We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
This quote from T.S. Eliot jumped out at me as I struggled to pull this newsletter together. It states so clearly what I’ve been feeling about reviving Gearhead®, but was having trouble putting into words. After fifteen years of ups and downs, feeling as if I were sitting in the front seat of a rickety old wooden roller coaster banking sharply to one side or the other and sometimes almost going off the rails, I have arrived back at the beginning. It’s all the same, yet it feels like I’m seeing it all for the first time.
I’ve toyed with the idea of rebranding Gearhead® for the past year, and in my mind it totally made sense. My heart however had a different idea, and that disconnect kept things stalled out as I struggled to figure out what the best plan of action was.
The more I explored the idea though, the more I realized it was exactly the right next action to take. So as 2015 picks up speed, I’m going for it. Lots of companies go through this rebranding process of reinventing themselves. Look at MacDonald’s using hip hop music to reach a new generation, or Apple, going from nearly bankrupt to Visionary by connecting with peoples’ desires for simple and beautiful technology. Changes are sometimes jarring to the fans who have supported the old guard, but when you give it a chance sometimes the changes are exactly what is needed to breathe fresh air and life into a company and make it fun and exciting again.
Fifteen years ago, I joined forces with founder Mike, and together we created Gearhead Records. Mike had set the stage back in 1993, creating Gearhead Magazine and making some shirts to help spread the word about his new project. We became partners because we had a similar desire to add some cool shit to the exciting mix of music and clothing that was just starting to pick up steam in early 2000, and each of us had a valuable part to play in growing the company.
We officially added Gearhead Magazine and Gearhead Apparel making these divisions an integral part of the business plan that already included Gearhead Records. But it also ended up making things a little confusing for Gearhead customers. Many didn’t realize all these separate brands were all actually different products from the same company!
The redesign of the 22-year-old Gearhead brand has not been something I entered into lightly. The process of mulling over this decision forced me to ask deeper questions about who Gearhead is and what exactly this company, most notably the role of the magazine, should be in this age of Facebook blogs Twitter and Instagram where little is left to the imagination, and trends come and go with the blink of an eye.
Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce Gearhead Headquarters., or for short Gearhead HQ
Going forward, each division will no longer be referred by using records, apparel, or magazine. It will all just be Gearhead from here on out, all collected under the mother ship, Gearhead HQ.
The changes are kicking off with the re-launch of Gearhead Magazine (now to be called just Gearhead!), with the long-awaited issue #19 due out Spring 2015. Despite the fact that founder Mike will no longer be involved, the original spirit of the magazine will still be there, focusing on the culture, the stories and people that drive the many faceted world of independent music, art and cars.
Gearhead is a lifestyle brand built on images, words and sounds, of anticipating trends and pop culture years in advance of mass media. Gearhead has always been way ahead of the curve, balancing nostalgia and reverence for the past with current cultural trends.
Now when you turn on the TV, there are shows about underground movements that Gearhead touched on years earlier. Punk Rock is now mainstream with companies like cellular giant T Mobile usurping the gritty raw punk n’ roll sound that many Gearhead bands championed. Lowbrow art and Kustom Kulture are now as much a part of the American pop experience as Pepsi and Burger King.
The truth is that is exactly what Gearhead has always been good at, and why Gearhead is still relevant today: Someone has to find the cool shit first and share it with the world.
Since taking a few years off to do some soul-searching and clutter clearing, there have literally been hundreds of companies laying claim to the Gearhead name. But due to Mike’s foresight, we were there first, creating the pathway for a lifestyle combining hot rods, rock ‘n roll and pop culture that you all supported and helped grow. The name Gearhead didn’t exist in popular culture the way it does now (check out the urban dictionary for a really jaw-dropping look at today’s use) but try explaining that to these newbies is like ramming a priceless t bucket into a brick wall. Better just to let it go and focus on what started the whole trip in the first place!
As Thee Gearhead® brand emerges I am pleased to carry forward the tradition of shining the light in dingy clubs, dusty garages and pulling open closet doors to uncover the interesting and unique stories, music and pop culture from the past that hold relevance in today’s disconnected world. I feel incredibly lucky to still be here, guiding this company into the future. Who knows where it will go, but the one thing I DO know is it will be fun, interesting, challenging and exciting to navigate this new leg of the journey.
Advertisers, you can grab some ad space at the original super-low rates from 2008, just for this issue. There is limited space available as the magazine undergoes this metamorphosis, so get in touch right away to reserve your spot. It’s a chance to be part of something big once again, right from the beginning.
Its’ a super exciting time to be part of Gearhead, and I’m thrilled that you are all still along for the ride. There’s bound to be bumps along the way, but that’s part of what makes a road trip or a rollercoaster ride fun right? More than anything else, 22 years is a long time to be in business. I missed celebrating that, so with the my official 15 year anniversary upon us now, it’s time to rock and roll, and get things moving so we can continue to celebrate the rebirth of all parts of the Gearhead brand.
Thanks for joining me on this new leg of our journey! Keepin’ the rubber on the road,
I had the pleasure of speaking with Mark and Jeff the other day for their upcoming documentary Free Form Baby about the role that independent free-form radio played in opening up the world to independent music.
It's a conversation that is near and dear to my heart because that's where I got my start in the music industry!
I've written about it before, but my years as a DJ for KBVR, Maximum Rock and Roll and KDVS all gave me a glimpse into the world of underground music that nothing else ever could have. Gearhead® would not exist without independent radio.
What is Free Form Radio exactlY? It's independent stations,not beholding to big companies with money who dictate what gets played, with DJs committed to exposing the listener to a wide array of musical styles and sounds that would never be heard on commercial stations.
I recorded a few of my shows over the years and happily discovered that I still had them as I was digging through dusty cardboard boxes looking for memorabilia from that time. I hope to get these uploaded digitally to share with you all. There is some amazing stuff on these cassettes that I'd totally forgotten about!
Stay tuned dear readers, the documentary is in production and should be out this fall, with interviews stretching back over time to talk with the earliest rock DJs who set the stage for those of us to come. I'm delighted to be involved with this project and look forward to sharing updates as it gets closer to release!
-rock n' roll baby!
Rock 'n' Roll/Automotive Journalist, Influencer, Editor and Publisher of Gearhead Magazine,