I was 14 years old when an older friend told me, with much authority, that men who attend Bikini Kill concerts get beaten up. It was a factual and believable statement to my young ears, being that this was an era before the internet, a time when dog-eared fanzine interviews with the seminal Olympia act contained all I could possibly know about the band. So, with tremendous regret, I steered clear of Bikini Kill when they came through my hometown, partially out of fear of being on the losing end of a woman's fist to my face, and partially because I was still so awestruck by what the band, and their untouchable record label, Kill Rock Stars, stood for.
Of course, Bikini Kill didn't beat men at their shows—at least not undeserving 14-year-old boys—but they did represent the magnificent arch that was the early years of Kill Rock Stars. With founder Slim Moon at its helm, the Olympia—and now Portland—label was the mysterious and fertile breeding ground for our generation's finest assembly of independent musicians: Unwound, Elliott Smith, the Decemberists, Deerhoof, Sleater-Kinney—those are just the bigger names. The label's staggering 337 releases have been home to a bevy of talented acts, the majority of which were drawn into the fold by Moon, who stepped down from his role as label head in 2006 (his wife Portia Sabin now runs the label). A well-traveled music fan, Moon launched the label in 1991 as a reaction to the disconnect he found in music.
"When I first discovered music completely on my own, away from a social scene, by listening to the radio, reading, going out, and buying records, I just was immersed in the idea of the musicians being distant icons, like gods." He continues, "To discover all these people who were making exciting music, touring with it, being creative, and writing fanzines on their own was directly meaningful. It was straight from them, not through the filter of an industry, a whole industrial complex that is there to present them. It was really eye opening to me. I was drifting, but this made so much sense to me and was so inspiring." In these past few years, and away from the stress of Kill Rock Stars, Moon has spent time in the major label trenches of A&R (for Nonesuch and Rykodisc), and he currently is devoted to full-time artist management, or as he puts it: "I wanted to work with bands in a more anonymous fashion."
Since Kill Rock Stars was originally birthed as a spoken word imprint, it's a logical turn of events that Moon will be returning to his early roots with an upcoming storytelling engagement as part of the Back Fence PDX series (see Book Listings pg. 36). Even if it's something he's ill prepared for: "I don't know what story I'm going to tell yet. Most of my musical experience has been improvisatory, or semi improvisatory, so if there is one thing I know it's that I don't fear an audience or having to make something up on the spot or be spontaneous."
Whatever he discusses, Moon's performance is sure to be an intriguing glance at a man who, for nearly all of the past two decades, has been a witness, and behind the scenes participant, to the finest moments of independent music.