Quality over quantity

Mario Solis

Photo By Larry Dalton

Mario Solis is a bundle of musical enthusiasm, and he’s contagious. An office worker by day and label head by night, Solis’ lifestyle is just as glamorous as it sounds. His label, Plastic Idol Records (www.plasticidolrecords.com) has an impressive catalog, including upcoming solo releases from Sacramento’s favorite son: Matt K. Shrugg. Step into his world.

How did you get started and what was your first release?

It’s difficult for me to cite one experience that served as a launching point, because music has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. I think listening to, and experiencing live, bands whose music I thought deserved a larger audience was the main force behind starting the label. It also helped to meet other people who were putting out records, like Scott Soriano (S-S Records). That’s how I found Duchess of Saigon, my first release. I really liked the Easter Queen 7-inch EP that Scott put out, and when I heard the band had new songs that needed a home, I expressed interest and got the nod. In January 2004, Plastic Idol was officially born with Duchess of Saigon’s Hootenanny 7-inch EP.

Describe the musical gestalt of your label.

I endeavor to put out records people will still want listen to in one year, 10 years and so on. With Plastic Idol, I’m not interested in reinventing the wheel, and I’m not interested in anticipating or capitalizing on trends. My tastes are pretty broad, and I put out what I like—both the tame and the adventurous are fair game. The most obvious “theme” for the label lies in the design for each release. Each 7-inch record sleeve features a half-sleeve back flap, a tip of the cap to Dangerhouse, an awesome first-wave punk label. I also usually try to color-coordinate the record sleeves, vinyl color and center labels, so everything matches. I’m a Virgo, what can I say!

Best seller? Worst seller?

Best seller: Angry Angles. Their Apparent-Transparent 7-inch EP went through two pressings and sold 1,200 copies. Worst seller: the Four Eyes. I blame the format (it’s the lone CD in the Plastic Idol catalog).

One that goes for the most on eBay?

Angry Angles, thanks in part to the Jay Reatard connection.

Why do you run a label? What’s in it for Mario?

A free record every so often is a plus, but hands down the best part about doing the label is the people I’ve met along the way. I’ve connected with so many great people through the label, from the bands to the folks who mail order the records to those who serve as sounding boards for my ideas. It’s also really cool to hold the final product in my hands and reflect on the time, effort and money that went into creating it, or walk into a record store and see a Plastic Idol title in the bins. I’m a simple guy.

Holy crap, your back catalog is huge! Do you ever find that women are only attracted to you because of the size of your catalog?

Plastic Idol has never really been a magnet for chicks, although I did meet my fiancée while having a conversation about a band on the label. I do have a handful of female customers who buy records directly from me, but it seems like the male-to-female record-nerd ratio is, like, 10-to-1. I wish it were different, if only because it’s no fun to browse record racks with dirty, smelly boys all the time. But I digress. You wanted to talk size. I prefer 7-inch records, as opposed to 10-inch or 12-inch records. I like ’em all, really, but the 7-inch format is my favorite by far. Quality over quantity.

Your favorite release, if forced to pick one?

Right now, it’s Young Governor’s Virginia Creeper b/w “I’m a Mess” single, slated for release in December 2008. Young Governor is Ben Cook, who currently plays guitar in Fucked Up. This record is among the first of his solo material to be released, and it sounds nothing like Fucked Up’s take on hardcore, which rules. Ben Cook solo rules, too.

Music that got you into music as a kid?

Music programs in public schools were already disappearing in the early ‘80s, which sucked. We were lucky, however, because we had a volunteer that came in every week and sang songs with us kids for an hour. It must have been disguised as “science” or something to get it past the suits; I remember singing songs about the metric system, stuff like that. Anyway, one day the volunteer announced a special program in honor of a special student: me. That was neat, for sure. My earliest recollection from home is listening to tapes of my parents’ Beatles and Beach Boys records. I couldn’t get enough. There was also a lot of traditional ranchera-style Mexican music in our household, courtesy of my dad. That will forever be “Mexican music” to me, not whatever Tex-Mex crap gets passed off as the real deal these days.