When Dan Hanke and a couple of his buddies decided to start a label to release their own record, they had no idea what they were getting themselves into. Ten years and a plethora of regional and national album releases later, their brainchild Latest Flame Records has established itself as one of the Midwest’s premier sources of independent music. Music Notes caught up with Hanke as he prepared for the label’s 10-year anniversary shows, October 5-6 at Cactus Club.
What initially made you take the leap from playing music to releasing music as a label?
I was playing in the band Crime & Judy in 2001 and we were beginning to record. Our bass player and one of my good friends Tony Olveda began to pitch the idea of us starting a label to release our material. By mid-2002 we had met Troubled Hubble, The Response and Wrecker, all bands we really loved and who had no label to release their material. So the idea took hold – despite my misgivings – and in Oct 2002 we released our first record, Troubled Hubble’s Penturbia LP.
Looking back at the past decade, did you imagine the label would have this much success or longevity when you were starting out?
I remember thinking that if we made it to year three we’d be OK. That point would become, in my mind anyway, the time where others might take notice that we’re still here and working and not some ad-hock entity put together solely to release our own material.
What is your general process for finding out about new bands to work with?
The first four years – The Gunshy, Troubled Hubble, The Slats, Wrecker, The Response, Saturday Looks Good To Me 7″ – we released LP’s and EP’s by bands we’d met and whose music we loved via playing with them in Crime & Judy, whether in-town or in other cities. Beyond that, once Crime & Judy had sort of run its course and the label became a sole-proprietorship, I began to meet bands simply by our touring bands coming back with recommendations. The Gunshy turned me on to Mustangs and Madras, Brief Candles and Hitch. The Slats turned me on to The Dials. IfIHadAHiFi has turned me on to Police Teeth, Waxeater, Trophy Wives, etc.
Is there a particular quality or qualities that you are looking for when checking out a new artist?
The bottom line is I/we have to love the music. It doesn’t matter if it’s noise-rock, acoustic-based singer-songwriter stuff, or experimental, it just needs to hit home as something I’d listen to incessantly, which all of these bands have done.
The label’s roster has geographically expanded a lot over the years, but has always maintained a strong contingent of bands from the Midwest. Has this been an intentional choice to stay true to your home region, or is it based more upon where you’re physically located?
It’s intentional in that I do want to retain a Midwest feel, and that’s inspired by the fact that a large majority of bands that have really hit home with me over the years are from the Midwest or have Midwest roots – Die Kreuzen, Sweep the Leg Johnny, Stooges, Husker Du, White Stripes, Poster Children, House of Large Sizes, Shiner, the bands on the label from the Midwest, etc. Having said that, we’re open to working with bands outside the Midwest of course. Hitch were from Belgium, Nervous Curtains from Dallas, System and Station from Portland, Police Teeth from Seattle. In the end it’s a matter of what really moves you. When I first heard Police Teeth I couldn’t stop listening to their first two LP’s and could not get the lyrics out of my head. It was an immediate feeling “this is it.”
Is there a particular album you’ve released over the years that you are most proud of or that has meant the most to you?
They’re equally important and I’m proud of all of them. However two stand out from an emotional standpoint for me. The Gunshy’s There’s No Love In This War was an incredible album to me musically, and the idea that Matt had written songs based off letters his grandfather wrote to his grandmother from WWII – one song based on each letter that she’d retained (17 letters in all) – was such a great idea and one that took a lot of time to flesh out and to work into a full album ready to present to the world.
The other is the S/T Fuckface record. I’d seen them about 10 to 12 times in the ’90s and loved their music, but I didn’t recall them selling LP’s. A few years back when I was living in Chicago I asked Karl Paloucek why they’d never released a proper album, and that got the ball rolling on the “lost album” as it were. I’m very proud of the fact we were able to release this some 12 to 14 years after the recording and document a part of the scene that may have been lost forever, but also the fact that this inspired the band to reunite for a weekend of shows that stand out in my memory as some of the best I’ve ever seen.
Are there any bands that you’ve always wanted to work with but haven’t had the opportunity to yet?
I’d have to call Doc Brown and get in the Delorean. We Are Hex were a band from Indianapolis that were one of the best bands I’ve heard of the last 15 years. I mean just incredible music, creative, innovative, emotional, and they brought a live show that was filled with moments that were equally frenetic, beautiful. I don’t even know where to begin really to describe it. Maybe it’s like the first time you hear Suicide, or the first time you hear #3 by Die Kreuzen. Just like wow, what the hell is this? I’ve got to see this band!
What are your goals for the future of the label?
If we can continue as we have working with bands we love, that’s the reward in itself and I think it can sustain us enough to make it through any obstacles presented.
Click here for more information and to listen to tracks off of the compilation album that will be available at the shows.