Far away from the throngs of music fans and musicians roaming the show floor at NAMM on Saturday, I sat in a relatively quiet room with actor Kiefer Sutherland. The topic of conversation today was not television or movies, but rather guitars and music.
It was a big week for Sutherland as Gibson unveiled a special guitar in his honor. The guitar, modeled after Sutherland’s favorite vintage Gibson, a ‘67 ES-335, was one of three unveiled at NAMM — other models included one for Peter Frampton and another for Jimi Hendrix.
“I just love the guitar,” said Sutherland. “Gibson took so much time building it, making sure everything was just right. “This is a guitar you can afford to buy and it sounds so good.”
It was evident very early on in the conversation why Gibson would choose Sutherland to honor with an “Inspired by” series guitar: passion for music. Besides his favorite ‘67 ES-335, 80 percent of Sutherland’s guitar collection is made up of vintage Gibsons — that’s 50 Gibsons in all.
Sutherland had a glint in his eye when he was talking about the new guitar, but his real passion for music showed when we talked about his music label, Ironworks Records.
Formed with musician and producer Jude Cole, Sutherland said the label was in response to changes happening in the industry.
“We saw that the music industry was changing and we felt that it needed to change,” said Sutherland. “We have wanted to do this for a very long time.”
One of the main reasons for building a studio and forming their own record label was to help up and coming bands, something Sutherland doesn’t feel the major labels do enough of these days because they represent so many acts.
“We saw so many phenomenal Rock ‘n Roll bands that were not getting signed,” said Sutherland. “We really needed to start looking outside the box.”
Sutherland said Ironworks would represent one or two (three at the very most) bands a year — that’s it, no more. This he said would allow them to focus on all the things they need to do to make that band successful.
“There are three things we need to do for a band. We need to make a great record; we need to get the record played; and we need to find an audience for the live shows,” said Sutherland.
If that means pounding the pavement to get people to see one of his acts, then that’s what they’ll do. Listening to Sutherland’s plan of attack for the label you got the feeling that it was very much a grassroots effort — you could also tell from his determination, that he was not going to fail and neither were the bands he represents.