WHEN JUNK WAS GOLD: Junk Records and the few glorious years of fringe rock and roll

Around the time that whole Y2K scare bullshit went down, there was a wicked pile of fringe rock and roll bands making their way across the world on tour.  On of the labels that was bringing us some of the finest offerings was Junk Records.  Junk Records label head Katon DePena swore at the time that rock was undergoing a grass-roots revolution.  He was right, but did it last?



The mission of his label, said DePena, who launched Junk Records from his bedroom in 1994, was to dig up the most “kick-ass rock ‘n’ roll bands from the underground.”  Well, he did a pretty good job at that.  At one time, Junk Records released records from the Slobs, the Humpers, the New Wave Hookers, the
Lowdowns, the Bulemics, the Candy Snatchers, Manic Hispanic, the Weaklings, The Dragons and Electric Frankenstein.

The New York-based Electric Frankenstein were the first act to ink a singles deal with Junk Records. The band’s style, like that of many other Junk acts that followed, is a mix of traditionally rooted rock ‘n’ roll and punk rock.



Regarding the label, Electric Frankenstein founder and guitarist Sal Canzonieri said, “I think they’re just starting to hit their potential. They’re letting people know what’s out there. … What they’re looking for is capturing the excitement element, like back in the days with the Misfits and the Damned and the Sex Pistols — even in the beginning with AC/DC and Kiss — when it was really exciting.”

In a nutshell, that is the best way to look at that era – it was exciting.  Records were coming at us fast, from some seriously fucking wicked bands.  It was almost like there was an awesome show coming through town ever other week or so.  There are some great bands out there today, but nothing like it was in the early 2000s.  I mean, yeah sure, there are good shows all time now, but if it is that mix of old school rock and roll mixed with a punk rock mentality, that shit just isn’t happening right now.  After four years, Junk had assembled a roster that spans the globe, from the Dragons of San Diego to the Onyas of Australia, to such new signings as the Spitfires from Canada and the River City Rapists from Austin, Texas.  This one label, with it’s mission statement to bring us all to the fringe, stood strong with a handful of other labels doing the same thing.  This was a glorious time for rock and roll.  What happened?



I don’t have the answer to that.  It was as if a light switch flicked off and it was done.  Man’s Ruin went down, and Junk Records went down.  There are some great labels out there putting out fringe music, but it seems steeped more into the sounds of the 80s and electronic music than based in guitar rock and roll.  Maybe downloading music fucked us?  Maybe the economy and its damning of the “little guy” fucked us?  Maybe it’s just impossible to take chances on the fringe of rock and roll anymore?  As I said, I don’t have the answer to that.  Old school metal is making a serious comeback, and maybe things will turn around for fans of this type of rock music.  All I know is that folks like Katon DePena and his Junk Records did some awesome work back then, and I sure miss the hell out of the music. – FATS.