Taking Action, One Tour at a Time: an Interview with Louis Posen

In celebration of the recent Take Action Tour lineup announcement (Every Time I Die and more!) I thought I’d give this piece the light of day since it got denied from publication by oversensitive execs because of its content. Right, like you’d want to discuss things like teen suicide on a teen music website? Its like telling teens not to have sex instead of teaching them about safe sex and other fascinating American idioms. Louis is a great person and a wonderful friend and Reese is an amazing advocate. As I get older I find myself more intrigued by what tours like this mean than the actual band lineup.

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take action tourPunk rock has always been about community, in the sense that it’s usually you or your friends on the stage playing music and having a good time. That’s what has made the underground music scene attractive to yours truly-accessibility and the possibility of being a contributing participant. Punk and Indie rock and hardcore are merely genre’s that create a foundation for disaffected youth, or rather disenfranchised youth. The ideology put forth by bands like Fugazi, Black Flag, The Minute Men, The Dead Kennedy’s, Husker Du and countless others states that all involved are part of the same club which isn’t exclusive except that the members may be excluded from other societal cliques. The fantastic aspect of a community based on a need to connect is that the common connection happens to be music, a universal language where fluency is indicative of passion and entertainment.

Louis Posen, President and Founder of Hopeless Records started his label by releasing his record on a Friday (records are released on Tuesday’s and rarely in December) and according to Louis, he’s spent, “the past ten years trying to get things right.”

The first seven-inch released on Hopeless was Guttermouth’s 11oz., and the label was named after the song “Hopeless.” Louis started the label in 1993 after reading, “How to Start an Independent Record Label,” from which he derived the know how to release a 7″ record. Now, ten years later Hopeless has grown in more ways than one, with bands like Melee, Mustard Plug, Thrice, Samiam, Avenged Sevenfold and several other punk rock royalists. Hopeless has become a beacon for West Coast independence and punk rock music. Like Chicago’s Touch and Go, or D.C.’s Dischord, Hopeless is more than just a label pushing bands; it’s pushing a positive message of community and charity.

One of the interesting things about Louis Posen is that he is going blind, due to a degenerative retinal disorder; his vision will be completely gone in the next several years. Though such a crippling disease would have an adverse affect on most people, Louis turned what could have been debilitating into inspiration and made something charitable by starting Sub City records. Sub City’s mission states, “By subsidizing non-profit organizations while spreading social awareness, Sub City aims to have impact that goes beyond music.”

“I took more than one job and added it to this one by adding Sub City and our volunteer philanthropic efforts which I was doing a lot of outside of work. I was able to combine it since I’m spending so many hours here and when I’m not here I’m thinking about it and that was one of the reasons for bringing Sub City into Hopeless. There isn’t one reason we started Sub City. It has a lot to do with the way I was brought up in a family with philanthropic ideals that also tries to make the world a better place.”

Adding, “Also, with me being someone who has a retinal degenerative disease that doesn’t have a treatment or cure, realizing at a young age you have to be grateful for what you have and there’s a lot of people that don’t have as much as you do so you have to take that opportunity to take what you do have and use it to help other people.”

He also says that, “We (Hopeless) were realizing around 1998 that we were reaching a lot of people with our bands music and our label as a whole. That was also the year that Hopelessly Devoted to You 2 came out and we sold over a 100 thousand copies and we realized there was a unique opportunity to do something beside sales.”

Humorously adding, “We have a fools gold record we made ourselves to celebrate the 100 thousand copies.”

Bands on the Sub City roster include Fifteen, Scared of Chaka, The Weakerthans and Warped Tour hero’s, Thrice. The amount of awareness and money generated by Sub City is astounding, and as a result, Sub City launched the Take Action Tour three years ago.

When the Take Action Tour started in 1999 they had several different organizations involved yet in 2000 Louis and Co. came to the conclusion they needed to focus the tour on one issue. “When we started searching around and asking kids what matters to them we found that things that lead to suicide are really affecting kids. Depression, being left out, abuse, drug abuse and things like that are on the day to day mind of young people and its important for them to know that there is someone out there that cares and is always there to talk to confidentially 24 hours a day. When we looked around we found the Hopeline and Reese who was doing a really incredible thing. I guess no one had thought of tying all these local organizations together into one line so people don’t have to remember 50 different lines and you avoid a situation where there might be only five people answering phones and someone gets a busy signal.” Take Action has aligned its self with the Kristin Brooks Hope Center for the tour charity.

The great thing about the Take Action Tour is that it doubles as a platform-which addresses social and mental health issues. The Take Action Tour in its first year had 10,000 petitions signed for suicide prevention, in it’s second year, 36,000 were signed and with the success of the tour both musically and financially its no wonder the tour garners such prestigious praise from the industry.

The Kristin Brooks Hope Center was founded in 1998 by H. Reese Butler II-who named the center for his wife who died by suicide after complications with post partum depression. As of January 1, 2003, Sub City and Take Action have raised over 150,000 dollars for the National Hopeline Network. The heartwarming facts about such a beautiful marriage of music and awareness with a dark connotation as suicide is that it adversely affects the patrons of the tour by showing them there are resources available and people who care.

According to Reese Butler, “The collateral damage is phenomenal, very few people are willing to talk about it and feel very unsafe talking about it which unfortunately leads them to drive those feeling deeper inside and then as a result, when they hit their own crisis in their own life unfortunately that modeling can serve as a pattern with how they deal with their own feelings and problems. The person doesn’t mean to leave that type of legacy.”

After all, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide claims the lives of an average of 30,000 Americans per year including roughly 5,000 young people. The Institute of Medicine documents that suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students and there are an estimated 650 thousand hospitalizations each year in the U.S. related to suicide.

However, one might assume (and all are familiar with the old adage of assuming) that a community that has been pigeon holed by media for its choice of fashion and the attitude that pervades most of them would be indifferent and hostile to bands proselytizing about health concerns, yet its that same youth who are receptive and supportive of those issues. This year the tour has another amazing line up just like its predecessors. The Take Action Tour 2003 had Poison The Well, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Further Seems Forever, Avenged Sevenfold, Shadows Fall, Since By Man, These Arms are Snakes and several others sharing different date in different cities.

For more information on the Kristin Brooks Hope Center please go to http://www.hopeline.com.

And for more information on Sub City go to http://www.subcity.net.

To learn more about Hopeless Records and its bands, please visit http://www.hopelessrecords.com

Special thanks to Louis and Reese!!!

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