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R.I.P. Touch & Go Records?

Little birds were whispering rumors of the demise over the last 24 hours, but it seems like the gossip is now true. Touch and Go Records, Chicago’s venerable indie institution, is done. The label will go the way of its Bay Area cousin, Lookout! Records, ceasing new releases and managing back catalog only. Issuer of influential post-punk albums—Slint’s Spiderland, the Jesus Lizard’s Goat and Big Black’s Atomizer, to name a few—Touch and Go began at the dawn of the ’80s in East Lansing, Michigan, before founders Tesco Vee and Dave Stimson handed the biz over to Necros bassist Corey Rusk in 1983. Soon after the baton passing, the label moved to Chicago and began documenting our city’s burgeoning punk scene.

After seeing much of its heavy hitters—Girls Against Boys, the Jesus Lizard, Butthole Surfers—jump to a major label (not to mention losing an infamous legal wrangle with the Buttholes over album rights in 1999), Touch & Go stretched out, signing hip New York bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV on the Radio. Two bands, who, of course, left for a major label. And poor Ted Leo. The New Jerseyian was on Lookout! when that label threw in the towel, so the political power-popper signed to Touch & Go. Now this. Then again, you could just call it the Ted Leo Curse.

When reached for confirmation this morning, owner Corey Rusk gave me an official “no comment,” but explained that a press release will be forthcoming later today.

This week the label released two records—Mi Ami’s yelpy dub-punk Watersports and San Francisco’s Sholi. They’re good. Check them out, pour a forty on the floor.

Check back later today for official comments and further details.

UPDATE: Well, Rusk’s official release has leaked. It looks like Touch & Go Distribution will be ceasing operation, with the label carrying on as an old-school indie.

Touch & Go Distro. handles many big independent players such as Merge, Kill Rock Stars, Suicide Squeeze. Check out a list of the distribution arm’s titles here.

Perhaps the recently formed Chicago Independent Distribution (formerly the U.S. arm of Southern Records) can sweep in and pick up the slack, otherwise I’d venture to guess that many of these labels will work deals with ADA.

Here is Rusk’s statement, as posted by Greg Kot of the Tribune.

“It is with great sadness that we are reporting some major changes here at Touch and Go Records. Many of you may not be aware, but for nearly 2 decades, Touch and Go has provided manufacturing and distribution services for a select yet diverse group of other important independent record labels. Titles from these other labels populate the shelves of our warehouse alongside the titles on our own two labels, Touch and Go Records, and Quarterstick Records.

“Unfortunately, as much as we love all of these labels, the current state of the economy has reached the point where we can no longer afford to continue this lesser known, yet important part of Touch and Go’s operations. Over the years, these labels have become part of our family, and it pains us to see them go. We wish them all the very best and we will be doing everything we can to help make the transition as easy as possible.

“Touch and Go will be returning to its roots and focusing solely on being an independent record label. We’ll be busy for a few months working closely with the departing labels and scaling our company to an appropriate smaller size after their departure. It is the end of a grand chapter in Touch and Go’s history, but we also know that good things can come from new beginnings.”
(via time out chicago)