Pusher Man | Music | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Pusher Man 

Ryan Workman kicks out the jams with Pseudo Recordings.

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When Salt Lake City’s beautiful-noise rockers Erosion called it quits three years ago, Ryan Workman had every reason to lose heart. The local indie-record-label owner hand-picked the group from a pool of potential six-month wonders, certain they’d stick it out and progress'not throw in their instruments when the scene turned sour. Of course there are many reasons for a band to fold, and why a band caves five years into a promising career is not so important as how their legacy lives on.

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Workman doesn’t dwell on Erosion’s decay. He considers the group a lasting, integral part of his Pseudo Recordings family and proudly carries their final 7-inch, an album that arrived 300-fold the day of its concert release: 300 vinyl records whose covers Workman unpacked and folded for up to an hour before Erosion plugged in. And while the audience purchased a fourth of the shipment that night, some might say the last-minute scrambling didn’t make much difference in the long run. All of that stress, all of those paper cuts'for what?

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“A lot of it is just the excitement of being a part of a new piece of music. I was involved in getting it out to the people,” he says. “Just seeing the excitement of the band and their following and the crowd'not so much the money. I’d love to cash in a little bit. But seeing people actually support the band by giving them a few bucks on a record, to me that’s fulfillment enough to keep going.”

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Workman started Pseudo Recordings (not Records) in 2002 after participating in the local scene as a musician and occasional monkey-with-typewriter for SLUG magazine. He’d had his heyday with Mayberry, a heavy alternative-rock quartet with an EP out on the now-defunct Salt Flat Records (if you find a stray copy floating ’round the thrift store, send it his way). When the band split over hardcore vs. loud-rock tensions, Workman put down his ax and took a seat on the sidelines. He got antsy, though, watching talented acts go nowhere.

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Inspired by DIY visionaries Ian MacKaye and Jello Biafra’s work with Dischord Records and Alternative Tentacles, respectively, he figured he could just as easily put out friends’ albums and maybe turn Pseudo into a respected label. Who knows, maybe someday he could even leave his position in retail management and focus on the prize full-time.

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“I wanted to help other musicians get established. I’d help put out their first record'help them get something out there,” he says. “I’d be the business guy so they could concentrate on their music.”

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Several groups made good on his offer, including break-beats trip-hoppers Cosm, psychedelic soul-punk rockers The Wolfs and the full-throttle double-bass attack of Blackhole, a band Workman didn’t plan on signing until he heard the two separate bass “voices,” frontman Chopper’s growl and ex-Erosion member Dave Boogart’s tight drumming. “I knew right then, I wanted to record their first album,” he says.

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For those unfamiliar with record labels, Workman doesn’t control the technical side of recording. For Blackhole, that duty fell to Andy Patterson, who also engineered the group’s self-titled debut. Workman is responsible for myriad other details, including financing, bankrolling, distribution (currently, hawking CDs for Seattle’s Madraso), phone calls, e-mails, networking, print work on posters and advertising, contracts, inventory and making sure that actual records are made.

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“Anyone can put out a CD. Think about it. You can burn copies and you can make little paper labels and photocopy your covers and sell them for $5 or give them away to your friends,” he says. “I wanted something that on a national scale would be credible and equal in quality and sound.”

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Vinyl isn’t the cheapest or easiest way to get a band’s sound out, especially when they’re new to the scene. But it works for a guy whose labor is definitely one of love. Besides a couple of loans here and there, Pseudo is run out of Workman’s pocket'from birthday checks to tax returns. Plus, it wasn’t easy breaking back into the tight-knit SLC scene.

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“I felt like an outsider when I first started doing this,” he says. “Any cred I had before didn’t apply. I didn’t get a warm reception from a certain label'they aren’t around anymore.”

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Workman says the relationship between functioning local labels is competitive, but friendly. In fact, most of them have the same bands on their rosters for different albums so they it helps to join forces on distribution. Exumbrella, which specializes in sounds that would not be out of place on a bigger label like Sub Pop, put out Vile Blue Shades’ recent full-length, but Pseudo plans to re-release a collection of their first three EPs. Eli Morrison, lead singer of The Wolfs, put out his band’s self-titled CD on 8ctopus Records (also out on Pseudo) along with various archived gems and the upcoming Death Theme EP'a pet project that didn’t strike Workman as widely marketable.

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“If they’re doing it just for shock value, I’ll leave them to it,” he says, adding that he wants to further, not censor, the creative process. “It’s very personable. It has to be. I interact with bands on a personal level. I like to see myself as an extra appendage of the band. The merch bitch, ’cause that’s what I am. I’m the guy that takes care of the merchandise. I’m the guy that takes care of business.”

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PSEUDO WINTER SHOWCASE
nUrban Lounge
n241 S. 500 East
nSaturday, Jan. 13
n10 p.m.
nMySpace.com/PseudoRecordings

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