Spotlight

482 Music
By Ken Waxman

Maxims like: “you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of a boy” posses more than a kernel of truth if you substitute Chicago for country and the 482 Music label for the boy. After more than a decade in New York, label-owner Mike, Lintner says ruefully that many people still consider 482 a Chicago enterprise, even though the majority of the 90-odd releases it has put out since 1997 aren’t by Chicago artists. “It was the Document Chicago Series, our close relationships with Chicago media, and, I guess to some extent [drummer] Mike Reed, that gave the label the Chicago identity,” explains Lintner, who lived in Chicago during the first six years 482 existed. “A record label can be run from most anywhere,” he insists, “and New York’s not a bad place to do it.”

At the same time like the consistent scientific work that went into Dr. Jonas Salk’s discovery of the polio vaccine, it was Lintner’s constant attendance at the Sunday night sessions at Chicago’s Hungry Brain, curated by Reed and Josh Berman that introduced him to upcoming Chicago players he felt should be recorded. At the point Lintner was winding down the operations of the indie record store he ran and had already released some rock CDs under the 482 Music imprint. As a fan of creative music in all its manifestations, Lintner decided to put out Reed’s The Treehouse Project’s The Picture Show. Just before that Bay area shakuhachi player Philip Gelb offered 482 a quartet session that became The Space Between with Barre Phillips “What a way to start,” exclaims Lintner. From then on most 482 releases were jazz or free improv. “I met Mike when he was intrigued with the scene I was involved in and started to come to a lot of the concerts,” recalls Reed, who has lead 12 projects for 482. “I wanted to gain insight on how to put out records and he started releasing free jazz and improvised music. Soon 482 grew up as a label and I grew up as a musician.

“It’s incredibly hard to find a label, so once you have one that wants to work with you, one would be hard pressed to leave that situation,” he adds. “I have releases with other labels, but they're releases mostly by people that have no personal connection to me. The point is that anyone who would want to [release records] and do it for so long that it becomes part of his life and the lives of the artists he works with creates a testament.”

Part of the testament is the label’s name, which Lintner reveals “was meant to evoke nothing. It’s not even an area code.” But like other oddball brands such as search engine Bing, it has remained constant throughout the label’s history. What hasn’t remained constant is the media on which 482 sessions reach the public. “We’ve done LP only, LP with DL, LP with CD, and of course CD only,” elaborates Lintner. “There are even two digital-only releases. There’s not any rule for how the decision is made. It’s a combination of what feels right to me and what the artist wants. Some things I’ve wanted to do on LP but the artist didn’t and so the project went elsewhere. I think you will see more LPs than CDs in the future from 482. I can tell you from sales that the popularity of the CD has fallen far from its heyday. I believe 50 years from now you’ll be able to buy a record player but not a CD player.” Meanwhile almost the entire 482 catalogue is available digitally.

At the beginning Lintner approached musicians to record for 482, “but it didn’t take long before artists came to us. Now there are more available artists and recordings than there are labels to release them.” Although he prefers to be involved with a project from its beginning artists often send him finished or near-finished work. “How would you say no to something that arrives on your doorstep that you love at first hearing?” he asks.

Pianist Greg Burk provided one of those in 2004. “I was a fan of 482 Music and had just completed a trio recording, Nothing, Knowing, with Steve Swallow and Bob Moses. I sent Mike a copy; he expressed interest and so began our collaboration. We’ve collaborated on five recordings and hopefully will continue to collaborate. My philosophy is that freely improvised music inhabits the same space as playing on structures. Mike understood and appreciated this approach. Mike’s support for younger creative artists has a real impact on the scene and a generation of composer/performers. I've worked with other labels but 482 is the most uncompromising in that they release consistently new and challenging music.”

Another challenge that 482 attends to is the financing of the session. Selling the inventory of his record store plus sales of the label’s rock CDs in its pre-jazz infancy helped pay for early creative music sessions; the label now uses the sales of older discs to finance subsequent ones. “We pay for all costs, once we’ve agreed to work together. For example if we’re delivered a finished recording we don’t necessarily pay the recording costs already incurred. There may be different compensation,” notes Lintner. “Publicity plans, partners and approaches are varied, and so are contribution formulas. But we’ve never asked an artist to send us money for anything other than artists’ copies of product at artist copy price.”

Although he refers to “we”, Lintner is 482’s only full-time employee. “But it never seems like that,” he muses. “I’ve worked with the same graphic designer since almost day one, the same manufacturer since day one, and of course there are web designers, publicists, it always feels like a team.” That’s why when his wife took a job in NYC it was feasible to move the operations east. “The set-up didn't really change at all. I mean, I went to Brooklyn or the LES instead of the Hungry Brain to hear music.”

Some of the results of his omnivorous listening habits will be reflected in 482’s upcoming releases. One session from Israeli singer Ayelet Rose Gottleib, is taken up by her composition, Shiv’a, for the ETHEL string quartet and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi. Drummer Tyshawn Sorey’s 2009 CD Koan is being reissued on vinyl with additional tracks. Exemplifying the Chicago connection is an upcoming disc from Reed, Tomeka Reid and Nicole Mitchell, reinterpreting AACM compositions in honor of that organization’s 50th anniversary.

After almost 20 years 482 Music is a success, something that Lintner almost doesn’t believe himself. “When you begin a label without having any clue what you’re doing, there are certain events that make you think that maybe you’ve actually made it”, he notes. “A distributor … a bigger distributor … a label showcase at a club … a European distributor … a Japanese one… or maybe it’s people sending us more unsolicited demos than we can listen to.”

—For The New York City Jazz Record September 2015