This coming weekend, Detroit’s Small Stone Records hosts two label showcases on the East Coast. The first takes place Friday night at the Middle East in Boston and the second is Saturday at Brooklyn’s St. Vitus bar (info on both here). With Gozu and Freedom Hawk and Wo Fat headed overseas and new releases to come in 2014 from Dwellers, Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, Greenleaf, Wo Fat and Lo-Pan, it’s arguable that Small Stone has never had as much of an impact as it’s having now. A foray into the vinyl market seems to have paid off, and with acquisitions from across the pond like France’s The Socks, Italy’s Isaak and Portugal’s Miss Lava, the imprint’s reach only seems to be growing.
In 2015, Small Stone marks 20 years since its inception. It has succeeded against odds, trends and, frankly, logic, thanks to the vigilance and keen ear of its founder and owner, Scott Hamilton, who also plays guitar in the prog/psych rock outfit Luder. As a curator, Hamilton‘s ear is second to none, and his passion for searching out the underground’s best has led to landmark heavy rock from the likes of Dixie Witch, Sasquatch, Dozer, Los Natas, Halfway to Gone, Roadsaw, Acid King and many more. I sometimes feel like a nerd for covering as much Small Stone stuff as I do, but it’s inevitable. There’s no getting around the quality of the work being fostered by Hamilton‘s steady hand.
So I’ll probably keep going with it.
The Obelisk Questionnaire: Scott Hamilton
How did you come to do what you do?
I have been obsessed with music for my entire life (both as a fan and as musician), so I am pretty sure that obsession led me into what I do now. I knew in my high school and college years that I wanted to do music in some form for a career (plus you had the added bonus of not needing cut your hair or work in a stuffy office environment), but I had no clue or connections to point myself in the proper direction to make it a reality. After many an odd job in the early ’90s at various music related gigs (playing in bands and working at record stores, radio stations, major record labels, etc.), I discovered that I both wanted and needed to start a record label. Small Stone was born out of this.
Describe your first musical memory.
This is easy… It was my Dad blasting Jimi Hendrix, The Stones, James Brown and Santana in the house on his very vintage hi-fi system. I think by the time I was three, I was actually spinning the records from his collection myself, and mostly likely ruining a few of them in the process… Shortly thereafter, discovering bands like KISS and Aerosmith also have had a very lasting effect on me too.
Describe your best musical memory to date.
There are too many… so I will list my top five:
1. Seeing The Cult in 1985 on the Love Tour when I was a Junior in High School. To this day, one of the best concerts I have ever been too.
2. Playing in my first band in high school was awesome, even if it was the ’80s. It was great discovering that thing my bandmates and I used to call “the buzz.” The buzz is when you and your fellow musicians all lock in, everything clicks, and you go on this crazy spiritual high where the hair on the back of your neck stands up. It is was and is the ultimate feeling that every musician and music fan is always looking for. I sometimes get it with my current band Luder when we are rehearsing and working on new material from time to time.
3. Purchasing my first KISS album… It was KISS Alive, by the way. My mother still says that KISS ruined my life.
4. About eight years ago when I had shitty day job for Live Nation, I got to stand behind Joe Perry’s rig for the majority of the concert, and that was a big deal for me… It also helped that setlist was 95 percent pre-’80s Aerosmith, and for as lame as the band is now, they were fantastic on that evening.
5. Jane’s Addiction… I must have seen them 10 times between 1988 and 1991, and that band had the magic, and also gave that “buzz” I was talking about.
When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?
I think that this happens on a monthly basis. It is just part of living, growing, and moving forward. It is usually not a fun experience, either…
Where do you feel artistic progression leads?
I think it leads to greatness down the line for any individual that is creating something, be it music, art, whatever. A creative person will always feel the need to keep exploring and learning new things to better sharpen their skill sets. If I had more time, I would spend it writing riffs and melodies, and improve on any and all basic skills when it comes to a guitar, but I have limited time to do that since I have a family and a business that must come first. With that said, I am always humming something in my head, and I will sneak off to the basement for about 30 minutes per day when I can to make some music.
How do you define success?
To me, success means that I get to do what I want for a vocation versus wearing a suit at some soul-sucking corporate job. In that sense, I have great success. But on the other hand it would be nice to break a band on the roster and help get them to a level of a band like Clutch. But that has not happened as of yet, so I just keep on keeping on until I obtain that level of success in the future.
What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?
In 1989 I was driving on the freeway about 20 miles west of Hartford, CT (on my way back to MSU from a Summer working on Nantucket). This convertible Corvette cam flying past me, and seconds later it somehow rear-ended the pickup truck in front of me. The Vette flew up in the air, flipped over the pickup and landed on on the freeway with his roof facing down — but the convertible top was down. The Vette driver was killed, blood, brains, and flesh all over the freeway. That vision has stuck with me ever since.
Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.
I would love to be involved in creating a timeless album — a classic if you will. Something that has the staying power of Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zep IV, etc., and more realistically, I would love to create a very large swimming pool in my backyard.
Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?
70 degree days.