Underground Redefined

This feature originally appeared in Issue 04 of Lamplighter Magazine in Fall 2014 and subsequently on LamplighterNJ.com in May 2016

There is a music school in downtown Summit, in the basement of the Mondo building, that focuses primarily on the instruction of rock instruments. You wouldn’t know if you had passed it before, because there are no signs on the street.

Whether it’s word-of-mouth or just pure curiosity that leads you through the street-level entrance, you’ll find a black door inside that reads ”World of Rock Music.” The few who do enter descend a long set of stairs into the music school, passing through more black doors and a series of tight hallways in which every inch of available wall-space is decorated with random photos and musical memorabilia, like the interior of a Hard Rock Café.

During a visit to the school, my guide, guitar instructor Joseph Kenyon, leads me to his closet-sized classroom, also overflowing with classic rock tchotchkes, where he sits down at an appropriately miniature desk. This is not my first time writing about Joe, though this is my first time meeting him. He was previously featured in a past issue of this magazine for an article about Celestial Bodies, a pairing of music and visual art that sought to depict the major players in our solar system. However, this article is neither about Celestial Bodies nor the World of Rock Music School. I’m interested in what Joseph Kenyon really runs from that small desk in that tiny music school classroom in the basement of a building that won’t allow them to put a sign on the front door: World of Rock Records.

“This is literally an underground record label,” I tell Joe, and he laughs in agreement. “The strange thing about World of Rock Records is it was never meant to be a full-time endeavor,” he explains. “It was imagined as a ‘little sister’ project to the music school, doing what it can in its spare time.” Head guitar instructor Paul Fessock founded the school in the summer of 2012, and soon after being hired there, Joe came up with the idea to launch a small record label. “I’ve always had a fascination with a record label, running one,” he admits. “I have no idea why. It’s just one of those things.” However, his modest label plans were quickly overturned with World of Rock Records’ first physical release: a 2013 7” vinyl pressing of Test It Out by Foreign Objects, the experimental metal band that would later become CKY. “When you start off your tiny label by pressing songs and albums by artists who make their art a full-time job, how can you justify pressing their record if you insist on keeping your project a ‘rainy day’ thing?” Joe asks. “It wouldn’t be right.” The 250 copies pressed of Test It Out have since sold out, and Joe reveals that the label will soon be releasing the next installment of the Foreign Objects Universal Culture Shock series on 7” vinyl, which will feature the classic Foreign Objects/CKY track “Genesis 12/A.”

“We’ve had a lot of beginner’s luck in the whole thing, and ever since, our goal’s been to hold up our end to our very best extent,” Joe says. Yet despite early success, Kenyon admits that he is not fully sure what direction the label will take. “Honestly, I don’t even think that in 2014 anyone has a specific, on-point idea of what a record label is or should do. The industry in the form that it has been for so many years is totally wiped out and leveled. It’s a free-for-all in many ways… I know strengthening your brand is a good thing, but some record labels seem to think that artists on their ‘roster,’ which is another outdated concept when talking about long-term contracts, are there to promote the record label. It should be the other way around. The record label exists to help artists. Period.”

World of Rock Records’ biography explains that they love to collaborate with artists and bands “to help press amazing limited runs of albums that truly resonate with us.” But the label’s support is not solely limited to musicians, as they have also announced an upcoming pressing of a Joey “Coco” Diaz comedy record on vinyl. “If we can help artists, musicians, illustrators, podcasters… Anyone whose heart, talent, dedication and message we can recognize, we will most certainly try,” Joe confesses. Later he would go on to say, “The entire experience of listening to a record on a turntable, start to finish, with

the artwork and liner notes in hand, immersing yourself in the artists’ vision, perspective and story—It’s the way music is meant to be heard. It reminds you of what music, and even stand-up comedy, really is. Art. Entertainment and art.”

Kenyon has enlisted the help of a friend and former colleague, as well as the owner of the World of Rock Music School, to take the record label from a one-man to a three-man operation. Still, he has not been phased by the pressure to expand beyond that tiny basement classroom in Summit. “I knew that even if World of Rock Records were a small-time thing, we’d still be able to help bands from around here and beyond get their music heard and sold for them, at least for the love of the game.” Wherever World of Rock Records lands in the end, Joseph Kenyon is just enjoying the ride while it lasts. “I’ve met a lot of awesome people through World of Rock, and if I can continue to do that while learning some lessons along the way, what else could I ask for at the end of the day?


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