Chris Wrenn runs the record label Bridge Nine Records. A couple of my favorite bands (DYS and H2O) is on Bridge Nine, so I thought it would be really cool to talk to Mr. Wrenn. Unlike some other folks that I have interviewed (like Toby Morse from H2O), Mr. Wrenn was not always Straight Edge, but made the decision to be drug and alcohol free after going to college. I hope you like the interview!!!!
PMAKid: What are your three favorite songs (by any bands)? Why are they your favorite and what impact did they have on you?
Chris: I can't narrow down three songs but I can tell you 3 of my favorite bands from when I was just getting into hardcore... Minor Threat, Dead Kennedy's, and The Misfits. I think those were 3 of the more influential bands for me early on (and probably a lot of people in HC/punk).
PMAKid: What are your three favorite books? Why are they your favorite and what impact did they have on you?
Chris: I can tell you about a book that I read recently that I liked - it was called "Sneaker Wars", and it was a non-fiction historical look at the two brothers who originally owned a sneaker company in Germany in the 1930's, and the feud that lead them to split apart and start competing shoe companies - we know them as Adidas and Puma. It follows their brands up to the present day, and the impact that it had on themselves and their families. Good read.
PMAKid: You just had a new baby girl born last week. Is she your first kid? What is the coolest thing about being a dad?
Chris: She is our first... Georgia Grace, born a couple of weeks ago. As someone who has spent his life making things for a living, it's crazy to be a part of making someone as perfect and adorable as her. My wife Elisabeth and I aren't sleeping much but we can't stop looking at her and marveling at how lucky we are to start a family with her.
PMAKid: When did you start Bridge 9 Records and why did you start it? What was the first band that you put out a record for? What has been your best selling record so far?
Chris: I started Bridge Nine when I was 19, in 1995... I was in my 2nd year of college, was living 2 states away from my hometown scene, and wanted to do something to keep myself connected and involved with my friends. At the time, most of my friends were in bands, and the ones that weren't did fanzines, booked shows, did a distro... Everyone seemed to be involved. I thought that putting out a 7" record with some friends bands would be a good place to start. Kids
from my hometown were in a band called Tenfold. Most people aren't familiar with them because they only played local shows, but the members went on to form In My Eyes in Boston, and joined Fastbreak, Right Brigade & American Nightmare shortly after Tenfold broke up. Best selling? I think the New Found Glory "Tip of the Iceberg" has been our best selling release so far, but we've had a few others give it a run. Have Heart, Ceremony, Death Before Dishonor, H2O, and more recently Defeater, have all been doing well too.
PMAKid: How many records has Bridge 9 released and can you tell me what new bands are joining Bridge 9?
Chris: We've put out about 160 or so records. We don't have any new bands to announce just yet but our latest bands on the roster include Foundation, Mother of Mercy, Lemuria and DYS to name a few!
PMAKid: My favorite record label is React Records because they put out so many cool bands from all over the place and Aram is really cool and they donated over $600 worth of records for my school fundraiser last year. What is your favorite record label and why is it your favorite?
Chris: React is an awesome label, I've had the good fortune of knowing Aram for 9 or so years. I toured with him and Champion to Australia and Europe in 2004 and 2005, respectively. Aram has a great attention to detail, and has really created an awesome label over the years, putting out records for some great up and coming bands. I'd say that my favorite label when I was growing up was Revelation. They had a ton of incredible bands, and they paid a lot of attention to their vinyl, and did cool stuff like make huge posters for their releases, something that I've taken a page out of their book and did for our bands.
PMAKid: I think you are Straight Edge. What made you want to be drug and alcohol free in the first place? What does being Straight Edge mean to you?
Chris: I've been Straight Edge for 17 years. I was active in the hardcore scene when I was in high school but never claimed edge - I only drank a handful of times during those years but when I moved to rural Vermont for college - the only thing people did at night was get drunk or high. Literally every night. The first month or so I hung out with my roommates and the other kids in my dorm, but the focus on getting messed up was too much - I realized that I couldn't have that in my life, so I walked away from it. Fortunately I met a couple of older guys at my small college that grew up in the late 80s Sunday matinee scene in NYC and hung out with them - they were also straight edge, and they turned me onto being vegan, which I've been for 16 years now.
PMAKid: Dave Smalley talked about his teacher in grade school (Mrs. Zolbe) and how she had a really positive impact on him, especially when it comes to his musical career.
Chris: How important is it to you that kids can take part in music at grade school?
I think anything that helps kids express themselves at that age is important. Music and art is stuff that gets cut when school budgets need to be trimmed, but it's two really important outlets for expression. I think it's very important at the grade school level. It also teaches kids discipline - learning an instrument is not easy and takes practice.
PMAKid: On OneLifeOneChance.com, in his interview with me, and with a lot of the H2O songs, Toby Morse talks about the importance of staying positive and remembering that people should "always try" (one of my dad's favorite songs by Bold!) to do their best. Do you think the same way? How do you stay positive when bad things happen?
Chris: It's not easy to stay positive, and people are wired differently. Some people dwell on the negative, and other people like Toby look for the silver lining and rise above. For me, I just keep my head down, and keep moving forward. Nothing stays the same - if things are bad, they will get better if you work towards it.
PMAKid: What is your favorite thing about running Bridge 9 Records?
Chris: It gives me a sense of purpose, something to build, help grow. New challenges every day. I like seeing bands go from unknown locals to touring the world. Hardcore worldwide has such as well developed network that bands have so many opportunities available to them. I also get the opportunity to meet kids from all over who share a common interest and values.
PMAKid: How do you choose a new band for Bridge 9 Records?
Chris: First, I have to like the music. Then I ask myself if it's something that makes sense for the label. Bridge Nine is a predominantly hardcore based label, but we've mixed it up a few times over the years. Will the band fit in? What does it add to the label? Bands like Lemuria and Paint It Black are very different bands on one hand, but not far off on the other. They've played together, and it makes sense. Then I ask how much they're willing to tour. Right now, I'm focused on working with touring bands., because I need a band to work as hard as we're willing to work for them.
PMAKid: Have you ever had a band that you wish was on Bridge 9?
Chris: Sure. I've had bands that I loved that I wanted to work with but were unavailable, and I've had bands that have approached me, and I've passed on, only realizing later that they'd have been a good fit. Overall though, I don't really have many regrets. I've had the chance to work with some of the best up and coming bands, and also with some veteran bands that I grew up listening to.
PMAKid: Can you tell me a little bit about H2O's new album? I know that they are covering a lot of songs by different bands.
Chris: H2O is a band that has always worn their influences on their sleeves, and with Toby, it's literal - he's got tattoos for many of the bands that they covered. A lot of different bands were influences to H2O and helped them create their own sound, and H2O wants to pay tribute to them, let their fans know how important those bands are to them, and hopefully do the songs justice (which they did!). WIth any luck, kids who listen to the record will seek out some of the bands covered on the album, if they aren't familiar with them!
Thanks for the interview Julian!