March 29, 2007

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Making rock stars
Record label gives local bands their shot
By Erica Febre efebre@hippopress.com

It’s not easy to become an accomplished musician and live like a rock star, but Joe “Kidd Rock” O’Brien (he kind of looks like the real Kid Rock) of Rat Pak Records found a way to get as close to the rock-star lifestyle as possible.

O’Brien is the founder of Rat Pak Records. Three years ago, when he realized that making it to the status of a national rock star wouldn’t be so easy, O’Brien decided to approach things differently.

If he couldn’t be a rock star, he would help other artists get closer to achieving their own dreams. Rat Pak Records works to promote local rock bands, holding a number of combined-effort rock shows showcasing the best of New England.

How did you start Rat Pak Records?
I’ve been in music all my life. I’ve played in bands for a long time but it got to the point where I realized that I wasn’t going to be a rock star. So, I started booking some shows and realized I was pretty good at it. That led to me managing a couple bands and eventually that lead to me starting my own label. I didn’t get to be a rock star but I always knew that I’d be doing something with music. I did it to bring the bands that I deal with to a broader market. Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about.

What type of label is Rat Pak and what do you do for the artists?
We’re an independent label with full retail distribution. I do working contracts with the artists, get them in the studio, release their albums, marketing, radio campaigns. It’s just like any record label but without the million-dollar budget. Rat Pak Records is pretty much a rock label. Don’t get me wrong, I love heavy metal, I’m all about the metal but Rat Pak is a rock label.

What bands does Rat Pak represent at this time?
I like working with just a small handful. Hour Past was the highest-selling band last year on regional sales. The year before that it was Vegas Temper [working on a new album for early summer]. Other bands that have contracts with me, at this time, are Twisted Root [also working on a new album], Window Pain [new album also coming soon], Mindset X, Q, Project Broken and Porter. Really it’s like a family thing. They’re worked their butts off just as much as I have.

What’s your impression of the local music scene?
The local scene has taken on many shades over the last few years. Bands come and go, that’s just the reality of it. But the music industry isn’t an easy one. It’s very hard out there. There’s really only a handful of superpowers that run it. And not every band, matter of fact, less than one percent will actually get signed by a big label and go on national tour. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen and sometimes it does. It’s really tough but I do what I can to give the bands that I deal with a nice slice of the rock-and-roll pie. It’s a tough business but I do the best that I can.

The Pak
Rat Pak Records hosted its three-year anniversary party at Mark’s Rock Club on Saturday, March 17.
What: Rat Pak Records, independent rock label
Who: Check out the Rat Pak bands along with some other rocking New England bands
When: Almost every Friday night in April
Where: Mark’s Rock Club, 390 S. River Road in Bedford
For more information: O’Brien also hosts a two-hour radio show called “The Big Rock Show” on darkcloudradio.net every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., which features interviews with anyone and everyone from the past, present and future of rock. For more information on The Big Rock Show, go to myspace.com/bigrockshowjoe. For more information on Rat Pak Records and the Rat Pak bands, go to myspace.com/ratpaknewengland.