Label Spotlight: Jake Kolatis on the Return of Charged Records

A mainstay of the late-’90s and 2000s street punk scene is back. In exciting fashion, Charged Records, headed by Casualties guitarist Jake Kolatis, have relaunched this year with the release of the fourth installment of their Punx Unite compilation, followed by reissues of Monster Squad’s Strength Through Pain (2004) and Antidote’s My Life (1999).

“I feel like we’ve got some cool shit coming out,” Kolatis says of the label, which was originally in action from 1998 to 2008. “Hopefully, I can put out some cool new bands. Punk rock is my life, so I really will take this label as far as people will allow it to go.”

Here, he discusses his decision to restart the label and what his hopes are for it.

First, what about deciding to start the label up again this year?
It was kind of one of those things where it was a combination of 2020 being—things we already know, no touring for bands, there’s no shows. Everybody lives somewhere else so we’re not getting together to practice, we’re not getting together to write songs really. I just had time. And it’s something I wanted to do for a while, and we started looking at bands. I had some encouragement from Tony [Cozzaglio] from Boulevard Trash. He said people would be interested if you did your record label again.

And it’s been [on hiatus for] over ten years. I didn’t really think that anyone cared about it anymore, and I thought it’d be fun to do a comp. Then we got some current bands together and some that aren’t new but still current, still active. So, I was like this will be really fun to get a bunch of bands, and social media, which wasn’t—when Charged ended, was very light if there was any at all, ‘cause it was 1998 to 2008. And I just kinda was finished with it because bands were breaking up right away, not touring, and I was just skating on CDs and records. And the industry of selling CDs and records was already getting more difficult to where nobody was interested in taking CDs because it was just sitting around.

Record stores were closing everywhere you looked, and it was just depressing. And the bands at the time, I was getting very disenchanted with because they were breaking up. I was forwarding all this money and time and then it was, oh cool, as soon as the record came out, the band was broken up the next week. I was just done. So, it was kind of a time of being a little depressing. But my band, The Casualties, was doing so much and so much touring and really blowing up, I was like, “I’m just gonna do the band 100 percent and be done with this.” And then we did the band for so long, and ten years passed and there was some interest in the record label again, so I just was like let’s try it.

That is interesting about how you said we’re all going through it, can’t go to shows, you can’t play.
Yeah, so I was like what can we do that’s fun that’s still in the scene. I was like now’s a great time; we all got the stimulus checks and stuff. [Laughs] You know what? Before I spend this, let me put some of this into doing something constructive and something that’s productive for not only music but also for the scene.

I’ve always felt even though I’m offering it and selling it, it’s still something new, something fresh for the punk rock community. It felt like what a great thing to do again, Punx Unite, because there’s so much division and people in different scenes and different little subgenres, which at the end of the day doesn’t make sense when you can get everybody together under one banner anyway. So, I was like, this would be perfect. I got in touch with a bunch of bands that I thought were different styles but all very current and awesome in their own way, so that’s what kicked it off, the Punx Unite comp, and it fuckin’ killed it. 

Right, and well, was it, “Let’s just try one [release] and see how it goes,” or you knew you were going to be all in?
I kinda felt like, we did the one, and it seemed like there was a lot of interest and it wasn’t even out yet, and I was like, you know what? Let me take whatever we’re getting from the government and these payouts, and let me just try this. So, I thought of some records from some of the past releases. I felt like Monster Squad still plays, Antidote still plays, and these were bands I still really love and still get along with and still am very friendly with and they’re also active in other bands and they’re still rockers and they’re still punks.

So, it made sense for me to get these records back in circulation so people can enjoy it and put a little more money into it and make it really cool. When you get this you’re stoked because the vinyl is super-colorful, limited, it comes with extras. I wanted to put something in people’s hands that they’d really be like, “This feels like I spent 25 bucks on it but I feel really good about it.” It doesn’t feel like you’re just getting, OK, it’s a record. I wanted to make it as special as possible.

Just going back to the Punx Unite record having a lot of interest. That makes sense because that was an iconic compilation series.
Yeah, it was one of the reasons, in the liner notes, I explain that a little bit, where I was just like, the ‘90s happened and then the late-’90s were happening and there were so many cool bands around. And when I did the first tour with The Casualties in 1997, when we went out, we did some little ones before that, but not a whole U.S. tour, so our first U.S. tour coast-to-coast was ‘97 on For the Punx.

And that’s when I started discovering all these cool bands that really just had maybe a 7-inch out, maybe a demo, maybe a split with another band, but not a lot of exposure. I was like, this is what all those old comps that I love so much—this is happening right now. This is happening right in front of my fucking face, and I was just like, I want to do something with it so much. Even just to put something out and document it, as in, there’s a scene happening and maybe it would inspire other younger kids in cities to start up their own bands. There’s a scene happening and I felt like I wanted to let everyone know.

It’s crazy to think when you started this label, 1998, it was 22 years ago.
I know! I look in the mirror, and I’m like, I feel like I’m the same person. I don’t feel like I’m much older and I’m like, oh yeah, I am a little older. [Laughs] But I still believe in all the same—I still believe in punk rock very much, and I’m very happy to support it and if I put out a couple cool, kick-ass records and people have a good time with it, then that makes me happy.

And if I can help some bands, that’s what would make me happy. It’s cool and I’m happy to be a part of it again. The ten years I took off from doing the label I think was much needed to come back to it and to feel so excited about it. I don’t know how long it’ll go for, but I’d like to give it a good shot.

Right yeah, and so you have the two that came out already and the Antidote coming out, do you have any plans you can divulge?
[He didn’t want to get into details just yet, but did mention that there is an upcoming release before the end of the year from a new punk band from Northern California.] It’s the best new thing I’ve heard in a while. They’re the first new Charged Records band. It’s spacing stuff out so people don’t get overwhelmed. Because if it’s too many things coming out all the time, it’s uhhh. I want it to be special. I feel like we have some other plans for 2021 but nothing is confirmed yet, so that I’ll get back to you on.

OK, and then I don’t know what your set up was back in the old days, but do you have employees or is it just you?
I’m just running—Charged was also always like a boutique, if I may, boutique type of label anyway, so I usually ran 1000 LPs and 1000 CDs and then sometimes towards the end I only ran 500 LPs and then two of the last releases I only did on CDs because it’s hard to do just being in a band and dumping all this money into albums. It took a long time to move some of those. I was like, one day this stuff will be cool again and it sat in the basement of my tattoo shop for a long time, when I had a tattoo shop. It just was sitting down there.

I was like, vinyl will never not be cool, so I’ll just wait till people are interested in this again. And now with an exception of about 50 Street Brats LPs, I am completely out of all the old vinyl, and then some of the CDs I still have in print are just going to be extras that just come with the next couple of releases and it’ll just be nice for people to have. I’ll be rid of all that old stock. How cool will that be, you buy a record and you get a patch, a sticker, a free disc. I know CDs aren’t really a thing anymore but you can still rip them and then just get rid of it. I think it’s kind of cool if you buy a new Charged release and you get one of the old CDs in there. It’s kind of like a cool little extra thing. Maybe I’ll get some loyal customers. [Laughter]

Well, you put out 30, 40 releases?
I did. There were 30 old ones and now we’re back to 31 was Punx Unite and then the represses are the same old catalogue numbers obviously. But the two ones coming up will be new for Charged. I wonder if I couldn’t get to 40 or 50. That would be fun.

Yeah, and you don’t have to answer because I can see them being like your babies and you don’t want to pick favorites, but are there any that you feel especially proud of putting out?
Yeah. The ones that stand out for me that did really well too and I really got along with all the guys in the band, would be The Virus Still Fighting for a Future, that was their first album, we did a single together. Great guys. Still friends to this day. And the same goes for Antidote and Monster Squad. The Casualties would bring those bands on tour at the time and it was just fun to be around those people. We’re still in touch for the most part. We still talk. And they’re all still very active in punk and metal and all that stuff. It’s kinda cool to see it meant something and that they were what I thought what they were then, lifers.

These are really real punks. The other one that would stick out would be Endless Struggle, and they have a new song on the new Punx Unite, and it’s fuckin’ amazing. I was telling them, “You guys need to do a new album,” so that might be something Charged will do in 2021. They’re really still fuckin’ good. And they have a good little name going, so those would be the four that would really stand out, out of all the bands. But like I said, I’m still friends with 86’D, they did another band called Victory and they’re an Oi! band. We still get along really well. I had the guys stay over at the house one time. I get to see most of these people when we tour. I try to keep up on all their new projects. Some of the bands, let’s say Chaotic Alliance, have in my eyes, dropped off the face of the earth.

I wouldn’t know how to get in touch with them or anything. Good bands nonetheless, but people do change and move on to different genres and styles of music. I wish everybody well. They certainly don’t have to stay in touch. [Laughs] But when I put out a record for a band, I feel like I’m sort of somewhat connected to them, where it’s not just business. We’re friendly, it’s fun. So, some people do change and move on. I’m happy that many of the bands from Charged’s old days have stayed in touch and we have stayed friends, so it’s cool. I’d like to make some space for some new bands.

Yes. Just about 2020, this hell year that it’s been, when was the last time you played out?
You know, I don’t know what we did last. I can’t even remember the last thing we did. Oh, it was a tour with Strung Out, actually. I think that’s the last thing we did. Because then we had a European thing booked, which just fell through and [was] basically postponed until further notice, because we’re all just waiting in the wings for this thing to be done so we can fuckin’ have fun again. That was the last tour and we had a great time. I’m very thankful for it not totally being, “We’ll never tour again.” Just a waiting game.

So, was that last year or early this year?
That was 2019 I believe.  So, we didn’t do anything in 2020 I don’t think, not that I can remember.

Check out the Charged Records website here.

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