In 1979, an elementary school teacher named Robert Vermeulen AKA Tescoe Vee and his friend Dave Stimson started a punk zine called Touch and Go. The zine became a vital source on the emerging US hardcore scene and provided early coverage of bands like Black Flag, Big Boys and Minor Threat. Like west coast zines Slash and Bomp!, Touch and Go evolved into a prominent record label for the scene it covered.
As Touch and Go began releasing more records in the early 1980s, the keys were turned over to Corey Rusk and his wife Lisa. The couple moved headquarters from East Lansing, MI to Chicago, where the label continues to operate. Under their leadership, Touch and Go became one of the more interesting, influential and reliable labels of the last 30 or so years.
The earliest Touch and Go releases were limited 7”s that came with the zine. Obscure but significant bands like The Necros and The Fix released short run lo-fi punk records that are now Holy Grail finds for collectors.
By the late 80s, Touch and Go was established as an esteemed underground label, leaning towards some of the weirder and louder bands of the time. Their “no contract” approach to putting out albums brought them respect on the artist side during a period when the label/band relationship was usually much more adversarial. Innovative Midwestern noise punk bands like Big Black and Killdozer gave the label a somewhat identifiable “sound” that has stuck with its identity.
While the 80s saw Touch and Go releasing some great loud, aggressive albums, the 90s saw the label releasing some more delicate Post Hardcore and Math Rock bands like Slint and Rodan.
The label has continued to release music, although they cut down on their manufacturing and distribution for other labels like Merge and Kill Rock Stars recently. The last decade has seen the release of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio, Shellac and !!! records on Touch and Go.
– Submitted by Justin Main, Music Design