Hidden within Cleveland’s infinitely vast musical landscape lies a collective of like-minded, die hard musicians so devoted to their cause that even after eleven years of flying under the mainstream radar, they’re still cranking out epic jams and blowing the doors off nearly every club in town. It’s just what they do best. These artists comprise the family of Jib Machine Records, and John “Charlie” Templeman is the godfather of that family.
Rise of the Machine
Templeman has been at the grind since 2004 when he co-founded Jib Machine with the goal of garnering exposure for his music. He’s president, producer and an active musician, offering his own solo work and contributing his musical skills to multiple projects. Involved with every aspect of Jib since conception, Templeman was naturally the label’s first recording artist under the solo handle J TEMP 13.
“I went to NYC to record a demo with a friend of mine who had produced stuff for me in Cleveland,” said Templeman on the origins of the label. “We recorded in his apartment, just me and an acoustic guitar.” Those songs ended up on Jib’s first release, the melodic bootleg NYC Acoustic Demos/Restoration. After the initial recording, Templeman dusted off a couple albums that never got a fair shake from his defunct bands. With these albums Jib Machine Records was born.
In 2008, Templeman formed his own production house, 13 Recordings. As sort of a cousin company to Jib Machine, 13 Recordings produces some of Templeman’s solo and label mates’ work, but also music from other artists in the Cleveland area, and offers a ton of music related services. Between 13 Recordings and Jib Machine, there have been fifty-five releases to date, and John Templeman is just getting warmed up.
The Family that Plays Together
Over the years, Templeman has accrued a lineup of raw, unadulterated artists who, like kismet, found their way onto the Jib Machine bill. “I have to be friends with the artist/band to really respect them as people if I’m going to promote their art,” Templeman noted of his musical brethren. “Jib Machine has always been more like a family than a record label…like a gang of misfits that helps each other out. Almost like we were meant to find each other for some reason or another.”
The current Jib Machine lineup definitely houses a few misfits. Pop-punk band The Drug Fux have been writing, recording and honing their flavor of low-fi garage rock for over twenty years. Brazen “barncore” band Hostile Omish routinely tear up Cleveland’s punk scene, exciting crowds with their popular onstage butter churning. Jib Machine is also home to acoustic solo artists such as the folksy Brad Demiter and the quirky Eli “Guitarman” Fletcher. “Ultimately, the artists set us apart from other labels,” says Templeman. “Our family atmosphere contributes to our uniqueness as well.”
Last year the label lost one of their greats, “Slowhand” Jack Labgold, a local legend and guitar maestro. In honor of his memory, and as a testament to the bond of the Jib Machine crew, some of the bands recorded cover versions of Labgold’s songs and subsequently, released a CD including Labgold’s final recording and some rare unreleased tracks. “Going through that experience, realizing what our label meant to him and his life,” said Templeman, “you realize this is why I do this. Yeah, you do it to make money and have fun, but you do this to basically change people’s lives.”
Seeds of the Past
With such an uninhibited and diverse presence, Jib Machine is perfectly at home in the city of rock. Cleveland is proudly Templeman’s base of operations, but his musical roots stem from his hometown, Youngstown, Ohio, where his parents met while playing in a band together. “Because of them, I’ve been doing what I do since I can even remember,” he reminisces about his folks. “I can recall going to band practices with my parents and just being enamored watching everyone play and the process they went through rehearsing songs.” He is literally a product of music.
Templeman’s roots continue to influence the state of Jib Machine today. He frequently dips into the past to re-introduce old-school virtuosos to a new generation. Speaking to his character, the connections Templeman has made with these retro artists has lasted a lifetime. “When I was about six or seven years old, my mom was in a band called Frost. Their keyboardist, Danny Shapira, is still a friend of mine today and played on two tracks on my new solo EP.”
“One thing I want to get into is re-issues,” says Templeman, as he goes on to gush about some of his favorite lost groups. “There’s a lot of musical rock history in Northeast Ohio.” Templeman is hoping to form a compilation of music from lost local bands, but he also teased the re-release of the mid-80s album Sleepless Nights, by his uncle’s group The Yazz Band. If you thought his flair for nostalgia ended there, Templeman is also looking to bring back cassettes for some upcoming releases.
Long Arm of the Jib
After years of the label evolving, Templeman has been the steady beat at the heart of it all. Last year he celebrated the tenth anniversary his the hybrid metal, punk/rock trio, Hot Ham & Cheese, one of the staples of Jib Machine. Earlier this month, the group was honored to play the final show at the legendary Cleveland dive, Spitfire Saloon. “We played one of the most intense sets in the 11 years we’ve been together,” Templeman said. “It was bittersweet, but an awesome night.” Making history is only part of Jib Machine’s promising future.
One of their freshest artists is also the label’s first hip-hop act. Templeman became friends with hardcore Cleveland rapper 9E$V$ (pronounced Jesus), and after years of working together on smaller projects, the time was right and he signed to the label. “A couple months ago, I was listening to everything we collaborated on and thought, ‘holy shit this is awesome!’” Templeman raved. “We talked about it, made a plan, and his EP This Ain’t No Movie Mixtape will be out in a couple months.”
With ample friends and allies in the business, Templeman is ready to cash in his favors and go big. “For a while we were running a record label like we were running a party,” states Templeman. “But if I’m gonna do this, it’s time to start taking things to another level. I’ve dedicated my life to music. I live and breathe it.” And it shows. After over a decade of ebb and flow, Templeman continues to rock on, with Jib Machine Records steadily evolving into a paragon of DIY record labels. Keep your ears out, Cleveland.