The sun’s glare begins to dip over a Northeast Los Angeles neighbourhood as the early evening dusk changes the sky’s colours from blue to purplish. Sitting in a low-key Mexican restaurant off Figueroa and Ave 50, Pete Menchetti looks very relaxed yet alert to someone who’s crossed all the U.S. time zones over the past few weeks, being at the merch helm for the tour of John Reis’ new band, PLOSIVS. This tour is not his first rodeo; in fact far from his first. Menchetti is one of the most mobile people in underground rock n’ roll music. If you’re reading this, it’s likely you might have come across him at a show, a record store, or even attended one of his traveling festivals over the past few years.
Our waitress takes our order, and Menchetti rings his order off in Spanish before returning to our conversation, ranging from abysmal YouTube Music payouts, food, licensing music from a Turkish 1960s rock band, and the bottleneck problem of vinyl pressing plants. At that point, I remind him that his record label, Slovenly Recordings, is marking 20 years on earth in 2022, which causes him to smile before taking a swig of beer, shaking his head, and semi-boisterously proclaiming, “thanks for reminding me!”
A rational assumption for all business owners is that they remember their decision to embark on their venture and the exact date their businesses opened; clearly, that’s not the case. Slovenly Recordings is only one of Pete’s ventures and a familiar name throughout the underground rock n’ roll world; with the garage punk madness, the label churns out regularly from bands scattered around Earth, literally: a happening synth-punk group from Thessaloniki? Slovenly’s got it with NOMOS 751. Rigid and raw garage punk from Tuscany sung in both Old and New World languages? Slovenly’s earned it with The Dirtiest. How about the first U.S. LP release from Swiss garage punks The Monsters, departures from Kalamazoo punks The Spits, and a co-produced box set with Black Gladiator Records of twelve psychotic-sounding Bo Diddley covers? Yeah, Slovenly was there, and then some.
Menchetti’s leading venture is Sticker Guy, a Reno-based sticker printing company that took the KISS marketing principle to heart in terms of a memorable name and has kept Menchetti’s team gainfully employed for the past 29 years. Under the Sticker Guy and Slovenly Recordings monikers, Menchetti produces two festivals; the traveling We’re Loud Festival that’s made the international rounds in Saigon (VT), Athens (GR), Istanbul (TR), Oaxaca (MEX), San Juan (PR), Reno (NV), and the Reno-based Debauch-A-Reno Festival. The latest announcement for We’re Loud Italy in October 2022 is now public and you’re able to view the itinerary on the official Slovenly website.
He also acts as a worldwide tour manager for Slovenly bands.
Menchetti credits his capability to work on all these different projects through proper delegation, time and project management, and taking advantage of any internet connection close by. He has an office in Reno but usually isn’t found there; he could be anywhere in the United States or the world whenever he’s working on something under his project umbrella. As of this interview, he’s in Los Angeles for the night and will be in Phoenix tomorrow to conclude PLOSIV’s tour.
Where will he be after? That’s his business, but again, it could be anywhere. With 20 years of Slovenly under his belt, and 2023 marking 30 years of Sticker Guy, we felt it was a good time to catch up and get his thoughts on his company’s early beginnings and where he and his company are headed now.
2022 marks 20 years of Slovenly Recordings and 29 years of Sticker Guy. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of this and who can you credit for helping you get to this point with both companies?
Pete Menchetti: “Jay Jones! He’s in charge of printing all the stickers. Since almost the very beginning, I’ve been working with him – since his kids were super young! Now, they’re running the company with him and will take over when he retires. Income from the stickers is used to put out records by bands that no one has ever heard of, so if I had to credit any one person also for the label’s success, it would have to be Jay.
“You mentioned back in January that this recent tour The Spits completed is your first tour in two years. Normally, you’re out and about seeing bands in whatever town you’re in, but you’ve been parked in Oaxaca for most of the time during the pandemic. How were you and the Slovenly team using the time to sustain the label and what kind of operational activities was Sticker Guy experiencing through the lockdown?
“Actually, The Spits tour was my second tour since the pandemic, the first was with PODIUM through Mexico right after We’re Loud Oaxaca in November 2021. Their tour started before the festival, and We’re Loud was part of their route through Mexico, which hit Leon, Mexico City, Morelia, Guadalajara, and Queretaro.
“2020 actually turned out to be a better year for Sticker Guy than 2019. I put a lot of extra energy into the company in order to survive the pandemic without any government aid. We started offering these “limited specials’ every month or so with different ink and vinyl colour combinations that people really love. Slovenly in 2020 did quite well because people were at home with their records, and they were buying a lot of new ones via our mail order. I’m really grateful to the customers of both companies for their support through the pandemic.”
Let’s talk about your salad days. Can you give me background on your early life in Upstate New York and what circumstances brought your family to Reno?
“I’m originally from a town in Western New York, about 100 miles from my father’s hometown of Buffalo. My mother is from Italy. A year or so after she and my father divorced, she ended up remarrying a younger guy who joined the Navy. He got stationed in Nevada in a town called Fallon, so when I was seven or eight years old, my mom and I drove across the country to join him. After a few years there, we moved to Reno.
“Like a lot of punk rockers my age, my early musical background involves KISS. I got into them at a really young age, and when I was around five years old, my mom bought me all the solo albums for Christmas. Gene (Simmons) was my favourite member as a kid because he spits fire. Of course, Ace’s (Frehley) solo album is the best of the four, minus the crap lyrics. But kids don’t care about lyrical content.”
Can you talk about the music scene in Reno on how it was back then? How often would touring bands come through and what venues and record stores were you hitting before the Ryland House years?
“My involvement in live music initially started from being a graphics guy for an old bar in Reno called The Ice House, which is now a strip club called The Spice House (laughs). I was making all the show fliers back then, and my god they were terrible! I was still just learning to use desktop publishing software, and I made all these horrible fliers with cheesy clip art. We’ve progressed a lot since then (laughs), but that’s how I learned the graphics programs that we use to this day at Sticker Guy and for Slovenly. That job was my entry into both the graphics and live music world.
“We had some awesome bands roll through The Ice House; I remember seeing MDC, NOFX, SNFU, Screeching Weasel, and some bands I didn’t really care for like Deftones and Green Day who ended up getting huge. My first punk show was Circle Jerks and 7 Seconds in 1988. I was 14 years old, and I got arrested after the show while waiting for a ride from my mom (laughs). She was on her way to pick me up, and I got hauled to the Sparks police station on a curfew violation. So after driving around panicking for a while, she went home to a tape-recorded answering machine message from The Man (this was before cellphones, of course). She forbade me from going to any more punk shows, but that didn’t really work out (laughs).”
You started 702 a year after Sticker Guy with the idea of releasing regional and touring bands from Reno, but made Slovenly more of an international force. What brought about this decision to go outside the U.S. with releases and did that decision play a part in you moving to Europe in the first place?
“I need to clarify that I didn’t start 702 to release Reno-based bands – our first few releases were bands from California and New Mexico. I think our first Reno band was our eighth release. Both sides of my family came from Italy, and as a teenager, I became more curious about that heritage. On a family trip to visit my grandmother in Italy, I decided to move there to study the language. She lived in Vitulazio, about 40 minutes from Naples.
“After hanging out in her little town for two or three weeks, I got bored and went to see what was happening in the big city. I fell in love with Naples and even though there wasn’t a huge rock n’ roll scene, I saw great potential for it, because the people had rock n’ roll energy. Bands rarely came to Naples; they almost never went farther south than Rome. I first moved to Naples in 2000 and stayed for four months. The next time I stayed for six months. By then I didn’t even want to leave, so I’d only go back to the USA when I had to; a couple of months each year
“In 2003, a couple of friends and I opened the Slovenly Rock n’ Roll Bar, which sadly only lasted a year and a half, but seems to have in that short time made a significant impact on the scene. The scene in Naples is killer these days, and most of the folks making shit happen were regulars at Slovenly Bar!”
What’s your learning process like when you take on new ventures? How did you initially learn to print stickers, book shows, release records, tour manage, and eventually organize festivals?
“I’ve always started slowly on each venture. Take your time and learn to do things right without investing scary amounts of money. Grow your projects slowly, and don’t get in over your head. The sticker company started when I bought some vinyl sheets, ran them through my laser printer, and almost burned down my mom’s house (laughs). After that, I dabbled in screen printing and tried to make shirts and stickers for my friend’s band.
“Eventually, I found Jay (Jones), and started putting together jobs from all the local bands I could find, and bringing the jobs to him. It was a long slow process. I think it’s better to grow slowly. Companies that rise quickly seem more likely to fall quickly.”
With you being in charge of two companies and a traveling festival, what’s your usual routine for making sure projects in each world run as smoothly as possible? Can you name traits one must possess in order to execute all three?
“Everybody who deals with me has to have patience; I’m juggling a lot. Even my employees end up waiting for answers from me. They of course are essential to keeping things going, and over the years I’ve become a bit better at delegating and managing the team. I’ve also learned to separate and work on my various projects individually instead of mixing them up. So for an hour, I’ll focus only on Sticker Guy. Then the next hour I’ll work only on Slovenly. And then the third hour, I’ll just work on the next We’re Loud Festival.
“I get bazillions of emails, each project has its own tag. Again, of course it helps to have great employees who I trust. I’ve had an assistant for the last seven or eight years, she’s great, a Jill of all trades. Most anything I throw at her, she’ll either get it done or help me get it done.”
With all three roles you take on, tell us the most challenging aspects of those jobs that you have to constantly have to endure…
“As far as the record label goes, I have to do a lot of accounting for the artists. Royalty accounting is a tedious process and takes many, many soul-sucking hours. It’s work that people who fantasize about running their own record label rarely imagine themselves doing, and nothing I look forward to, but it’s really satisfying when the numbers show that we owe money to a band. It means the band and the label have worked well together, and that’s what we set out to do.”
Are you at liberty to tell us any details planned for We’re Loud Italy later in October?
“It’s going to be a week-long, over two weekends: the first in Venice, and the second in Naples from October 1st through the 8th. What’s happening in the middle is being planned, and we’re doing everything we can to make it memorable. The plan is to start the festival with some boat parties in Venice, then travel south by train. After a couple of stops, we’ll spend the last weekend in Naples.
“I initially wanted to include Croatia during that weekend, too, but with COVID and everything, doing anything international isn’t a good idea – best to stay in one country. The lineup is coming together, and we already have a killer list of bands that I’ll be announcing soon. Right now, we’ve got confirmed dates and the week’s travel itinerary up on our website so people can start planning their logistics.”
Looking back on the kind of life you have, what or whom do you credit for helping you live your life as you have and always remaining curious?
“My mom and dad, of course, they always believed in me and supported me however they could. Besides Jay Jones, whose praises I’ve already sung, my employees have kept Sticker Guy and Slovenly stable. They’re the ones doing the day-to-day at the office, processing and shipping orders for stickers and records, dealing with all the logistics, production, distribution, inventory, and such. They really enable me to be out on the road doing festivals and touring with bands, and I’m eternally grateful for their dedication.”
Give me five bands outside we should have on our radar and why?
“Definitely keep watching The Spits because they’re incredible and finally getting the recognition they’ve deserved all along. That takes time – it really is a long way to the top if you want to rock n’ roll (laughs). I really love the ΝΟΜΟΣ 751 album we released, it’s one of my favourite recent Slovenly releases. The Monsters are fucking killing it now more than ever, too. I’m stoked to have had a chance to work with them, they only get crazier and more hilarious with each release. Podium is awesome, Tommy & The Commies, too… is that five now?”
Podium Tour Dates:
June 15th: Quebec City (CAN) – La Source de la Martinière (w/Frappabord)
June 16th: Montreal (CAN) – Hemisphere Gauche (w/FRVITS)
June 17th: Playa Del Carmen (MX) – Civil Sin
June 18th: Cancun (MX) – Mora Mora
June 19th: Merida (MX) – Cafe Diversa
June 22nd: Mexco DF (MX) – Izcalli Mplr
June 23rd: Cuernavca (MX) – Cultura Horrible
June 24th: CDMX (MX) – Black
June 25th: Tecate (MX) – Licores la Esmeralda
June 26th: Mexicali – El Jefe Bar
June 28th: El Centro, CA (US) – Strangers Bar
June 29th: San Diego, CA (US) – ‘Till Two
June 30th: Los Angeles, CA (US) – Non-Plus Ultra (w/VR Sex)
July 1st: San Pedro, CA (US) – The Sardine
July 2nd-3rd: Oakland, CA (US) – Mosswood Meltdown (w/Bikini Kill, Pansy Division, The Linda Lindas, Hunx & His Punx)
July 4th: Chico, CA (US) – Naked Lounge
July 5th: Portland, OR (US) – No Fun Bar
July 6th: Olympia, WA (US) – Cryptatropa Bar
July 7th: Seattle, WA (US) – Vera
July 8th: Vancouver (CAN) – Black Lab
July 9th: Toronto (CAN) – Bar Orwell
July 10th: London (CAN) – TBA