When LA's Jeff Gauthier talked to local independent record labels about starting a label, veteran Nine Winds CEO Vinny Golia kept his advice simple: don't do it. Asked about it in 2005 Golia maintains, "I think that's very sound advice," he says laughing. "If somebody would have told me that I would have thought about not doing it. At the time I did it there weren't as many options. There weren't the labels or the opportunities that there are now for people to record. It seemed like recording meant a little more at that time. It's not just about documenting. People made it something special, they really chose people that they wanted to play with. It wasn't like, 'Oh, I met this person, I'm going to play with this guy now.' It's a little different now, I think. The first album I did with John, and Alex, and Roberto, I mean, that was a special thing. I thought about it and thought about it. Having John there made me play way over my head. Now it seems people put people together on name value sometimes. It's just a different approach. If I was starting out now, I think I'd just try to hawk it to somebody else."
Because he put it out himself, Golia launched a project that has been recording West Coast musical history since 1977. "The one thing that John [Carter] always impressed on me, he remembered one point where he and Bob [Bradford] had this group happening in the '70s and they didn't document any of their music. They were kinda waiting for someone else to do it. And so there's a whole period of music they didn't document and it's lost. It wasn't like it is now where people have mini-discs. There weren't even horrible cassette recorders. That was a sad thing. That was his biggest regret, not moving to New York or any of that stuff, but not documenting the band.
"I just wanted to get my foot in the door. I didn't really think it would go in the direction it went. I was just thinking I'd put out one record a year. By the time the third or fourth record came out I started seeing other people who I thought deserved documentation also. The first guy I recorded was Nels [Cline]. That was the first one that didn't have anything to do with me. Then, it was off to the races.
"The way the label is set up is mainly to record people from the West Coast, and people who don't really have a chance. Their music is maybe left of center, and it's definitely involved with jazz, or improvised music, or creative music of some sort that doesn't fit the mainstream. Now it's expanded to people who have a close involvement with people who are on the label."
Not surprisingly, Golia set high goals for all aspects of the label including manufacturing. "Alex's solo record is a double record and there's 30 minutes to a side on one cut," he explained. "And I have some on my own records that are 30 minutes, 28 something. That was pretty ground breaking, with good fidelity, back in those days, making sure the record was on center. We used to really test the limits. Remember, after a 29 minute cut Alex ends one of his things on his solo record with a Tibetan singing bowl, where he's rubbing it and the pitch has to be accurate. So, we really tested the abilities of a lot of stuff. As a matter of fact, his record was used as a test for lathes. John Golden at K-Disc would use it as test for certain electronic equipment. A lot of the things the label did were ground breaking starting out."
Does he envision reissuing older recordings? "No, not really. I don't like listening to them. For some of the other guys maybe they would want to do that. I know Alex [Cline] has always wanted to get one or two things, like the first like the first record with John [Carter] re-released, with some extra stuff on there. The first Large Ensemble concert, and material that didn't make it on the three record set, there's things like that. Some string quartet music. Jeff Gauthier's talked about a box set on his label [Cryptogramophone], but we'll see if that actually happens or not.
"I came to playing very late, and I'm just learning how to play. I'm better than I was. You got to face the facts. I don't know if the world really needs that. Maybe when my hearing goes out or something like that, I won't feel so bad about it.
"But, we do have some stuff coming out that is historically important. There's a DVD coming out of the Large Ensemble, a concert we did for our 20th anniversary. I didn't know there was footage shot. They used three cameras, well two and a half. They forgot to turn one of the cameras on until about half way into the concert. There's rehearsal footage, Jeremy Drake interviewed people, myself included, about the Large Ensemble and the scene in Los Angeles, and there's also some slides. So, it's pretty cool. Kim Richmond, Bruce Fowler. Sara Schoenbeck, Eric Sbar. Erik Barber. Jeff Kaiser, Alex Cline, Vlatkovich, and Wayne Peet, they talk about the band from the beginning and how it is now.