Rock History

A Tribute to Small Stone Records

It’s 2020. That means Small Stone Records is celebrating its 25 anniversary.

If you’ve never heard of the record label before, there’s a good chance you’ve heard some of their acts—especially if you’ve spent any amount of time sifting through Stoner Rock albums. Small Stone Records represents (or has represented) some of our favorite in-house acts, including:

  • Dozer
  • Roadsaw
  • Sasquatch
  • Deville
  • Throttlerod
  • Nightstalker
  • Acid King
  • Greenleaf

For a quick sample, here’s Sasquatch’s “Roller”:

To celebrate 25 years in Stoner Rock and Heavy Metal, let’s walk through the record label’s history and some of the contributions its made to the music industry. 

Humble Beginnings

First, let’s recap on the early ‘90s. Grunge was in full swing, with acts like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and the Smashing Pumpkins ruling the airwaves. Much of the Grunge movement’s success stemmed directly back to Seattle-based label Sub-Pop. After launching in 1986, the label single-handedly defined the Seattle sound. 

Using a small $5,000 loan, musician Scott Hamilton (from the band Luder) founded Small Stone Records in Detroit in 1995 in part to compete against the Sub-Pop powerhouse. Instead of signing like-minded Grunge acts, however, Scott and his new label focused on Stoner Rock, Heavy Metal, Blues Rock, and Psychedelic Rock. 

What started off with only $5,000 has grown into a label that represents dozens and dozens of bands, many of which enjoy high praise in Rock’s underground scenes. 

The bands on the label have developed the signature “Small Stone Sound,” which is thanks to Scott Hamilton’s insistence on a certain sort of delivery. In an interview with Get Ready to Rock, Hamilton said he looks for bands with the following qualities:

  • They have a “kickass monster of a drummer”
  • They love early ‘70s Rock
  • They have great work ethic
  • They are easy to work with 
  • They can crush a stage
  • They are cool people

“When you take away any of these ingredients,” Hamilton said, “it just does not work all that well.”

Acquiring Acts From Man’s Ruin

Not long before Hamilton got to work with Small Stone Records, artist Frank Konzik launched the Man’s Ruin record label in San Francisco. Using a unique sort of partnership with its bands, Man’s Ruin collaborated with acts like Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, Sex Pistols, and High on Fire. 

Despite its early success, Man’s Ruin quickly fell apart, largely based on growth and location. The label outgrew the capabilities of its original distributor, and it lost its lease in the middle of the Dot-Com boom. The stumbling blocks proved too much, and operations ceased in 2002. 

In the aftermath, a slew of bands were left without a home. Many of them, including Los Natas, Acid King, and Dozer, were picked up by Small Stone Records. 

Fighting Through Adversity

Sustaining a 25-year run hasn’t always been easy. Back in 2014, a huge flood ripped through Detroit, flooding the Small Stone Records office. The water destroyed files, electronics, CDs, and more. Insurance only went so far, so the music community rallied to help Small Stone and Scott Hamilton get back to work. 

It seems the flood wasn’t enough to keep the record label down, however. Small Stone Records continues to release music on a regular basis, averaging about one record each month.

That output is important. Thanks to Small Stone Records, we have access to great music. Some of Stoner Rock’s best bands of the last 25 years have come through the record label, and we have Scott Hamilton to thank.

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