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Listen up: Fresno Folklore Records
Here’s a research project for you. Start a list of your favorite local bands and musicians. Then, go back some. Do a bit of digging and try to come up with everyone who’s made an impact on Fresno’s music scene, big or small. There’s no rush. This is going to take awhile, and at the end, there will be plenty of guys who got left off, because the city has never been short on musical talent.
“Everyone thinks it’s elsewhere, but it’s here,” says Tom Walzem, who plays guitar in The Neptunes and does graphic and design work for Fresno Folklore Records, a nonprofit record label started by Steve Ono with a $6,000 grant from the Fresno Arts Council.
The city has a rich musical history — and a vibrant current scene — but no real cohesive identity, Walzem says. It’s something the label is seeking to change.
If starting a record company sounds a bit counter intuitive in the digital age, think of Fresno Folklore Records as a musicians incubator, a resource for locals looking to record and a clearing house of information on how to market the product once it’s done. Frank Giordano serves as the label's audio engineer for recordings, but also offers video production — multi-camera, high definition — as well as CD and DVD duplication and digital downloads, all on the cheap.
This won’t be some uber-production facility. The recording philosophy is documentarian. Just set up some mics and get to it. Overdubs are discouraged.
“We interested in getting a performance,” says Ono, who serves as the label's videographer and producer.
The label is also interested in locating, preserving and releasing existing performances through the The Central Valley Media Restoration Project. There are old tapes and vinyl, video and Super 8 concert footage just sitting around in someone’s garage. Ono knows this because he has more than a few himself. The label is looking to collect those, along with information and stories about the bands and musicians on them. Ono is currently working to restore the Atomic Antics Show, which was shot at the Wild Blue Yonder around 1986. It should be released on DVD in the next few months.
None of this is anything that people couldn’t do if they wanted to, Ono says. But for whatever reason, they don’t. In fact, the idea of Fresno Folklore Records came about because Ono was tired of going online to look at local videos and finding stuff that looked sub par. Or, not being able to find local videoa at all. Which is a shame, he says, with the talent pool Fresno has.
“This crew is God awful good,” he says. “These acts can go toe-to-toe with any acts on the planet.”