Although it’s rarely spoken about in the present day, the San Diego-based Gravity Records was a vital progenitor of the 1990s American musical underground. Across the label’s lengthy discography, Gravity ushered in a new era of hardcore punk that wasn’t afraid to experiment within the genres’ perimeters–a matchless quality courtesy of the labels’ proprietor (and producer for most of those LPs), Matt Anderson. He’d bounce random sounds and feedback in and out of mile-a-minute bands like Antioch Arrow and his own, the screamo pioneers Heroin, with incredible ease.

The packaging for these records were equally unique, adorned in silk-screened or hand-stenciled jackets with little info or band photos, a striking alternative to the bold graphics and tired images of clean-cut kids leaping through the air found on most hardcore releases at the time. In the years that followed–aka, the early 2000s–Anderson put out debut records from bands that went on to become giants in their genres: the Rapture, Black Dice, and Earthless. Today, he quietly continues to operate the label from his home, still averse to the current world of tacky promotional campaigns, multi-colored vinyl reissues, and the many superficial tactics these predatory labels utilize.

And yet, for whatever reason, Gravity Records is almost never mentioned when the music industry revisionists decide to pick at the corpse of the ‘90s underground year after year. In an effort to right this wrong, CREEM tracked down Matt Anderson to talk about the label, his legendary band Heroin, and the erasure (and then sudden interest) in ‘90s underground music history.

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CREEM: Hey Matt. Before we dive straight into the Gravity story, I’d love to hear about your introduction to punk.

MATT ANDERSON:
I was mainly into hardcore in the beginning and got an appreciation for punk later on. California has an enormous skateboarding culture and I got into it when I was pretty young, reading Thrasher magazine. I saw an issue where [professional skateboarder] Steve Caballero was wearing a Misfits shirt and I thought that looked pretty cool. From there,  I started to read [, [written by Brian “Pushead” Schroeder], and the interviews they would run with hardcore bands. I moved to Orange County and one day, I went into a record store and bought the [1986] Septic Death LP Now That I Have The Attention, What Do I Do With It? simply on the cover alone, even though I might have known it was Pushead’s band. Pretty soon, Septic Death became my favorite band. Then [my family] moved to San Diego and I met people in my high school who got me deeper into hardcore, like Scott Bartoloni, who was the guitar player in Heroin. He was a teenaged promoter in our town and he put on huge shows with Agnostic Front, RKL, and Justice League. He was the hardcore hero of our school. MDC, too, had a huge impact on me:  the veracity of that band struck a chord with me as a teenager. They had so much conviction and felt no forgiveness for what they said. That blew me away. I loved Septic Death, but MDC was what got me into the idea of hardcore.

When did you start playing in bands?

My first band was called F.O.E and it was me, Scott, and the first singer for Heroin, Chad Jackson. I originally was the drummer of Heroin, but Chad quit after two shows and I took over as singer. I was more into dark stuff like the Misfits, so I thought the name Foe was cool, but then I found out it stood for Freedom of Expression. We only played one show. Heroin started the summer I went into 12th grade, and it took awhile before we became a serious band. We practiced for almost a year and played a couple of parties. With bands, all of a sudden something takes and you go all in.

A collection of photos of Heroin performing in the 1990s.
A collection of Heroin photos that scream, "Hey, bro, do you even zine?"

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