Ghostmeat's 14-year Affair With Athens Rock

Leila Regan-Porter, Performer Magazine, Mar. 2008

Ghostmeat and its founder Russ Hallauer, along with his previous band Sunbrain, might not be from Athens, but today the label and Hallauer are just as much a part of the Athens music scene as The 40 Watt Club or Kindercore.

"I brought up in a Navy family," says Hallauer. "I moved every three years of my life. We came here in '95, so I've been here longer than I've been anywhere. I definitely consider the label being from here though the whole label was started to promote Sunbrain, my old band, which was from Clemson."

This month the label celebrates its 14th anniversary, and though Hallauer hasn't made any plans to leave his day job selling advertising for Comcast, Ghostmeat has been growing in leaps and bounds, thanks to the cheapness that comes with the digital age.

"I've never made a living off of Ghostmeat and I never will," says Hallauer, who wants to keep it that way. "If I ever did need to make a living off of it, I would have to start doing things like a real record company."

To say Ghostmeat is a labor of love is an understatement. Hallauer started the label to right the wrongs he'd seen happen with his own band's label, and says he has never put out anything by an act that he wasn't friends with first. And another thing, there are no contracts. In true Athens style, everything is based on trust, friendship and community.

Which brings us to the AthFest compilations, which Ghostmeat has been releasing in conjunction with the festival since 1998.

The submission time is now over for this year's AthFest CD, so there's nothing to do but wait for June to see who will make the cut of the 300-odd acts who offered up music. From the closing date at the end of January until the press of the CD, much deliberation goes between Hallauer (who is himself vice president of the AthFest organization) and the AthFest board, especially organizers Jared Bailey, Troy Aubrey and Jeff Montgomery.

"It's a Ghostmeat release but it is owed by AthFest," says Hallauer, explain the process of the compilation. Though he always keeps the idea of diversity in mind, he tries to avoid "diversity for diversity's sake" and prefers to feature bands that are active in the Athens club scene, a theme that has lingered from days when AthFest was part of the Athens Downtown Development Authority.

As for the label's choices of releases, Hallauer tries to discourage folks from sending in demos to get signed, preferring an organic approach that stems from knowing the band and building a relationship first. Hallauer refuses to write up any contracts with bands, referring to the "co-op" nature of the label, which sees to a band's individual needs first and foremost.

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