King Pizza Records first caught my eye because, in my household a crowd favorite for delivery pizza in Bed-Stuy also happens to hold the title of King Pizza. I was hoping the two were related. A wayward son of King Pizza, perhaps Prince Pizza, figuring that if he couldn’t claim the title of Supreme Sultan of Pizza Delivery, he could be King of another, round, beloved object that must be pressed and spun before it can be enjoyed?
Alas, my ridiculous speculations were nowhere near correct. The man behind the record label did not descend from royal lineage (he’s from Long Island), nor is he related at all to King Pizza (despite also living in Bed-Stuy). And decision to start a record label had nothing to do with a rabid desire for power.
“I have been playing music poorly for about 12 years,” Greg Hanson admitted. He started playing guitar, then bass, then dropped both before moving on to drums. Clearly something clicked, because two and half years ago he started a band, the Mad Doctors, a local garage punk outfit. Eventually, Hanson took on the managerial responsibilities– booking shows, ordering merch, and getting the word out.
“I’m from a film background, as a director, and when you’re making no-budget movies you kind of have to be your own producer and just make things happen,” Hanson explained.
But when it came time to look for a record label to help the Mad Doctors get their recordings out there, the band found it was more difficult to get backing than they’d anticipated. But after Hanson started working a better job, he realized he might finally have the means to take matters into his own hands. “If I was going to [release a record] for myself, I could also do it for my friends who are super talented and trying to get stuff out there without going completely broke,” he said.
Shortly thereafter, Hanson founded King Pizza Records. “It’s garage, it’s punk. We have a variety of bands there’s no one genre,” he explained of the label’s leanings. “We tend toward the garage-pop, power punk, psych thing. But we’ve got some folky bands that we work with and indie bands and some stuff that’s harder to categorize.”
So far, the label has released just one vinyl record and maintains a focus on cassette tapes. “We’ve put out almost a dozen tapes so far,” Hanson explained. “Tapes have been really great because a lot of the bands we’re working with are young– they’re like two years old or young– so a lot of these bands are coming to me with their first EPs and they kind of just want something out there to get people interested.”
As the label expands, Hanson said he hopes to push into pressing 7 inches and more LPs. “They’re just fun,” he said. “And man it sounds so good. There’s nothing like holding your record and the artwork.”
The label’s de facto home base is Don Pedro– one part Mexican restaurant, one part dive bar, and three parts DIY Bushwick punk venue. “It’s one of these spots where anything goes. It’s kind of as DIY as it gets, from an actual bar or venue,” Hanson said. “You can basically do whatever you want and it’s a place that has no pretension. There’s no bullshit. Everybody there is having a good time, and sort of just figuring it out and doing their thing and doing it hard and fast and fun.”
Having a place for his band and his friends’ bands to call home was a driving force in Hanson’s decision to start the label. “I though it would be a way to create the scene that I really wanted,” he said. “We’ve tried to basically foster this Rock n’ Roll community in Brooklyn we felt that was kind of lacking, or at least we weren’t a part of.”
Hanson, and many of the other bands involved in the day-to-day operations of King Pizza, never felt as though they belonged in the existing DIY circles. “If you don’t know these people specifically it’s impossible to get shows it’s impossible to sort of break in to that part of the scene unless you’re like, you know went to school with somebody, or you happen to know the booker or something like that.”
By forming a label, Hanson explained he was able to create a way for loosely associated bands to bond together for a common cause– getting their music heard– and help out newer bands that had never recorded before.
“I sort of felt like there were a lot of these bands that were orbiting around themselves and doing the sort of DIY thing and making their own T-shirts and CDs and stuff like that, but not really banning together,” he said. “So I was like, let’s put our heads together and play shows and hang out and make this more than, ‘Oh cool, I’ll see you at the next one.’”
And as Hanson hoped, King Pizza is supported and run by the community. “I have tons of help with the label,” he said. “It’s more of a community than a traditional label. Everybody that’s a part of it–it’s just as much theirs as it is mine, because without the community the label is kind of worthless.”
Hanson explained: “Bettina Warshaw from the Rizzos helps me literally with anything I need, people from Vamanos run our street team, Seth from Mad Doctors records like half the bands, Josh Park the bassist in Mad Doctors runs the web stuff…” the list went on. “It’s way closer to a collective than it is to a traditional label,” he said. “It’s more than just putting out a tape– everybody involved in the label hangs out.”
Even the name, King Pizza, relates to the community-driven ethos of the label. “‘After every show, Seth [the Mad Doctors’ guitarist] and I would go to the pizza place that was down the road and open till 5 am. We’d always get the post-show pizza.”
You can check out the King Pizza scene this Friday night at Don Pedro, when the Mad Doctors, Big Huge, and Games join the Jeanies for their cassette tape release party.