The Eyes Behind: Stones Throw Records Interview
For going on twenty years, record fiends the world over have been snagging 7"s and 12"s from Stones Throw Records. Redefining itself at every turn, a laundry list of greats have like J Dilla, Mayer Hawthorne, Aloe Blacc, and even former interns Flying Lotus have called it home. More than just a record label; Stones Throw is a fully fledged cultural force.
Today, tucked away in the Highland Park neighborhood of Northeast Los Angeles, a new generation of Stones Throw staff are rewriting history. Haley Potiker and Matthew McQueen (who also releases music on the label as Matthewdavid via Leaving Records) do everything from A&R, events, publishing and merchandise design for the label. When asked what their titles were both laughed, with Potiker adding, "The Stones Throw way isn't to have titles. We don't even have them on our business cards!" We soon learned that Stones Throw isn't just a job, but an inspiring collective team with a singular goal.
We got the chance to chat with these two about working in "the dungeon"– a musical mecca encompassing everything in the label's history– to their "pinch me" moments in the industry and more.
Stones Throw Records Playlist
What first attracted you to Stones Throw? And how did you become involved with the label?
Matthew McQueen: As a fan of forward thinking, groundbreaking hip-hop and electronic music I was being introduced to West Coast underground music living and working in Tallahassee Florida. - specifically college radio and local hip-hop. I started working with Stones Throw when my experimental label imprint LEAVING RECORDS partnered up for production and distribution through the Stones Throw network. A dream for me.
Haley Potiker: Well in 2004 Madvillainy kinda took the world by storm and that was the first record from Stones Throw I was cognizant of, at 14 or 15… I loved it so much I bought it, but I didn't even have a turntable then so I just hung it on my wall. I hadn't heard of Stones Throw before that album… I had to go back and learn who Doom and Madlib were, and I discovered Quas after that and my head just kind of exploded… Actually, discovering the first Quas record and smoking weed for the first time kinda went hand in hand for me, so thanks Madlib. Then there was Dilla's Donuts, and in college I dated a guy who was a local DJ and was absolutely obsessed with J Dilla and would talk about him and Stones Throw at great length, so I learned some of the mythology of the label from him.
When I started interning here a few years ago, I was going to Occidental College down the street and applied to a bunch of different local indie labels, Stones Throw being the big "out of reach dream" one and also the only label to call me back. It was very serendipitous. So I went in for my interview all awestruck and rambling and gazing around at all the decor and memorabilia and stuff, and got the tour of the dungeon (which is what we call our warehouse) and I remember thinking "this is incredible, if they let me intern I'm going to prove that I should be hired and stay here forever digging deeper and deeper into this catalogue."
Image via Noisey
What's an average day like at Stones Throw?
MM: Busy, stimulating and rewarding. Lots of emails and coffee, helping out in the dungeon (what we call the shipping warehouse), managing deals and relations with artist, rolling in and out of the offices and on-site studio. Meetings in the board room and jamming to test pressings on vinyl and cassette. Lastly, listening to inspiring music old and new from everyone's collection in the office (Peanut Butter Wolf included!).
HP: My tasks are pretty varied. I spend a lot of time year round focused on our tours, showcases, record release parties, SXSW stuff. I book shows for some of our younger artists who don't have agents yet, and it's honestly one of my favorite things to help a new signee build a strong local profile and get a booking agent. I do our merchandise and direct wholesales now which is a lot of fun for me because I get to work with record shops all over the world. I do some "business development," which means working with brands who are into what we do and want to help us carry out our creative visions… There are other things too, but I don't know that anyone would really want to read about me chilling on the ASCAP backend for huge blocks of time.
Are there any artists on the label that you have playing on repeat?
MM: Silk Rhodes (forthcoming on Stones Throw), Brogan Bentley (LEAVING), and Mild High Club (forthcoming on Stones Throw).
HP: Silk Rhodes!!!!!!! I am so excited for the world to hear their project. Sasha has the voice of an angel, Mike's production perfectly compliments it, their live show is really shaping up into something special, and to top it off their first 7" single was released folded into a sheet of acid paper with the Silk Rhodes logo printed on it.
The Stones Throw catalogue runs deep. What are some of your favorites from the archives?
MM: The obvious ones that are everyone's favorites – Donuts and Madvillain!
HP: You can say that again. When I first started working here I came to the realization that I didn't know the half of how deep our catalogue runs. Here's a few faves from the earlier years, but it's definitely not a comprehensive list:
Yesterday's Quintet - Angles Without Edges
MED - Push Comes To Shove Jaylib - Champion Sound
How is Stones throw different now than it was 5 years ago? 10 years ago?
MM: 5 years ago - Theres a kitchen in the office! And soda stream! And a next-level bomb coffee maker! 10 years ago? Loads more ‘electronic' music releases from producers and composers.
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Have you found anything about running your own label to be surprising?
MM: Well yeah! Surprising we've garnered such a fanbase and liking to what we're attempting to accomplish w/genre non-specific curation. Surprising that through thick and thin the label perseveres to grow. Surprising that more-experienced veteran operations can acknowledge and respect our experimental approach to curation…
Have you had any "pinch me" moments working at stones throw?
MM: The first day on the job i wiped a tear from my eye overwhelmed with gratitude.
HP: A million. I'm just going to insert this photo of me, Madlib, and our Japan label manager Kota, drunk in a broom closet at Tumblr's SXSW party earlier in the year.