By Keith Sharp
Jaimie Vernon’s Bullseye Records may have fallen victim to the Canadian Music Industy’s retail collapse in 2007-2008 but his determination to revive his re-issue business has been rewarded with the label’s relaunch in October 2015.
Now with a three-year distribution deal with Universal Music associated label, Conveyor Records, Vernon’s Bullseye Records is back in business having just re-released Strange Advance’s 1988 `The Distance Between” record and Alta Moda’s 1987 self titled debut, both previously released on Current Records. Next up is the re-release of Timo Laine’s ground-breaking 1976 `Symphonic Slam’ opus
“For five years I was a very bitter person. My Bullseye Records label had gone bankrupt, my wife and I lost everything including all my tapes and other label stuff,” explained Vernon. “I was very bitter, I hated everyone. The worst part was that people continued to send me demo tapes and were trying to pick my brain even after I’d gone out of business. My response was, `my brain costs $25 per hour and you’re going to buy me dinner!”
Determind that he was finished with the music biz, Vernon spent the next five years pursuiing other means of employment including a stint as a security guard. “During that time, I totally lost track of what was going on in the music scene. But sitting in a patrol car guarding a cemetary for 15 hours a day, I looked at my paltry pay cheque and came to the conclusion that if I was going to work for such a small amount, I’d be better off working for myself.”
Vernon was prompted back into action when he received a phone call from one of his former record store contacts who tipped him off that his former landlady, who had kept his record company stuff when evicting him from his house, was trying to sell his master tapes.
“I asked her to give me six weeks to raise the money I owed her, I launched a crowd sharing fund drive, paid off my debt to her and took back my record company stuff,” Vernon allowed. “The first thing I noticed was how much the industry had changed in my absence. A vinyl revolution was going on and although no one is buying cd’s any more, I realized I could remix the tapes so they could be downloaded.”
“I could see that the big record guys were collapsing and that people who have the smarts on the ground level have a chance now to walk back up the ladder,” Vernon noted. “The independent scene is alive and vibrant again.”
Vernon’s first call was to Peter Piasecki at Conveyor Records, a label distributed by Universal Music which specialized on product re-issues such as Klaatu, FM and the Jeff Healey estate. Piasecki, recognized Vernon’s track record of re-issuing previous releases by the likes of Goddo, The Kings, Klaatu, Honeymoon Suite, The Killer Dwarfs, Santers, Dave Rave (Teenage Head), Tom Wilson’s Florida Razors, Harem Scarem, Bob Segarini, The Guess Who, Brave Belt, Kenny McLean(Platinum Blonde) and many other classic rock re-releases and welcomed the opportunity to access Vernon’s archival knowledge.
In resurrecting Bullseye, Vernon knew he needed some fresh product so he contacted Gerry Young, President of Current Records about re-releasing some of his catalogue. Key titles by artists like Parachute Club and Martha & The Muffins, are not available but Young has agreed to Bullseye re-releasing titles by Strange Advance and Alta Moda, Double Dare and Gerry Cott (ex Boomtown Rats) and a big coup is the pending release of Timo Laine’s 1976 prog-rock, guitar-synthesizer , `Symphonic Slam’ record.
Vernon, a Toronto native who turned a vanity record label for his own band Moving Targetz, into Canada’ premiere classic re-release label, is also an avid musicologist who has compiled an impressive Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and later this year will also release a Bullsology book which reflects on the 30-year history of his indie label.
“At a time when there is a great renaissance going in Canadian music, there’s literally hundreds of great Canadian records and singles that deserve to be re-issued, it’s just a matter of putting in the time to track this material down,” noted Vernon. “As Peter (Piasecki) said to me “you know where all the bodies are buried”. It’s my challenge to find those releases and give them a new life.”