Jason Dunn (Facedown Records)

By in Interviews | Comments closed

JoshIVM: You began the label while with No Innocent Victim, what’s the state of the band currently? We know you guys won’t be touring but will we see any more albums?

Jason: We are all so busy with other things that NIV is on hold for a little bit. We’re definitely not calling it quits or anything, just focusing on other areas of our lives. Tim (guitar) got married this spring and is both a full time youth pastor and painter, I have my hands full with Facedown, Jason Moody (Singer) has 4 kids and is building a house right now, and working 60 hours a week, etc… All of us are married with mortgages and bills and not enough time in our schedules. Depending on what opportunities come up in the new year though, we could be doing some stuff again sometime soon. We’ll just have to wait and see.

JoshIVM: Do you have any desire to be in a touring band again? Do you miss that life at all?

Jason: I toured for quite a few years and whenever I miss it, I fly out and hang out with one of my bands on the road for a few days and it quenches that desire of being on the road. So that’s the best of both worlds for me.

JoshIVM: Obviously, most people understand that Facedown is a label run by Christians. Were you in a Christian home growing up or did you make that decision later in life?

Jason: I was raised in a Christian home and became a Christian when I was real young. By the time I was in junior high, I think I fully realized the commitment that Christianity is and I took it more serious. I don’t really have a crazy life turning testimony or anything like that.

JoshIVM: How does your faith play out in running the two labels? Have you learned anything about your faith through running Facedown?

Jason: Being with NIV and being on both Christian and non-Christian record labels was a great learning experience. I tried to take elements from both situations that I had experienced and forge them together into what I think is a good environment for the people that we work with, both on the artist side and on the business side of things. I have always said that the best way of showing your faith through business is how you treat people and not necessarily preaching at them every chance you get. I try to be a witness in the way we conduct business and in the way that we work with people. As people we will all fall short, but we can try to the best of our ability to honor God in all that we do. I have learned so much about God and my faith through the label. It’s almost like a pendulum that swings non stop. Sometimes we are at a high with the label and life couldn’t be better. Sometimes it’s very tough and we’re not sure how we’re going to make payroll! I’ve learned to depend on God in the good and the bad and to try to look to the bigger picture as much as possible. It’s much easier to say that than it is to actually do it, but we can at least try.

JoshIVM: Are there any things we, as Facedown fans, can pray for in regards to the label?

Jason: I appreciate that a lot. My main request is that we can make a difference in the lives of those we come in contact with and that we would have wisdom in the decisions that we make.

JoshIVM: So let’s get into the label itself. When did you get the original idea to start Facedown Records? Can you give us a brief history of how it can into existence?

Jason: When I joined NIV, I created a mail order catalog for the band and would answer all of our letters (no email at that time!) personally and include a mail order catalog. I decided to offer other bands in the mail order. Bands that we had met on tour or bands that I liked, etc… So in the spring of 1997, Facedown Distribution was born. It was my way of supporting bands that I wanted to help promote. The name “Facedown” came from a passage in the Bible that spoke about Moses falling facedown before the Lord. I scribbled it down on a note paper and thought I would use that one day for a band, or song or something. After operating as a distro for awhile I thought I would give the label side of things a chance. We got to meet some great unsigned bands on tour and I wanted to support their music and message. So Facedown Records took form in late 1997 as an actual record label.

JoshIVM: You took the opposite approach with the Christian market than most other Christian related labels. Instead of building a base there first you stayed in the mainstream. What was the reasoning behind this and do you plan on making yourselves more of a presence in the Christian market and bookstores or plan to keep things as is?

Jason: I was a hardcore kid that bought my music at indie music stores around San Diego. Those were the stores that I wanted our bands to be in. Over the years we have had some very supportive Christian book stores as well, but I would say that 90-95% of our sales come from general market stores. My goal from the beginning with Facedown was to be a label that focused on heavy Christian artists, but not to be a Christian book store only label. Not that I think that is a bad thing, but it was just never our main focus or priority. We have had some offers from companies to distribute us into the Christian marketplace at a larger level than we have now, but none of these offers have ever really been structured to benefit the label or the bands we work with. I’m definitely not against the idea, but I am against the distributor making more money than the bands or the label.

JoshIVM: One of the requirements to be on Facedown is a Christian faith. However, there are bands out there that have members who are mixed in beliefs. Can that be a problem in regards to your Christian stance as a label?

Jason: In the past bands have lost certain members, and sometimes they are replaced with people that might not be Christians. We leave these decisions up to the bands on who they want to have in their band because at the end of the day, they are the ones living in a van with them for the majority of the year! We have had some amazing individuals on this label this way that were not Christians, but I hope and pray that I was able to be a witness to them. That is the best thing I could ask for.

JoshIVM: What is your take on the whole Christian band / Christians in a band debate?

Jason: It’s really all about how you look at things. I think people get too tied up in both sides of this question / debate. Me personally, I am a Christian that loves music of all kinds. Christianity is larger than music or a label and it’s my life. Whether I am working in my yard, playing drums, writing emails or sitting in meetings, I am a Christian and a follower of Christ. It is my goal to live like I am following Christ, by doing my best to act like the example that he gave us, in all of my daily situations. If Christians play music and don’t sing about Jesus in every song, that is ok. If they do, that is ok. What matters is how they are living their lives and using the opportunities that they are given. If they are more consumed and concerned with being rockstars, then that is not okay. Humility and love are two very strong themes that Jesus lived and that is about as completely opposite as you can get of some of the current day rockstar attitudes.

JoshIVM: Facedown seems to be almost like a family more than a label, in other words there’s much more than just a business connection. What kind of relationships do you have with your bands?

Jason: The bands stay at our house when on tour, they call me for advice, they pray with me, etc… The music and the label brings us together but we all really enjoy working with and for each other. Our bands are much more than numbers to us. They are all unique individuals with their own strengths and needs and we have tried to build the label as a community where each band can benefit from each other.

JoshIVM: Facedown’s been around for 10 years now and you’ve been in bands longer than that and in that time all of the underground scene, and especially the Christian one, has changed drastically. What are some positive changes you’ve seen and what are some negatives?

Jason: A change that I have seen that is both positive and negative is this kind of music getting broader acceptance and bands being able to accomplish more than they ever could before. 10 years ago, hardcore and the few metal core bands at the time would never have a chance to get on something like MTV or in major magazines, etc… It’s great that good heavy music has gotten to this level, but the downside is that now a lot of people are starting bands with the goal of being a superstar in no time at all. If they don’t get on MTV, Ozzfest or on a Best Buy End Cap, they get disappointed and they compare them selves too much to other bands that maybe have accomplished more than they have been able to. It has stripped the integrity and the heart out of a lot of bands as their focus is geared to becoming a “big band” and they are constantly chasing a Utopian “Next Level”. But at the same time, there are bands playing music for more reasons than becoming famous or making money, and the current state has given those bands a larger platform and more opportunities than they ever would have had 10 years ago. So it is both good and bad in different ways.

JoshIVM: As label head, what does your normal workday look like? How has that changed over the years?

Jason: My morning always starts with a ton of emails. I handle a lot of tasks at the label, so the day usually consists of sales / distribution calls and emails, checking out new bands, communicating with our bands, overseeing the staff here on their jobs, accounting, marketing, helping our bands with touring opportunities, overseeing our online store, and a lot more. Sometimes a day will be mild and I’ll work for 8-10 hours, other days it will be 14-16 hours or so. Just depends on the work load.

Over the years it has changed very drastically. 2005 – the Spring of 2007 were insane. There was a point when my wife and I were both working 80+ hour weeks for the label, non stop for months. We used to do all of our own screen printing, so I would work all day on the label and then print at night for 3-4 hours. We also handled our own mailorder for the past 9 years, so that was a big job as well. This Spring we stopped printing and we let a company called Merch Now handle our mailorder for us, so that has freed up my time to focus more on the bands and developing them, making sure their CDs are in stores, and checking out new bands. It’s been an incredible change for both my wife and I.

JoshIVM: Have you just learned things on your own or have you received advice from other label owners? What labels were you a big fan of growing up? How about currently?

Jason: I have learned a lot from other label owners, and also a lot on my own. It’s true that you learn the hard way, and we definitely did over the years. We had 2 different distributors rip us off for a lot of money and those were both tough blows to the label. It was painful, but we learned a lot from those situations and it has made us stronger and smarter. When I was starting the label, I really looked up to labels like Victory and Revelation. They put out great records and were always growing and offered their customers merchandise for all of the bands, online stores, huge mailorder catalogs, etc… That was my goal as well as I always loved ordering from those companies. When the label was starting, a big influence on me was EMS @ SA Mob Records. I met EMS when NIV would play with Brother’s Keeper on the East Coast. He always would give me advice and tips and he put a lot into each release. From art work to packaging, etc… That always made an impression on me and he was always willing to help out. Now that we are distributed by RED in the US, we have become friends with people at labels like Ferret, Metal Blade, Relapse and The End. So we are always talking to each other and offering tips and help whenever possible. It’s a very strong community and we all help each other out.

JoshIVM: How many staff does Facedown currently employ? Have the additions helped to alleviate your workload or has that grown along with the label’s growth?

Jason: Facedown has 5 full time employees right now. We had 8 at one point, but 2 of them were in charge of mailorder and 1 was our screen printer, and we no longer have those positions at the label. Besides myself, my wife Virginia handles a ton of the day to day business stuff at the label from sales to accounting to keeping our myspace up to date, etc…. Dave Quiggle is our art director, his wife Shannon is our Director of Publicitiy and Bill handles all of our New Media needs. From digital sales and marketing to myspace and pure volume promotion, etc…. It’s a perfect size for us right now and we have a strong bond and relationship going.

JoshIVM: It certainly has to be a good feeling to know you have one of the better artists out there working with each release and with merch as well. How did the situation with Dave Quiggle coming on staff occur?

Jason: I met Dave in 1997 when NIV first played with his band xDisciplex. We hit it off really well with all the xDx guys and we would end up doing a few tours with them over the years. We would always hire Dave to do our covers and shirts and one day it just made sense to offer him a full time job. Being that he is a great friend and well, we really wanted him to live out in California so we could hang out more. So we offered him a job and he accepted. We were moving and selling our house at the time, so we worked it out so he and his family could buy it from us. That was a little over 2 years ago now and it’s been great. His artwork is amazing and is only improving as time goes on. We are very blessed to have him with us!

JoshIVM: Strike First was an awesome idea and strategy to test out bands’ potential, but we haven’t heard anything from SF in awhile. What is the situation there currently? Have you simply set aside that idea or just have it on hiatus for now?

Jason: We decided to take 2007 and put all of our focus on Facedown and the bands there. A lot of the Strike First bands had broken up or just never really did anything and at the same time, the Facedown bands were really working hard for us, so it just made sense to focus on them.

Strike First is definitely not over though. I can’t get into too many details yet, but it is looking like it will be put back into the forefront of things again real soon. I am in the process of working out a lot of the details in my mind and with our staff. So hopefully you will see it resurfacing very soon.

JoshIVM: Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this interview!