This seemingly unassuming corner in Montebello California was once upon a time the home of Wild Rags Records, the record label and store run by the infamous Richard C (full name Ricardo Campos). Richard C is without a doubt one of the more polarizing names you can bring up to those who were involved in the underground metal scene in the early 1990's. Widely known as "rip-off" (a now seldom used term common in the days before the internet when tape trading occurred strictly through the mail) Richard and his label continue to be the topic of conversation on the internet, even though the label has not existed in some time, and the man himself has long ago fallen off the face of the earth. A Myspace tribute page is out there, but very little else remains of the once infamous label. Makes you wonder who on earth would even take a minute out of their time to keep the memory of the label who put out records by Zombified Preachers Of Gore alive...but anyway. I keep using the word "infamous" when referring to the man and his label, because I don't know what else to call the label and the bands they put out. "Laughable" could also work I guess...but then again I have the entire Nuclear Death discography on my Ipod...so I can't make fun of the label all that much.
Though Wild Rags started out releasing questionable music (including glam bands like Cherry Street), the label would go on to put out influential releases by the likes of Nuclear Death, Impetigo, Brutality, Blood, Bloodcum, Sigh, as well as Emperor and Internal Bleeding. I also remember them distributing demos by bands like Excrutiating Terror before they became the darlings of the powerviolence scene. Back to Internal Bleeding though...as I write this I have to laugh because I remember having Internal Bleeding's first demo, and thinking to myself "man, they signed to Wild Rags? They're gonna be huge!" Such a thing would only be funny to someone like me, who had the first Internal Bleeding demo back when it first came out. Old timer metal humor I guess.
My limited interaction with Richard C began after I went to a Morbid Angel show in 1991 or so, and received a flyer that talked about how much of a rip off Wild Rags was. Since I was planning on ordering the Impetigo "Faceless" EP that week, I included the flyer along with my order, and asked for his thoughts on the matter. The response I got from Richard was unexpected to say the least. Along with the EP, I got a large box with tons of records, CDs, stickers, tapes and about 50 copies of his publication The Wild Rag. The letter that came along with all this stuff explained how the guy that made the flyer was full of crap, and that he'd appreciate it if I would pass out his flyers, records and magazines at the same shows where the anti-Wild Rags flyers were being passed out. I quickly decided that the last thing I wanted was to get into a confrontation with some stranger at a show regarding a guy in California I had never met. So, I decided to sell the copies of the magazine to fellow metalheads in school (for a buck each) keep the records I liked, and sell the rest at a local record store. For a couple of years the boxes kept coming, and I had a steady supply of free gore and grind records, as well as a few bucks in my pocket. This all seems like ancient history now, but at the time I have to admit that I felt pretty cool being somehow connected to a somewhat legitimate record label. I remember telling kids in school that I was the local rep. for a label, or something like that. Even thinking of it now I cringe...but such is life.
I actually met Richard at the Milwakee Metal Fest one year without even knowing it. I approached him to buy a shirt in the parking lot to the venue, and noticing that he only had Wild Rags merchandise, I asked him if he was Richard. He quickly said "no, I don't know that guy". Later it became clear that it was him, but he didn't really want anyone to know who he was. I'm sure he wanted to avoid getting his face punched in by all the people he had supposedly ripped off...but the allure of thousands of metal fans eager to spend their money on his records and badly screened shirts had made him fly all the way to Milwaukee. Little did I know that angry guys in bands were the least of his problems. More on that in a minute.
After a few years, the packages of free stuff dried up. His zine The Wild Rag became even worse and more laughable than it had been before, and I lost interest. I had completely forgotten about the label and Richard, until fellow metal brother Sergeant D brought up the subject to me about six years ago. I began to tell him about my interaction with Richard C, and as I told him the story I thought to myself "Holy crap, I was in the Wild Rags street team before street teams existed!"
Out of all the stories and accounts of whatever happened to Richard, the only one I seem to think is truthful comes from Pat who played in Hellwitch. I used to trade metal videos with Pat around 1990-1992 and wrote with him a lot. He always struck me as being a nice and upfront guy (he also had unbelievable penmanship by the way, all in cursive...not very metal). In this interview from 2006 he said:
..Ricardo was charged by the U.S. government with crime of income tax evasion and was sent to prison!! Actually, I’m not sure if he was caught, but I know he was wanted for this crime. Some say he fled to his home country of Mexico. The members of Sadistic Intent went to the government auction of Wild Rags’ stock and purchased most of it. They now run a record store in L.A. called Dark Realm, which sells much of Ricardo’s confiscated inventory! Haha! I love telling this story! As we say in America, “What comes around, goes around!”. Ricardo got his!
Okay, now that I have this story out of my system...I promise I'll try to make my future posts funny.