LABEL PROFILE Total Punk: The Label That’s Exactly As Advertised By Kevin L. Jones · March 11, 2021

After weathering a difficult divorce, punk lifer Rich Evans decided he needed to do something positive to help lift his spirits. He decided to book a national tour, lining up shows in different cities that he’d always wanted to visit, made up of bands he’d always wanted to see. Evans wouldn’t be playing a note: he’d devised a  six-week cross-country tour that he’d experience as an audience member. “I called it the ‘Everybody Gets Rich’ tour,” Evans says on the phone from his Portland home. “It was funny, people were giving me money from the door at the end of the night.”

Because Evans went on the tour alone, he had a lot of time by himself. During the long drives between cities, he entertained the idea of starting a joke record label that would take pre-orders for records, but would take forever to release them. When his customers had either given up or forgotten about their purchases, he’d send them their wares with an apology note, saying something like, “I had a really bad drug addiction and I was kicking, but I’m back and I’m sorry.” It was a nod to the epic threads on the punk forum Terminal Boredom calling out labels who actually did run on that business model.

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The label, which Evans named Total Punk, became an ongoing riff between him and his friends for the remainder of the tour. He even went as far as creating a persona named “Randall” that he’d use to reach out to bands to see if they were interested. No one fell for Randall’s inquiries, but one band—Personal and the Pizzas—did want to release a record on Total Punk, even though they knew the joke. When Evans released the first Total Punk 7″—Dead Meat by Personal and the Pizzas—in April of 2011, he couldn’t follow through on his plan. He didn’t have that kind of indifference in him. “I dispensed with the surrounding absurdity, but kept the absurd name,” he says.

While the name Total Punk might’ve been a joke, it suited Evans, a dedicated punk rocker ever since he was a teenager growing up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Evans started going to shows in Miami in the mid ‘90s, seeing bands like Stun Guns, the Beltones, and the Chromes. Miami had a thriving scene at the time, thanks to the efforts of Ivy Jeanne and Erica Lyle. The two networked with bands throughout the Southeast and beyond, and promoted a majority of the shows in South Florida, even holding outdoor festivals in the Everglades. “That was very inspirational as a kid,” Evans says, “seeing two people really hold a scene on their back, and realizing that two people could be that integral.””

Evans moved to Orlando for college in the late ‘90s and became that city’s “Ivy and Erica.” He started a few bands (Slippery Slopes, Stud Dogs) and booked shows at two small clubs in town. Over time, he developed his own friendly network of bands and promoters, and Orlando became a touring destination. Around this time, he started a record distributor and label, Floridas Dying. The label eventually started doing so well that Evans could live off it. Eventually, his wife found him a retail space where he could start a record store—a dream come true.

When Evans started Total Punk, he wasn’t going to repeat the mistakes he made with Floridas Dying. Total Punk was going to have a focus—a sound and a look—and stick to it. The sound came from great bands like Gary Wrong, Midnite Snaxxx, and LIVE FAST DIE. The look came from the rubber stamps he used to make the covers, an old trick punk labels used to save money on printing costs. Hand-stamping on all the sleeves gave the singles a cheap but unforgettable look. “I just wanted to go back to being fun,” Evans says. “I thought I would do like maybe six or seven of those singles, and it would just be this little fun series to give myself a kick start.”

Total Punk didn’t stay little, though. By 2013, releases from Video and Buck Biloxi and the Fucks saw multiple represses, and most of his singles sold out quickly; the label eventually grew big enough to host multiple festivals. But Evans learned to hate the time-consuming task of hand-stamping—in nine years, he’d stamped over 40,000 records.

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While this was a lot of work, True Sounds Of Thunder guitarist and Goner Records founder Eric Friedl credits the hand-stamped look of Total Punk’s singles for helping it succeed. “At one point, Goner had a very specific sound and look and everything, and we’ve gone all over the place. I think Rich has taken his idea and stuck to it a lot better than we did,” Friedll says. “He had his hand-stamped singles, and that was a consistent look. And he has his audience dialed in. At this point, if you can sell 500 of anything, you are doing great.”

A year ago, in the middle of the pandemic, Evans dropped nearly everything he had going—his successful talent booking business, his band Golden Pelicans, even his wrestling promotion business (another project he started following a tragedy, this time the death of his mother) and moved to Portland to be with his girlfriend.

While fixing up his house to make way for his new baby, the 43-year-old record label owner has turned his focus to another kind of art: painting. Since the pandemic began, Evans has been painting one picture of Rodney Dangerfield every day—usually in funny situations, like reading Matt Damon’s “how ‘bout them apples” line from Good Will Hunting.

Evans also continues to release records on Total Punk, but he says he’s no longer doing hand-stamped singles. He’s focusing these days on releasing LPs, which means there’ll be less Total Punk releases each year (there are nearly 90 to date), allowing him to focus more on promoting each release and leaving more time for parenting. “At the end of living in Florida, it was like I was playing in a band. I was DJing one night a week, I was promoting shows, I was working three jobs. So, I just didn’t have the time to devote to the label that I wanted anymore,” Evans says. “Maybe I’ll do singles like that again someday, but for now I’m enjoying a stamp-free lifestyle.”

Wanna check out some Total Punk releases? Start here:

GG King
Remain Intact

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While the band’s previous albums were remarkable for the variety of fidelity and styles, GG King’s third album, Remain Intact, sounds like it came from a pro-level recording studio in 1984 Los Angeles. Their style of punk sounds like it’s from ‘80s L.A. as well, with the title track imagining the Dickies ripping off the Misfits. And like the bands from those days, GG King isn’t afraid to go goth, either—there’s some serious Rikk Agnew worship on tracks like “Epoch Rock.”

Foster Care
El Abuso

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Vinyl LP

Foster Care created the perfect update of the UK82 sound, a style of punk that is simple and trashy, but comes out of the speakers like a bulldozer. The opening track “Outbreak” captures the ferocity of the first Blitz 7″ or early Dischord singles, but with yelping instead of barking vocals. The band doesn’t completely depend on D-beats for El Abuso, either; tracks like “Rack Brain” and “Social Grace” provide some much appreciated mid-tempo riffage in the middle of a punk rock rinse cycle.

Ausmuteants
Fed Through A Tube

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Vinyl LP

The simplicity of the title track is a bit of a departure for Australia’s Ausmuteants, but it demonstrates how smart their songwriting is. “Fed Through A Tube” runs on two amazing riffs and melody lines that harken back to Australian punk godfathers like the Saints or X. The band can be busy in their songwriting sometimes—the B-side is a great example—but they seem to understand here that some parts are so good they don’t need to add anything else.

Video
(Join the) Hate Wave

Evans loved the members of Video’s previous band, the Wax Museums, so much that he offered to start a singles club that only sold their records. The band broke up before Evans could start the club, but thankfully, they gave him this: two tracks of killer KBD punk that Evans calls his first “big seller.” Both songs harken back to the arty, slightly evil punk of late ‘70s San Francisco—bands like UXA or VKTMS.

Lumpy and the Dumpers
“Gnats In The Pissa”

A punk party track for the ages. Lumpy, recording on a four-track in his St. Louis home, managed to capture the sound of a sloppy punk band all by himself. His songs have the anger of Suicide Sessions-era GG Allin, but it still manages to come off as fun. Somehow through all that distortion, Lumpy squeezes in a melody or two—but he sings them with a tenor that could peel paint.

Golden Pelicans
Oldest Ride, Longest Line

One word perfectly describes Golden Pelicans: tough. They’re like an angrier version of ‘70s Aussie hard rock mavens Rose Tattoo (and the singer of Rose Tattoo is literally named Angry). The secret to the band is Evans’ drumming, which is in no rush to get anywhere, but contains a good deal of power. The band stews in its anger, sounding here like Slip It In-era Black Flag played with more traditional rock riffs. Tough.

Broken Talent
Rules No One

Evans describes this band from ‘80s Miami punk scene as “Miami’s Flipper,” and one dive into this anthology makes it clear why. The band might’ve played in the hardcore scene, but they didn’t shy away from slower tempos. They also have that nihilistic sense of humor, with songs about “my garbage life” and reminding someone of their old age. While the pounding drums and vocals that fall somewhere between Darby Crash and Doc Dart are remarkable, the star of these recordings are the guitar parts; the guitar sound is so damaged it sounds like bees recorded through an AM radio.

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