Ever wonder who the faces behind the record labels are? Well, although we might not be able to introduce you to every single one, we at Rock|Life would like to introduce you to seven really rad people behind seven really rad labels. Kicking off this series is Cody Jones, founder of Anchor Eighty-Four Records.
RL: Hey Cody! So tell us a little about growing up in Central California.
CJ: Hey guys, thanks for having me. Growing up in Central California was great! I lived in a small town called Prunedale, and went to High School in Salinas, home to the famous writer John Steinbeck. But the area was awesome because I was about an hour and a half from San Francisco for all the amazing concerts and art, 5 hours to Lake Tahoe, 5 hours from LA, and Monterey and Santa Cruz were just around the corner. Also, amazing towns for skate, surf, and punk rock.
RL: Did you skate or surf? (if so) Were you any good? Be honest!
CJ: I never got into surfing, possibly because the water is much colder up north than it is in LA. But, skateboarding was my life throughout my teenage years and early 20’s and I would say I was decent for the time. The tricks kids are doing today are so insane! I’m glad I’m not trying to keep up with them. The level of tricks in the late 90’s and early 2000’s were very different than they are now. Skateboarding still is a big part of my life, but on a much more casual basis these days, haha. I hurt myself way too much. At age 16 I had back surgery which messed me up pretty good, and that was actually how I got in to playing music. I had so much down time from my surgery, and had to rebuild my leg strength. So, I decided to learn how to play guitar and focus my energy on a new love.
RL: Talk to us about the various bands you performed in.
CJ: Shortly after I learned how to play guitar, I started a punk band with my best friends called Without Reason. On our first show I actually did vocals because we couldn’t find a singer, and we played all cover songs. Pennywise, Good Riddance, Blink 182, AFI. We still couldn’t find a vocalist, so I ended up playing rhythm guitar and singing. I wasn’t very good, but it was fun. After that I got more in to heavier music and started a hardcore band called Give Her The Gun with a few friends that rotated in and out over the years. That was a lot of fun, and then we were touring regionally quite a bit. We never got “big” or anything, but it was a lot of fun.
RL: What led you to Epitaph?
CJ: So, I was the guy in the band that took care of all the business stuff, booking, relationships, buying the CDs and Merch….I was definitely more serious about music and the band than the other guys were. But eventually, I could feel that things were starting to drift between all of us as a band (we are all still best friends to this day) and we had different life goals ahead of us. It was at this time I decided to move to Hollywood to pursue the music business side of things and see where it could take me. I’ve always loved being social and meeting people, and I figured LA was the ultimate place for this. Plus I was tired of the fog in the Central Coast and needed some sun in my life. After about 5 months or so, I landed an Internship with Epitaph Records and worked my butt off to eventually get hired on full time.
RL: What do you think is the most valuable experience you gained from working at Epitaph Records?
CJ: That’s an interesting question. I had a couple of different roles at Epitaph while I was there, and I learned something unique about each one. But, one piece of advice that I got from Brett was at a show we were both attending together with some other staff, and he said to me “what do you notice about this band?” So, I told him I liked the front man, I thought the band was pretty solid. And, not word for word…but, he said look at that drummer. He’s phenomenal! He said that he always watches the drummer of the band because they are the back-bone of the group. They can make or break a band. The front-person could be amazing, but if the drummer is bad, then there is no way that band is going to succeed. You can cover up a bad guitarist with distortion, but you’re going to hear the drummer. So, I think that has helped me a ton with A&R for my own label. I always take that in to consideration, and have had the pleasure of working with some incredible drummers over the years.
RL: At what moment did you realize that you wanted to start your own label?
CJ: This is a great question. I remember this clearly. I was at work and was thinking about how awesome it was to be able to work with all of these larger bands that I had idolized so much, and now I was here to be a part of it! But, at the same time I truly felt something was missing, for me personally. I had such a connection to the independent/unsigned music scene, and had a ton of friends in bands that I knew didn’t quite have the chance to be signed to a label like Epitaph but could really use the extra help and assistance from someone. So, I decided it was now or never and I started Anchor Eighty Four.
RL: Alright, so tell us about the journey from Epitaph to Anchor Eighty Four. There had to be some blood, sweat, and tears shed.
CJ: Definitely. I started Anchor Eighty Four while I was still working for Epitaph, and I did that for a a few more years before I finally left Epitaph. I would work there all day until about 6pm, and then I would go home and work until about midnight on my own label, and really any free time I had. I had given so much of my time and energy to Epitaph, and now it was time to grow up a little bit and forge my own path in the music industry.
RL: Is there a meaning behind the name?
CJ: There is! When I was thinking of the name I wanted something that had some sort of personal meaning to me, but nothing too cheesy…even though it still may be cheesy, haha. I have an anchor tattoo on my left thumb, and I was born in 1984. And that’s how the name Anchor Eighty Four came about!
RL: Is there anything you would’ve done differently?
CJ: Yeah, the first few years were mostly me figuring it out. When you work for a label like Epitaph, you end up working in only one section of the label. So with my own I now had to do everything, and I definitely have learned a lot on my own. Almost everything really! But, I wish that I had asked my peers and Brett more questions about running a label. I wish I had utilized my connections more in the beginning. But, I’m also pretty stubborn and always want to do things myself.
RL: What are your plans for Anchor Eighty Four going forward?
CJ: This year I’ve really been making strides to grow the business part of the label. I’ve developed a publishing arm to A84 and have brought most of my artists into this to help us collect missing publishing royalties owed to us and the bands, as well as get more of our music licensed in film, tv, and video games. I want to do an A84 music festival at some point. I really believe there is going to be a huge opportunity for music in China that is already starting to catch on, so I’m working with an outside company to help us grow over there. I’m starting to sign some more pop and electronic artists, starting with our newest addition to the fam, The Stash. An electro-pop band from New York. More collaborations with artists, and sub-cultures outside of music…Tons of stuff! I think that’s what I love about music the most. You can really do whatever you can think of, and to me that is really exciting! Music and music business will never be boring. It’s always evolving and growing and the fast pace at which it changes can be challenging, but it’s mostly exciting.