Copyright 1995 BPI Communications, Inc.
The Hollywood Reporter

May 11, 1995, Thursday

LENGTH: 630 words

HEADLINE: Imago artists unhappy with label

BYLINE: Jeffrey Jolson-Colburn

   Music entrepreneur Terry Ellis, who vowed to reopen his Imago Records imprint at another label group after BMG dropped it last December, may have precious little left to sell if some of his artists have their way.

Amid reports from industry insiders that Ellis was having trouble finding a new home for his label comes news that his biggest act, Henry Rollins, has declared himself a free agent, and that perhaps his second-most-important act, Aimee Mann, is unhappy and would like to find a way out.

Ellis said through a spokesman that he was close to making a deal for a new distributor, but Rollins made it clear that he wouldn't be joining him. "We consider ourselves free agents and are looking for a new label," Rollins said of his band and himself.

The lawyers may have something to say about that, though Rollins, who is operating three new record labels of his own, said he isn't worried. "Terry Ellis has no label. We are not talking about a realistic relationship here. I'm just a scrawny singer caught between warring lawyers and trying to get me and my guys to a safe and cool place," he said.

"It's so frustrating," Mann said. "My album has sat around unreleased for the last three months and even if Terry cut a deal, it would take another three months to set up the release. Plus, I'm not thrilled about going to some record label where I don't know anyone."

Asked why she didn't leave like Rollins did, she stated she believed her contract was directly with Ellis, rather than a record company. "I'm signed to a man, not a label," she said.

Observers say it is a tough break for Mann, as she was thought to be poised for success. However, Rollins, who appears this year in "Johnny Mnemonic" with Keanu Reeves and in "Heat" with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, could well be on the brink of a major breakthrough.

In addition, his three young record labels should bring him a higher profile. His Infinite Zero Records, launched with American Recording founder Rick Rubin, will release six to 12 reissue records this year, he said. Rollins explained that this label is for rereleases of '70s and '80s music like Gang of Four, Devo and Tom Verlaine.

Brand new is Human Pitbull Records. "It's basically a deal with London Records that allows me to develop bands. For instance, we just put out a record from the British band Die Cheerleader. I co-directed the video with my partner Modi," Rollins said.

The next releases from Human Pitbull will likely be from New Jersey hard rock band Motel Shoot Out and Inger Lorre, formerly of the Nymphs.

Also new is the record label 213CD, a division of Rollins' burgeoning book company, 2.13.61 Publications.

"This label is all financed by me," he said from a recording studio in New York City. "The first four CDs are Exene Cervenka, with spoken word and music; a left-of-center jazz album from the Matthew Shipp Quartet; a spoken word LP from Hubert Selby Jr. (on whose controversial 1964 novel "Last Exit to Brooklyn" was based) and an instrumental with spoken word from Chris Haskett, who is in my band."

The busy Rollins said he expected to independently produce and distribute about 12 CDs this year, from comedy to hard rock. "It really is intense right now, but we're working with people we believe in," he said.

Rollins said he likes acting (he was in "The Chase" last year). "The film thing is fun. It's what I'd be doing if I wasn't in band practice, looking for a few days or weeks on a shoot," he said.

During his spare time, Rollins has written his second book, "Eye Scream," due for Christmas. In the last year, he also performed 106 concerts including Woodstock '94, released the book "Get In the Van: On the Road with Black Flag" about his old punk days, and was nominated for two Grammys.