|Distributor(s)||AMPED Distribution (US), PIAS (UK).|
|Genre||Punk rock, pop punk, hardcore punk, alternative rock, post-hardcore|
|Country of origin||United States|
Epitaph Records is an American independent record label owned by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, most acts signed to the label were punk and pop punk acts, while there are many post-hardcore and emo bands signed to the label as well. A large portion of the record label, known as Hellcat Records, is owned by Tim Armstrong, frontman of the punk rock band Rancid. Several sister labels also exist, such as ANTI-, Burning Heart Records, Hellcat Records, and Heart & Skull Records that have signed other types of bands.
Brett Gurewitz formed Epitaph Records as a vehicle for releases by his band Bad Religion. The name had been taken from the King Crimson cold war protest song Epitaph from which the lyrics "Confusion will be my epitaph." had struck a chord with Brett and Greg when they were young. Its first release for the label was Bad Religion's 1981 self-titled EP, followed by their debut How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, which was also the label's first full-length release. Also released during this period was Peace thru Vandalism, an EP by The Vandals, who were the first band besides Bad Religion to sign to Epitaph. Two more Bad Religion releases followed – Into the Unknown and the EP Back to the Known – before their temporary split. After Gurewitz had cleaned up his drug issues, both Epitaph and Bad Religion were revived in 1987. In the following year, Epitaph released its first record as a proper label, which was L7's self-titled album, and it was distributed by Chameleon. Also in 1988, Bad Religion released Suffer, which was both released and distributed by Epitaph. Not only is Suffer often cited as one of the band's best by fans, but it is credited with "saving" the Southern California punk rock scene by fans and Bad Religion's contemporaries alike.[better source needed]
In 1989, Gurewitz signed NOFX to Epitaph. They released their debut for the label, S&M Airlines, that same year, featuring the video for its title track and the cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way", which featured guest vocals by Gurewitz and Greg Graffin, also a member of Bad Religion. This was followed by Bad Religion's next two albums – No Control and Against the Grain – which sold 60,000 and 100,000 copies respectively.
By 1993, more punk acts had signed to Epitaph, including Pennywise, Down by Law, Coffin Break, The Offspring, Rancid, RKL, SNFU, Dead Fucking Last, Total Chaos and Claw Hammer. Epitaph's expansion saw the label relocate to new offices in Silver Lake.
Although Bad Religion was the founding band of Epitaph, releasing their early records through the label, they switched over to Atlantic in 1993, with Recipe for Hate being their first record outside of the label. Brett Gurewitz is thought to have left Bad Religion as a result of internal disputes, but actually left the band in 1994 so he could run Epitaph full-time. That year Bad Religion and Epitaph received widespread fame, both within and outside the punk community, when Bad Religion (even though they had left Epitaph by this time), NOFX, Rancid and The Offspring all released hit records. This was a big year for punk in the mainstream; Rancid appeared on Saturday Night Live the following year, playing "Ruby Soho" and "Roots Radicals". The Offspring eventually left for Columbia Records in a contract dispute, but their album Smash became the best-selling independent album of all time, with more than 11 million units sold worldwide to date.
In 2001, Brett Gurewitz returned to Bad Religion, and the band returned to Epitaph Records, releasing seven more albums, the latest being Age of Unreason (2019).
In mid-2005 Epitaph was added to the official list of RIAA members along with several other high-profile independent labels. The reason for the listing is not clear, but one source points to an agreement for internet P2P distribution. Another source claims label management joined RIAA to get certified sales awards (i.e., official "Gold" or "Platinum" record status) for releases. This sparked some controversy as some feel they should no longer be labeled independent if they are a member of the RIAA. However, the only source that has actually been used for these claims of membership is the official RIAA membership list, which has been disputed. As of this writing, not only is Epitaph listed as an official member but Lookout! Records is once again listed, after being falsely listed before. In addition, Fat Wreck Chords has released statements denying their own involvement in the RIAA, condemning the organization.
During this time, the label started to stray from its traditional punk rock output by signing a number of post-hardcore bands such as The Blackout, Escape The Fate, From First to Last, Hell Is for Heroes, I Am Ghost, Matchbook Romance, Our Last Night, Scatter the Ashes, Story of the Year, Thursday, Vanna, and You Me at Six.
Epitaph signed Weezer in 2010, the label releasing Hurley later that year. The label signed Social Distortion in the same year. Epitaph signed Australian punk band Dangerous! in 2011 and released album Teenage Rampage. Epitaph had also signed the Canadian punk rock band Propagandhi. The label has also been more active in signing bands from the emo revival including The Menzingers, Joyce Manor, Pianos Become the Teeth, Defeater, The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, and Touché Amoré.
Epitaph has issued two albums that have been certified as platinum or multi-platinum, for sales of over 1 million units, by the Recording Industry Association of America: Smash by The Offspring, which has been certified six-times platinum, and ...And Out Come the Wolves by Rancid, which has been certified platinum.
Seven albums released by the label, or its subsidiaries Hellcat and ANTI-, have been certified gold for sales of 500,000 copies: Ignition by The Offspring, Punk in Drublic by NOFX, Let's Go by Rancid, Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards by Tom Waits, The Drug in Me Is You by Falling in Reverse, The Warrior's Code by Dropkick Murphys and Sempiternal by Bring Me the Horizon.