Sheiks of Industry

Austin record labels, part 2

Alex Walston
Alex Walston (Photo By Todd V. Wolfson)

Mortville: Rocky Road

Has it really been eight years since Austin's garage rock heyday, when the Motards, the Inhalants, and the Cryin' Out Louds were filling up dives around town? It was then that Motards bassist Toby Marsh joined up with Alex Walston, making Mortville Records the local garage punk stronghold it is today.

"Being from Austin and living here forever, I always felt it was wrong for bands to have to go elsewhere to put out a CD," muses Walston. "I approached Toby with some capital and the idea of trying to boost Mortville Records from a very obscure position to a more notable one in order to give Austin bands a legitimate place to turn to."

Fast-forward to 2003, and Mortville Records has built a formidable stable of Texas bands, including the Riverboat Gamblers, Teen Cool, Ignorance Park, and the Pink Swords. Named after the dismal village of outcasts in John Waters' gamy fairy tale Desperate Living, the label has landed distribution through Road to Ruin (servicing Europe and Japan), helps bands with booking, and works on radio airplay.

"Distribution is double what it was when I hooked up with the label, and radio is about 30 percent up, with Toby and I both putting in the manpower to massage those relationships," notes Walston.

Mortville remains fiercely committed to supporting regional acts. With an inbox full of out-of-state demos, Marsh and Walston politely decline, suggesting other labels.

A 2-year-old child keeps Walston at home more often these days, but the label keeps the flame going for bands that would never be able to effectively release, distribute, and promote their own albums.

Sheiks of Industry

"We do it because we love it," remarks Walston. "We're just now getting to the point of being self-supporting."

The local rock terrain is quite different than it was in '94, with twice the number of bands and a revolving door of venues. In some ways, it's more of an uphill battle than ever for punk rock in Austin, but labels like Mortville and guys like Marsh and Walston help level the playing field.

Established: 1994

Kingpins: Toby Marsh and Alex Walston

Notable Releases: Motards, Stardom; Pink Swords, One Night High

New & Upcoming: Full-lengths from Gun Crazy and Kickz

Average Print Run: 1,000

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