20 years of music label The Record Machine at the middle of the map – Kansas City Pitch

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Reusch rocks out. // Courtesy of Nathan Reusch
Nathan Reusch was a punk rocker in his early 20s when he was initially approached by The Record Machine co-founders, Ricky Robinett and Mike Russo, to be part of a musical compilation. In Reusch’s own words, though, he “wasn’t really much of a good musician.”
However, Reusch quickly found a knack for networking and bringing local bands to new audiences. While the co-founders have moved on in their professional lives, Reusch has kept The Record Machine alive and kicking for two decades as of this year.
Signed acts include artists born and raised here in Kansas City, such as synth-punk/psychedelic band Monta, and artists worldwide, such as The Record Machine’s most recently signed act: beachy indie rock act Bluey Green, who hails from New Zealand.
Though The Record Machine is a worldwide name now, 20 years ago, it all started with local metalcore band The James Dean Trio. Nathan, Ricky, and Mike were introduced to the band through “shows in basements and living rooms,” as Reusch describes. They were also impressed by the number of plays the band had on MySpace, which was, once upon a time, a marker of a band’s reach and potential.
The Record Machine decided to sign on The James Dean trio as their first artist, and The James Dean trio CDs were the first product made by The Record Machine. Today, The Record Machine represents 19 artists from around the world working in various genres and styles. In addition to producing albums and singles with these artists, The Record Machine hosts shows and events that bring in national names to play alongside local acts.
OK Go performing at The Record Machine’s Middle of the Map Fest 2015. // Courtesy Nathan Reusch
Founding member of Monta, Dedric Moore, spoke with The Pitch about the band’s musical journey and how The Record Machine continues to foster their “quest for new sounds.” Formerly known as Monta at Odds, according to Moore, the band was once known as a “psychedelic, spaghetti western, seven-piece band” which featured a horn section and congas. Recently, the band has been branching out into more experimental, synth-punk sounds.
Monta, formerly known as Monta at Odds. // Courtesy Dedric Moore
Monta, formerly known as Monta at Odds. // Courtesy Dedric Moore
Before Monta was signed with The Record Machine, Moore was a fan of TRM’s events, such as Middle of the Map Fest and the Lemonade Social. Moore is nostalgic about his first show with The Record Machine that started their journey with the label.
Moore had known Reusch for a while from the music scene, and he reached out to Reusch with an idea for a show at recordBar. They brought together bands for a special performance where audience members were given a pair of lenticular glasses upon entry, “to make everything look like hologram puzzles.” The show also featured video projections, special effects, and an album release from the band Why God. The success of that event led to Monta’s signing with The Record Machine.
Monta performs at Lemonade Park. // Courtesy Dedric Moore
Moore says of Reusch, “He just has a passion for music, and he’s able to pair it with business smarts.”
Reusch says that the music industry, and the technology used to share and promote music, is “less personal, but more personalized” today than it was 20 years ago. In today’s evolving landscape of technology, The Record Machine’s “goal is to connect with people and just use algorithms as tools,” according to Reusch.
Both Reusch and Moore agree that there will continue to be a demand for vinyl records, even in today’s era of music streaming. Reusch says he still has records in his collection from the 90s, and “it’s been cool to just keep seeing it grow.” The physical object of a vinyl record holds emotional weight to Reusch.
Moore sees vinyl records as a form of escapism: “You put it on, and you just have to let it play. And it’s a 20-minute journey into whatever that music is. And then you flip the side, you’ve got another 20 minutes of listening. And for me, that’s a way to get away from the hustle and bustle.” Modern listening methods don’t offer this same “journey,” as you can pause, fast forward, or rewind through tracks, interrupting the experience of listening.
Regardless of the reason people still love vinyl records, The Record Machine is keeping that love alive. Reusch’s foremost love of music and his ability to embrace technologies new and old to bring performers to new audiences have been great assets to the musical community of Kansas City for 20 years now. Happy 20th birthday to The Record Machine.
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