Founding a record label is no easy feat and making it not only survive but thrive for over 20 years is truly awe-inspiring. Stones Throw Records is one of the most prominent independent record labels, having helped develop artists like Madlib, J Dilla, MF Doom, and Anderson Paak, to name a few. Chris Manak, AKA Peanut Butter Wolf, is the Founder of this prolific label, and he joins us on the show today. Along with being at the helm of Stones Throw, Chris is also a DJ and producer.
Having been exposed to a range of music early in his life, Chris has always had an appreciation for many genres. Many of his young memories have music woven into them, and it is clear these moments cemented Chris's passion. Along the way, he has also been lucky enough to have some positive influences who have been generous with sharing what they have, and Chris now approaches sharing in this same fashion.
In this episode, Chris talks about his musical journey and how he went from saving his lunch money to buy records to where he is today. We hear about his formative relationship with rapper Charizma, and the immense impact that his death had on Chris. After his passing, Chris left music behind for some time, only to return to work through the pain. We also talk about where the idea to start Stones Throw came from, how to stay enthusiastic about music when it is your job, and why streaming, in many cases, is helping rather than hindering labels.
Key Points From The Peanut Butter Wolf Episode:
- What Chris's life was like growing up and his first musical influences and inspiration.
- Some of the first records and albums Chris remembers getting.
- How Chris started collecting 12 inches in fifth grade.
- An older person in Chris's life who introduced him to a lot of music.
- What Chris was doing before he started working with Charizma.
- How Chris met Charizma, and the relationship they had.
- The story of how Chris and Charizma started working together.
- The importance of having fans who have accomplished what you hope to achieve.
- How Chris and Charizma's manager helped them after they got signed.
- Hear how Charizma died and the impact that this had on Chris.
- The role that music played in helping Chris deal with Charizma's death.
- Some of the first gigs that Chris and Charizma played.
- Major lessons Chris learned from performing with Charizma.
- How Chris came to work with Kool Keith.
- Where Chris first got the idea to start a record label.
- Balancing musical tastes and trying to stay afloat as a label head.
- What it takes to run a label and some of the people on the Stones Throw Records team.
- How Stones Throw came to be a fully-kitted-out label.
- The biggest challenge that comes with running a record label.
- The decision to create the Stones Throw Records vinyl bar.
- Gratitude Chris feels for being around great music.
- What being a new father has been like for Chris.
- How Chris started using video in his performances.
- Chris's take on streaming services and why he supports these services.
- Why Chris feels like streaming helped save his label in some ways.
- Experiences where handshake deals have gone wrong in the past.
- Chris's top record label and producer picks.
“It's important to get your stuff heard by industry people but it's equally, if not more important, to find fans who have made it doing the stuff you're doing.” — Chris Manak [0:25:19]
“Making beats and making tracks was what really got me out of [mourning Charizma's death]. It was my therapy more than anything.” — Chris Manak [0:33:08]
“When I sign new artists, I feel like I'm living through them almost. When I see stuff that excites them, it excites me. I'm still really proud and thankful for all of the great music I am able to surround myself with.” — Chris Manak [1:06:30]
“As a label, we split our profits 50/50 with the artists, and we're transparent with our accounting.” — Chris Manak [1:15:36]
“I think streaming helped save our label in certain ways.” — Chris Manak [1:16:19]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
Listen the Apple Music Playlist for The Peanut Butter Wolf Episode
Here is an Apple Music playlist Dan curated to celebrate this podcast episode with Peanut Butter Wolf, which you can listen to here: