We had the good fortune of connecting with Dennis Callaci and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dennis, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
There is a large price to be paid to pursue something artistically, even if it is not your career choice. There is so much toil and time spent in isolation to follow through on creative projects that it often times feels ridiculous to even attempt such lofty acts. I am constantly in awe & have admiration for my peers and those that went before me that were able, or are able to thread the needle and not get lost in the hay. I once sold off my hours for decades at a job that kept my family and I afloat so that I could keep the channel of making music, writing and putting out records from becoming polluted by commerce. After thirty years of that life, I no longer have to sell off my days like that anymore. Pursuing an artistic and creative career, I took low rent vacations, my family & I had improv garage sales, sure, but that in the rearview is rosy. Beware of traps, of high rent districts and abhorrent overhead. A creative life, much less a creative career means that most of us won’t be living high on the hog. Low to the ground is good, you get to mess around in the dirt and hear most everything as it is birthed. The balance of running the Shrimper label and paying the bills was and is a creative process in and of itself. Jettisoning the norms like touring, management and deep depth dog and pony baby kissing meant that I didn’t have deep pockets to pursue every avenue that I might have otherwise. I turned down money left and right, projects I didn’t believe in though I knew they would be easy turn key cash. I was surrounded by friends/artists that saved me from the cynicism and soul crush of having to live with myself had I started to bend and make concessions. I wanted to be around artists and unique folks, that is the gold in a creative path. I no longer work that job that I didn’t have ownership of and a funny thing happened as I exited. I started a dream book publishing imprint with my dear friend Mark Givens called Bamboo Dart Press, and together, we have lined up nearly fifteen books that we are publishing over the next calendar year (the first book is out now, Meg Pokrass “The Loss Detector”). Every door we have knocked on has opened, and we have projects by an impressive array of artists from all walks. High profile writers/artists like Victor Gastelum,Gail Butensky & Jonathan Lethem and an array of underground legends and debut projects. Mark and I are a known quantity which is more valuable than the promise of a hefty wage. If I can continue to pursue the art of those whose work I love with a pure heart via the band I am in, the label I run, the books that I partner to put out via Bamboo Dart Press, it was worth the toil and lower rent paydays. Here and there I lose money, sure, but artists get paid and get treated as I would like to be treated. The hundreds of artists I have worked with, we all operate on faith and trust. It has worked. It is fucking unbelievable.
What should our readers know about your business?
Shrimper Records started on a shoestring & forever shall be on a shoestring. The challenge for me as the label grew was to recognize the illusory nature of the business I was in. The record industry, it was a joke propagated by con jobs and predators thirty years ago when I began, and it has been brought to it’s knees to a large degree by the artists. Brands? I am not a fan. I want the label to be a vessel, not a trash can.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Maybe it is the endless pacing and note taking we have all been doing over the last six months, knowing that there is nowhere we can go or show our visitors that is concrete. There are no visitors. Do one thing. Watch a movie without a phone. Eat a meal without a newspaper. Read a book without music on. Take a bath without water.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
The dA Center for the Arts in Pomona California opened my eyes as a teenager to the prospect of the artistic life. The former gallery has expanded over the decades since I first discovered it, and it opened it’s doors to me to include a wealth of community outreach in a plethora of ways via the arts.