In the two-and-a-half years that Phoenix-based label Slope Records has been around, it’s become quite a vital voice in the punk scene. From its humble beginnings, first envisioned by founder Thomas Lopez on a friend’s porch in Austin, Texas, the label has gone from hatching the idea to put out a friend’s 7”—Tempe’s Insurrection, to be precise—to sponsoring Punk Rock Bowling and boasting a roster of punk rock royalty, including Arizona legends Exterminators and Feederz and Boston-turned-Arizona residents The Freeze.
Lopez is still super hands-on with Slope, which he runs from his home, and even plays in a band on the label: the fun and snotty synth-punk outfit The Blankz, who release their debut 7” single, “White Baby,” on July 13.
Lopez first considered the now well-respected label to be just a hobby, and he explains that originally, “it was kinda local-centric, because I wanted to pay homage to the seminal bands like The Consumers, the Exterminators, all those bands that came out of here that were influential on other bands.” At the time, he confesses he didn’t know too much about the music business and didn’t look at Slope as a business venture. Rather, it was a way to “archive” Arizona’s rich punk history. He soon realized, however, that even though the immense “passion for the music was there,” it’s costly to operate a label. “I still have the same passion,” he assures, but he soon became more business savvy.
Lopez also enlisted friend and Meat Puppets bassist Cris Kirkwood as a frequent collaborator of the label. “One day, me and Cris were driving, and I said, ‘It’d be interesting if you gave a shot at producing some records with us,’” he relates. Kirkwood ended up producing around six or seven of Slope’s projects. Though he doesn’t produce everything, he is an integral piece of the puzzle.
The label’s vision has evolved over time, but “it’s still DIY,” Lopez assures, explaining that he is, at this very moment, preparing to send out promo packs for The Blankz record. Though he now has a couple of people helping him in different aspects, Slope is still a small label and has “the same core vision as when it started,” he says. “Ultimately, I wanted to represent bands that influenced me personally and other Arizonans, but now, we’re reaching out more.”
The Slope roster now includes bands such as the aforementioned The Freeze and Seattle’s Grindline The Band. Their releases slated to come out soon include a full-length by Feederz, an EP by The Linecutters, and a record from Butthole Surfers guitarist Paul Leary’s new band The Cocky Bitches. They also have a forthcoming series of nine separate singles, which will then, in an innovative move, be compiled into one full-length.
Lopez sticks to the following criteria when choosing who to add to Slope’s roster: “The music’s good, [and] they have the dedication to tour. If they’re not willing to get on that bus and start getting out on the road, it’s pretty much not happening.” “That bus” references the amazing “44-passenger, 35-foot-long bus” Lopez had stripped and made into a vehicle fit for long-haul touring. The label now, in fact, boasts two such DIY vehicles that Lopez wants out on the road.
On Slope’s meaning and mission at this time, Lopez succinctly concludes, “We’re a touring label. We’re still a DIY label. We converted passenger busses.”