Back in the mid-’90s, a small, counter-culture record label named Man’s Ruin was a hot topic among Rock’s underground music scene. Lead by artist Frank Kozik, Man’s Ruin Records focused on putting the artists first. Profits were split 50/50 and artists retained the rights to their music. It was a formula that attracted bands from all over the country. But as quickly as it started, Man’s Ruin shut down.
Frank Kozik: The Artist Who Founded Man’s Ruin Records With Money From Nike
Despite becoming the founder of a legendary label, Frank Kozik’s background is actually in graphic design and visual arts, with experience in concert posters and even music videos. Although he was born in Madrid in 1962, Frank Kozik eventually started his career in the Bay Area, working closely with bands like Pearl Jam, Dinosaur Jr., and Soundgarden.
His hard work eventually paid off in the form of a three-page spread in Rolling Stone, a feature that highlighted his concert posters. Thanks in part to this exposure, athletic brand Nike eventually tapped Kozik to conduct an ad campaign.
Kozik took the cash and funneled it into a new project: A record label he dubbed Man’s Ruin Record. The original concept for Man’s Ruin was as modest as could be, with a focus on 7-inch vinyl singles.
“’The original premise of the label was that it was gonna be a hobby label, y’know, a lot of vinyl and whatnot,” Kozik explained in a 2000 interview. That concept didn’t last for long. Bands and the public demanded expansion. “But we immediately got a massive amount of press and a distribution offer. All within six months. Then we started making CDs. Suddenly the bands and the customers were like, ‘We want more. We want a real label.'”
Man’s Ruin Records quickly adopted CDs. With the transition came a huge wave of heavy hitters, including Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, Sex Pistols, Electric Wizard, Orange Goblin, Acid King, Nebula, Dozer, The Melvins, and others.
An Emphasis on the Art
Through the rapid growth, Kozik remained heavily involved in the design of all artwork. This dedication to supporting the bands certainly helped draw attention from artists, but that wasn’t the only reason bands flocked to Man’s Ruin.
Man’s Ruin put the band above everything else.
Deals with bands were loose, with recordings getting licensed for two to five years and all copyrights and publishing rights remaining with the band. Profits were split 50-50.
This simplicity toward business and respect for the artists was always part of Kozik’s overall vision. “There’s not a lot of politics or ego involved,” Kozik explained in that same 2000 interview. “ All I care about is, are the musicians happy? And does the record sound good? We’re not tied into the larger record-label system, which is completely corrupt and fucked and impossible to deal with…”
The Fall of Man’s Ruin Records: The Wrong Place at the Wrong Time
When Man’s Ruin was at its peak, it had 15 employees. But the good days soon came to a halt.
Man’s Ruin’s rapid growth caused it to outgrow its original distributor, and the quest for a permanent replacement proved more difficult than expected. At the same, the Dot Com boom pushed Man’s Ruin out of its lease in the Bay Area. Without a headquarters for several months, the label’s productivity dragged to a standstill at the end of 2001.
Operations completely ceased in 2002, leaving the underground Rock scene in chaos. Many of the bands on the label—including Los Natas, Acid King, and Dozer—flocked to Small Stone Records, a label that specialized in Stoner Rock, Heavy Metal, Blues Rock, and Psychedelic Rock.
The demise of Man’s Ruin Records was a blow to Stoner Rock, but its legacy lives on. The label’s original pressings remain in heavy demand, and Kozik remains an influential voice and talent in the industry.
The label’s slogan may have been Empty Pleasures and Desperate Measures Since 1994, but that seems more an act than anything else in retrospect. With such a heavy emphasis on creating and promoting art, Man’s Ruin has cemented itself as one of the most influential entities in Stoner Rock (and Rock in general) history.