Thursday, October 28, 2004

Drummer ends one gig, debuts another

'Music is something that's a part of me, and I can't live without it'

By C.E. Hanifin
Enquirer staff writer

Jerry Dirr's new record label, Phratry, plans to distribute Save Your Servant recordings. He also has other music projects planned.
Photo by MICHAEL E. KEATING/The Enquirer

When local drummer Jerry Dirr decided to launch a record label, he scoured the dictionary in search of the right name. When he discovered the word "phratry," an anthropological term that refers to a cluster of clans within a larger tribe, he knew he'd found it.

Dirr says he envisions Phratry Records as "a group of bands working together for a common good, but at the same time maintaining their own identity and sound."

The label celebrates its official debut Saturday with a release show for A Mirror, the first full-length record by local rock band Humans Bow Down. The event, which will be held at Radio Down in Covington, also marks the final performance of Dirr's own group, Theraphosa.

With the launch of Phratry Records, Dirr, 28, takes his place as tribal elder of the local rock scene. He's admired for his complex, visceral drum work with Theraphosa and his former band, Autumn Rising. He's also respected for his efforts at Save Your Servant Recordings, which he cofounded with band mate Robert Stephen Billups.

What: Humans Bow Down with Theraphosa, Hilltop Distillery and the Defrost Star
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Radio Down, 100 W. Sixth St., Covington; (859) 431-1939;
Admission: $5, $3 with costume; all ages
Theraphosa's members decided to part ways a few weeks ago. Phratry Records will distribute the titles originally released on the Save Your Servant imprint.

Reverence and enthusiasm for the efforts of local musicians, Dirr says, drives him to boost talented young bands. Phratry Records released a Caterpillar Tracks album in August and is distributing View-finder's new record.

Dirr inspires others

Steve Wethington, guitarist and vocalist for Humans Bow Down, says that Dirr motivated the members of his band to get their music out to audiences beyond their home base.

"If it wasn't for Jerry, we wouldn't be releasing a CD right now," says Wethington, 27, who lives in Newport.

Theraphosa's bass player, Robyn Roth, says Dirr's dedication helped spearhead the recently-released Organelle compilation, a split label effort among Save Your Servant, Tiberius Records and State Bird Records.

Roth, 29, created the Organelle artwork and also designed the Phratry Records logo, a primitive red-and-black face inspired by Dirr's fascination with the art of the Northwest Coast American Indians. She's known Dirr for 10 years.

"I've never met somebody who's so in love with his projects," she says.

Like most musicians, Dirr dreams of ditching his day job at a printing company. For now, he runs Phratry Records from the living room of his Price Hill apartment, a space dominated by boxes of CDs and his drum kit and gear cases stacked high along the walls.

Those drums won't be idle too long, Dirr says.

He's planning a new music project of his own, in addition to "being the ultimate cheerleader to help local bands move forward."

In the past few years, some of Dirr's peers have traded their musical ambitions for an emphasis on 9-to-5 careers and personal relationships.

But giving up music will never be an option for Dirr, who says he's realized that he's a lifer.

"Music is something that's a part of me, and I can't live without it," he says. "It all just boils down to waking up every day and living and dying by whether or not I get to listen to records."


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