The door is open: A conversation with Gubbey Records 
about the Head Cleaner compilation

For years now, Gubbey Records has done their part to document the scene in Louisville, often going to epic lengths to do so. In 2013, the label began the Head Cleaner series, a compilation that annually seeks to archive as much of the music from the city as possible. To put it in perspective, the first in the series had a total of 46 bands included, whereas the most current compilation clocks in at an impressive 188 bands, ranging from indie to metal to hip-hop to country and everything in between.

For label founder Dave Rucinski it was love at first sight.

“My sister was really into Louisville Music,” he says. “That’s really what got me involved. I was really young and prone to influence at the time. I wanted to see what else I could do. It just kind of fell on me … as I would help people, I just had a drive to help Louisville music. I’ve lived in a lot of different places, and none of those places really has the kind of scene that we have, and I was really shocked by that.”

After his first show  — Sunspring and Mule — Rucinski was hooked and decided to take it to the next level, first by playing in the bands Furlong and Prozac, and eventually by starting the label. There is a calming humility to Rucinski, as he remembers: “I have friends that had records that I wanted to put out, and so that’s kind of how it started. I had a little extra money, so I decided to put out records.”

The Gubbey staff is small and close.

“It’s three people,” Rucinski says. “My girlfriend helps — she’s a photographer and graphic designer. Another guy helps put all the text material together, all the information from the bands, the liner notes. I just take care of all the audio. It’s a DIY thing, not a paid thing.”

Fortunately, they’re up for the challenge of documenting the many and varied acts that percolate here in garages and basements. Once Head Cleaner became a reality, they had a lot of material to sort out. He admits, “We had a lot of people that were sending us music, and we couldn’t put it all out, so we just thought it would be a good idea to put it together all in one place. The first compilation was 46 bands on two tapes for Volumes 1 and 2. It’s tough, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of work, but it’s pretty gratifying to listen to all the bands and hear stuff that you’ve never heard of. People that were doing stuff in their basement that kind of blew your mind. We’re just a really small staff and there is a lot of music, so it takes up a lot of your time.”

There is a reason that the collection is so vast.

“I just wanted to be inclusive,” Rucinski says. “I don’t like … I’m not a huge fan of the whole exclusive deal. It’s great to be exclusive and hip and all that, but, if you’re really trying to document the Louisville scene, then you have to include everyone. I don’t like everything on the comp, but that’s not what we’re doing it for. We’re doing it to document a year or so of Louisville music. Yeah, if something was like seriously offensive, I mean, I’m not worried about someone saying like ‘fuck you’ or anything like that, but … I don’t think Screwdriver is going to make it.”

Rucinski is realistic about how his work will be received. As to the ceiling for the project and its future, he believes, “The door is open. Too big really doesn’t exist. I have unlimited hard drive space on our website. We just try to pack it in. We prepare enough time in advance that we can make it happen. I’m pretty aware that it’s never going to be listened to all the way through, but again, I think that the listener knows what they’re getting themselves into. The other thing is, people can take the tracks and make their own mix. Except for the tapes, and we try and curate what we think is the best mix for the tape.”

He’s incredibly eager to interact with bands new or old. “I would say about 75 percent of them I do,” Rucinski says. “The rest of them just kind of walk in. That’s how you meet new people too. How we put it in order was basically we take the material that we think is the strongest — which may not necessarily be the case and doesn’t have anything to do with your name — and we go to bands that we would really like to have, but we’ll also go to bands that I don’t even listen to and advertise and everything else.”

Like everything about the comp, the artwork is homegrown, created by Matt Humble

“He’s an old friend of mine,” Rucinski says. “He’s a local artist. He goes by the name Pop Culture Painter for Higher. He was in a band named The Amoeba and he was in a band called The Tallest. He’s done it all three years. He’s done a lot of our other stuff. It’s always Louisville focused. There is just something about the way that Matt paints that is different from a lot of other painters.”

Catch both release shows for the comp this Friday and Saturday at Modern Cult Records. Friday Bus Hus, The Cut Family Foundation and Cheyene Mize perform, and, on Saturday, Insect Policy, Satellite Twin and The Winger Brothers play.