In a new musical era of genre-based labels, GuitarBaby HQ Records is a glowing advertisement for independence, and the importance of progressive creative pursuits. The prog rock and metal venture recently dropped international releases from their very own Dirty Wolves and Red Sea, with the assistance of major distributor MGM. It’s a wave of success that, as label owner Alex Hermes explains, hinges upon an endeavour to do things on their own terms.
“GuitarBaby, we’re sought of mainly on prog, but we’re also going to release straight four on the floor rock‘n’roll as well,” says Hermes. “And GuitarBaby’s expanding because if you have a look at all the other big agencies and things like that, they’re very stuck in what they’re doing. Instead of working with them, it’s better off just building your own. Eventually you’re in control of what you want to be in control of. You don’t answer to anyone, you don’t need anyone – if I want something I’ll just make it happen. That’s a better place to be.”
Initially Hermes launched GuitarBaby as a custom guitar manufacturer, while also developing a complete string range, produced in both California and China. After adding a rehearsal and recording studio, the next organic step became launching the label. Overarching the entire operation is a progressive mindset that deviates from the rigid industry standards.
“There’s a massive void in Australia,” Hermes says. “One of the biggest things is there’s a very old school mentality towards music management and there’s a shitload of ego. If you’re actually a business operator and you actually have a business head, you do very well very quickly. Because a lot of the music industry – you know don’t get me wrong, there’s some really clever, hard working people – but there’s a lot there that are missing a lot.
“You’ve got a lot of ‘What’s cool what’s not’ [type of people]. Just because someone thinks this is cool for them, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to sell if it isn’t cool for them.”
It’s this open minded approach that lead to GuitarBaby signing Red Sea; a band growing in leaps and bounds, currently riding the high of their debut Battlescar EP while on their maiden national tour.
“The first time I saw Red Sea was in the old offices, and when I saw them live I thought, ‘Wow,’” Hermes recalls. “They were called Domino at the time and they were playing some small shows and I thought ‘Wow, these guys have got the potential to be very, very big, but they’re just not getting the industry support.’ So we’ve changed the name and we’ve done a lot of work and we’ve all worked together. And now they’ve got people getting tattoos of Red Sea on them.”
Well and truly tapped into the ebbs and flows of the local scene, Hermes is intent on growing a label with a musical purpose and creative conviction. “The Australian climate is really based on live shows,” he says. “Unless you’re like this massive US label or whatever it is, you’ve got to do the hard yards – there’s no escaping it. I’ve found by looking at the prog industry in Melbourne and things like that, we’re going to do our own thing and we’re going to build our own prog label and expand and grow and we’re looking for good artists.”
It’s no surprise to hear then that Hermes has already developed the concept for a GuitarBaby festival – a viable alternative to the mainstream that he is calling ProgStock.
“The reason why I’m doing ProgStock is because there’s a lot of bands out there that are alternative and they need that voice,” he says. “There are bands out there that are getting experimental and trying new things. But, if you’re doing something different there’s no avenue for you. Triple j isn’t as alternative as they would like to think. That’s why I’d like to one day have the GuitarBaby magazine, and I’m looking at radio.”
BY CHRIS SCOTT