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Music lifer launches own label

He can map the minefield, because he’s stepped on all the mines.

Allan Carter can smile now when recounting his experiences as a working-class musician with Portland, Ore., punks Attack Ships on Fire – and he does frequently outside Hennessey’s Irish pub on a recent Monday afternoon, recalling his adventures the way a war veteran might describe past campaigns.

He brings up a particularly turbulent tour seven years ago that brought the group to Vegas for the first time.

“It was one of those nightmares where everything that could go wrong did,” says Carter, sporting a Peccadilloes T-shirt, heavily tattooed arms and a knowing grin. “We’re in the parking lot of the Hard Rock Hotel and I’m this close to saying, ‘You can keep my gear. I’m flying home.’ ”

But Carter honored his commitment to playing a gig at the Double Down that night, and it ended up being a game changer.

“It was a great show,” says Carter. “There was a big crowd at 4 in the morning. I said, ‘There’s a scene here.’ ”

And so Carter, who splits his time between here and Portland, where he’s the general manager of Domaine Serene winery, began to get involved in the Vegas music ranks. At a show by local female pop punks the Dirty Panties, Carter dug the band’s set so much that he went to buy some merch from them, only to find out that they didn’t have any.

The light bulb went on: Carter decided to use his experiences as a musician and his background in marketing and running successful companies to start a label and help groups on the business side of things.

“Bands want to be bands,” Carter says. “They want to write, record and play music. I can do everything else.”

Carter launched Vegas-based SquidHat Records this year, with his first two signings the aforementioned Panties and hard-charging street punks The Gashers, who have new albums coming out in July and August, respectively.

Carter has advertising campaigns and a video budget for the bands and modest goals for developing the SquidHat roster.

“We’re not creating Kelly Clarksons here,” he says. “But if we can find that middle ground where there’s a loyal following that wants what these bands are doing, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to sell between 1,000 and 7,500 records. We know we’re not going to make money for a while.”

The bottom line doesn’t seem foremost on Carter’s mind anyway. He’s a total music lifer, who carries three iPods with 90,000 songs on them.

Soon, he’ll be adding albums from his own label.

“I just love new music,” he says. “I’m trying to translate that here.”

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

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