en years and over 80 releases after its start, Facedown Records (and its sub-label Strike First) is the prime force in Christian hardcore punk and metal today. Yes, such music exists, as do markets for it. Facedown is a big reason why, acting as both distributor and label, and signing the genre's elite. The quality of A&R is shockingly consistent. From emo-core to death/grind to traditional hardcore punk, Facedown artists deliver tight, hard-hitting albums, with production and artwork to match. Label head Jason Dunn shed some light on Facedown's history and ethos.
What made you get into the business side of music?
When I was 17, I joined a hardcore band called No Innocent Victim. We toured solidly for a couple of years. During that time, I took over the band's mailorder stuff (no webstores back then!) and expanded it to also include distributed CD's, records, and tapes from bands that we would meet with on tour. I named it Facedown Distribution, and eventually it ended up becoming a label as well. I realized that I would not be able to play drums and tour forever, so I wanted to do something involved with music. I had no plans of going to college, so I just worked day jobs when I wasn't on the road and did the label at night. After a few years, it was able to fund itself and eventually I could do the label full time.
When you started Facedown Records, what was the Christian hardcore punk/metal scene like?
It was much more underground than it is today. The reason I started Facedown was so that Christian bands could have an outlet and get the opportunity to put out a record on a label. My band had been turned down from a couple of labels because of our beliefs, so I decided I would start a label that would work at giving Christian bands the opportunity that they deserved.
What's the scene like now?
It's crazy to look back over the last 10 years and see what it has become. The hardcore and metal scenes have grown so much, and Christian bands have grown right alongside of it. It's great to see bands like Underoath headlining Warped Tour, As I Lay Dying headlining Sounds of the Underground, and bands like Norma Jean on Ozzfest. Like I said, it’s just the genre as a whole, and it’s great to see so many kids getting into heavier music.
Hardcore punk isn't traditionally associated with being Christian. How do these relate?
As far as the hardcore scene goes, there will always be people that disagree with Christian beliefs, but all in all I think it's a great scene for people to be able to stand up for what they believe in. And although you might not agree with everyone, there can be a mutual respect for each other as human beings. True Christianity like Jesus portrayed in the Bible is pretty intense and extreme. He lived a bold lifestyle and did not sway from his purpose under pressure of the times. I think that alone fits in very nicely with what hardcore was supposed to be founded on.
Is there a divide between Christian hardcore punkers and Christian metallers?
Sure, I know plenty of punk rockers that don't like metal and then some that do - Christian or not, no difference, really. Some people just like their set kind of music.
What do you look for in a band?
I look for bands that are comprised of strong musicians that can write good songs and have a very strong work ethic. Bands that can play night after night on the road and stand up to anyone that they might be touring with.
Does a band have to be Christian to be on Facedown?
I started Facedown to be an outlet for Christian-based bands. Even though Christian-based bands have gained more acceptance in the last 10 years, it has not changed why I started what I did. If I did change now, I would be compromising on what I started.
There's "we're a Christian band," and there's "we're Christians in a band." Any thoughts on this?
Honestly, not really. To each their own. I don't think it should be a big deal. The word Christian means follower of Christ. So if people are following Christ, then no matter what they are doing, they'll be doing it in honor of Him, and they'll want people to see a difference in their lives. I know some bands want to avoid the label for marketing reasons, and I can understand and respect that. I don't think Christianity should be used as a marketing label to sell music, T-shirts, coffee mugs, towels, or anything else!
What kind of relationship does Facedown have with outlets of more mainstream contemporary Christian rock?
We really don't. We don't really have much distribution into Christian stores or a relationship with many Christian magazines. That's never been our focus as a label. We've always strived to have our bands right alongside all of the other hardcore, metal, rock, and punk bands out there. 95% of our music is sold in regular music stores, and the majority of our bands do club tours. It's not that we're against doing Christian tours or being sold in Christian bookstores, but that has just never really been our focus.
How many employees does Facedown have now?
There are currently 6 people on staff at the label. I handle A&R, distribution, sales, marketing, and a dozen other things. Virginia also does sales and all of the label's accounting. Shannon handles our publicity, Bill is in charge of digital sales and marketing, Dave is our art director, and Chris does screen printing. It's a great size for the label, and everyone is very involved with everyone else.
To what do you attribute Facedown's success?
This label has seen some really good times and some really tough times. I am very thankful that we have been around for 10 years, and I must give the credit to God for blessing us along the way. Sure, we work hard at what we do, but we're just using the abilities and minds that we have been given. Our bands have worked like crazy over the years, and it's just been a great ride with them.
Comeback Kid - Turn It Around
A classic record that is still a top-selling album for us. It came out when we didn't even have solid distribution, and it just connected with kids and sold like crazy. Still to this day one of the best live bands this label has ever seen. I still get goose bumps when I see these guys play live and hundreds of kids singing along to every word!
Symphony in Peril - The Whore's Trophy
This was a very fun album to work on. Asterik Design Studio did the artwork, and it came out great. Although the little bit of Christian distribution that we had was completely pulled for this album (because it says "Whore" in the title, never mind that it's a Biblical theme!), this was still a very big record for us. To this date, it was our strongest 1st week selling record and was also our first appearance on the Billboard indie charts. When that happened, we (Facedown staff) all took the day off and went sledding in the mountains!
War of Ages - Pride of the Wicked
These guys are killing it for us right now and this album came out incredible, from artwork to production and songwriting. These guys tour more than anyone I know out there, and all of the hard work is definitely starting to pay off for them. This is a band that is a pleasure to work with.