When you’re passionate about your craft you need only add hard work and some street smarts to achieve your ultimate ambition. Such is the moral of the Cleopatra Records legacy, founded over decades ago (a century in today’s market). The mid ’80s were a magical time in the Los Angeles music scene. The energy, the glamour, the excess…all hitting a frenzied peak. A young entrepreneur named Brian Perera was in the thick of it all, beginning his career by making and marketing T-shirts and swag in his Southern California garage for rising stars like Guns N’ Roses and Jane’s Addiction. With a desire to release an out-of-print Motorhead and a rapid-fire mind that quickly learned the ins and outs of the record industry, BP purchased the license, distributed and marketed what would be the first of thousands of releases on the soon to explode Cleopatra Records roster.
The mid ’90s by contrast were all about the independent spirit. The Glam & Sleaze rock scene Perera helped promote a decade prior had ballooned beyond anyone’s control and crashed to Earth as the Alternative movement, devouring anything that smelled of corporate stadium rock. One dark faction of this new breed was the second wave of Gothic Rock or “Goth” to be proper. With that instinctual premonition and support of the original L.A. Goth havens like Helter Skelter, Retail Slut and Vinyl Fetish, Cleopatra was a welcome home for the leaders of this pack (Gary Numan, Christian Death, Alien Sex Fiend, Rosetta Stone…). Years before the fashion was bottled and sold at suburban malls, pioneers like Cleopatra’s early guard: Electric Hellfire Club, Switchblade Symphony, Front Line Assembly, Die Krupps, Spahn Ranch, Leather Strip and Razed In Black were bashing their way through the woofers and across the dancefloors of Industrial clubs world wide.
As electronic music mutated, the company (with the assistance of wife Yvonne Perera and publicist Brian McNelis) worked like a railroad crew, staying a few steps ahead, laying the tracks for the genre to ride onward. Top dance acts like Future Sound Of London and Loop Guru would send the Hypnotic Records offshoot into the stratosphere. Rave culture expanded to define a large segment of a chemical generation and Hypnotic was there to chronicle its stars like Crystal Method and its misunderstood adherents on the award winning documentary DVD: Better Living Through Circuitry. Later the label would also release groundbreaking works from the hottest DJs on the planet; Paul Oakenfold and Superstar DJ Keoki.
As Hip Hop continued to dominate the charts, Cleopatra created X-Ray Records and released albums by SX-10 (featuring Sen Dog of Cypress Hill), KRS-One, and Gangsta Rap godfathers, Westside Connection! In 2005, X-Ray had its biggest success yet with the release of the solo album of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony alum, Layzie Bone. The album, It’s Not A Game, featured guest appearances by Snoop Dogg, Twista, Layzie’s brother Krayzie Bone, and others. In the first week of its release, the album landed on the Billboard Top 100 Album chart – a monumental first for the Cleopatra Records crew!
Cleopatra has also been a vital force in promoting underground, old school, hardcore and British Punk Rock. Cleopatra brought a ton of great, real deal punk bands back into the U.S. (some for the first time) bands like The Vibrators, The Exploited, The Adicts, UK Subs, The Damned, and a whole slew of others. Toward the end of 2012, Cleopatra bought the entire catalog of famed San Francisco-based hardcore punk label New Red Archives. The catalog includes the debut album of Anti-Flag plus a slew of important but underappreciated artists like Kraut, Berkley California’s own SamIAm, Social Unrest (Produced by Geza X of Dead Kennedys fame), Christ On A Crutch (featuring bassist Nate Mendel of Foo Fighters), Crucial Youth, and a whole bunch more.
Another very important label imprint, fan favorite Purple Pyramid Records, brought monsters like Yes, Santana, Jimmy Page, Hawkwind, Rainbow and a host of others back to appreciative album collectors seeking those rare gems for their collections. One of the most underrated bands of the early ‘70s space psychedelic movement, Nektar, has seen their catalog lovingly reissued on Purple Pyramid in addition to the new covers project A Spoonful Of Time, and 2013’s Time Machine. Purple Pyramid also became the new home for Star Trek actor/icon William Shatner, who released his original Prog Rock concept album Ponder The Mystery on Purple Pyramid in 2013. That same year, Hawkwind co-founder Nik Turner released his most acclaimed solo album of his career on Purple Pyramid, the intergalactic masterpiece Space Gypsy. From Psychedelic rock (Iron Butterfly, Quicksilver Messenger Service) to Jazz Fusion (Billy Cobham, The Fusion Syndicate) to Classic rock (Vanilla Fudge, Pat Travers), the roster of Purple Pyramid artists is truly an astounding array of incredible musicians, artists, and bands.
In 2014, Cleopatra continued to work with new and developing talent as well as established artists such as Missing Persons’ Dale Bozzio, Krautrock legends Amon Düül II, theatrical metal hero Thor, The Oak Ridge Boys, R&B icon Shuggie Otis, and blues guitarists Popa Chubby and Eric Gales. The label has helped promote new bands in the psych-space genre, working with The Black Angels, Allah-Las, The Raveonettes, Psychic Ills, The Vacant Lot’s and more!
In 2015, Cleopatra will release an enormous 6CD box set featuring the early Wax Trax! recordings (including 29 previously unreleased recordings) by industrial pioneers Ministry and related side projects Revolting Cocks, 1000 Homo DJs, Pailhead, PTP, and Acid Horse. Also slated for this year are releases by the newest additions to the Cleopatra family, electronic duo VOWS and furiously primal minimalists Bestial Mouths.
Finally, Cleopatra has another film project currently in development, a sequel to the 2012 horror musical The Devil’s Carnival, directed by writer/director of Saw II-IV. The sequel, entitled The Devil’s Carnival: Alleluia, will star Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas) and David Hasselhoff (Baywatch/Knight Rider).