Universal Warning Records
Universal Warning Records started as a concept in early 2000, among 3 Kutztown University students while recording a follow up record for their punk alternative band, The Covert Agency. Tim Martinkovitch came up with the concept of starting a label because of the strong bond he felt among his band mates. Knowing that graduation was surly to split the members up for good, and that The Covert Agency had not quite met critical mass in the indie / punk / hardcore community in the east coast tri-state area - Martinkovitch took a proactive turn and decided to put their love for independent music and their diverse talents and relationships to work. With the blessing from both bass player Mike Varga and drummer Clint Weiler, Martinkovitch was granted full use to the bands funds to develop the concept, which was ultimately intended to be a foundation that the three would use to maintain personal relationships and to help further their musical endeavors.
In the fall of 2000 Martinkovitch discussed releasing a compilation of local artists with the Weiler and Varga. When the idea was met with great enthusiasm, Martinkovitch went to work choosing a diverse roster of Pennsylvania artists. Selecting a studio operated by another Kutztown graduate, to record and produce the compilation one Ryan Fennical, who had recorded the Covert Agency's first 2 albums, soon became a partner in the upstart label. " The Warning Compilation " was released in the early fall of 2001 featuring such highlights as Initial Records - the Jazz June and Jump Start Records - No on 15. Martinkovitch soon got a crash course in learning how the distribution system worked, but having a knack for net working soon secured mail order distribution for the comp through Initial Records, building off of that bridge Revelation Records was carrying the new imprint just a few months later. In late August of 01' after graduation with the newly minted comp in hand Martinkovitch relocated to Denver, CO to further develop the label and sign new acts handling A&R. Weiler took a job as a publicist at a local video distribution company, while Varga took further steps to break into the television production industry with editing and video production, while Fennical continued to operate his studio - recording and producing local and national artists, and scouting talent for the label.
After establishing a home office in early September 01' a few blocks out from down town Denver, Martinkovitch was in talks with a new ska punk artist - Manalive, and several weeks later Fennical brought the Emo band Forget About Tomorrow to the label roster. In the interim of those two releases the final Covert Agency album was completed at Fennicals studio by Varga and Weiler. In the spring of 02' a friend Martinkovitch had met in lodo scene introduced him to the Colorado Springs indie pop band Against Tomorrow's Sky. With a mature developed radio friendly sound, ATS was soon selling out theater shows by summer 02' seeing their debut LP entitled " Jump The Hedges First " street under the Universal Warning imprint that July. In Aug of 02' Universal Warning saw it's 8th release with math rock outfit Victim of Modern Age hailing from Louisiana the label was quickly developing a national presence - with this concept in mind Martinkovitch left Denver in September that year in hopes of creating another working foundation in a different US city. The plan was to relocate every year and half and develop a label base in that area. In late Sept 02' Matinkovitch landed in Richmond Virginia, and found the city to have a much more reclusive scene, despite the National presence bands from that area carried.. In Oct 02' CI Records recording artist Sadaharu asked Universal Warning to re-issue their out of print debut release Punishment In Hi-Fi, which had been recorded by Fennical. Having shared the local stage in the Kutztown area with the Covert Agency, Universal Warning accepted the revamped version of the release that was becoming an underground staple at that point on the east coast. After discussing a few releases with some local artists, from the Richmond area.. Martinkovitch became frustrated with the outsider presence he felt he carried and relocated to PA with the idea of bringing the label under one roof. In January of 03' Martinkovitch relocated to the greater Valley Forge area and took up residence in a ramshackle efficiency apartment until Varga and Weilers leases ran out. In the Spring of 03' Weiler, Varga and Martinkovitch took up residence in a house on main street in Royersford, PA where the label still resides today. Just 30 minutes from downtown Philadelphia, the location seemed perfect to grow from. In late spring Fennical put the final touches on 10th Universal Warning Records release - " Truisms " by Snakes and Music a then side project of Andrew Low, front man of the Jazz June. With this release Martinkovitch was able to secure additional distribution deals with indies, such as Lumberjack Distribution, Revolver, Very, Choke, Carrot Top.. In early fall 03' Victim Of Modern age released it's epic, and final masterpiece " Channel's Like Capillaries". Touring the nation extensively and playing showing with then peers Arcade Fire the band was destined for greatness.. reviews poured in praising their efforts from the likes of Transworld Surf, but core members began to shift lifestyles and line up changes ultimately unwound the band. In late fall 03' Fennical announced his departure from Universal Warning Records after a Halloween weekend party that went awry, citing personal issues with Weiler.
After securing a perspective in the Montgomery County, PA and Philadelphia, PA area, Weiler, Varga and Martinkovitch began looking for local talent to represent the label. Soon PA/HC band Red Tops, and Errie PA band Geography joined the roster for the labels 12th and 13th release.. The Red Tops worked their debut release over the course of many years, where as Geography broke up only 2 weeks after playing their record release show. The dynamics demonstrated on a business level were also paralled on personal level with the owners, having seen the troubling end of the Covert Agency and the beginning and end of another project called Grenetta. Weiler and Martinkovitch could often be found at odds with one another, yet the label pushed on finally seeing Varga's video efforts realized with a live concert dvd and documentary for Sadaharu- entitled " New And Alternate Careers In Dance " shot live in 2004' by Varga, and Martinkovitch with several other freelance artists the release was met with great enthusiasm by the press and market. To follow that success, that fall the group recorded a half dozen shows by the New York Hard Core , NY/HC band Murphy's Law and later released a collection of shows on a dvd called Murphy's Law - " Up With Us, Down With Them " in the fall of 2004. In the Spring of 2005' Weiler announced that he would be moving from the Universal Warning house, which lead to further tension when the land lord announced that he wanted to sell the house as opposed to creating a new lease for just Varga and Martinkovitch. Martinkovitch ended up buying the house that May in order to ensure some semblance of stability and business for the label. That fall lead to the Snakes and Music entering a new studio that Varga had met while working in the greater Allentown PA area. Working closely with Chris Seyler, Snakes' follow up release began to take shape, while Martinkovitch began writing songs with a drummer for a project called Holiday BodyBag which Varga would eventually join. That winter through a relationship with one of the top Suicide Girls a local metal core band called Fifty Caliber Kiss was signed. The group showed much promise, and the label produced a music video for them in and around the Reading area that summer featuring various top Suicide Girls / God's Girls and Stoya a young model that went on to become a famous adult actress for Digital Play Ground. The video entitled " Hide the Razor " was Martinkovitchs' first effort at writing and directing a music video, which was featured as an enhanced bonus on the labels 18th and Fifty Caliber Kisses' debut release entitled " Armor Class Invincible " That Fall Martinkovitch also wrote and produced a video for his personal band Holiday BodyBag for the song "Dead Leaves" which was featured as an enhanced bonus on 2 song single the band released called " Dead Leaves " which was the labels 19th release. Varga stayed busy on the production and editing side with said video's and took on freelance work producing a music video for Andrew W.K. called " Not Going Bed " and produced a concert video for Target Video for the band DEVO . Weiler continued to hold his position with Universal Warning securing a digital distribution contract for the label through IODA, but his interest with the label seemed to wane.
In the Spring of 07' Martinkovitch and Varga began work with Pennsylvania hardcore super group Wisdom In Chains through a referral from one of the artists from the Red Tops. Soon a new dvd project began to take shape when Varga and Marinkovitch filmed a rowdy sold out show in Kingston, PA. Wisdom in Chains - " Die For Us Live " was a testament to the band and labels ability for production, having seen one of their sound men get knocked out by a stray fist that came through a circle pit. That fall the Original members of the Jazz June reunited for a slew of shows to help support their old roadie who had come down with brain cancer. Universal Warning joined the effort in compiling a best of and unreleased / live record and combined that with a live dvd of a sold out show they filmed at the North Star in Philadelphia, The Jazz June - " The Scars To Prove It " a cd / dvd combo was released that February with proceeds going to a fund the band started for their stricken friend. In the Spring of 2008, Weiler officially made his announcement that he intended to leave the label to peruse his own interests and ventures, but would continue to offer his publicity services if needed. The summer of 08' saw the labels 22nd and 23rd releases. The first by tri state psych pop band House Of Fire and Austin, TX - Watching The Moon who at the time featured Luke Abbey from the Gorilla Biscuits. By the end of the summer Varga had taken up residence in home he had built in order to develop a family, while Martinkovitch was left at the Universal Warning house to carry on and maintain the business. That winter through relations with Wisdom In Chains, Martinkovitch secured an opportunity to film the legendary New York Hardcore band Sick Of It All whom Wisdom was touring with. Varga and Martinkovitch threw a crew together and filmed one of the most outstanding visual documents of the band to ever exist. Armand Majidi was so impressed with the footage he invited Martinkovitch to go out on tour with them that Spring in europe in order to capture a road documentary. The end result was a dvd project entitled New York vs. London which contained 3 songs from the new york show Varga and Martinkovitch filmed, a tour segment, and 3 songs from a London Show Martinkovitch and a freelance videographer shot while he was on tour. The dvd was only made avail as a limited bonus disc in a German Import version of their new record entitled Based On A True Story through Century Media. The long form version of the dvd that contains full sets of both shows has never been discussed as a stand alone release to date. In the summer of 2009 Universal Warning issued it's first vinyl release from Wisdom In Chains, a reissue of their long out of Print self titled debut release which served as the labels 24th and 25th releases.
As the industry continued to present ever changing challenges, Martinkovitch and Varga decided in late 09' to only focus on titles that they could produce in house by larger named artists. Over the years they had documented hundreds of shows on both audio and video - Knowing Weiler had a relationship with the legendary Punk band the Queers, Martinkovitch asked Weiler to help the label get a project together with them that they had produced in 2006. With Weilers help, Universal Warning saw it's 27th release and second vinyl record pressing. the Queers - " Live In Philly 06' " streeted Jan 25th 2011 along with an upstart side project of Strength For A Reason called Unite. Resist. In May of 2011 Universal Warning Records saw it's 10th year anniversary and the upstart of two new label imprints Fast Break Records and Candy Colored Dragon.