In honor of Independence Day, KEXP is saluting some of our favorite indie record labels whose DIY-spirit helped revolutionize the music industry. As an independent radio station ourselves, KEXP is thrilled to give a 13-gun salute to these pioneers with a series of label spotlights through the Fourth of July.
SST Records is arguably the most important independent label from the 1980’s not only because of their legendary early catalog, featuring band like Black Flag, Husker Dü, and Minutemen, but because of their influential and founding role in the hardcore punk scene. SST was the result of a strong DIY work ethic that made starting a new, independent label the obvious alternative when no one would release Greg Ginn and his friends were making. Named after the radio component company he started at age 12, Ginn founded SST in 1978 in Southern California as a way to release what would become the Nervous Breakdown EP, the first release from his band Black Flag. SST continued to release albums from Black Flag and groups like Minutemen and Meat Puppets throughout the early 80’s, releasing Husker Dü’s magnum opus New Day Rising in 1985. Following the death of Minutemen frontman D. Boon and the break-up of Black Flag, the label signed a new wave of alternative music, including groups like Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., and Bad Brains. SST eventually faded into the background as bands left for other, more successful labels, and as Ginn began releasing an incredible amount of sub-par bands, diluting the prestige of the once-prolific label. Regardless of its more recent reputation, SST will forever be remembered in music history not only as a vehicle that helped propel the hardcore punk movement, but as an integral part of it. Check out these songs from some of the label’s greatest releases below: