Label Profile: War on Music

By Kent Davies

War on Music isn’t just a label or a store. War on Music is a political movement. Much like Organic Planet Worker Co-Op or Mondragón Bookstore and Coffeehouse, the principles guiding the War on Music organization are that of participatory economics. Through a committee structure there are no bosses, no managerial hierarchy and no purveyors of lame-ass corporate music. All members of War on Music maintain an equal share of equity in the business. The worker co-operative is located, as member Charley Justice says, “halfway to hell”—or the basement of 93 Albert St. here in Winnipeg. As a local metal store, WoM also serves local bands, offering high-quality in-house merch for cheap and sometimes even acts as a venue for shows. Aside from row after row of quality, reasonably priced metal and punk albums, top-notch metal merchandise and vintage arcade machines, the most alluring feature of War on Music is their in-house label. War on Music the label is leading the way in Canadian metal releases on vinyl. With over a dozen releases, including re-issues of classic metal and punk albums, 7” singles of Canadian metal and hard-rock acts and the number-one-sellling metal album in the country, WoM is a force to reckoned with. Stylus talked with label rep and co-op member Charley Justice about the label, the store and the future of vinyl-driven metal.

Stylus: Talk about all these new War on Music releases.
Charley Justice:
Sacrifice—the first album in 20 years with their original lineup. It’s an amazing album called The Ones I Condemn. War on music did the only vinyl version in the world and it’s now number one on the Earshot Loud charts in Canada for 15 weeks. It’s number one on a bunch of charts in Europe too. It’s phenomenal album in every respect.

Stylus: Can you explain how WoM the store and label operate?
It works as co-op participatory collective. The store is run by seven people. We all own an equal share and make consensus decisions. We don’t hire employees—we accept owners. As for the record label, it’s an independent committee that I took on within War on Music with the consensus of the collective. So the label is sort of an independent operation that I run, but as it expands and necessitates more time and effort than I can give it, it will expand into a co-operative of its own. Right now I’m running the label by myself and it’s become a full-time job, so it’s right on the cusp of expanding.

Stylus: Was it always the plan to create a label though the WOM store?
It’s really the natural step of any retail vinyl show to start manufacturing and distributing vinyl of its own. As a store we’ve developed a good relationship with other distributors because we’re purchasing their albums so they know us pretty well. We make albums that we know they’ll want.

Stylus: Are you surprised at the level of success you’ve had with the WoM label?
I’m not really surprised. I like to think I know what I’m getting into when I start a label. The reissues of Razor and Sacrifice that we’ve done are in really high demand. They are hard to find. All you have to do is go on EBay to know a lot of people would want those records and they do.

Stylus: What are some of the bands featured on WoM label?
WoM has 14 releases now. As far as our catalogue right now, Evil Survives—Powerkiller being 014 and Sacrifice—The Ones I Condemn being 013. We have the three classic Sacrifice reissues, three Razor reissues and an Untimely Demise 7”, which is a super hardworking thrash metal band we toured with. The 7” is produced by Ex-Megadeth lead guitarist Glen Drover. We also re-released local ’80s punk band Personality Crisis’ classic album Creatures for Awhile.

Stylus: What are the projects WoM is currently working on?
There are several things in the works. We’re going reissue a few more Razor albums and there are several crazy LP projects on the horizon. I can’t talk too much about them because nothing set in stone yet. But they’re big.