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15 excellent releases from Winnipeg’s Transistor 66 Record Co.

September 8, 2014

For over ten years now, Winnipeg’s Transistor 66 Record Co. has been pumping out hot slabs of vinyl and killer compact discs. Formed in 2002 with the intent of releasing rockabilly records, Transistor 66 quickly took on an ambitious project that changed the course of the label, expanding its focus. The Guess Who’s Home compilation, featuring 16 (mostly) Winnipeg bands covering the greatest hits and deepest cuts of Peg City’s most recognizable rock ‘n’ roll export, also came to form the foundation of the “Transistor 66 Family.”

“I got a quick lesson, through that, in the local scene,” recalls Art Transistor over coffee at Little Sister Coffee Maker in Winnipeg’s Osborne Village. “We worked with 16 bands, worked right through the recording process, producing, everything. Through that I got to know Scott Nolan, and we’ve been releasing his records for the past 10 years, and the Fabulous Kildonans.”

Through those initial local contacts, the Transistor Family quickly grew to encompass roots, garage, punk, and straight-up rock ‘n’ roll. Since 2003, with the first Rowdymen release, Transistor 66 has released over 100 pieces of plastic, vinyl, and cassette tape documenting the local scene (along with some select imports) unlike any other label.

“It’s often said that Canada has some of the best musicians on the planet,” Art says. “Well, Winnipeg has some of the best musicians in Canada, and therefore I believe we have some of the best musicians on the planet. I truly believe that.”

With a bunch of new releases scheduled for the fall and winter, including new albums from Scott Nolan, the Crooked Brothers, along with 7-inches from Chica Boom Boom and Black Thunder, Art sat down with AUX to talk about 15 clutch picks from Transistor 66’s back catalogue.

But it wasn’t easy for Art to narrow the field down. Not by a long shot. “I’ve always described the label as a family,” Art says sincerely, “and it really is. So it’s hard to pick out your favourite kids. So I did my best.”

Rowdymen – Rubberneckin’ – TR66-111 (2003)

“That’s the one that spawned them all, the first release. Basically, I had just started building them a website. They were recording a new record at the time, and when it came time to release it they were looking for a label. I’d always kind of wanted to put my hat in that ring. The timing worked out, and I decided to put it out. That was 2003. The rest has been a hazy blur. This was also done at Bedside Studio, and that’s how I got to know Len Milne, who we worked with quite a lot afterwards.”

Various artists – Guess Who’s Home – A Tribute – TR66-112 (2005)

“When we originally started, we thought we’d bang this off in about six months. It took two and a half years! We ran all 16 bands through Bedside Studios with Len Milne. It was a huge learning process, but it was an awesome time. I learned more than I ever would have thought possible. Through that we met Scott, the Fab K’s, a lot of other fabulous people. Burton [Cummings] and Randy [Bachmann] have made more money off that record than we have, but it was still a lot of fun.”

Agriculture Club – The Horse Always Gets it First – TR66-114 (2005)

“I got to know Rick [Overwater] a.k.a. the Rubber Duck, lead guitarist and one of the songwriters for Ag Club by doing some publicity for the Rowdymen. Rick’s a writer in Calgary. I’d already been a fan of Agriculture Club before I knew Rick was involved, so we started talking. When the time came to put out their record, it just made sense for us to do it.”

Scott Nolan – No Bourbon, Bad Radio – TR66-115 (2005)

“Scott Nolan is one of the best song writers ever. I really could have picked six of Scott’ records [for this list]. But No Bourbon was Scott’s first release with us. All his records are great. This one was also done at Bedside Studios with Lenny. It was done around the same time as Guess Who’s Home. But you know, actually, my favourite of his records is the new one, Silverhill, but it’s not out [until January 2015].”

Hot Live Guys – Robbin’ a Bank – TR66-118 (2006)

“Robbin’ a Bank is probably my favourite record. Some of the best songs that have ever come out, anywhere, are on here. Hot Live Guys were there from pretty much the beginning [of Transistor]. We partied pretty hard with these guys for quite a long time. Went down to SXSW with them, a couple WCMAs. Crazy fun, just great guys. One of the best rock ‘n’ roll bands on the planet.”

Fabulous Kildonans – Bottle Rocket – TR66-119 (2006)

“One of my favourite bands, and definitely my wife’s favourite band. She does a lot of admin stuff for the label. When I was putting this list together, she said, ‘They’ve gotta be on it!’ Of course, they were gonna be. But she just wanted to make sure. They’re just some of the greatest guys you’ll ever meet.”

American Flamewhip – Fingertight – TR66-120 (2006)

“Basically anything J-Rod [Joanne Rodriguez] has done or wants to do in the future, we’ll put out. She’s one of the best front-women on the planet. We got to know her through Hot Live Guys. I think Fingertight is one of the best garage rock records put out, anywhere.”

The Magnificent Sevens – Dirty Roads – TR66-140 (2009)

“I got to know TJ [Blair] just by going to shows at the Albert. He was in a band called Trophy Machine, and they opened up for Ag Club at the Collective [R.I.P.]. Through him, I went to see the Mag 7s a couple times, and we had to work with them. They’re all awesome folks. Really bummed they’re not together any more, but that happens.”

Bloodshot Bill – Git High Tonite! – TR66-146 (2009)

“Right when we started the label, we wanted to put something of his out. But he was in a deal at the time. After about eight years, the timing was right. We couldn’t be happier with this one. We’ve since put out a 7-inch and we’re gonna be putting out a new 7-inch with him again soon.”

Angry Dragons – Hex 7-inch  – TR66-149/66V-04 (2010)

“Again, another one of J-Rod’s projects with Jen [Alexander], Anastasia [Chipelski], and Bill [Northcott]. Just a really cool 7-inch. Just after that came out, Seymore Stein, who discovered the Ramones, among others, was in town, and I had the good fortune of going out for dinner with him. Scott Nolan, and the Angry Dragons showcased for him, along with a couple other bands. That was probably the heaviest hitter we’d had a chance to meet. No million dollar deals, but it was a lot of fun.”

The Lonely Vulcans – Night Date – TR66-156/66V-010 (2010)

“I got to know Daniel through Albert shows, too, along with TJ [Blair] who’s in the band too. You can’t help but feel good listening to this record. It’s just killer.”

The Thrashers – Make a Splash – TR66-166 (2011)

“Awesome bunch of guys. Great songs, great sound. Super hardworking, super talented. They’ve also got a new record coming out on full-length vinyl, fall or winter.”

Crooked Brothers – Lawrence, Where’s Your Knife? – TR66-169/66V-011 (2011)

“Awesome guys. I got to know Matt and Darwin from Sub City, who were a great band. Sub City’s no longer together, but we put out two records of theirs. Crooked Brothers are just awesome songwriters, hard workers. They’re new record [Thank You, I’m Sorry, out September 23] is amazing, too.”

This Hisses – Surf Noir – TR66-165 (2011)

“We got to know Julia [Ryckman] through the Gorgon. The Gorgon record [Corpse Whale, 2008] could easily have been on this list, too. She’s got just an amazing voice, and an amazing songwriter. With Pat [Short, guitar] and JP [Perron, drums], they’re just killer.”

The Vibrating Beds – Sing the Blues 7-inch – 66V-012 (2012)

“Another one of our absolute favourite bands. Unfortunately, they’re also on hiatus. You never want to say that a band is broken up, so there’s hope they might come back.”

“But you know, my top picks change all the time,” Art says, lamenting all the great records that weren’t on “the list” as we finish our Americanos. “It’s mostly what I listen to in the van. I change it up every few months. This has been my playlist for about the last year or so. But this could change next week!”

Check out Transistor 66’s full catalogue on their website, and look for new release from the Crooked Brothers, Scott Nolan, the Trashers, and more coming this fall and winter.

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