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A Brief History of 415 Records

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 the peace."

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 Translator 

Wire Train: In A Chamber

Wire Train: Last Perfect Thing: A Retrospective

The 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.

  last modified: 2006-07-24