Labels to Watch: Cavity Search Records and Jackpot Records

Vortex Music Magazine

With decades of experience shining a light on new releases as well as legendary reissues, pay attention to the output from two of our city’s best sonic curators.

Cavity Search's Christopher Cooper and Denny Swofford: Photo by Craig CookCavity Search's Christopher Cooper and Denny Swofford: Photo by Craig Cook

Cavity Search Records

YEAR FOUNDED: 1992
ROSTER: Elliott Smith, King Black Acid, The Helio Sequence, Wayne Horvitz, Barra Brown
NEW RELEASES: Jerry Joseph’s Full Metal Burqa, Korgy & Bass’ 2500​=​4​:​26000 Side​-​B, Lauren Lakis’ Sad Girl Breakfast, Queen Chief’s Animal Stories (summer), Pete Krebs & The Gossamer Wings’ All My Friends Are Ghosts (fall)

Cavity Search started uncovering hidden treasures nearly three decades ago when Christopher Cooper and Denny Swofford joined forces with simple aspirations. Their friends were making what they thought was great music, and they wanted to help them get their work the attention it deserved. Turns out, their instincts were correct: Their first release was a seven-inch of Hazel’s “J. Hell,” and the pair’s initial run of 1,000 copies was gone in two weeks. After a demo landed in their hands without the artist’s knowledge in 1994, the label asked for permission to release Elliott Smith’s lo-fi solo debut, Roman Candle, having handled previous releases from his band Heatmiser.

Over the years, Cavity Search has continued to bring forth relative sonic secrets, from early releases by The Helio Sequence, Richmond Fontaine and Pete Krebs (as well as his bands Hazel, Golden Delicious and Thrillhammer), to more recent releases by King Black Acid, Barra Brown, Floater’s Robert Wynia and Korgy & Bass.

Even as its output has increased, “With the exception of interns,” Swofford says, “the label has always been operated by one, or both, of the owners.” Swofford has been at the helm mostly solo for the last decade, and sadly, Cooper passed away after a battle with cancer last year.

Cavity Search’s commitment to the local music scene hasn’t wavered over the years, and if you haven’t been keeping an eye on them, now is a good time to start. Swofford tells, “2019 will see new studio releases from veterans Pete Krebs and King Black Acid alongside new faces Lauren Lakis and Queen Chief... [and] a compilation of new artists titled Cavity Search Records 2020 will be released next year.” Be sure to stay tuned for more from this self-proclaimed “Heritage Label” as Swofford continues to share new music from local luminaries while advocating for emerging voices in our thriving music scene. —Katey Trnka


Photo by John CranfordPhoto by John Cranford

Jackpot Records

YEAR FOUNDED: 2004
ROSTER: Dave Depper, Wipers, Green River, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
NEW RELEASES: Wipers’ Alien Boy EP, Bob Dorough’s Multiplication Rock, Green River’s Live At The Tropicana 1984

Jackpot Records is perhaps the best exemplar of the often-overused mantra “quality over quantity.” The label, born in 2004 out of the brick-and-mortar record shop of the same name, has put out less than 60 albums and singles, averaging out to about four releases annually.

But what Jackpot’s owner Isaac Slusarenko has chosen to put out is a remarkable mix of rarities (the early work of prolific avant-garde weirdo Jandek), new material from celebrated artists (Guided By Voices offshoot Boston Spaceships), and reissues of some of the most important albums of the past 50 years, like last year’s repressing of Gris-Gris, the first album from New Orleans legend Dr. John.

“The records that we release are the records that, as you develop more experience in music, eventually you will stumble across,” Slusarenko says. “That’s why we have such an interesting breadth of music from Etta James to Sun Ra to Wipers to Devo. We don’t just focus on one genre.”

By and large, the records that Jackpot has stamped its logo on resonate with Slusarenko personally. Either they have a direct connection, as with his long friendship and working relationship with Greg Sage of Wipers, or they are artists who have been impactful on his life. For example, one of this year’s Record Store Day releases was Multiplication Rock, the soundtrack to the animated TV series written by the late Bob Dorough. Slusarenko says he’s been listening to the original 1973 album since he was a kid and now plays it for his own son.

“He’s grown up with it and is really excited about it,” Slusarenko says. For fans of Northwest punk, rock history and record collecting, the label has “become something that touches a lot of different bases rather than just our standard customers who like rock music or jazz. It’s all over the board.” —Robert Ham

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