Off the grid with Matt Werth 

The Little Rock roots of Brooklyn's strangest record label.

Page 4 of 4

"Recognizing the importance of earlier generations of artists, learning from their practices and processes, is pretty important to me," Werth said. "So I don't necessarily approach the reissues as relics. I want to create a stage for them, to bring more interest to their legacy or to inspire and encourage them to interact with a new audience and a new generation."

Toward the end of our conversation, I asked an awkward question that nevertheless seemed obvious: How can you make any money at this? Werth hesitated for a beat before answering: "Just the other day we were going through royalties for the year, and, you know, some projects did better than others. And some projects didn't do so well. You can't totally calculate this stuff. I honestly don't even maneuver it that way, for the sake of business decisions. It's always just something I believe in, and you hope that other people understand or share that belief."

After another pause, he said, "You don't want to get into the practice of dropping bombs, but really nothing is a bomb. Nothing is a failure." Listen to "A Period of Review" and you might understand what he means. No one, or very few people at any rate, asked for a definitive compilation of K. Leimer's music, but now one exists, and it's beautiful. The album isn't necessary, but it has a quiet, minor importance that is unarguable and even poignant.

A few days after our phone call, I emailed Werth with a few follow-up questions and got an automated response. Every time I've emailed him, for that matter, I've received an automated response. He's sorry he can't check his email and he'll be back soon, it says, but for now he's "off the grid." His sign-off is one I've never seen before: "Be light."


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