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In 1985, independent labels were not so common, and where they did occur, they tended to be very region specific. In 1985, Chris Hanzsek and his then-girlfriend Tina Casale had the crazy notion of putting out a limited edition record compiling some very young Seattle bands whose sound was a departure from most of the music going on at the time. Little did they know, that they were about to make history.

The fruit of their work was the now legendary, Deep Six LP, which collected the earliest recordings of the real pro-genitors of what later came to be known as ‘Grunge.’ This was the earliest chronicle of Soundgarden, Melvins, Green River, Skin Yard, Malfunkshun, and the U-Men. These bands were gritty and unrestrained, dark and heavy. It was a strange cross between the Stooges, Kiss, the Birthday Party, and punk…but it was distinctly Seattle. Deep Six did ok around Seattle where the bands had their small followings, but nationally, the record was something of a disappointment, and after about 18 months, Chris & Tina realized that running a record label was NOT a career they wanted to pursue.

Daniel House, bass player for Skin Yard, was in the midst of putting together the bands first record, and wanting to insure that Deep Six would continue to trickle out into the world, worked out a deal and took over the operation of C/Z records. For several years C/Z was just a hobby, initially a vehicle for the first Skin Yard releases, but very quickly became an outlet for many unnoticed Seattle bands that House felt were making great music. Restaurant tips funded many of the early releases until they started to actually break even.

By complete accident, House managed to stumble into a gig as a record label owner. By then he was working as sales manager at the then-fledgling Sub Pop, intermittently touring with Skin Yard. After leaving Sub Pop, he rented a closet-sized office, and inside of a few months, had Barbara Dollarhide by his side, equally as passionate and willing to commit several years into the growth of C/Z.

Inside of just a few short years, the staff grew to thirteen people, and the ascent of C/Z both locally and on a national scale was remarkable indeed. By the time that Nevermind broke out in 1991, C/Z had already put out numerous releases by Coffin Break, Hammerbox, Treepeople, and 7 Year Bitch. There was plenty more to come, and over the next several years, there were loads of new releases from the Gits, Treepeople, 7 Year Bitch, Built to Spill, Silkworm, and the Presidents of the United States.

In 1993, C/Z entered into a production and distribution deal with Sony-owned RED distribution. The deal quickly went sour, but RED, refused to let C/Z out of the deal, managing to bleed the label dry in less than a year. 1994 saw the death of Kurt Cobain and almost saw the death of C/Z as well. House was forced to downsize and re-organize, and it would be over a year before any new releases would see the light of day.

1996 presented a new chapter for C/Z. BMG owned Zoo records (Tool, Matthew Sweet) came to the label, and offered House the chance for a new situation. They would enter into a deal whereby a modest operating and recording budget would be doled out, and Zoo would be there to assist in the development of their new artists. After about a year, things were back in full stride, but Zoo would be purchased by Volcano entertainment, and all third party ventures were dropped like a hot potato.

Daniel House, feeling like the time had come to look ahead to new beginnings, made the choice to return C/Z back to a labor of love, and would release occasional records on an infrequent basis. Somehow the whole trip had come full-circle, and in 2002, everything truly came full circle. C/Z released the odds-n-sods collection of unreleased and unavailable Skin Yard material, entitled Start at the Top. C/Z is still around, just more low-key.and the mail orders continue to come in from around the country, and around the globe.


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