If a tree falls in a Weird Forest …
Chad Stockdale, founder of Weird Forest Records
Chad Stockdale, founder of Weird Forest Records, a local music label, has been more than a guardian to music for the past six years. And though he’d like to take a vacation from an addiction to releasing records, he simply can’t resist the siren song of new sounds. Which is comforting: Weird Forest has been a fount of a constant flow of glorious albums, both by Sacramentans and faraway groups. One might not guess it, especially considering how experimental a lot of W.F.’s releases are, but Chad’s all-time favorite groups are heartwarming ’70s classics (Steely Dan, Bread), which perhaps had some influence on his charming decision to press many of his releases on vinyl.
How long have you had the Weird Forest label?The first record I put out was one of my own—a Klondike and York record. That was in 2002, at which point the project was just a “hey, I’m going to put out a record” sort of thing. I didn’t have any big design yet.
And then I saw this band, Yellow Swans, from Portland [Ore.], a few times. … Each time I saw them, they got better and better. I went to see a set that they recorded at The Golden Bear, and it was so good that I asked them if I could put it out. At that point, I had not done a record other than my own, so it was a bit weird and stressful. I suppose that is when I officially had a label. … So I came up with the name “Weird Forest” haphazardly and just stuck it on there. Running a record label has turned into a drug addiction almost. I want to stop soon, and I keep saying that I will, but I’m always running into cool music and wanting to put it out!
Have you always lived in Sacramento?I lived in Auburn until I was 18, which—as far as I was aware—did not have a music scene at all. They had bars, and bands playing at those, but nothing good that I was privy to. There was no real weirdness, musicwise. … There were a couple of weirdos, of course. A couple I knew, who had goldfish named Sid and Nancy, were really into Venom. They were also into a science-fiction-metal band called Voivod. But there was only one record store in Auburn, and at the time, I was really into Michael Jackson and Bauhaus.
How would you describe the aesthetic of your label?I like two things: (a) anything that is really pleasing to my ears, and (b) things that I can’t quite describe. For instance, I can’t fully describe Ganglians. At their root, they’re a pop band—but at one minute they’ll have this really harmonic, Brian Wilson sound, and the next minute they’ll be playing sort of West African-sounding guitar solos. I think that, as of late, I’ve been putting out more ambient and drone stuff, although there is folk and pop on the horizon. And if I ever hear a really good rap album, I’ll put it out!
Who designs the records?When bands don’t come with their own visions and artwork, I work with my friend Aaron [Winters], who has his own design company, Abide Visuals, right here in town. He has even won some design awards. I try to use Aaron as much as possible; he is really invaluable. Even when he doesn’t design the covers, he is still super essential, because bands often don’t have any concept of layout. He always provides a different perspective and is great with solving problems with logistics.
What, if anything, do you regret about having a label?I wouldn’t say that I have any regrets, but I would say that it has been a very trying learning experience. Since I had no prior knowledge of how to run a label, I just jumped in and did it. There are certain resources that I wish I’d known about sooner. It’s a learning process, even to this day. So, while I don’t regret anything, I have made a lot of mistakes, but it all helps to make things go more smoothly in the future.
Are there any records coming out soon that you’d care to recommend?Two bands from Ohio are doing things I’m super stoked about. … [But] I’m struggling to find a company to adequately cut vinyl records. Some say you just can’t transfer the digital medium to analog—that is, to vinyl. I’m trying to find record cutters who can achieve a miracle. I have one last hope in America that I’m trying out, but I may have to appeal to the Czech Republic in the future.
Have you ever been to the Weird Forest? And if so, what did you see there?Oh, gosh. You know what’s really peculiar? I am just the guardian, so I’ve never been inside.
They don’t let you in?I wouldn’t say that they don’t let me in. I am always outside, being the guardian. One of these days, I will probably go in, but for the time being … the mood just hasn’t struck me.