There was a time in the early 1990s, as local lore has it, that was hands down the most vibrant, inspiring time for the region’s underground music community. Yesteryear venues like the X-Ray Cafe (later the O’Hell Cafe), Pine Street Theater (later La Luna), and Satyricon are mentioned reverentially as cathedrals of late-20th-century anti-establishment promise. Rob Jones cut his teeth among this burgeoning community as a musician, graphic designer, show booker, flyer-maker and, eventually, the founder of Jealous Butcher Records—one of oregon’s most treasured independent record labels.
If the name Jealous Butcher isn’t immediately familiar, consider some of the label’s more notable accomplishments. Beginning with releases by The Decemberists, M. Ward, Laura Gibson, Viva Voce and Blind Pilot, among others, Jones’ track record of working with loads of Portland artists before they break big is more than uncanny—it seems downright magical.
Seldom is the man behind the curtain given his appropriately respectful kudos. In the case of Jones, like some indie rock Wizard of Oz, the man behind this curtain is effusive, yet humble—he’s prone to perpetual bouts of hubris, dubbing countless friends and musicians “the best ever,” or several songs and albums as “the greatest thing I’ve ever heard.” Jones comes off as an everyman, or at least an everyman who’s spent more than two decades immersed within the folds of emerging underground rock scenes from Eugene to Chico, Portland to Boston and lots of places in between. The one unwavering thread throughout is Jones’ affinity for organically building relationships with fellow musicians, founded in a sincere passion to release beautiful, angry, inspiring art into the world.
From the basement of a home in NE Portland, where Jones lives with his wife Melissa and daughter Tuesday, the modest cogs of Jealous Butcher HQ hum. Art and work stations for his family flank a space brimming with rows of limited-edition vinyl, CDs and tapes lining various shelves throughout the subterranean digs. Jones’ area is festooned with art supplies, strange novelty instruments, a large silkscreening station with inks and paints, graphic design books, clothes-pinned show posters, a simple desk with a big laptop, a comfy couch, his prized Gibson SG guitar, hundreds of cassette tapes, and a hyperactive dog. It’s an endearing sort of clutter that speaks to Jones’ genuine love affair with the material at hand. In the beginning, after all, that love for it is all you have.
Jones came of age in Eugene during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, playing guitar and starting high school bands with friends. Early on, though his playing remained an integral aspect of his expression, Jones was more interested in taking any opportunity to simply be involved in the community he was bouncing around within.
“I never really had any strong ambitions to make it as a musician,” Jones says. “For me, over all these years, it’s been about having fun with friends and just a way to meet people and hang out and be part of something that’s fun and exciting, and to contribute.”
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