Gary James' Interview With The Founder Of
Cleopatra Records
Brian Perera

Brian Perera is the founder of Cleopatra Records. Based in Los Angeles, the label is doing very well. They've released CDs by Cinderella, Quiot Riot, L.A. Guns, Yes and so many others. To explain the history of Cleopatra Records and more, Brian Perera does the honors.

Q - Brian, I'm impressed! You're a guy who still has a record company. From everything I've been reading and all the people I've been interviewing, record companies seem to be a thing of the past.

A - I see some companies going strong in the U.K. Maybe in the U.S. there's people kind of giving up and then just going into straight, traditional digital for downloads and streaming. We feel there's still a market for physical product. I see new record stores opening up. Obviously they're bringing in used product, but they're also coming in and buying a lot of new product as well.

Q - Do you put out vinyl for your acts?

A - Yeah. We put out vinyl, CDs and 7 inches.

Q - Is it a big market for vinyl in the U.S. or bigger overseas?

A - Put it this way, I believe like three years ago it was 2% of the market and now we're at 10% of the market. So, it's definitely on an upswing, yes. The manufacturing plants I deal with, they actually can't keep up with the manufacturing capacity. They can't keep up with the orders.

Q - People want to go back in time to records.

A - I think they want to go, not necessarily back in time, but I think the format was so good that even a CD can't really last the time a record could last the time in terms of quality, packaging. I think it was the ultimate package that probably should've stayed with people instead of people dismissing it. I think they probably should've brought out the CD as part of a bonus. When you buy the vinyl, you get a digital version of it that you can play in your car a lot easier. I think it would've kept vinyl going instead of kind of losing momentum like in the mid part of the '90s and 2000. But now, it's definitely making a big comeback.

Q - Everything old is new again.

A - Yeah. I think people want quality. If you're a music fan, you want pictures of the group. You want quality of the audio.

Q - I thought CDs offer the quality. Records get scratched and marred.

A - The fan base we deal with, we don't make a lot of vinyl, but they want to hold onto it, so they're even doing an open copy. So, we do variations when we do our processing. We do Limited Editions, color vinyl of 500 copies, so it becomes a collector's item.

Q - Tony Bennett was interviewed recently by the BBC. He was talking about popular music and record companies. He said, "I grew up in an era when the record companies just sold records to everybody. The whole family bought songs. Today record companies are failing because they're putting their eggs just on the young. I think it's rather silly. They're missing out on thousands of people, but they don't buy them, the records, because they don't have lasting quality." Do you think he's right about that?

A - Well, I mean Tony Bennett still has a recording career. I think he did his last record called "Duets". I think it had some newer artists on it. Obviously it was a different era. There were three TV sets in somebody's home and then the audio was one person bringing a record home from a record store or wherever they would get it from.

Q - You recently signed The Oak Ridge Boys.

A - Yeah.

Q - Now, how do they fit into your roster, because you have quite a few Rock acts.

A - The Oak Ridge Boys fit in. When we met with them and their manager, they were hard working boys that at this point in their career, they want to work just as hard or even harder than the new artists. Even the manager of The Oak Ridge Boys worked with another one of our artists, Wanda Jackson, back in the 1950s. He was her booking agent.

Q - Do you have people on board who know how to promote Country music?

A - Our distributor knows how to sell Country music. They deal with all different genres of music. When we brought on Judy Collins, they already had her on a label, so we ended up doing a deal directly with her and her manager to continue with the label, to put out new stuff. We picked up the back catalogue to help them market and manufacture their back catalogue and to keep things moving forward in the future for their product such as DVDs and 'live' CDs which we just put out.

Q - Do you offer your artists tour support?

A - Well, if it's a new artist and they need it, then we offer some help, but the artists that are known like The Oak Ridge Boys are actually making more money on the 'live' concerts than they are even on the new music or the previous music they put out.

Q - Do you offer promotion?

A - Yeah, we do radio marketing.

Q - How did you get into the music business?

A - Just by being a fan of music in high school. I was outside, selling stickers for concerts for bands. Didn't have the rights for it, but it was a way to be involved. Printed out stickers in print shops and sold them outside shows and kind of got involved with it that way.

Q - You didn't have the rights to it? Did you ever get in trouble?

A - I was a teenager. You make stickers of your favorite bands and you sell them outside of a show. You do whatever you can if you don't have any other sources of income.

Q - I'm surprised the management of some of these bands didn't bring you onboard.

A - It's funny that you should say that because now I'm actually working with the bands that I was outside of the shows.

Q - You tell them that story and they figure you're a real go-getter.

A - Yeah. They kind of appreciate it. You came from nothing and you were able to start a label and create and help the bands that you were into as a kid growing up. It was the next step.

Q - Why did you name the record company Cleopatra Records? That's kind of an odd name.

A - Well, the name came about because I didn't have enough money to start the record company. It takes a little bit more funding than most businesses. I was doing some clothing and I had a clothing line I was selling to a chain store called Hot Topic. I started a label name for the clothing. I named it Cleopatra Clothing because I felt it was a kind of name that maybe people could think they kind of heard of before or sounds familiar.

Q - You're working with William Shatner?

A - Yeah. I didn't know he could sing. Well, he kind of talks and sings at the same time. He's one of the most passionate fans of music.

Q - What kind of a CD would he be putting out?

A - Well, the first record he did was a few years back. He did a Space Rock album for us which is a science fiction thing, themes like David Bowie's "Space Oddity" to Hawkwind. It did quite well. We got some great guests on it. Steve Miller did a collaboration with him on "Space Cowboy". The next record we did with him was an original album based around his experiences of life and going through different things in his world.

Q - You've released music by British Punk groups that were never released in the U.S.

A - Right.

Q - How much of a market is there for Punk music in the U.S.?

A - Well, in the '90s we brought a lot of British Punk bands into America that weren't available. We found that it probably inspired a lot of the new Pop bands in the U.S. because our material was available in a lot of shops, a lot more shops than the ones that didn't have distribution deals or record deals in the States. I think we hit more of the masses that they didn't have a deal here at times. I think the timing was good.

Q - Seeing as how this is the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles coming to America, would there be a market for the British Invasion acts that were never as popular as The Beatles, The Stones, The Animals, The Kinks and on and on?

A - I think there's a market if you can put together a compilation record. It would have to be a four CD collection with liner notes explaining the history of the tracks. I think there's definitely a collector's market. But to try and put out one band that nobody has really heard of is going to be a tough sell.

Q - I was talking about bands like say The Merseybeats.

A - It's real tough if they didn't make that much of an impact in the '60s and they weren't really that rebellious. A lot of the American bands usually continue on making an influence. You've got The MC5, Iggy And The Stooges, The Standells, Music Machine, The Sonics, I think because those bands were a lot out there. A lot of the British bands that didn't become as famous as The Beatles, they were more inspired by The Beatles and so they kind of kept more of a Pop faith continuity. Those things kind of work on compilations where you have to feed your consumer a whole album. You can feed them a couple of good tracks at a time.

Q - It would probably be an easier sell to a radio station as well then.

A - Yeah, if you can simplify something to somebody, but then you're obviously going to get the fans after they discover it, that are going to want to go out and buy the collector's edition, but they usually end up on collector's 7 inches and out of print records.

Q - Do you ever get a chance to relax? It seems like your job is 24 / 7.

A - If I wasn't doing this, I would be doing this, if that makes sense.

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