Interview: Loose Grip Records Rallies DIY Community for ‘Love Oakland’ Benefit Compilation

Love Oakland: A Benefit for Those Affected by the Ghost Ship Fire, the latest compilation from Loose Grip Records, will be available as a vinyl/digital release on July 28.

On December 2, 2016, the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland was consumed in flames taking the lives of friends, siblings, parents, families, artists, and so much more. It was pure devastation, sheer loss. How does a reeling community hit reset? How do you restart? The reality is you can’t. But you can help. You can help in so many ways. Ed Taylor, who runs DIY-label Loose Grip Records, found a way through music.

I met Ed shortly after he moved out of Oakland and settled in Los Angeles last June. We hosted one of the first shows he put together here, at a warehouse venue that no longer puts on anything. We’ve always found a kindred spirit in Ed and appreciate what he does with his label Loose Grip Records. His last two compilation releases as part of the Press Play series are some of the best round-ups of contemporary West Coast punk rock out there, no question. That’s his specialty, and it’s because he cares…so much. Ed’s commitment to supporting the DIY community that surrounds him can’t be understated, and the community, especially in Oakland, was one that embraced him back during the year long stay he spent there, and still does today. Without that time, this compilation would probably not be here as fast as it arrived, or even at all. The DIY community is still reeling in the Bay Area, while also taking one of the biggest hits in terms of displacing artists and artist spaces since the fire.  One week after the fire, he rallied a group of friends, called in favors, and partnered with the Oakland Family Fund to make a compilation of artists, not just from Oakland, but from all over the world. The contributions on this record come directly from John Dwyer, King Khan (and his daughter Saba Lou), Justin Pearson, Nick Zinner, Scraper, Tony Molina, and many more.

Love Oakland comes out tomorrowJuly 28th, on vinyl (an edition of 1000) and as a digital release through Loose Grip Records and Danger Collective Records, with proceeds going to the Oakland Family Fund. We met up with Ed last week to talk about how the comp came about, the DIY community’s involvement, and all the love that went into it.

Let’s start with the Ghost Ship fire. How long after did you decide you wanted to put out this compilation?

Ed Taylor: I had just finished the last cassette compilation and picked it up from the manufacturer when I heard about the fire. It was so surreal. I was pretty sure that one of my friends died in the fire and I knew she was gone before I even called anyone in Oakland. I was really messed up in the head from it. So within the first few days, I was thinking, what can I do to help? I knew how to do a compilation because now I’ve done two in the last year, these large compilations with twenty bands each. So why don’t I do something like a compilation fundraiser, try to put it on vinyl, see what it happens. So that’s kind of how it started.

That must’ve been a tough time, and still is for some, you know. So in that process, how did you go about reaching out to the bands? Did you put your feelers out there, or did they reach out to you? 

ET: Well I had wanted to get some larger names and well known artists to help push sales since all the profits from this record are going directly to the Oakland Family Fund. I’ve been in constant contact with people in Oakland that have their ears to the ground, are involved in art spaces, and have connections to the city up there. So, I wanted to get more well known names and at the same time, get a good mix of other Bay Area artists involved. That was the goal at the beginning and that’s kind of how it turned out. I think the only band that’s not as well known, that’s not from Oakland, is a guy named Jamie Paul Lamb from Phoenix.

You have a lot of people, not just from Oakland, that contributed as well.

ET: I just started reaching out to my friends in San Diego. So I have a friend who runs Three One G Records, Justin Pearson. He helped. And he has a project now called Planet B, which is Justin, who’s played in The Locust and Dead Cross now, and Gabe Serbian, who also played in The Locust, Luke Henshaw, and Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s did guitar. They did a Depeche Mode cover just for this record. And I reached out to Volar Records in San Diego. Craig Oliver helped me get the Silver Shadows track on here. And then I got put in touch with King Khan through Greg Foreman. I just kind of started reaching out to everyone I know and just seeing where it would lead me. I had met John Dwyer a few times, and I was able to reach him and talk to him about doing a track, and that’s how we got the Damaged Bug one. Most of the Oakland material is from people that I had already known. There’s a track on it by a group called HGS, and that is my friend Ara who passed away in the fire. She plays keys on the song, and so that was real special, and at the end of the recording you can actually hear her talking on it. There was a lot of love put it into this record.

That’s really amazing Ed. Can you tell us more about the Oakland Family Fund and where the money is going?

ET: So when Ghost Ship happened, there was a charity named Grey Area and they raised over half a million dollars pretty quickly. There were also charities by the Oakland A’s and the Golden State Warriors. So basically right away within the first few months, a lot of the needs of people directly affected—friends and families, families in particular with funeral costs, leaving work costs, all that stuff was kind of taken care of. And then over time people realized a lot of the money wasn’t being distributed quickly enough or to some of the people that really needed it. A friend of mine named Nelly, who’s in a band called Naked Lights, started the Oakland Family Fund. She’s been coordinating with other non profits to help keep artists in their spaces and safe. They have helped to update electrical and safety concerns on many spaces brought forth my the city of Oakland since the Ghost Ship Fire. They have helped many artists avoid evictions.

I remember reading about a lot of that happening, the evictions, a lot of it through social media and some actual news outlets. It didn’t look good.

ET: A lot of that is still happening up there. What her money is  being used for is attorney costs, it’s being used for construction costs to upgrade artist spaces and get them up to code so they’re livable, like fire systems and alarm systems, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers. That’s where her money is going. So all the money raised is being distributed by the Oakland Family Fund that Nelly set up. There was just another fire that displaced about 80 people, about three months ago I think. So they’ve been helping with that, too. She’s also involved with Jonah Strauss, who helps with The Oakland Warehouse Coalition (Jonah also mastered the record), as well as David from The DIY Safety Group.

How is the artwork related to Oakland, if so, in any way? 

ET: The cover art and the insert art were done by John Felix Arnold, who’s a well known Bay Area artist. He was affected by the fires as well. He was really close to a few of the people that passed in the fire. He donated the art. It’s pretty amazing, the help that I got putting this all together. And the time it took, because it came together really quick. It’s been 8 months since the fire, and now we have the records.

Wow, that happened so fast.

ET: Yeah, Pirate Press was great and helped out with some of the cost. Jonah Strauss of Survivor Sound mastered the record at no cost which was amazing. The help that I’ve had putting this together has been incredible.

It’s great that you had so much help, but also that it came about from players who don’t live in Oakland. You have a lot of people on the record coming from outside that community and helping out. And you! You’re doing this while living down here in Los Angeles.

ET: Ha, well I was living in Oakland, but had only just moved to LA last summer.

I remember that transition, when you first moved out here. We did that show right away. But Oakland was close to you. It’s close to a lot of people, especially those that respect the artist culture that it’s fostered. Those DIY spaces were something else.

ET: Well the fact that someone like King Khan, who lives in Germany, [contributed] and that also, his daughter Saba Lou has a track on it. She also lives in Germany. When I talked to him on the phone, it was like, ‘Oh man, these are artists that grew up and that honed their skills and their music in DIY spots like Ghost Ship and spots like that, in places like these.’ And for the guys in San Diego, it’s the same thing. These are the kind of places they grew up playing, they all got their start in warehouse venues like these.

I think for us that visit these spaces all the time, it’s where we feel comfortable, it’s where we are naturally drawn to. Especially for me and Julie, too, my sister obviously, she’s been living in Oakland for a while now. She was there when it happened. She’s seen a lot of the spaces there. And it’s like, yeah, we’ve seen our fair share of DIY-run spaces, like for better or for worse. But maybe your favorite punk band was playing that night, and you’re like, that was great. So they can be cool, too. But you’re not thinking about safety, and you’re not thinking about caring about who’s looking out for you in those instances. I think since the fire, we’ve already seen LA and other spaces in Southern California be affected by the fire. Awareness is changing the how these spaces are operating. 

ET: It’s happened all over the country, even. There’s always going to be unsafe venues. That’s like the nature of it. That’s never going to go away.  When you’re seventeen and throwing shows, you’ll go wherever you can. There’s always going to be those spaces. But if we can make them safer, let’s do it.

Well, what you just did with this benefit compilation, it’s a great act of kindness. So thank you, Ed.

ET: A lot of my friends in Oakland, they lost a lot of people. They lost roommates, they lost best friends. And my heart still goes out to them. I know there are still people in Oakland who are still affected by this emotionally and spiritually. If we can just give back, just a little bit, that’s all I want to do. I just want to make someone’s life a little easier, you know.

Our hearts definitely go out to the friends and families of those affected. Please support the Oakland Family Fund by purchasing Love Oakland (vinyl/digital) directly through Loose Grip Records and Danger Collective Records. <3