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Gold Standard Laboratories

Gold Standard Laboratories or GSL was an independent record label which was founded in 1993 in Boulder, Colorado by Sonny Kay. In 2001, it was moved to San Diego, California, USA. It was headquartered in Los Angeles, California, USA until GSL closed its doors on October 29, 2007.

Beginning in 2001, GSL was co-owned by The Mars Volta's Omar Rodriguez-Lopez.


In late 1993, while attending the University of Colorado at Boulder, Sonny Kay (vocalist for the hardcore punk band Angel Hair) began releasing records by local bands under the label name "GSL". The moniker was inspired by the source of the original funds used to finance the first couple of records– the government's Guaranteed Stafford Loan, a form of financial aid available to students. For a couple of years, GSL documented some of the more distinctive bands in the Boulder/Denver underground scene including Foreskin 500, Bunny Genghis and the ex-Fluid power-trio, '57 Lesbian.

During 1994 and '95, Kay also managed and booked Club 156, a live music venue in the university's student union building. Sometime during the summer of 1994, a mutual friend introduced Kay to Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, who was visiting Denver and had traveled to Boulder for whatever show was happening that evening. Over the years, Kay and Rodriguez would occasionally bump into each other on tour in one city or another.

In early 1996, Kay (by then a member of the short-lived but well-traveled group, The VSS) relocated to Berkeley, California and GSL quicky evolved into Gold Standard Laboratories. In addition to releasing many of the San Francisco area's most memorable new bands of the time (including the Starlite Desperation, The Audience/Vue, The Rapture, and I Am Spoonbender), the label soon set its sights on other realms as well, releasing records from groups in places like Sacramento (Out Hud, !!!), Los Angeles (Le Shok, Get Hustle), San Diego (The Locust, Gogogo Airheart), New York (Beautiful Skin), Baltimore (The Convocation Of...), and the Czech Republic (Sunshine). Operating under the same roof as Kay's Bottlenekk Distribution from a warehouse in Oakland, GSL gained momentum with each successive release and, thanks to the relatively massive success of The Locust, awareness of the label worldwide started to become a reality. During this time, Kay co-promoted live shows with fellow tenants Punks With Presses at the building's in-house venue, Circa Here. He also spent most weekend nights at Berkeley's renowned all-ages venue, 924 Gilman, dragging in 6 or 8 milk crates full of the newest Bottlenekk merchandise to sell amongst the various bands and other vendors.

In 2000, GSL relocated once again, this time to San Diego. Kay took up residence with The Locust's Justin Pearson and The Oath's Mark McCoy. For a short period of time GSL, Three One G and Youth Attack Records all operated from the same Golden Hill apartment (which is featured, incidentally, in the video for The Rapture's "Notes", as well as on the cover of Gogogo Airheart's Exittheuxa album). By 2001, the tenants of the building's two apartments were being evicted to due gentrification of the building/neighborhood and forced to relocate, albeit only a few blocks away. The last night of occupancy was celebrated with a 2-story show/eviction party that included performances by The Blood Brothers, The Locust, Moving Units, Gogogo Airheart, and De Facto, attended by about 400 people!

GSL spent two years based in San Diego, during which time groups such as Kill Me Tomorrow (San Diego), Chromatics (Seattle), The Faint (Omaha), JR Ewing and Jaga Jazzist (both Oslo, Norway), and Melt-Banana (Tokyo) all appeared on the label, not to mention the debut EP from The Mars Volta, Tremulant. When not tour-managing with The Locust, Kay was frequently out of town, back up in Long Beach or Los Angeles. By this time, Rodriguez and his bandmate Cedric Bixler-Zavala were living in Long Beach, performing and recording as De Facto, while preparing to launch The Mars Volta. Kay had originally offered to release a De Facto record after receiving a sample copy of the band's debut 12" from the El Paso label who released it, while distributing records in Oakland in 1999. By 2001, with At the Drive-In soon to be a thing of the past, De Facto decided to take Kay up on the offer. Kay remembers Jeremy Michael Ward presenting him with a rough mix of what would become Megaton Shotblast on a minidisc during ATDI's final tour of Japan in January 2001, on which The Locust were the support act. During the process of completing production of Megaton..., Kay and Rodriguez decided to partner, at which point GSL became synonymous with all releases subsequently issued by Rodriguez's soon-to-be-numerous projects.

In 2002, Kay moved GSL to Los Angeles. Finally inhabiting a space all its own, the label at last had the room to expand and soon there were interns and gradually more employees. Los Angeles-based additions to the GSL ranks included 400 Blows, The Starvations, Subtitle and Kay's own band, Year Future. The Mars Volta, meanwhile, issued a steady stream of massively-successful albums, all of which GSL enjoyed the privilege of releasing on vinyl formats. To commemorate the label's twelfth anniversary in 2005, GSL issued its first (and last) 7" singles series, available by mail-order only, including unreleased solo material from both Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala (as well as Volta keyboardist Isaiah Ikey Owens' own Free Moral Agents project). The series also included inaugural singles by plenty of fresh faces who would constitute the bulk of new artists released that year and the next (The Jai-Alai Savant, Dmonstrations, Cut City, Sabertooth Tiger, etc.). 2006 featured arguably the most essential string of releases in recent memory, with full-length albums issued by Crime in Choir (San Francisco), Die Princess Die, Big Sir, Sabertooth Tiger, Anavan, (all Los Angeles), Dmonstrations (San Diego/Tokyo/Santa Ana), and the long-awaited Lab Results DVD. The 11th-hour decision to release Rodriguez-Lopez's generation-bridging collaboration with Damo Suzuki of Can as a mail-order only 12" EP in the middle of December, though not exactly by-the-book, was, without a doubt, the feather in 2006's proverbial cap.

2007 began with full-length album releases by The Jai-Alai Savant (Chicago), Cut City (Gothenburg, Sweden), Tender Buttons (San Diego) and Attractive and Popular (Hot Springs, Arkansas). On October 29, 2007 GSL ceased releasing new material. According to their website they said it was a great 14 years but it was time to end. The last GSL release was the "Too Many Humans" 7" picture disc by San Francisco acid punk/metallers Triclops!. The GSL catalog is still available physically and online.


Present and past GSL artists include:

External links

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