A conversation with X! Records’ Scott Dunkerley

Frustrations – Negative Reflections

By Patrick Smith

As one of the multitudes of obnoxious Michigan transplants populating Chicago, I probably get more excited than acceptable whenever Detroit’s Frustrations come to town. If I had just stuck around I could see the band flash their spacey loud-rock chops regularly. Instead it’s only a couple of times a year I get to enjoy one of the unique bands operating today. I offer this interview as a gift to those of you lucky enough to be sharing a location with them. In July the group is setting out on a Midwest/East Coast tour so try to appreciate them now before they leave temporarily.

Frustrations are definitely a part of Detroit’s well-established psych-punk scene, but stand out as more challenging and more rewarding than anyone else in the city. Their drummer- and X! Records label head Scott Dunkerley has helped build up that scene in the Detroit-area in my absence, putting out the first 7-inches from scene stalwarts like Tyvek, Terrible Twos, the dearly departed Fontana and his own Frustrations. Recently he’s been working with newer bands like Johnny Ill Band, Protomartyr and Druid Perfume. Nine years since X! Records started as just a logo on his first band’s CD-R release, Dunkerley took a look back, and forward, with The Woodward Spine.

The Woodward Spine: When you put out your first band’s CD-R with the X! logo, did you have an idea where it would lead?

SD: I didn’t know where it was going to lead. It was just kind of a label name that popped in my head and I wrote it down on a piece of paper. I didn’t really have a specific plan-I just felt that there were a lot of bands in Detroit that were doing really good things that had never recorded before, and they had been a band for maybe two or three years and still had never released anything. And I was like ‘man why isn’t there any label in town to put out any of these bands? They’re doing really good stuff and they might just die out before anyone finds out?’ Like, Tentacle Lizardo would be an example, they were playing for a few years going really strong for a while, they did a few recordings and it just kind of ended without putting anything out. There just wasn’t anyone putting out music in the city, at least putting out the kind of music I was interested in.

WS: So you put out the CD-R in 2003, what happened next?

Yeah, I started loosely in 2003, just put out a few CD-R’s of the bands I was in at the time. That’s kind of why I started just to have a name to put out the few releases of the bands I was in. Then in 2005 I put out the Frustration’s first 7” and I started doing it a little more seriously after that. I put out the first Terrible Twos single and the first Tyvek single in 2006 and I started getting a little bit of a reputation and people liked the label so I kept at it.

WS: Considering the time commitment, are you glad you started X! Records?

I am definitely glad I started and it’s still going. I still think some of the best days could be ahead. I think it’s cool that there’s still a really supportive group of people here. There’s some younger bands coming up, like SROS Lords, Fake Surfers and Growing Pains, that seem to be coming up the way we did, you know they played some random shows here and there and then played some Painted Lady shows and then Tim [Vulgar, of Human Eye and Timmy’s Organism] saw them and got behind them, and now SROS Lords 7” is out on Urinal Cake and I know growing Pains is recording with Beehive records. So it’s just cool to see some younger people coming up now and it’s not like I’m just stuck with this group of bands I was into in 2005. And as long as fresh people are coming and bands are making music I’m excited about, I don’t see why I would stop.

WS: Frustrations just put out a new record, Negative Reflections, what’s the response been?

The record came out late last year and some reviews are just starting to come out now. The reviews have been pretty good so far, still waiting for more to hopefully come out. Most say it’s a change from our first LP (Glowing Red Pill) which is true. I think the songs on Negative Reflections aren’t quite as straightforward as some of the tracks on GRP. Some are darker and more stripped down and others have more complex structures and with sections where we can open up and improvise a bit.

WS: What’s the newest release for X! and what can we could look forward to?

Johnny Ill Band’s “In the Wintertime” 7″ is the latest release on the label. The first time I heard them play that song I went up to Johnny after they their show and told him I really wanted to put that song out. They just put out their debut LP on Urinal Cake Records too, which turned out really good.

The next release on X! is going to be something by the group Protomartyr who have been playing in town a lot lately. They just recorded a ton of songs with Chris Koltay, the same guy who recorded the Johnny Ill Band 7″, and the sessions sound really great. I should have something out by them this summer.

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About pksmid

Reporter based in Chicago, focusing on the Brazilian community in Chicago and news from South America.
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