Even though Blackhouse Records is a midsize label selling records across the globe, its roots run deep in the Inland Northwest, where label co-founder Scott Rozell first threw the name around to promote bands.
More than two decades ago, Rozell, who had been in a few bands during and after high school, got involved with a local group called Scatterbox. “Some guys I went to high school with wanted to start a band. They needed a drummer, they had already written some songs, I joined, and it later became what is Scatterbox,” he said.
He found himself in a Coeur d’Alene not amply supplied with venues for up-and-coming punk groups, so Rozell and Scatterbox got to playing weekend gigs at a local bowling alley.
“They would have these matinees on the weekends where you could just bowl unlimited for a dollar, and then you pay the admission to see the bands, and you could get in and do that whole thing,” Rozell said. “It was really cool.”
“We needed a name to basically just put on flyers for shows, to kind of make it seem as if it were a promotion company or some sort of legitimate thing. The name Blackhouse just kind of came out of – I don’t even know where I came up with it – it just was a name, and I used a rubber stamp of this silhouette of Michael Myers holding a hammer.”
Blackhouse Records (blackhouserecordsinc.com) materialized out of almost nothing. Its first form was as a logo on the corner of punk show flyers, seeming to be something it wasn’t. But as time went on, the act of pretending to be a “legitimate thing” and Rozell’s experience working for another label transformed Blackhouse into something undeniably real.
“Blackhouse really wasn’t anything other than a name and a logo,” Rozell said. “And we started putting that on the CDs.”
Rozell spent a few years touring with Scatterbox and Moral Crux. The tours put him face-to-face with other people in the industry and, most importantly, bands. “Blackhouse just kind of took off from there because I found all these other bands and met all these people who had really good bands,” Rozell said. “I wanted to put their music out.”
Cut to 20 years later, and Rozell’s passion as both a fan and an industry insider has made Blackhouse home for more than 50 punk, metal and rap artists over the decades. Rozell remarked all-too-humbly, “it really is like a label now.”
Because of its involvement with bands outside the region, Blackhouse is sometimes mislabeled as a non-local label. “But I’d say half the roster is local or regional, the other half being people from all over the place,” Rozell said.
When he was getting started, music in the area “wasn’t really getting as recognized as I think it probably should have been,” which is arguably still the case. Of Spokane’s scene, he said there’s “tons of stuff going on here. And they’re all really good. And I mean now there is even in North Idaho. There’s a ton of stuff happening here.”
Bringing the tools of a midsize label to underappreciated groups is part of what Rozell has enjoyed most about his 20 years with Blackhouse. He’s happy to be “able to help get that stuff out there as far out as the reach goes, get it in the face of as many people as possible and see what the result of that is.”
Realizing that aspiration has not all been smooth sailing over the past two decades, though. Between happily receiving vinyl presses and helping his artists spread their music across the globe, Blackhouse has seen some tough moments.
Back in 2008, for example, a bankruptcy in the distribution chain almost cost Rozell his entire stock, but, through some good fortune and perseverance, the label survived. “We learn from things that happen, and you just learn to adapt. And it’s been that way ever since,” he said.
The pandemic hasn’t been nearly as hard of a hit for Blackhouse as one might expect. Once consumers settled down from the initial uncertainty, his online traffic has improved significantly.
“The internet’s definitely helping for bands who are not from bigger cities to be able to get more recognized outside without having to tour,” Rozell said. “People are using the internet more, kind of looking more toward it, to hear new stuff.”
The best moment of the past two decades? In 2017, “the Inlander put on the Volume Music Festival. They had invited us to do a showcase of Blackhouse bands. It was just all one night on the first night of the festival. From noon until the first night it was over, it was just all artists off our roster.
“We even flew in Slug Christ from Atlanta, the Nobodies guys from Florida, Ras Kass came from California. Just a ton of people, like literally every band was there under one venue hanging out playing live, and all these festival kids who bought bracelets and passes would just be able to go in and out.
“That was pretty cool. That was the first time that I really felt like maybe we got recognized as like we’re a thing here.”
Reaching 20 years in the label world is a real accomplishment, and Rozell is “pretty proud of it. I mean, it’s a trip that it’s lasted this long.” He loves working the label business after all these years and has taken up freelancing for Awful Records out of Atlanta. “I just kind of feel like this is something I was supposed to do,” he said.
As much as Rozell would have liked to celebrate the label’s 20th with a concert or an event downtown, it just isn’t in the cards for this year. Perhaps next year we’ll get to see much of the Blackhouse lineup under one roof again to celebrate the 21st birthday – always an important one – of the label instead.
Julien A. Luebbers can be reached at email@example.com.
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