by Jane Dubz
Heads up, Los Angeles. You’re in for a treat. This month, the people over at Los Angeles-based indie hip hop label, Stones Throw Records, will be showcasing their feature-length documentary titled Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton. Packed with archival footage, rarely seen video, and interviews with Stones Throw artists, friends, and the founder himself, Peanut Butter Wolf (aka Chris Manak), the film takes a look at the label’s development and how it’s positioned itself as one of the most legitimate indie brands with a huge subcultural following.
I got an opportunity to interview Peanut Butter Wolf about the film, and with humor and insight, he discussed a future vision for the label, its projections, and his own thoughts on what constitutes a successful Stones Throw artist.
JD: In the film, I loved listening to the mix-tape DJ sessions you recorded as a kid. At that age, how did you develop an ear for the music you found relevant or cool? Did your parents have any influence over the kinds of music you listened to?
PBW: My parents influenced my music at a really young age. When I was six, I discovered they were in the “Record of the Month Club,” and I got 13 records for a penny. After that, I got to choose another record every month for about a year or two. I was so excited about that. But by the time I was nine, I was already listening to a totally different type of music, and I got in trouble for it too, since my mom was a strict Catholic. I’d listen to songs and write out lyrics to sing, and she found my handwritten notes to a Rick James song about doing 69. I got grounded, even though I didn’t know what 69 was.
JD: At Stones Throw, are you the label’s sole A&R director, or do you have a team choosing and developing talent? Do you look for a specific marketing quality, or is there a personal interest that moves you?
Peanut Butter Wolf
PBW: Yes, I have to consider an artist’s potential market before signing them. If I find that market after releasing a record, the artist will be mad at me, my staff will be mad at me, I’ll be mad at my staff, I’ll be mad at the artist, and we’ll all hate each other in the end. Seeing that my background is in marketing, I do recognize the idea in finding a product you personally like, and then finding other people who think the same way you do. It’s marketing at its most primal level, and that’s my job at Stones Throw.
JD: How do you see Stones Throw developing as a label in the next few years? Do you see any innovative patterns developing among new and emerging artists?
PBW: It all depends on the talent I find between now and then. With the artists I’ve worked with over the past 18 years, I was never able to predict the ones who eventually became the most appealing to fans. There’s so many factors that go into it, definitely a lot more than, “Hey, that’s a good song,” or “That person has good stage presence.” The best artists have that thing you can’t describe, but you feel it when you’re in their presence.
Don’t miss the STONES THROW ‘OUR VINYL WEIGHS A TON’ PREMIER AFTERPARTY featuring Peanut Butter Wolf / J. Rocc / Jonwayne / KNXWLEDGE and more! Click here for tickets!