Birthed in Santa Rosa, Chapter 11 Records now resides in the Santa Cruz Mountains, run by Ian Clark (from the Randumbs), Ben Coleman (ex-Feelers, current Roadside Bombs), Dusty Sheehan (Stellar Corpses, Black Tigers), Al Marks (of the Asti “Café”), and Noah Olmstead (Randumbs). While any chump can argue about what “punk” is or isn’t, the real punks are in the streets doing what they do best: taking control of their environment.
“We wanted to put out our friends’ records, and everything was DIY at the time,” says Coleman.
That time was the beginning of the 90s. While Milli Vanilli was lip-synching its way to the top, the Bay Area was cultivating a different scene—one that thrived in the graffiti-covered walls of venues like 923 Gilman, in the pages of zines like Maximum Rock ’n’ Roll and on indie labels run by working-class bands.
After surviving 25 years, several name changes, two or three hiatuses to raise families, and even a sale (to a friend—“it was for a pizza and a copy of Jugs magazine,” reminisces Clark), Chapter 11 Records has grown up, but never out of its “punk phase.”
Last year was the label’s highest grossing to date, with rare releases like the infamous, once mp3-only Pink Panzer 7” single and albums from local bands such as the Stellar Corpses and Custom Fit. However, don’t expect to see any of the label guys riding around in limos anytime soon.
“I like to say we ‘operate’ the label, because we don’t get paid,” Clark says earnestly. “We don’t make any money. Everything pays for itself.”
These business-savvy punks own their distribution company, Corpitus, which also distributes other notable punk bands not on the label. Chapter 11 also uploads their albums on Bandcamp for free (donations always accepted) and every vinyl purchase comes with a download code for the nerdy collector.
“Most kids don’t have a record player, they want portable music,” Marks explains. “The only way you’re going to hear that album from a 13-year-old at the skatepark is by giving out the download.”
Coleman says they are trying to preserve the spirit of the music they grew up with.
“Growing up, the whole thing about punk rock was that the music was palpable, you could feel it. It gave you a connection to community and made you think ‘this is our music,’ and that’s what we’re trying to do.”