LOS ANGELES, December 11, 2013 — Dying Scene, which started in 2009, is punk rock news website as well as a record label. The site covers punk bands from every spectrum of the punk scene past and present. Founder, Dave Buck, took some time to answer some questions about starting Dying Scene and how it operates.
Kevin Wells: Where did the idea to start Dying Scene come from?
Dave Buck: Probably not unlike a lot of people who read Dying Scene on a regular basis, I have had an unhealthy obsession with punk music since I was first introduced to it in my early teens. In those days you had to discover new bands by reading the thank you lists on the back of an album’s artwork or by pillaging the CD collection of your buddy’s older brother (just me?). There wasn’t a social network profile or a streaming discography available at just a click away so we were mostly confined to live shows and dependable labels when we wanted to find new artists to listen to. Luckily by the time I made it to college, Al Gore had invented the internet and I could turn towards sites like punkbands.com (RIP) and PunkNews.org to discover new music and keep tabs on the punk scene at large.
Those sites were fantastic for a number of years, but slowly, as the power of social media grew, I came to realize that there were some serious gaps in their coverage. More and more often I was finding amazing punk music on my own through sites like MySpace (before its tragic demise) or Facebook. Bands like Chaser, Pour Habit (pre-Fat), Youthinasia, Hit The Switch, and Doesitmatter were putting out what I considered some of the best punk albums of the year, but they were getting absolutely no coverage anywhere on the web. Eventually I ended up working for BuzzMedia helping to improve the user experience and grow the audiences of the blogs in their network. My tenure there was a crash course in blogging culture and by the time I left I felt knowledgeable enough to do something firsthand about the frustration I was having over the lackluster coverage of what I had previously thought was becoming a dying punk scene.
KW: Why did you choose the name that you did?
DB: When I was in high school a buddy and I always dreamed of moving to California and starting a punk record label. By the time we got to college the first emo wave was in full effect and we both sorta felt that the punk scene we grew up on was dying out. We thought that Dead Scene Records or Dying Scene Records would have been a good label name if we ever went through with it. Years later, our label dreams were long faded, but one day I got this idea to make a compilation of a bunch of the great punk songs by unsigned punk bands I was discovering on MySpace. I designed some cover art, packaged it all up like a real CD and sent it to him as “Dying Music from a Dying Scene”, an homage to “Fat Music For Fat People”, Fat Wreck Chords first compilation album. I thought the little project would take me an hour but I ended up spending 2 full days designing the artwork, writing a mission statement and creating a Dying Scene logo. By the time the project was done, I thought, “Ya know, I’m just gonna keep going with this design concept, and design the header for a punk blog called Dying Scene. The rest was history.
KW: What was the initial response from the punk rock community?
DB: It’s sort of funny because when I first launched the site, I put it up on a couple punk forum sites full of elitists asking what people thought. Not surprisingly I was barraged by a massive amount of shit talking, which would have been discouraging had I not been expecting it from that type of community. I just clung to the encouragement of a few commenters actually brave enough to say something positive, kept my head down and plowed forward. I figured we must have been doing something right simply by how fast we seemed to be acquiring readers and FB followers.
The amount of positive feedback from bands, readers and labels began to trickle in and six months after we launched, when Joey Cape sent us a private MySpace message telling us how much he liked the site, I finally allowed myself to think that we had officially “made it” into the upper echelon of online punk media. That was right after I s**t myself. Joey Cape of Lagwagon actually reads Dying Scene?! It blew my mind.
KW: Has the response changed over the years?
DB: The only thing that has really changed in terms of response is that there are a lot more people giving us feedback. There are always going to be some people who don’t like what we do or the way we do it, but overall the response to Dying Scene, from readers to bands and labels, has been overwhelmingly positive.
KW: What bands first exposed you to punk rock and how old were you?
DB: There are three very specific songs I can attribute to my discovery of punk rock as a genre. Come Out And Play from Offspring’s Smash, Salvation from Rancid’s Let’s Go, and 21st Century Digital Boy off Bad Religion’s Stranger Than Fiction. Come Out And Play, I heard on the radio. Salvation, I saw a music video of on MTV (yeah, you read that right) and Digital Boy, I saw a music video of on some alternative late night music video show. I went out and bought all three of those albums and absolutely loved each one.
I still had no idea they were considered punk rock until one day, at my local music shop, I saw a display for Punk O Rama with a big sticker on it saying it featured new and unreleased music from Offspring, Rancid and Bad Religion. I decided to give it a listen and my life was changed forever. From that comp I discovered that A) I also loved the music of NOFX, Ten Foot Pole, Pennywise, RKL, and Down By Law; B) That these bands were all playing some sort of rock sub-genre called “Punk;” and C) Epitaph was a record label that focused on punk rock and I apparently loved everything they put out. I literally bought every single album the label had put out to date and then went in search of other record labels that specialized in punk. I found Fat Wreck Chords and it was officially game over.
KW: Do you or have you ever played in a punk band?
DB: Nope. No musical talent whatsoever. But I do fancy myself a pretty great punk singer when I’m alone in my car.
KW: How many people does it take these days to make Dying Scene work?
DB: A lot. We publish somewhere between 30 to 40 regular news stories a day. In addition we do interviews, album reviews, show reviews, original content and even release records. We’re pretty good at maintaining timely coverage and to make all that happen it takes a small army of amazing people. I think at the moment we have something like 20 dedicated news writers, ten or so album reviewers, a few original content writers and a handful of interviewers, photographers and show reviewers. All in all, I think there are close to 40 regular contributors. Every single one of us does it for free too, that’s impressive.
KW: Is there a Dying Scene headquarters, of sorts, or does everybody just contribute from around the country?
DB: I live in Los Angeles so I sort of think of us as an LA-based company, but the truth is our writers are from all over the world. I think the Boston area has our highest concentration of editors and we even have one major contributor from Reunion Island, which is a small island off the coast of Madagascar.
KW: There is also a Dying Scene Records. Do you actively pursue signing bands?
DB: I’m always on the lookout for new bands to sign. We get so many albums sent to Dying Scene for review or feature consideration there’s a never ending supply of up and coming artists to check out. When I hear something that strikes me as especially awesome from a band that doesn’t appear to be signed there’s a good chance I’ll reach out to them about doing something with Dying Scene Records.
KW: How many bands do you have under the Dying Scene brand?
DB: We’ve signed four awesome bands; Yankee Brutal, Chimp Change, A Dying Regime, and Ellesmere, who just put out their debut EP with us this week.
KW: Have you have thought about booking shows or trying to put together a weekend Dying Scene Festival?
DB: Funny you should mention that because one of my writers just asked me the same question. Personally, between running the day to day of DS, DS Records and my regular day job, I just wouldn’t be able to pull off a festival, but if somebody on my team wanted to take it on, I’d certainly be open to it.
KW: What are your plans for Dying Scene going forward?
DB: At the moment, I’ve got a whole bunch of new features planned out, including a discovery engine that will help you find new bands similar to a band you might already really like. We’ve also been meaning to launch a regular battle of the unsigned band type feature for quite some time and I’m hoping we’ll be able to kick it off early next year. Mostly, I want to focus the site’s features and content a little more towards new music discovery.
KW: Is there anything else you would like people to know either about you personally or about the site or label?
DB: We are 100% DIY. No parent company owns us and we don’t make a profit doing what we do. I have a fairly successful career outside of DS, so it was never something I intended to make money from. I put a great deal of work into the site, and so does every single member of my team, strictly for the love of the scene. Yeah, we occasionally publish typos and our voice might be considered “unprofessional” by some, but ultimately we’re just a bunch of punk genre fanatics who want to share our passion with like-minded individuals. The fact that hundreds of thousands of people seem to like what we’re doing is a pretty awesome reward in and of itself. Please come check us out if you’ve never visited the site before!
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