Part of Aug 2011 by

Lisa Fancher of Frontier Records Talks to Groovey

Lisa Fancher founded the legendary punk label Frontier Records in 1980 and helped to launch the careers of many bands including Suicidal Tendencies, Circle Jerks, Christian Death, and Adolescents. She also makes film documentaries, now runs a record distributorship and also has been an important and driving force in the campaign to set the West Memphis Three free since 1997.  Which is why this interview is late.  At first we were just going to talk about Frontier Records but the night we were originally going to do the interview Lisa Fancher was with the WM3 celebrating their release.

What was your reaction when you got the call about the West Memphis Three?

Lisa Fancher:  Well I didn’t get the call that’s the thing but there were a couple of weird things that happened and weird allusions to something going on.  You know everything is pretty tight.  We have a conference call with Damien’s wife every Tuesday so wrote her to see if the conference call was on and she said, “No”.  Then one of the lawyers asked me what size Jessie’s clothes were because I had been buying them clothes for their other court appearances.  So anyway I just started to put the stuff together and then Wednesday night someone who will be nameless said, “If I were you I would buy a ticket to get yourself to Jonesboro like ASAP.”  Twelve hundred bucks later I’m landing inMemphis.  I didn’t know if we were going to find out they were getting out or if it was just a hearing for something or another.  We hoped for the best.  If it had turned out just to be a formality I would have been pissed.  I’ve been working on this since ’97 so it was the end of a long road and it was an awesome thing.  It was an awesome thing that night seeing them wearing clothes and sending them on their way to whatever happens next.  They’re gonna go do fun stuff.


What were the emotions like when you got there?  It had to be a very complex situation. 

Lisa Fancher:   Me and a really good friend of Jason’s who had been writing him ever since.. even during his trial we were together in the line and we were together outside the hearing we totally came unglued.  I am not a big crier but we cried like little bitty babies and the rest of the day I could just cry at will.  It was just so emotional for that whole entire day.  That was the worst feeling of all when you visit them at the prison was that we could leave and have a nice dinner and know we were going back to our homes and our lives and those guys were going back to their cells.  That was the worst break down after you had a really good visit and had fun with them and stuff.  Oh, they don’t get to leave.  But when Jessie was walking out everyone was congratulating him, it was like Billy Jack when everyone was coming up to him and shaking his hand, some people were giving him some crap but I’m like, “You can’t fight with anybody.” And he said, “I’m not going back there.”  So hopefully from here they will just thrive.  99.9% of everyone wishes them the best but there’s always some creeps.

Once they get past the re-adjustment stage what creative endeavors do you think they will take on?

Lisa Fancher:   I don’t doubt Damien will be great.  I have some of his art.  He did some amazing collage art work when he was in prison and he’s a really really good writer.  He went from being not good at all to really good so I’m sure he will get a publishing deal.  Jason wants to be some sort of a lawyer like an advocate lawyer or something along those lines to make sure this doesn’t happen again and I think he would be great at that.  Jason will be a very powerful speaker and he’s furious that he had to take this plea deal.  If he didn’t have to he wouldn’t have.  It was on the table for all three of them and if he declined then the other two would have to serve out their sentences.  This is the time to get out.  They maintain their innocence and everyone knows it.  The fact is that they are outside and can be healthy and get some sunlight on them.  I don’t have a problem with it and I’m not criticizing them for it.

So now to switch gears what’s going on with Frontier Records?

Lisa Fancher:  This is kind of a weird and exciting development and alos kind of nerve racking.  It’s perfect that this has come together ad the WM3 but my distributor which is the Independent Label Collective, lets just say that that the owner had a substance problem, so the labels took it over in late January and in late June we presented him with a document that he had to sign.  So I am currently running my distributor with two other people/two other labels and we’re gonna kick some ass.  We have to collect all the money that is out there like nothing was being done with inventories or anything.  Just spending everyday just sorting out stuff.  Going through the books and Oh My God it’s so much it’s like “Why are we doing this?”  but anyway it’s cool.  As far as actual label stuff goes I haven’t had a lot of time.  When money is much better I’m going to do a Dangerhouse album and I have a whole albums worth of Three O’Clock whether or not it has been released or not.  Different versions, live versions I have been trying to put that out for a long time.   And here’s something! I actually did put out a record this year.  We did the release of Christian Death’s Only Theatre of Pain record.  So I did put out a record this year.  The ironic thing is that last year was my 30th year anniversary and I didn’t put out a new record because there just wasn’t anything.  I don’t put out records just to put out records.

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