ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: DEBORAH BROSSEAU IN OCT 27TH 2015 (for MELROSEAVELA.COM)
For people that remember Melrose Avenue in the 1980s and 1990s, Headline Records is a capture of that time when mohawked punkers with spiked wristbands were the in-crowd. For those that don’t remember, the shop is easily the best place in Los Angeles to find punk, garage, ska, and hardcore music and gear. But everyone knows the French guy that is holding the torch for old-school music retail in his legendary Melrose Avenue record store.
Jean-Luc (John) Gaudry was a young man managing a grocery store in France, and approaching his 30s with a mission. “I started to work at 15 years old, and around 30 I wanted to do something very extreme. Music was my passion for a long time, so I decided why not try to live my passion, a record store, and why not in L.A., the capital of punk rock?” he recalls. “I have only one life, let’s do it!”
From years of ordering vinyl, tapes, and ‘zines through the mail from all over the world (yes kids, that’s how we did it back then), John had forged relationships with players in the scene. He also vacationed in Los Angeles in the ‘80s almost every year. “I came out with the guy who introduced me to punk rock. Every day was the same: go to the beach, shower, eat, buy vinyl, see shows. We would sleep in the car around Melrose.” At the time, body piercing, tattoos, blue hair, and Black Flag were the focus of an Afterschool Special, and Melrose was the destination for those fringe lifestyles. “It was a vibrant street. I was told, ‘If you cannot find it in L.A., it doesn’t exist. Especially on Melrose.’”
After a year of planning and paperwork while still in France and without the convenience of the internet, John moved to Los Angeles and opened his first record store in 1995. Sadly, it was in a less-than-viable location on Westwood and Pico. By 1999, he was about to cash out when his friend Dan Clements (from Brooklyn Projects on Melrose) suggested selling records from the back room of the skate shop. “He told me I have to come to Melrose. It’s the only place for this type of store to survive.” There was a sign outside and people had to walk through BP to get to Headline, but in three months, he was making money.
Soon after, Headline moved into a bigger space next door, and John
partnered with another friend, Dave Naze of Chaser Merchandising, a t-shirt printer who was servicing the biggest names in punk like Black Flag, SST, and Face to Face. Headline was now stocking the Chaser tees and fulfilling orders for music and merch all over the world.
Headline, by virtue of John’s love of the music and connections in what is a truly relationship-driven business, became a valuable resource to the music community in Southern California. John is in-the-know, and if you want it, he can get it. “With punk rock, you’re still not necessarily working with big record companies; it’s often with people living their passion out of the basement. It can be difficult to get stock, so you have to know who you’re working with.”
The space was big enough to host concerts, and as a dedicated supporter of local acts, John was providing a stage for up-and-comers. “I’m transferring the VHS tapes to DVD-R. People were crazy at those shows! Diving, bloody noses…” In nine years, Headline produced nearly 500 shows.
Though the space Headline moved to in 2007 can’t double as a live music venue, nothing much else has changed. “You have to be good at what you do,” said John, so while some retail finds itself having to broadly diversify, Headline remains genre-specific. “I know a lot about hardcore. I find out about bands every day, and it’s great! I like other genres, like rockabilly and black metal, but I don’t know it so it’s really hard for me to order stuff.” His deep knowledge of the genre also keeps Headline a place of discovery for customers.
In addition to CDs and DVDs, you can find the requisite patches, buttons, posters, stickers, and other collectibles. Vinyl still has its special place (“You have to take care of it; it’s not like a disposable product.”). In its continued support of indie bands, Headline sells tickets to local punk and hardcore shows at the store.
John is also dedicated to giving back. In addition to collecting donations for the Red Cross, he raised funds for a child with cancer through The Young & Brave. For this, and many other reasons, Headline Records earned the 2015 Best Businesses of Los Angeles Award for Music and DVDs.
On November 13, 2015, Lethal Amounts gallery (1226 W. 7th Street) will host an exhibit of Headline Records concert flyers to celebrate the store’s 20th anniversary.
Interview from Mike - Strangereaction.com
If you like punk, and you live in L.A., Headline Records is the place to go to. When I have friends from out of town, I make a point to drive down to Melrose. Jean-Luc has seen the scene grow from an international standpoint. And if you have a chance, listen to him talk. Like with Curtis from TAANG, when I’m in Headline, I’m just a student in this punk game.
1. When did you start Headline Records, and what gave you the idea to start a punk label?
From the beginning in 1995 , Headline did a lot shows at the store. I saw a lot amazing local bands, but at that time I didn’t realize how easy it was to do a single… during one of the shows at the store, I met Billy Bones (the Skulls) and decided to do the Skulls single. The process was so easy; I decided to start a label.
2. Where did you get the money to start Headline Records (the label)?
I started Headline with my saving + a little loan. To open a store like headline you need at least $40.000. And trust me, $40.000 is not a lot of inventory!!! It takes a few years to build it. The label was running with the store money. It’s was fun to put out singles from bands you like. It was a great experience. Now the label is down (recession!!), but one day it’s gonna come back.
3. How old were you at the time?
I started Headline when I was 30 years old.
4. Tell us a bit about your time as a DJ in Orleans, France.
I started when I was 19/20 years old. I was a very, very bad DJ … but it was fun. The studio was located in the campus (at that time, I was working full time in a supermarket as a decorator.. my hour was 6am to 7:30am). The studio was super small (like a shoe box), and the transmitter was on the toilet water balloon. After a few month, the radio station moved from the campus to a better location, with a better coverage etc.. it’s at this time, I start to play little bet of punk, and RnR etc.. stuff you don’t really ear on the radio. After a few years I got kick out because I refused to play the play list !! I don’t thing it was a big lost for the radio .. Even after a few years experience, I still was a bad DJ !!! but I fucking loved it.
5. When did you start your online/mail order business?
In 1996. at first it was very simple: just a list of stuff I have in the store.. no shopping card. Don’t forget in 1996, the web was not as popular than now. Everything was expensive. I learned HTML, I did some pages on the website. Actuallyheadlinerecords.com should have a new website this week or next. Check it out
6. Do you remember when you realized that punk was going to be a part of your life forever?
I think, when I started to listen more heavy music, or music who give me a reaction, I really realize the full “power” of the music. I can’t come back and say: punk rock is over…no way! The music is a part of your body and thinking, and you react with it. Put a AC/DC in your car, turn it up and drive !!! Trust me, after a few miles, if you are careful, you are driving 80 miles / hour and you are binging your fucking head like a mad man !!!! Event to this days, I’m still amaze about some of the bands .. old , new… some of them still kicking my balls!!!
7. Do you own the publishing rights for the Headline recordings?
No. it just for fun and help the local bands.
8. What is Headline Records’ biggest seller?
It’s really difficult to say because I have a lot genre of music. Classic punk always sells (Black Flag, Circle Jerks, bad Religion etc) .. and the UK stuff of course. The business changed a lot the last few years. Before I could tell you the 10 best bands of the year. Now, it’s almost impossible, because you don’t have “volume” anymore.
9. Are you amazed that over 20 years later, people are still buying these records?
Not at all. Punk music is part of the American history. Each country has his scene, his bands etc.. Punk rock is everywhere, but with a different form. 30 years ago you had the Mohawk in England, now you have piercings, tattoos .. it’s just different time. The big difference, the “mean stream” took over .. for the good and the bad. I don’t really care is it’s good or bad. What I see : be yourself and respect each other … not really pure punk rock, but I think it’s a very important to have some “direction” in your life.
10. Where did you get the name Headline from anyway?
Actually, after the radio station kicked me out, a year later, I worked in a different radio station and started to organize shows, in my little town (Montargis, near Orleans). I picked “headline” because I liked the sound, easy to remember. I used that name for all the shows I organized and the radio show. And I got kicked out again, found a new radio station who was crazy enough to let me play everything I wanted. During 2 years, I played only punk. It was really fun, until I got pissed off and quit.
11. Of the 500 plus shows you’ve held at your shop, which was your favorite?
It’s very difficult to say … each shows were different. Some of them were really big (Adicts, Zeke, Downset, Woflpack .. and the list is not short!!) , some were a nightmare (fights outside, drunks, broken widows etc.) some were very funny as hell (band member naked in the store .. sometime in the street .. big battle of toys.. fake blood all over the store with “Mad” – the late 70 New York Band). I loved to do shows at the store. It was a lot of work (we were closing the store at midnight .. and sometimes 1am / 2am !!!! – back to work the next day at 8am to clean up the store, was little bit difficult sometimes !!! I just miss the all interaction between the band and the fan. At the club is just different. At the store, it was more intimate. It was great. I really miss it.
12. What was your first exposure to punk rock?
A good friend of mine, introduced me to Angry Samoans. I was listening stuff like: Thunders, MC5, Patti Smith etc.. and all the 70’s bands Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin etc.. Angry Samoans was really the band who introduced me to all the heavier stuff: Black Flag, Minor Threat etc.. don’t ask me how come I didn’t know about those major bands. I don’t know. I think, I didn’t meet the right person at that time who liked Hardcore. In France, Punk rock wasn’t really big. It was a very small “community”. Everybody knew each other and we always saw the same faces in each concert. But trust me, after I heard the Angry Samoans, it didn’t take me a long to catch up with the hardcore stuff !!!
13. What’s the last item that came through your shop that blew your mind as a fan, the one item that you couldn’t believe you were looking at?
If you’re talking about old bands who did something new: Cock Sparrer – the last album is Amazing. Reissue … I’m still amazed about: the Testors, Pure Hell, Nikki and the Corvette (all late 70’s new York band) .. you have so many .. and I don’t want to start with European Punk: Ultimo Resorte (Spain) , the Kids (Belgium) .. New Bands: Vicious (Sweden), Dean Dirg (Germany), Frustration (FR), Fallujah 71 (US). I’m telling you , you still have amazing bands all over. To find them is more difficult because of the net. You have too many choices now.
14. Aside from the vinyl by The Skulls, do you have anything else in the works?
Headline did 12 releases. The Skulls was the first, and Deprived CD/LP was the last one. With the economy, unfortunately I stopped … but Headline, the store is still alive. I’m just focusing on the store. The label is more a side project, to have fun, and help the bands you love.
15. If you could go back in time and release any one punk record, what would it be?
So many … MC5 … I’m really interesting about the “idea” behind it. Especially in the 60’s .. it was a time where you could change the world !!! globalization was just starting.
16. You organized shows in France as far back as 1992, what was your best show in France?
All the shows in France were very different than the US shows. First. totally different crowd. Second, my English back then was not very good. To communicate with the bands, was a challenge … especially after they drink a few bottles of wine !!!! But they were very good shows: Jawbreaker, Didjits, Devil Dogs .. and almost done Green Day … it was ready too book them , but in the last minute, the all tour was cancel (broken leg, or something like that). But Devil Dogs was KILLER !!!
17. Do you have any interesting stories you’d like to share?
So many.. Especially during those shows … I think the funniest show I did was with this band from L.A : kungfu chicken. Musically: Horrible band (I really didn’t like the music) .. but live they were fucking funny. They play one time, outside the store .. wearing bunny heads, and throwing toys to the cars driving by .. drivers were honking … CRAZYNESS ON MELROSE !! I was behind the counter laughing my ass off !! after 10 minutes , they took all they instrument, and left. Of course a few later, the cops arrive .. what the fuck .. what happen … all the toys were all over the street , curbs .. EVERYWHERE. Very funny !!!
18. Which artist, band concert and/or show had the most impact on your life?
Difficult to say … I saw a lot bands .. But one really stand up: MC5. Unfortunately, nobody care about them. I like the attitude, and what they wanted to do. Not for themselves but as a community. The approach was totally different in 1964: make music, and at the same time, TRY TO CHANGE THE SOCIETY through the music you wrote. Of course a lot of bands wrote amazing stuff. But how many took their music, and try to put it in the different level… not a lot bands did that. If you want to see a really good documentary about the MC5, just check this out: A True Testimonial DVD. You’ll understand what I’m talking about. Angry Samoans, Minor Threat .. all the big names.