Heart of Steel: Interviews

Industry Profile - Fastlane Records Shawn C. Lane

Up and Coming Label on the Rise

Interview By Keith McDonald

Every time I look around I see another melodic hard rock label pop up. As the major labels have swamped the market with carp/metal and hip-hop and boy bands, true hard rock fans have been forced to turn to the smaller indie labels. Labels that are willing to take chances on bands that are not interested in the “flavor of the month” style and deliver music that has no chance of getting picked up a major and played on radio. Thank God for labels like Fastlane Records that follow their hearts and do what they feel most comfortable doing. With artists like The Erotics and former Shotgun Messiah singer Zinny J. Zan, Fastlane Records are getting ready to make a name for themselves in the melodic hard rock community. I had the opportunity to speak with Shawn C. Lane, President/CEO of FastLane Records. You can check out their website at www.fastlanerecords.com.


How did you get started in the music business?

Back in the early/mid 80's I was heavily into the 'underground' scene that was starting to evolve from the likes of Lizzy Borden, Manowar, Twisted Sister, etc. and from there I started to write for numerous local magazines. I progressed and starting contributing to the likes of larger magazines such as Kerrang and Metal Forces. After the hard rock/metal scene started to dwindle around '91 I decided to venture out and start my own management company. From there I decided I didn't want to manage but wanted to start my own independent record label that would rival a look and sound of a major, but with a indie budget.


How did Fastlane Records start?

It actually, came into fruition in 1993 when I helped put together a metal/Glam band by the name of Erotic Suicide. That was the very first record released on FastLane Records (FLR). The record was released with critical acclaim and did very well in the states as well as Europe and abroad. MTV Europe dubbed them "Americas brightest hope" of 1994.


Who handles the distribution for your label? Is it getting easier or harder to get your CDs into stores?

Our distribution is handled by a few companies here in the U.S. and in Europe by some of the biggest distribution companies there such as Cargo U.K. and Frontiers Records. But as always, it will be a constant struggle to get indie products into the major chains. We have been lucky enough to get our releases in some of the Virgin mega-stores and some other well-known chains. To answer your question if it's easier or harder I would say it's a double edge sword of sorts. I think it comes down to who you know, but most of all your product strength. We are currently working on a program were calling "IRG" (Independent Recording Group) which entails FastLane Records and another indie label, Chavis Records, to get other quality indie labels together and network a data base from bookings to merchandise, to try and break the monopoly the majors have on the music industry.


Who is currently on your roster?

Currently, we have released The Erotics "21st Century S.O.B." which is probably, in my opinion the biggest indie sleeper of the year. It has everything Rock'n'Roll is about, debauchery, reckless abandon and just 'plug-in-and play amped up kaos! great hard rock gutter/Glam to satisfy the most fickle rock critic. They will be also featured in a few movie soundtracks coming up in the summer, and will be playing the Cruefest 2002 in June at the Whiskey. We have also released The Bang Gang "Vanity Kills" which would have been their second record for MCA/Mechanic before the dreaded 'grunge' invasion hit and they were dropped. We have April releases from ex-Shotgun Messiah frontman Zinny J. Zan and his solo record "City Boy Blues" which is a great blend of hard rock/metal, melodic rock to satisfy the most fickle critic. Then there’s Needle Park that houses Craig Bradford and Adam Hamilton (now in L.A. Guns). Both were from Joey C. Jones And The Gloryhounds band from the early 90's. It features bonus tracks with Enuff'Z'Nuff's Donnie Vie on lead vocals as well as Yogi from Buckcherry making an appearance.


How important is it for your bands to tour? Is it possible to finance all your artist's tours?

It's very important to tour and support the release but on the other hand the Internet has made the legwork a lot easier. We have also been lucky enough to obtain sponsorship from Jagermeister which helps get better quality gigs/bookings.


How important is the back catalog for the label's growth?

Very. We will always make available the back catalog of all artists. A lot of collectors and late bloomers sometimes don't get turned onto a new band until their 2cd or 3rd record. By then a lot of them are out of print and non-available.


Do you sign all genres of music?

We mostly have dealt with and signed rock/metal/melodic artist with an image. We think you should have a visual as well as the audio but make no mistake it all comes down to 'talent'. We think Rock'n'Roll should be a spectacle with showmanship and are currently accepting demos.


How do you hear about new artists? Where do you usually find them?

The best source would be the numerous unsigned artists pages scattered all over the internet, but word of mouth still holds up when you come down to it. We’re always looking for the next wave of talent.


Do you sell many CDs through your website? How much does the website help advance the label?

Sales are brisk on the website and is set up for the convenience of the first time surfer who surfs across the site for the first time and likes what they see and want to buy on the spot this makes it easier for the consumer. Yes, the website also helps the label in many ways. The consumer can check out all the artist’s pages that are chalked full of bios, and MP3's so they can give it a listen while their reading their bio.


What advise do you have for an unsigned artists?

Never sell-out! I can't stress this enough. Stay true to what you are and never let no one tell you different. Never give in to the flavor of the week or the political stances. You can run...but you can't run from your roots.


What's the future for Fastlane Records?

The future is to get into as many markets as possible and give the people the best music possible and to let them know they have a choice in their music. I hope we can be that choice and get good mark on our merits alone!... www.fastlanerecords.com.

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