In 1983 Gregg Kostelich and three of his friends in Pittsburgh started a garage rock band called The Cynics. In 1986 they began the Get Hip record label. Last year he opened a record store in a warehouse on Pittsburgh’s Northside that also hosts regular concerts. And Kostelich continues to help other musicians make a name for themselves in the local music scene.
“I was in The Cynics playing and our goal was to reside in Pittsburgh,” Kostelich remembers. “It was an inexpensive place to live. Then Michael (Kastelic, the band’s lead singer) and I wanted to see the world, everywhere we could, across the globe, and that‘s kind of what we did. And it led to contacts and information and we just started to develop from that point.”
Get Hip Records began, according to Kostelich, because “We were going to work very hard and we wanted the labels to work that hard. But we found out it just wasn’t in the cards. So if you think you can do it right, do it yourself, - and I’m going say ‘think’ because I’m still thinking about doing it right.”
In addition to The Cynics the label is also releasing albums by local musicians such as Nox Boys, Slim Forsythe, The Mount McKinleys, and Steel Miners. “We try and do a couple a year,“ he said.
The Get Hip record store opened a year ago and contains not only records and CDs from the Get Hip label but also genres of music from decades past and from around the world. In addition, the store has a website as well as a Bandcamp page where visitors can not only stream but also purchase digital versions of albums and singles.
The store also has an upstairs event center that hosts regular concerts. “Now that the word’s out it’s a cool place and I was very happy to hear from the agency that does Lou Barlow from Dinosaur Jr., Marty Willson-Piper, and Tommy Stinson from The Replacements,” he reported. “And she said - I thought maybe we’d be at the bottom of their wish list - actually you’re in the top three coolest places to play and they made the most money at the door and they loved it. They just made us feel good.”
Despite the success of the venue, Kostelich, who has watched the local music scene for over thirty years, acknowledged his concerns about the current state of affairs: “I don’t see any scenes developing any more,” he said, “and Pittsburgh was always one of the hardest scenes to develop.
“I see major artists touring through and Pittsburgh’s great, we have a lot of great bands, but I don’t see some of the major radio station at all catering to them,” he continued. “They could play them every hour and educate people and create this massive scene of local musicians.”
“I think there’s some movement towards making this happen,” he said. “The clubs are making it happen right now. The clubs are at least using Chet Vincent to open up and he has an open mike night at Mr. Smalls. We want to do that, we want to be involved. I didn’t open the event center to have a nightclub but I’ll do it if the opportunities are there, where there’s a lot of really great bands and they’ve got to be seen or they can’t get a gig anywhere else.”
“There’s only so much time in this life,” he concluded, “and with all the thirty, forty years of experience if you can’t apply yourself and help kids or help others then you should not exist. And that’s the motivation. You’ve got to lift people up. If you’re in a position to help every day, every hour, you’ve got to.”