During the past year or so the US poppy-punk 7" has been on the down-low, which has left vinyl junkies like myself with some serious withdrawal symptoms. I therefore started asking around for labels still putting out vinyl in an attempt to hunt down some new slabs of wax to add to my collection. One of the names that was dropped with a hearty recommendation was that of Stardumb Records out of The Netherlands. I immediately ordered The Favorats The Beauty and the Beach seven-inch and found that it was a delightful blast of Queers-inspired pop played by a German band that knows what good poppy-punk is all about. I also hopped on over to www.stardumbrecords.com and found that not only did Stardumb put out some crazy good poppy-punk singles and full-lengths (check out this list...Darlington, The Travoltas, The Retarded, The Apers, and tons of other great poppy-punk bands) but they also run one hell of a distro (seriously check it out). My interest was piqued and I decided to send some questions over to Stefan who was kind enough to answer them. Thanks again to Stefan for taking the time to complete the interview. I think it provides a good glimpse into a poppy-punk scene that has been on the rise for quite some time, but that we unfortunately don't hear enough about. Read on my friends.

1. I guess we'll start with how you got into punk in general and pop-punk specifically.
I got my first punk-tape when I was 13. It contained two Dead Kennedys albums (Frankenchrist and Bedtime For Democrazy) plus some MDC songs... I got that from some local graffiti writers who lived in the same town as I did. I liked it a lot, but I didn't really know what kinda music it was. It just was cool rock music to me. I didn't see those guys that much, because they were all a lot older than me, so that tape kinda was all I knew about punk for a long time. It took me another 3 or 4 years before I started to listen to other punkrock bands. Some guy in my school introduced me to bands like Bad Religion and Leatherface and I loved it. From that point things went fast and in no time I found out about Screeching Weasel... I think 'Anthem For A New Tomorrow' was just released and that was my first introduction to pop-punk. After that there was no turning back, hahaha!

2. When and why did you start Stardumb records?
Actually the story started with a zine called Stardumb. Somewhere in 1998 Kevin Aper (singer of the Apers) wanted to make a fanzine about punkrock. He did some interviews and wrote some reviews... but then he needed someone to do the layout, so he came knocking on my door. I said okay and a few weeks later the first issue of Stardumb Punkrockzine was a fact. At that time I was running a recordlabel called Little People Records too, with 2 other friends. We released some Apers releases plus some other Dutch punkrock and hardcore bands. After a while me and the other 2 guys were kinda growing apart though when it came to taste of music. At some time they wanted to release some weirdo-noise and jazz records. Although those records might have been pretty okay in it's genre, it really wasn't what I wanted to put all my free time and spare money in. So we decided to quit. I still wanted to continue putting out punkrock records though, so that's when I knocked on Kevin's door. I asked him if he wanted to join me with this new label, since we liked the same music and were having lots of fun together working on the zine already. He said okay and a few months later the first release of Stardumb Records was a fact. That was April 2000. Right now, not even 1 year after that, we have 11 releases out and things are going really well. 2000 was a good year for us. Although we didn't make any issues of the zine for over a year now, we still have good plans for that in the near future. It's just that starting up the label took so much time that we had to put the zine-thing down for some time. Next to the label and the zine we also book shows for bands and we got an online store with lots of hard to get stuff on our website www.stardumbrecords.com

3. It seems that the European pop-punk scene is in full motion right now, is pop-punk really as popular with European punks as it seems? If so, do you have any theories as to why European punks love pop-punk so much?
I think the European pop-punk scene is doing really well right now indeed, but it's not that every punk is digging pop-punk in Europe. We are putting together a compilation with European pop-punk bands at the moment and we got over 20 bands on it, but almost all bands come from only 3 countries: Italy, Germany and The Netherlands. In countries like Sweden it's really hard to find pop-punk bands; hardcore and high octane rock like Gluecifer and Hellacopters is much more popular overthere. And also in France hardcore, crust and garage are doing much better than pop-punk. Nevertheless things are really growing lately and that's a good thing. I think it also has to do with the fact that most European kids who discovered pop-punk (thanks to some Lookout! bands) in the mid-nineties are now old and wise enough to organise things well themselves. And the internet helped Europe a lot too. Before internet it was kinda hard to get in touch with people from other European countries... You must understand it's really different than the US here. Every country has it own zines in it's own languages and it's own distributors and stuff, so there was nothing that covered the whole continent. That's why it was always hard to find out about other European bands... Now that everybody got internet and e-mail it's getting all really easier to get in contact with and learn about foreign bands, so that's good.

4. Do you find that Stardumb is gaining some popularity in the United States?
Yeah, sure thing! We have people from the US ordering stuff from us, our stuff sells pretty well at Interpunk.com, we have US bands sending us demos, we have people from all kinds of states writing us very flattering e-mails and now we even have an e-zine interviewing us, so I think I can say it's going pretty well for us when it comes to world domination, hahaha. But for real, I'm really happy to find out more and more people from the US being interested in Stardumb and our bands. I say it again: Thanks to internet the world really got smaller and I think that's great!

5. What U.S. bands do you feel have had the most influence on the European scene and do you yourself welcome this influence or do you feel European bands should work to create their own identity?
I think the Ramones, Screeching Weasel and The Queers are the 3 bands that had the most influence on the European pop-punk scene, but I guess same goes for the rest of the world. I don't mind the fact that all 3 bands are from the US. That doesn't really matter to me. I know some bands are also really influenced by the Undertones, but does that make a difference? If you live in the Netherlands, Germany or Italy right now, the Undertones are also a foreign band, so the fact that they happened to be European too, doesn't really bring them closer. I think same goes for any young pop-punkband from the US nowadays. If you are an 18 year old kid from the US, there's a pretty good change you saw the Queers and the Ramones less than I did. Hmmm, maybe that only means I'm a lot older, hahaha. But for real, I really think it doesn't matter where you get your influences from, as long as your band rocks! And of course for every band it's important to create their own identity, but I hate bands and people that are too focused on that. Doing something completely new doesn't make your band a good band right away. As a matter of fact I think most bands that do something completely new really suck, hahaha. I don't mind bands that are strongly infuenced by some other band, as long as they give their own twist to it.

6. What European bands would you recommend a US pop-punk/punk fan check out? Are there any new bands to watch out for in the future?
Okay, where shall I start?... One of my favourite European bands at the moment are the Backwood Creatures from Germany. They have a really good live show and their bubblegum pop-punk is as catchy as it gets! They have a few 7 inches out and a fantastic LP on Screaming Apple Records. Another great German band are the Sonic Dolls. They've been around for ages now. They started with a real SW-influenced sound, but through the years they created their own sound which is really good. I always need to spin their records a few times before they get to me, but then their records keep growing and growing! Then you have the Favorats, who released a 7 inch on Stardumb last year, plus a new one is coming up soon. Their sound is really close to The Queers during Don't Back Down, maybe a bit faster but just as poppy. Then in Italy you have many great bands. Manges are maybe best known because Ben Weasel covered their song 'I Will Always Do' on the last SW album. From the same town as the Manges hail the Peawees. They are more rock-n-roll influenced and are fucking awesome. Their new full length will be on Stardumb Records and I'm really proud of that! They perfectly mixed Ramones, Elvis Presley, Social Distortion and Motorhead... or something like that, haha. Then of course the great Retarded a/k/a the Italian Riverdales! They released 2 fantastic full lengths by now, both available from Stardumb. Another Italian band we released are The Popsters. They are a young band, but I love em. Their pop-punk songs are kinda sweet & mellow in some way, but still rocking! If you like wilder stuff I should suggest the Ragin' Hormones from The Netherlands. They are influenced by bands like Nobodys and Dwarves and rock like crazy! Last but not least of course there are The Apers. I can not be objective about this band because they are so close to me, but I truly believe they are one of the world's best pop-punk bands of today. Just pick up any of their records or their marvelous split CD with Retarded and you know what I mean! Anyway, there are of course many more great bands, but these bands would be good to start with... All these bands plus a whole bunch more will be on the European pop-punk compilation CD which Stardumb will release early June, so I guess that would be a real good introduction to the European scene...

7. Any other comments?
Yeah, first of all I would like to thank you for the interview. I appreciate stuff like that a lot. My respect goes out to all people who are working on fanzines, e-zines, punkrock radioshows, independent labels, etc. Do it yourself is a beautiful thing! And of course the bands, keep on rocking! If anybody feels like contacting us, feel free!!! The contact info is on our website www.stardumbrecords.com Take care! 1

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