Local indie label Amphetamine Reptile Records started in a hand grenade crate under a United States Marine’s bunk almost 30 years ago, then went on to achieve national notoriety. It is now the subject of a new documentary film coming to town. The screening will mark the local debut of a documentary that’s been winning acclaim across the country.
The Color of Noise, directed and produced by Eric Robel, will be screened at the Riverview Theater on Oct. 15. The doc includes thoughts from members of the punk, underground, noise, and rock communities on the label’s influence on the local noise rock scene over the course of its 28 years of existence. At the heart of the story is founder Tom Hazelmyer, iconic both for launching the careers of dozens of artists and for embedding his love of eating meat, drinking, and shooting guns into the company, as his music peers say in the trailer.
Hazelmyer created Amphetamine Reptile (AmRep for short) in 1986. Hazelmyer was a United States Marine in the state of Washington at the time. Running the label out of a grenade crate, Hazelmyer set off to boost his own band, Halo of Flies, but ended up getting other artists interested. The growing label moved with him to Minneapolis in the late ‘80s after he was discharged. He went on to put out hundreds of releases by artists including the Cows, Helmet, the Melvins, Mudhoney, Helios Creed, and many others.
AmRep’s packed catalogue of releases, many of which are now out of print, helped the company stake its claim as a serious label unafraid of releasing music that challenged its listeners. Adding to the label’s notoriety, AmRep’s bands would promote themselves with gritty posters and album art by the likes of Coop and Derek Hess.
Documentary director Robel told Noisey that uncovering Hazelmyer’s lesser-known story was a big draw for making the film. “The idea of combining a personal story with these huge influential musicians and poster artists was a obvious winning combination,” he said.
Robel said one thing that surprised him about Hazelmyer while assembling the film was his lasting ear and eye for new talent. “Some people don’t stay in the game after so many years,” he said in the Noisey article, “but Tom really loves music and art, and he has the uncanny ability to identify greatness at the early stages of people’s artistic careers.”
The Color of Noise is playing at the Riverview Theater at 9:15 p.m. on Oct. 15, with a $10 admission. Robel will be present for a Q&A, and it’s a good bet some members of the extended members of the AmRep family will be on hand as well.
Hailey Colwell is a journalism major at the University of Minnesota and a co-director of Theatre Corrobora.