Since 2009, MKEPunk.com has done an admirable job preserving out-of-print music spanning four decades, numerous genres, and all corners of the state. So far, the two-man staff of Martin Defatte and Jeremy Ampe has collected a total of 421 albums, EPs, seven-inches, and demos Wisconsin bands have so graciously agreed to share. Before being archived on the duo’s digital labor of love, some releases teetered on the brink of garage sale extinction or at the edge of bargain bin obscurity.
Tuesday morning from 8 to 9, the MKEPunk.com crew will extend its generosity to the public radio format by sharing its collection with WMSE listeners in the inaugural “MKEPunk Radio Hour” monthly segment during Craig Mertes’ “The Shape Of Rock” program. Before the audio archivists take to the airwaves, Milwaukee Record asked Defatte–who also plays in Volunteer and runs the Triple Eye Industries label–via email about his site, what to expect from the segment, and what local releases he has struggled to find.
Milwaukee Record: How did the segment come about?
Martin Defatte: WMSE has been hugely supportive of MKEPunk. [Jeremy] Ampe and I have guest DJ’d a few shows in the past, from “Milwaukee Rock Posters” to filling up an evening with Tom Crawford and even doing a show with Craig [Mertes] from “The Shape Of Rock.” I think it was just a matter of time before we got roped into doing something. Craig contacted us a while ago about doing an MKEPunk segment on his show, but we all got distracted by our daily lives and it got put on the back burner. The three of us finally met up at the Colectivo in the Third Ward and kicked around some ideas on show themes. At first, it was going to be a 30-minute segment, but the station protested and said it had to be a full hour.
MR: For those not aware of MKEPunk.com, can you give an abridged background on the site?
MD: Back in 2009, Jeremy started a simple blog to share a few recordings with his friends, and he approached me about some ’90s hardcore that I had in my collection. We grew up in different scenes, so we each had access to different music collections. Our connections to local music were very complimentary of one another. At the time, I was a fledgling WordPress web developer, saw what he was doing, and asked if I could get under the hood and make it better. He let me help out, and here we are today.
Our goal with the site is to archive DIY music and make it available to the public under a Creative Commons license, which will secure the artists’ rights to their music. To be eligible, the band must be from Wisconsin, [the release must] be out-of-print, and be at least 10 years old. We will not publish anything without permission of the artist. Some of these recordings are one rummage sale or spring cleaning away from never being heard ever again.
MR: How do you happen upon most of your records in your archive? Reader submissions? Used CD of thrift shops?
MD: It started out that Jeremy and I would shake down all our friends for material. That’s why he initially contacted me. I’m a bit of a record collector, so I make a point to search for local music when I’m out digging. We both tend to hit used record stores and rummage sales on a regular basis. Half Price Books, Rushmor Records, and Exclusive Company have been good spots to find local gems. I’m still shaking down friends and acquaintances, but a lot of people have heard about us and are stepping forward with material.
MR: What’s the one release you’ve been hunting for that you haven’t been able to find for the collection? What’s the great white whale of Wisconsin punk?
MD: Well, two artists that we actually have the material for, but have been unable to persuade them to release it via the site, are Wild Kingdom–an ’80s funk band, think early Chili Peppers–and Blacklist–an ’80s metal band, very similar to Accept. They may have other plans for the material. We check in with those guys from time to time, though. Honestly, I think we’ve picked up most of the material we’ve aimed for. Luckily, there are record labels like Rerun Records that are reissuing bands that we’ve been chasing for a while, like The Shivvers, The Ones, and The Ama-Dots. They all actually have new records in print, which is spectacular.
I’m still looking for anything by The New Detective Squad. My old ’90s pop-punk band played a few gigs with them back in the day. I remember them being a blast, but I never picked up any recordings. I’m not even sure if anything even exists. I’d also like to see The Haskels on the site.
MR: What can we expect from episode one?
MD: The first episode is just going to be a broad overview of the website. Think of it as a MKEPunk 101 lesson for the newbies. We are going to start out by playing some of the most downloaded material from the website. Then, we’ll switch and play something from each decade: ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s. We’ll then follow up with a few selections from the digitized carts that WMSE contributed to the website. You’ll definitely hear some material by The Shivvers, Alligator Gun, Mecht Mensch, and The Mighty Deerlick.
Each episode is going to have its own theme. Looks like the next episode will be focused on Milwaukee music from 1990-95. That’s where we started with the archive and the time period that represents our formative years, so it seems fitting to go there first.
MR: Do you feel punk rock lends itself well to the 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. block? Why does it pair well with breakfast and the work commute?
MD: I’ve got a 30- to 45-minute commute to work. I can’t speak for all the morning listeners, but I get excited when I hear deep cuts from my friends’ bands on WMSE. No other local radio station will do that, you know? I know a lot of people tune in at that time. I’m pretty stoked on the time slot. I regularly listen to Craig’s show and he plays a lot of local music anyways, so it just makes sense that this is happening.