An Interview with Andrew Rossiter of ORG Music

Andrew Rossiter GM / Co-Owner Org Music | Making Vinyl Hollywood: Oct 14 &  15, 2019

This week we are taking a break from our regularly scheduled programming for a very special interview with Andrew Rossiter of ORG Music. Andrew Rossiter is not only the general manager of ORG, he’s also co-owner. If you aren’t familiar with ORG Music and their extensive catalog of both reissues, and new music, then you can check out my article from several months back here to get a bit of a flavor for them. While my article only focused on their Jazz reissues, ORG Music is so much more than just Jazz. As you will learn in this interview, ORG Music is a label run by people who love vinyl, for people who love vinyl, and for my money there is no one better. Lastly, considering Andrew Rossiter and I both share the same first name, to keep you all from going crazy with confusion, I’ve prefaced each question and answer with our corresponding last name. I hope you all enjoy getting to know Andrew as much as I did!

Daly:
Andrew, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us! Tell us about your back story. How did you get your start? What got you into music in the first place?

Rossiter:
My pleasure. Thanks for having me aboard.

I’ve been into music as long as I can remember. I played in some shitty Punk bands as a teenager, worked on DIY releases, and organized/promoted local shows while in high school. My first “job” in music, you might say. While in college, I did some work for WEA (Warner/Elektra/Atlantic) on their college marketing team, and ended up in the marketing department at Warner Bros. Records for a couple years out of school. From there, I was brought in to manage the newly formed ORG Music by a fellow Warner colleague, who was a co-owner of the label at the time. I’ve been with the label about ten years, and have since become a partner as well.  

Daly:
What moment had influence on your decision to work in the vinyl industry? What does vinyl mean to you?

Rossiter:
I always knew that I wanted to work in music. I’m not a very public person, and didn’t think I had the chops to make it as a musician, so working with musicians was the next best thing. I didn’t necessarily set out to work in vinyl, but always had a passion for music as a physical medium, with vinyl being my preferred format. My favorite projects at Warner always involved vinyl and/or special packaging, and I was fortunate enough to connect with another vinyl lover there which lead me to ORG Music.

Daly:
ORG Music, in my opinion, is one of the most respected labels pressing vinyl today. How much pride do you take in that? What sets ORG Music apart from the rest of the pack?

Rossiter:
I appreciate the kind words, and I’m happy to hear that you feel that way. I’m very proud of our releases, and I feel lucky to be able to do it. Every release is personal to me, and a lot of care goes into them. All of that being said, there are some incredible labels out there focusing on vinyl, doing really impressive stuff. I’ve never seen it as a competition. Everyone brings something unique to the table. I’ve always had a deep respect and admiration for labels like Light In The Attic, to give one example.

Daly:
I am a die-hard Black Lion fan. It’s such an underrated piece of the Jazz puzzle. I’m actually a huge Jazz-head in general. What influenced the decision to reissue the Black Lion catalogue? What’s your favorite Black Lion title?

Rossiter:
You and me both! It’s an incredible catalog that’s often overlooked. One of my partners, Eric Astor, brought in that catalog through a relationship he has with German company DA Music. They own the rights to Black Lion and Freedom Records, another catalog we’ve been pulling from. It was a no-brainer, of course, given the quality of the music and the lack of available copies.

It’s impossible to pick a favorite, but it’s tough to top the London Collection (three volumes) from Monk. All of those Dexter Gordon records are terrific, too.

Daly:
What are some of your favorite releases that ORG has put out? Or ones that mean the most to you?

Rossiter:
This is a tough one. As I mentioned, all of the releases are pretty personal for me. In some cases, it’s a personal relationship with the artist. I tend to feel a stronger connection to a release when we’re dealing directly with the artist.  In others, it may be a record that I’ve grown up with, or a project that I poured tremendous amounts of time into. If I picked a favorite, I’d probably change my mind a minute later.

Records from artists like Mike Watt and (both Dot Hacker and Pluralone projects) come to mind, because we’ve done so much with them over the years. A lot of the stuff we do with Sun Records is very meaningful to me, given the history of that label and the magnitude of those artists’ influence on music.

We’re currently working on a big catalog-wide remaster/reissue campaign for next year, with an artist who was hugely influential on me. I can’t say who that is yet, though. Sorry!

Daly:
ORG has gotten a reputation as being a premier Jazz reissue label, but that’s not all you guys do. Can you tell us a bit more about the other artists and avenues you guys work with?

Rossiter:
That’s true. We’re all over the map when it comes to genres, much like our personal tastes. The label actually started out with reissues from artists like Nirvana and Sonic Youth, which are long out of print. As mentioned before, we do a lot with Sun Records. We’ve released or reissued a lot of Punk (and Punk-adjacent) music, which most of us at the company grew up on. It’d be hard to go down the list, but there truly is something for everyone, whether it’s Jazz, Soul, Blues, Rock, Experimental Music, Punk, etc.

I think it’s important to make a distinction between reissues and new releases. The majority of our catalog consists of reissues, but we do work with a lot of new artists and current projects. A few recent examples include Oozelles (a great new band from LA called), Pluralone (Josh Klinghoffer’s project), and FITTED (featuring Mike Watt and members of Wire).

Daly:
More on that subject. The Würm reissue that came out within the last year or so was incredible. I can’t say enough good things about it. It was one of my favorite releases of the year. How did that come about?

Rossiter:
We’ve been working with Chuck Dukowski for years, on and off. We released an album from The Chuck Dukowski Sextet years ago, and have stayed close. As a longtime Black Flag fan, it’s always an honor to work with Chuck. I admire everything he did in his time at SST, the way he helped build the touring circuit for punk bands of that era, and all of the projects he’s been involved with.

Chuck was excited about the response to that reissue, and got the band back together (with a new singer) to record a 7” which comes out later this month for Record Store Day. I got to catch the new line up live earlier this year before COVID hit.

Daly:
ORG music takes a lot of pride in mastering and pressing quality. Can you tell me about that aspect of your business, and why it’s important to you?

Rossiter:
There’s little point in pressing something to vinyl if it’s not going to sound good. I’d stick to CD’s or streaming over a bad pressing.

This aspect of the business has been important to us from day one. We’re not necessarily analog purists, though, which occasionally causes some push-back. If analog tapes aren’t available or aren’t in good shape, we’ll master from a high resolution digital transfer or the best source we can find. Within reason, of course. If we issue (or reissue it), the vinyl format should add value to the listening experience. We always note when a release was mastered from tape. We’re very transparent about the source, mastering engineer, pressing plant, etc.

These days, Dave Gardner at Infrasonic Mastering is our go-to engineer. He’s incredibly talented, has a great ear, and decades of experience with vinyl. The fact that our tastes align is also helpful. We’ve also mastered a good deal of records with Bernie Grundman over the years, who is one of the best in the business.

We press at a few different plants, depending on what the release calls for. We’ve been using Furnace Record Pressing for most of our releases since they opened up their Virginia plant, with great results. We press a lot of our Jazz and audiophile-centric records at Pallas in Germany, who does amazing work.

Daly:
I know this is a broad question, but who are some of your favorite artists? What’s your favorite genre?

Rossiter:
Yikes. Maybe a bit too broad. My tastes are all over the place, and I don’t think I could pick a favorite artist.

My favorite music tends to blend elements of various genres, and I don’t like to get bogged down in semantics or categories. I’m a sucker for early Jamaican music like Ska, Dub, Reggae, Rocksteady, and some of the stuff that followed (e.g. two-tone). I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite, but something I always find myself going back to. I bring that up because it’s one genre that is underrepresented in our catalog as it relates to my personal tastes.

One of my favorite stories from Mike Watt, from his Minutemen days, is hearing John Coltrane for the first time and assuming that he was part of the “scene” (Punk) because he was breaking all the rules. I’m paraphrasing, of course.

Daly:
Do you collect records? CD’s? Tapes? Or, are you all digital now? Regardless, what are some of your favorite songs, and albums, or ones that will always be special to you for any reason?

Rossiter:
I collect records, but I don’t consider myself a “collector,” if that makes any sense? I buy records to listen to them. I don’t care about owning original pressings or numbered editions. I just want a copy that sounds good.

I collected CD’s and (to some degree) tapes for years, but rarely go back to those, and have parted ways with most of them over time. I prefer vinyl for the listening experience, but I listen to a lot of digital music for the convenience, especially when I’m checking out new artists.

Again, it’s tough for me to pick favorites. I’m bad at it. I can say with certainty that Sam Cooke’s Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963 is my favorite live album, and I’m not big on live albums (with the exception of Jazz). A friend gave me a used copy of the album as a gift when I was living in Chicago. It was the first and probably only time that I heard Sam in such a raw, uninhibited setting. The recording quality isn’t great, but it draws you in, as if you were there in the crowd.

Daly:
If you do collect physical music, what got you into that? What are some albums you don’t have, but hope to find one day? Where do you like to shop for music?

Rossiter:
It’s hard to say. I’ve accumulated music (in all formats) over the years, but there was never a specific tipping point. There was a record store called Boogie Records in Toledo, OH, where I grew up, and I’m sure they had an influence. They were very supportive of the local scene that I was involved with, and I was always attracted to that record store culture.

I can honestly say that I don’t have a “white whale” record. There are plenty of albums that I’d love to own, but there are lots in my collection that I’d like to listen to more. I’m not a completist, and I don’t take collecting too seriously. I get more excited about discovering a new artist or record (old or new) than I do about finding a copy of an album I’ve heard a million times in other formats.

I like to shop at independent record stores or buy records from bands I see live. COVID-19 has made both of those things challenging, although many are still selling online. One of the last records I bought was Neil Young’s Homegrown, which I ordered online from The Sound Garden, a great record store in Baltimore. I always like to check out record shops when I travel, which hasn’t happened recently, again due to COVID-19. I have my favorite shops in various cities, and it’s always fun to pop in. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for about 10 years now, and there are some great stores here. 

Daly:
Once COVID-19 calms down, what types of new releases and reissues can we expect from ORG music going forward. If you can’t give explicit details then maybe just a hint!?

Rossiter:
I alluded to a big reissue series earlier in the interview. Again, it’s too early to give specifics on that one, but it’s an artist that we haven’t worked with before. That campaign should be announced next month.

We have a fairly busy release schedule well into 2021, with many releases that fit right in with our current catalog, and a few big surprises.

Daly:
What drives you? What inspires you most?

Rossiter:
I’m always genuinely excited about the artists and records we’re working on. It helps that I’m doing most of the A&R and choosing what we release.

Aside from music, I find a lot of inspiration in travel, something I don’t do nearly enough. I love to see new places and experience different cultures. Unfortunately, that’s been nearly impossible lately due to COVID-19.

I’m big on family, which is always a driving factor. My wife is also very passionate about music, and our two year old daughter seems to be taking after both of us. My wife has an insane work ethic – she’s a hair and makeup stylist – and that’s inspiring to be around. I’m very lucky to have one of my brothers working for me at the label, too.

Daly:
Is there anything else you want all of here at Vinyl Writer as well as the general record consuming public to know?

Rossiter:
I think something that often gets lost or misinterpreted by the vinyl-buying public are the costs and variables that go into any given release. I occasionally see comments about high prices or “cash grab” releases; I’m speaking in general here, not just about our label. It’s an incredibly risky business, with much lower margins than most industries. The same is true for artists and record stores. Most of us are doing this because we’re at least a little bit crazy, and can’t imagine doing anything else.

I also see a lot of misplaced hate every year for Record Store Day, usually with the insinuation that it’s just a way for major labels to sell kitschy releases. I could go on at length about why I think that’s bogus. I’ll just say that I’m doubtful we’d still be around without Record Store Day, and that’s coming from a small independent label. Indie record stores are absolutely crucial to our business and the overall culture.

Org Music

Dig this interview? Check out the full catalog of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.

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