As the founder of SideOneDummy Records, Joe Sib has helped launch the careers of punky rule-breakers like the Gaslight Anthem, Flogging Molly and Gogol Bordello. Years before becoming a label CEO, though, he was a major-label artist, popping up during MTV shows like 120 Minutes and Beavis and Butt-Head as the frontman of Wax.
Sib now tours the country as a stand-up comedian, too, sharing stories from a lifetime of punk-rock mishaps. He relates a few of those tales during this week’s episode of Walking the Floor, talking to Chris Shiflett about a punky childhood in California, his brush with semi-fame and the secrets behind running a successful label. The highlights are below, followed by the full episode.
Sib’s childhood idol? Houdini.
Long before he played his first punk-rock show, Sib hit the stage as a magician. He performed at local pizza parlors, San Jose petting zoos and puppet shows. Houdini was his biggest influence, and to an adolescent Sib, there was no one who more closely resembled a rock star. “All of those posters for Houdini look like metal posters,” he tells Shiflett. “Take out Houdini and put in Dio, and you’re like, ‘Yeah! A guy upside down, underwater, hand-cuffed? Yeah!'”
He turned down an all-expenses-paid trip to Europe in order to see a local show by the punk band Agent Orange.
With his high school graduation on the horizon, Sib received an offer from his father to celebrate the milestone with an overseas vacation. His father would join him and foot the bill. Sib declined the offer, though, and requested a different sort of graduation present. “‘I wanna get a keg of beer,’ he remembers telling his dad, ‘”and then we can take that keg of beer and see Agent Orange at San Jose State University.'” His dad agreed.
His father deserves credit not only for SideOneDummy’s launch, but its continuation, too.
After a short-lived deal with Caroline Records fell through, Sib – whose early-Nineties band, Wax, played a role in jumpstarting the mainstream pop-punk movement – joined his dad on a road trip to Chicago. He was depressed and dejected, unsure of what to do next. His father then offered him a $5,000 loan to launch SideOneDummy, although the money came with one important restriction. “‘You cannot stop the label, even when the band takes off,'” Sib remembers, paraphrasing his dad’s orders. One year later, Wax landed a deal with Interscope, filmed the now-iconic “California” video with Spike Jonze and hit the road as Bush’s opening act. SideOneDummy launched around the same time. More than two decades later, the label still thrives.
Sib’s secret for a successful label? Don’t be motivated purely by finances.
“We’ve never signed a band to make money,” says Sib, whose label has provided a home for Gaslight Anthem, Gogol Bordello, Flogging Molly and others. “Fall Out Boy sent us so many demos to be on SideOne,” he adds. “There were so many packages from those dudes, and I would listen to it, and it just wasn’t my thing.” By putting art above commerce, SideOneDummy has thrived during a period of industry fallout and label consolidation.