producers, in the case of Tracklib—should know about. That’s our prime mission.
The Ru-Jac catalog specifically is a great example of a historical label, unknown to modern audiences, that can be part of new and modern recordings. So absolutely, sampling is an extension of what we do. That’s the music scene we live in today. That’s an interesting and exciting way to breathe new life into existing material.
I can’t say that was my vision down the line during my time at Warner Chappell. But when the opportunity arose to be part of Omnivore, it made perfect sense based on how my career had gone. I originally started working for Richard Perry as a production coordinator, then I went to Motown, then Warner Chappell which was huge, for a little over twenty years. I used to say, ‘we have everything from Gershwin to Green Day.’ My personal taste reflects that: I’ve always been into older music. Thanks to my father I got into old music. Big bands, Gershwin… All of it.
As a kid, I got into The Beatles, and The Beatles on their turn were also into that type of older music. I even made a deal with my dad that instead of getting an allowance, I’d get a 45 every week. So it all made sense and transformed into what Omnivore now is about. As I said, if it’s good music and tells a story we think is interesting: we’re in. It doesn’t even have to be from certain decades. Omnivore’s catalog dates as far back as the 40s.
“We’re music historians who unearth things that we feel are important to the history of music. That listeners—and producers, in the case of Tracklib—should know about.”
The Beat Battle with Scott Storch was the first case of Ru-Jac being sampled and licensed through Tracklib. For the track “Changes - Part 1” by Saturday. But there’s a whole lot more to be sampled than just that track. Seventeen Ru-Jac tracks from the 70s alone, not even counting ***Mule***by blues singer, guitarist and pianist Henry Townsend.
I’m certainly familiar with Scott Storch and his work. But with modern-day hip-hop, not that much. My current job is to live in the past, so to speak. [Laughs] By the nature of Omnivore Recordings, I tend to look for the best music from the past.
To some degree, I see you guys are opening up a whole avenue of material producers perhaps wouldn’t be hip to. So I think that’s a tremendous benefit to new record makers. And then the legality of it taken care of - that’s doing what’s right. Unfortunately, we live in a time where people don’t seem to value music in the way I believe they should. They feel music consumption should be free. Because music is more ubiquitous than it’s ever been, there’s this feeling that you shouldn’t have to pay for it. What’s good about Tracklib, is that it makes sure everyone benefits from it. Including the original artists.
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