20 years of Kelp Records: My Journey on an Indie

Kelp Records from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada celebrates 20 years of making records this Spring and is celebrating with two blow-out bashes in Toronto and Ottawa at the end of May. Check the bottom of this post for show details.

Kelp 20 Years

Yours truly on stage with Rhume, desperately waiting for the red light to go off: At Barrymore’s in Ottawa, circa 2005.

I first joined the Kelp crew around 2003 when I was trying to find a home for my 3rd solo record ‘Decide to Stay and Swim‘.

After several releases with The Stand GT on indie labels throughout the world, I was looking for something that was part of my local community, closer to home.

That’s when I heard about a nutty little label called Kelp Records.

My first introduction to Jon Bartlett and his antics was when I heard about a ‘parade’ he was throwing for one of Kelp’s early anniversaries. Sadly, I was not around for the event, but the wacky idea stuck with me. A local indie label throwing an actual parade in downtown Ottawa? Intrigue ensued and I set out to see if this could be that elusive home I was looking for.

I felt like I had put together a great record to follow up my independently released ‘Sell Out Slow‘. I was really into the DIY spirit of the local-Ottawa-via-New Brunswick label, so I approached the head cheese with my newly minted masterpiece.

My pitch was simple: I asked Jon if he was interested in having my record fly the Kelp banner.

Check out Winnipeg’s Crossfader‘s in-depth review of Decide to Stay and Swim here.

After a spin, Jon said he liked the record. I still clearly remember his response to my inquiry: He didn’t have any financial support to offer, but “could definitely be a cheerleader for the LP.”

A cheerleader was all I really needed.

‘Swim’ came out and I promptly hit the road with Andrew Vincent who was also promoting a new Kelp release, ‘I Love The Modern Way‘.

Andrew Vincent and Chris

Andrew Vincent and Chris
AV and me on tour celebrating the release of both ‘Decide to Stay and Swim‘ and his classic, perennial Kelp fave ‘I Love the Modern Way‘. These were taken in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.
I think that beeper on the table in front of me was linked to the Kelp hotline.

Since then, as many of you know, I have been fortunate enough to release another solo record ‘A Date With A Smoke Machine’, which has garnered some very kind reviews and allowed me to further explore the more mellow side of my musical output.

As for that other side, the two Camp Radio records in the Kelp canon (Camp Radio and Campista Socialista) I would argue are some damn fine rock and roll records. I’m pretty proud of them and the fact both LPs are available on heavy vinyl with gorgeous, full-colour, gatefold covers make them that much more awesome:

Camp Radio cover
Jon reveals the spot where the photo for the cover of ‘Camp Radio’ was taken

Scott Terry
Scott Terry, the Godfather and sole Beard of Camp Radio. I took this pic in 2005 while rehearsing in the basement of ‘Arthur St.’, prepping the debut LP.

Dave Draves searching for those magical Camp Radio bass soundz. Evil bearded one holds court and “supervises”

Over these 10+ years as a part of the Kelp Zoo I’ve also had the pleasure of participating in many Kelp anniversary compilations, Kelp circus-like shows and some wacky, wild Kelp shenanigans.

I have even ran roughshod all over 2nd guitar in Jon’s flamboyant, in-your-face and rip-roaring rock band, Rhume.

(If you don’t know the ‘Live Drinking from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Boot’, ‘Whiskey Nipples’ or ‘The Great Shaker Over Ste. Catherine St. Toss’ stories, ask me about them in person sometime. For a Guinness per tale, I’ll certainly regale).

Jon and I salute you: Rhume at Barrymores in Ottawa, circa 2005

Page and Higney
These amateur-looking pilots are me and Higs getting greased to play in Rhume for Pop Montreal in the fall of 2006.

Over the years, many folks have asked me about my relationship with Kelp.

To me, it has simply been a friendly collective of like-minded folks, supporting each other while building a community built on the passion and the love for what we do. It’s a community that has grown and flourished as a significant part of Ottawa’s rich, ever-expanding arts scene.

Putting out records independently for 20 years is no easy task. These days, most people put more value in a soft drink than a well crafted song. But when you honestly and faithfully pour your heart and soul into this stuff, it still rarely ever feels like a task at all. I know from experience.

So congrats, JB, on 20 years of crazy fun, full of crazy good times and some crazy good releases.

And thanks for offering to be my cheerleader.

So what’s your fave Kelp release? Leave comment below or tell me on Twitter here!

I’ll be joining the Kelp 20 festivities in both Toronto (Thursday May 29th at the Horseshoe) and Ottawa (Saturday May 31st at St. Alban’s Church). All the details are on the Kelp site.

Facebook event for Toronto
Facebook event for Ottawa

Oh! Christmas Tree
I’m not sure why Rhume bassist Jarrett Bartlett decided to hide behind his used Christmas tree.

My Kelp discography:

2003 Chris Page – Decide to Stay And Swim

2006 Camp Radio – Self-titled

2010 Chris Page – A Date With a Smoke Machine

2011 Camp Radio – Campista Socialista

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