415 Records was a San Francisco record label created in 1978. The label focused its efforts on local punk rock and new wave music acts of the late 1970s through the late 1980s, including The Offs, The Nuns, The Units, Romeo Void, and Wire Train. Its name, pronounced four-one-five (not four-fifteen), was a play on both the telephone area code for the San Francisco area and the California penal code section for disturbing the peace (indeed, in some promotional material, the phrase “disturbing the peace” was written underneath the 415 logo). The label had a productive partnership with Columbia Records from 1981 until shortly before it was sold in 1989 to Sandy Pearlman, who retitled the label Popular Metaphysics.
Discography [coming soon]
415 Records was founded in San Francisco in 1978 by entrepreneurs Howie Klein, Chris Knab, and Butch Bridges. Klein was a writer and entertainment promoter, Knab owned an eclectic record store in the Noe Valley section of San Francisco Aquarius Records, and Bridges was a music collector and retailer. Klein and Knab had become friends when Klein did some photography for his friend Harvey Milk, whose camera store was next door to Knab’s Aquarius Records on Castro Street. They worked together on various radio shows around the Bay Area, including an alternative radio show on KSAN, and they started recording and promoting local musicians out of Knab’s record store.
Klein ran the label from a tiny office on 16th Street in the Mission, a district of San Francisco, where he kept a pushpin-covered United States map on his wall, bearing a sign that read, “All Bands on Tour All the Time.” Klein used his own late-night weekend radio shows to showcase his artist’s records and he promoted them all over the country to nightclubs, record stores, and a newly blossoming array of other alternative radio stations. His artists were part of the 1980s San Francisco rock underground, though Klein leaned more toward the accessible, fun, new wave bands than the thrash metal and hard-core punk bands who were also part of that scene. 415 was the first North American record label to focus on punk and new wave music and they featured mostly musicians from the San Francisco region, though the label eventually also included artists from other areas. The British label Stiff Records had done similarly two years earlier; marketing England’s emergent 1970s pub rock scene as punk and new wave and releasing their first record in August 1976.
415’s first release was a 1978 single by The Offs, entitled Everyone’s a Bigot, with 0° on the B-side (cat#911-39, 1978). Subsequent early releases included 7″ EPs by SVT (cat#S0005, 1979), The Nuns (cat#SUB01, 1979),and Pearl Harbor and the Explosions Drivin’ (uncatalogued, 1979). Later records included a 7″ by The Mutants (cat#34859, 1980), an album by The Units (cat#A0003, 1980), a 12″ 33⅓ RPM album by Romeo Void (cat# 415A-0007, 1981), a mini-album by New Math (cat#A0008, 1981), and various other releases for many other bands.