415 Records was founded in San Francisco in 1978
by writer and promoter Howie Klein, Aquarius Records (San Francisco) store
owner Chris Knab, and music retailer/collector
Butch Bridges. In 1979, Butch Bridges sold his interest in the label to
Queenie Taylor, a long time employee of the legendary management and promotion
agency, Bill Graham Presents. In the late 1970s, San Francisco was
one of the leading centers for what was then called New Wave music and
what would now be called "alternative" music. (Some critics have
said that new wave was a melodic reaction to punk). One of the founding
ideas behind the label was to feature New Wave music (initially from San
Francisco bands although as the label grew they signed bands from other
cities as well). The label name 415 is a reference both to the telephone
area code for the San Francisco area, and to the police code for "disturbing
From its inception, 415 benefitted from the support
of Bill Graham,and manager/producer David Rubinson, who owned one of the
top recording studios in the world, The Automatt. Rubinson was a
great believer in 415's future, and allowed 415 bands to record in his
studios at a greatly reduced rate. Graham helped 415 artists to gain
wider exposure by booking them as opening acts for major headlining bands
such as Duran Duran and Journey.
The first records released by the label included
a single by Pearl Harbour and the Explosions ("Drivin' ") and albums by
New Math, SVT, and Romeo Void. Following the success of Romeo Void's
first LP "It's A Condition"in 1982, 415 Records affiliated with Columbia
Records and signed a contract to work with the major label that would
be the basis for dozens of suchassociations over the next two decades.
The deal gave Columbia the "right of first refusal" to co-brand, manufacture,
promote and produce 415 artists, while allowing 415 to retain (nearly)
full artistic control over signings, art work, recording and song selection.
Columbia/415 subsequently released critically acclaimed albums by Romeo
Void, Translator,Wire Train, Until December and the Red Rockers.
Albums by The Uptones, Monkey Rhythm, and the Pop-O-Pies were released
on 415 independently of Columbia.
David Kahne served as the label's in-house producer
and engineer until 1982 when he took a job as Vice President of A&R
for Columbia Records in Los Angeles (he continued to produce records for
415 artists, as well as records by The Bangles, Bruce Springsteen and Tony
Bennett) and became one of the industry's most respected producers.
After Kahne left 415, Daniel Levitin, a well-known Bay Area musician and
producer, began working in the artists and repertoire/talent acquisition
department and became the label's Director of A&R in 1984, serving
as in-house producer and engineer responsible for developing new artists.
Three new bands under Levitin's supervision, the Stir-Ups, The Big Race,
and The Scene were in the studio and ready to record albums when 415 and
Columbia ended their relationship in 1989. Three additional Levitin-produced
bands, The Furies, Rhythm Riot and The Afflicted, were given to another
San Francisco independent label, Infrasonic Records, and all three releases
received very high critical marks.
From the beginning, 415 was hindered by the same
factors that hinder most independent labels - difficulty reaching a national
audience. The 1982 Columbia affiliation changed the situation dramatically.
Columbia used their marketing knowledge and established relationships with
radio, television, and retailers, to bring 415 records to a much wider
audience. Romeo Void has been singled out by critics and musicians as one
of the seminal groups ofthe New Wave movement.
Lead singer Debora Iyall released a solo record
on C.B.S. and is currently recording a new project. Wire Train were signed
to MCA where they released three CDs. After having a song featured in the
soundtrack of the film "Repo Man," The Big Race changed their name to"Pray
For Rain" and contributed soundtrack music to the film "Sid and Nancy."
Former guitarist for Pearl Harbor, Peter Bilt, pursued a solo career, and
fronted the band "Free Will" for the award-winning Levitin-produced soundtrack
to the film "Architects of Victory."
415 Records that are currently available include:
Red Rockers: Good As Gold/Schizophrenic Circus
Romeo Void: Warm,In Your Coat
Translator: Everywhere That We Were: The Best of
Wire Train: In
Wire Train: Last Perfect Thing: A Retrospective
Best of 415 Records
In 1988, label president Klein was offered a job
as General Manager of Sire
Records in Los Angeles. Levitin helped Klein run the label for
3 months until Sandy Perlman (producer and manager of Blue Oyster Cult
and Black Sabbath) bought the label. Perlman changed the name to
Popular Metaphysics, and released one record by the group World Entertainment
War in association with MCA Records. (Al Teller, who had been president
of Columbia Records when the 415/Columbia alignment was forged, was president
of MCA in 1989 making MCA a logical choice for a new alliance). In
1985 Christopher Knab sold out his interest in the label and moved to Seattle,
Washington to manage the University of Washington alternative radiostation
KCMU. In 1995 Howie Klein was named President of Reprise
Records and an executive vice president of Warner Brothers Records,
Inc. Queenie Taylor moved into managing SF nightclub Wolfgangs in
the early 80s, and Slims (owned by Boz Scaggs) in the early 90s.
David Kahne is currently Vice President of A&R atWarner Brothers Records.
Levitin worked as an A&R representativefor Columbia, RCA, Miramax and
other labels before returning to college, receiving a B.S. in Cognitive
Science from Stanford University,and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Cognitive
Psychology from the University of Oregon. Levitin currently
teaches at McGill University.