A couple weeks ago I sat down with Bill Ocean, head honcho over at The Minimal Beat. We went to Big Star and had some tacos while we talked about the projects he keeps himself busy with over on his site. I’ve been a fan of his stuff for a while, and I’m actually surprised you’re here reading this because you should be over on The Minimal Beat checking out the music they’re into and buying the records they’ve put out over the years.
We talked about more stuff than what I transcribed here, but I think this gives you a good idea of what he’s all about.
I think a lot of people don’t know exactly what The Minimal Beat is. Is it a record label? A blog?
It’s pretty simple. The Minimal Beat is a website, it’s a label, and it’s a weekly radio show. It’s those three things. When I first started, a little over six years ago is when I first started it, I had a slot on 88.7 WLUW. I had a show there before the show I do now, it was a local show, four hours. Chicago music comes in waves, I think. Just being around it for so long, there are really good times and some bad times. I just couldn’t handle playing only local stuff. It was a four-hour show, and some of the stuff we played was pretty bad…Then the station manager had some open slots and asked if anyone wanted to try new shows and I was like “I do!” For the summer I just kinda did my thing there, not expecting to do it this long, and it just took off from there.
I had a friend, and I was like “Hey man, I don’t think I’m gonna be able to do this all by myself if you wanna kinda help out and do the show with me.” And then we got a couple more people involved, we started doing the show and people were like, “How can we listen to the show?”
So we built a website to archive our shows. And we also started posting music that I was in to and the people involved were in to. That’s how all that started. I always wanted a website and a place to archive shows. And about six years ago it became a lot easier to do it because the internet was evolving-there were places to upload a podcast and you wouldn’t get marked for using songs that you didn’t own, because that was a big problem back in the day, if I remember correctly.
So we did that, and I always wanted to start a record label. All my friends were in bands, my brother was in a bunch of bands. But what I didn’t like was the money part of it. It costs SO much money. A label can put $15,000 into a release and go bankrupt because no one buys it or the band breaks up. So, I just started it really small. From the very beginning I knew it would be a website, a radio show, and the label part of it is TMB, Ltd.
So when you started out that was your vision for it?
That was my vision for it I guess, but honestly I didn’t think it would get to where it got. I was just busy-I was working 40 hours a week, too. The radio part was once a week so that was easy to do. The blog part was the harder part, because it’s a struggle to get people to write stuff. And the show has changed, man. I get into different kinds of music, other people get into other kinds of music. We’re not a genre-based site, it’s just whatever we like. That’s kinda what it’s turned into, and I think that’s a good thing. The whole point wasn’t about making any money, it was just to share stuff that I like.
And then the label part started…what is this 2017? So we’ve been doing it since about 2011 and didn’t put anything out on the label until 2014 because I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen.
And then that just happened because I had some friends recording, and I was like “What are you guys gonna do with this stuff?” and they didn’t have an answer. They finished recording and sat on it for about a year. They had other projects going on, the singer is an actor and he was in some stuff. And, I think about 11 months later they got together and did a west coast tour. I just happened to be in LA when they were going to be out there, so I hopped in their van and followed them up the coast. So I said “What happened with the stuff you guys recorded?” and they still didn’t have an answer. So I said, “Well you guys are doing a tour, you don’t have any merch, no one knows anything about you, let’s release something.” I wanted to start a label so I said “Let’s release something. Let’s do a 7”, pick two songs.” And they agreed. That’s how easy that was.
When we put that 7” out, we did it very DIY-didn’t want to spend a lot of money. We didn’t have any budget. We pressed it, we said this is what it costs and this is what we’ll sell it for. What helped, with that first release, is that the singer was on the show “Gossip Girl.”
Oh, you’re talking about Mothxr?
Yeah our first release was with Mothxr. Penn Badgely. And he had all these followers, so we sold out of the first press really quickly. We did another press and sold out of those, too. It was amazing! That’s how the label started. So I just kept it going. I think the year after we did two releases. It was never intended to be a label, more like a record club. It’s becoming more of a label because we just released our first full-length from Willis Earl Beal (Turn).
We don’t really make any money. We sell it for just enough that we can put out the next record.
We’re getting ready to release another record this fall, from Lucille Furs. It’s gonna be a cassette release and we’re working on a vinyl release, too.
When I first started this back in 2011, I was like “I’ll do it, it will be cool.” A year later I was like “I’m only gonna do this for five years.” Five years came and went and I’m still doing it. I feel like things get old. Been there, done that. So I don’t know how much longer I’ll be doing this, you know. It’s still up there, it’s still available. I don’t really spend as much time as I used to on it, because there’s people to help out. Hopefully people enjoy it and buy the records.
TMB, Ltd’s most recent release, Belmont and Clark’s “Charm School,” is available digitally or on Cassette. You can find that single, and all the music the label has put out, here.