of the
Knitting Factory

Michael Dorf, founder of the Knitting Factory, was the Chairman and CEO from 1987-2002.

He no longer has any operational or ownership ties to the organization.

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The band Swamp Thing and I started Flaming Pie Records out of necessity in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1985. I’d gotten involved with the band when my longtime friend Bob Appel, the guitar player, asked me to manage them. They had just borrowed money from their parents to record in a small studio. I made copies of their tape and went on a road trip to New York to make the band a giant success and, to be honest, to stay with my girlfriend in Queens. After giving the demo tape to and being rejected by every label — major and independent, big and small — we decided to finish the recording ourselves and manufacture the record. With 1,000 copies of the record, Learning to Disintegrate, we went through the existing independent channels of distribution to get it into stores. At the time, the five big distribution companies (three are no longer with us today, the other two still owe us money) on both sides of the country had no problem taking 50 copies each on consignment — that is, free, with a chance we could persuade them to pay if the records sold. But to us in Madison, Wisconsin, the band was really “making it.” As long as we knew that some stores around the country had it on their shelves, and we were selling a few copies in Wisconsin, we were satisfied. All the members of Swamp Thing and I worked diligently at finding the names of radio stations, music press, and clubs-anywhere and anyone who would listen to the album. It was the summer of 1985, and the five of us-Bob Appel, Steve Bear, Michael Kashou, Jonathan Zarov, and I-went on our first road tour, destined to become “rock ‘n’ roll stars.”

This first one-month tour lost about $1,500, and if Visa hadn’t extended my credit line and given me a cash advance, we would have been stuck on the East Coast. In New York City, we would invariably lose more than $100 every time we played a club, whether it was CBGB, the Dive, Peppermint Lounge, or the Pyramid. After paying to play, eat, travel, and self-promote through posters or ads, we were always in the red. Trax, an uptown club, had this unbelievable policy of making you predict the number of people within ten that would show up to your gig. If you were wrong, the club would keep most of the fairly large deposit you’d paid them when the date was booked. I estimated 100 or so would show up when Swamp Thing played; we had 9 pay and 15 on the guest list.

Flaming Pie