Lisa Fancher may not be a household name in punk rock, but everyone is familiar with her work. In 1980, she founded Frontier Records, the label that introduced us to the Circle Jerks, TSOL, the Adolescents and Suicidal Tendencies. Her work has had a truly powerful impact on the music world, specifically when it comes to California hardcore.
In 2010, Fancher has been gearing up for a massive 30-year celebration in L.A. at the Echoplex. With appearances by TSOL, Adolescents, Avengers, Keith Morris and more, punk rock is getting together to pay tribute to Fancher's contribution, and to give Frontier Records the impetus to push onward and upward.
We connected with Fancher just a few days before the November 7th celebration, and asked her a little bit about what lead up to this, and where Frontier is headed.
RC: What got you started in the business in the first place? Why did you want to start a record label?
LF: I was always a big record collector so I started writing for fanzines and working in record stores, then I just decided I wanted to get more involved with the process than just being a fan. I don't know what made me think I could run a label since I have no business acumen but at least I had pretty decent taste.
RC: Did you encounter any challenges as a woman in what’s often considered a boy’s club?
LF: I wish I had some good stories in that dept but I have to say no. Or at least not that I know of, maybe people were plotting horrible things behind my back.
RC: What was the first release you put out as a label?
LF: The Flyboys EP in 1980.
RC: You really struck it big with the Circle Jerks Group Sex, though. Was there a turning point with that release where you realized you were really on to something, or had it already happened?
LF: I had no idea what would happen when I put that record in Nov. 1980. There was a lot of excitement about it ahead of time so that was definitely a good sign! Turns out I couldn't keep the thing in stock and it drove me crazy trying to afford to keep it in print. That was a good problem to have though, I'm not complaining!
RC: And I really have to thank you for branching out as well. Your label was releasing all these great hardcore bands – Circle Jerks, Suicidal Tendencies, the Adolescents – and then here comes the Young Fresh Fellows, a favorite of mine. What made you branch out as a label?
LF: I felt the punk scene had really peaked in L.A. and O.C. by 1984 so I decided to start getting more into other types of music. I loved the Salvation Army, who had to change their name to the Three O'clock after the real one threatened to sue us. The Long Ryders of course… Pretty much the rest of the '80s were just guitar-based rock music. Much harder to sell but I would never put out records I didn't like just to make money… Love the Young Fresh Fellows though, I tagged along with their Spanish tour in fall 2009 and just saw them in Seattle. Every bit as rockin' as they ever were!
RC: Who have been some of your favorite bands to work with?
LF: All of them! Definitely the Young Fresh Fellows are the most hilarious off stage, I was never around when they were actually recording. I always have to beg Kurt and Tad to quit making me laugh, couple of time I actually thought I was going to die! I treasure every moment I saw or heard Thin White Rope, and I was lucky to be in the studio with them most of the time they were recording. No input, just had to.
RC: Looking back at the beginning of the label, what do you know now that you wish you would have known then?
LF: That some people have ulterior motives and will lie right to your face. That distributors that have their own label generally fold rather quickly. That it's amazing how loyal some people are. That I would still know so many people that were on the label even after 10 or 20 or 30 years, etc. Not all bad lessons, but not all good either.
RC: Is there one moment you can think of immediately looking back that points out “This is why I do this? This makes all the labor worth it?”
LF: I don't know about one minute but whenever I hear someone say they grew up buying my records or that discovering one of my bands changed their life, then I'm glad I put up with all this shit!
RC: Now tell us about your plans for celebrating 30 years as a label.
LF: To get through it in one piece, get to number 31 and release some freakin' new Records! After that? No idea.
RC: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. It’s an honor to hear from someone who has been so essential in bringing so much music to the US punk scene.
LF: Thank you for listening!