headshot of Cory Brown

Cory Brown founded Absolutely Kosher in 1998 and ran it for 13 years & had over 85 releases until the industry correction forced him to go dark. After 12 years away, he’s relaunching the label for its 25th anniversary, releasing work by many artists from the label’s history and new music as well!

Tell us about how you got your start in the music industry, and how it lead to the work you do today.

I started my career in record stores, most notably as the indie buyer for SoCal chain Penny Lane in the early 1990’s. I’m still very close with many of my co-workers from those days and feel a strong affinity for record store people. David Orleans hired me to work for ADA in 1995, who moved me to the San Francisco Bay Area.

After working with many other incredible labels for a couple of years, I developed the hubris to start my own. We released 85+ records over a 13-year period before debt forced us to stop. It took another humbling and staggering 12 years to pay off that debt, during which I stopped going out to shows or engaging with music for a long time until I started DJing on the John Peel tribute station Dandelion Radio 3 years ago.  

A year ago, right as I was nearing the end of the long haul, and in the wake of failed talks to have a friend reissue The Wrens – The Meadowlands LP, Charles Bissell, the band’s singer-writer-producer, asked me back to release his first new music in 20 years. After a week of trying to convince him to release it with any number of capable labels still in business, he expressed a desire to work with someone he knows and trusts, and “hey, it worked out well last time.” I can’t tell you how incredibly validating it was to even be asked.

But I’d run the label for 13 years making magic by rubbing two nickels together and I knew I didn’t want to struggle like that again. I expressed my ideas to a friend I’d randomly made in the hallway of my apartment building a year before, and suddenly we were financed. That was followed by all kinds of serendipity, other releases, other bands, some crazy marketing ideas, etc. 10 months later and I can’t believe we’re finally here!

Is there a success story or career milestone that you are most proud of?

I’d say coming back from the amount of debt we had and getting to this relaunch with all kinds of new accounting partners and protocols so it doesn’t happen again is as massive an accomplishment as undertaking anything I did with the label to begin with. I’m proud we got here.

Outside of your work in music, do you have any other hobbies/ particular areas of expertise/interest etc.? 

I’ve always been passionate about storytelling and I’m a little obsessive about premiere quality television and depth of narrative arcs that it’s brought. Relatedly, I love pro wrestling, the sport of stories, and developed an animated pitch bible and several scripts for a TV series I hope will eventually see the light of day.

Beyond that, I’m a futurist, and I love new technology, even as I am often frustrated by the ways capitalism can get in the way of actual progress. Finally, I’ve come so far in my understanding of my own neurodivergence and try and talk about being HSP, ADHD and AS to reflect that, explain behaviors of mine and others that are misunderstood, and be a fortress for artists whose own neurodivergence makes this new normal of social media and pointing their phones at themselves a difficult prospect. Tech companies have gotten very good about the guidelines to use their platforms, but they could still do more to recognize how those guidelines aren’t easy or healthy for everyone.

Are there any projects you’re working on or company updates that you’re most excited about?

Obviously, releasing Car Color’s Odyssey to The Meadowlands Iliad is pretty awesome, as is being able to finally release Sybris’ Gold on Hold LP after it sat unreleased for so long. We have a series of box sets coming with a first-or-their-kind ornament for them. I’m also incredibly excited about our label podcast covering the label’s entire history band by band, our forthcoming Christmas *cough* Holiday Special coming in December, and our magazine project in 2024, which touches on the community we came up with in a thoughtful way, but details will be forthcoming on both.

Anything else to add? (Whether words of wisdom for other up and comers, a track that’s dropping soon that you can’t wait to hear, let us share!)

Sybris’ “Dead” drops as a digital single on October 20, our first official new music in 12 years, followed by these incredible and largely unheard records by Berlin’s Brabrabra and Scotland’s Edinburgh School for the Deaf on October 27 and the Car Colors 12″ on November 17, with more planned well into the new year. During this second run as a label, you’re going to see me more as a public persona (hence “Brownbutter”) because I feel public advocacy is the most crucial part of being a label in 2023, so if you want words of wisdom, follow us everywhere.