Rock Label Collect Records Severs Ties With Controversial Backer Martin Shkreli

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(photo: bandofnothing.com)

UPDATE: Collect Records’ Geoff Rickly has now issued a statement announcing that the company is parting ways with Martin Shkreli.

Today, Collect Records — with the support and encouragement of all of our artists — have agreed to fully sever our relationship with Martin Shkreli, effective immediately.

When I decided to get into business with Martin, we took him on as a patron. He was completely silent and allowed us to do business as we pleased. His only ask was that we sign bands that we believed could make great art given the right environment and not to focus on a profit, no matter how dire the bottom line.

Never in a million years did any of us expect to wake up to the news of the scandal that he is now involved in. It blindsided and upset us on every level. As such, we know it is impossible for us to continue having any ties with him. For my part, I’ve always strived to make Collect a place that was so liberal, encouraging, and artist-friendly that no one would ever walk away from us willingly, though to do so at any time would be very easy. To that end, I hope that our bands continue to believe in our guidance and passion. Any of them that have had an incurable crisis of confidence will be allowed to leave with nothing but the kind of encouragement that we’ve built our label on.

For all the kind words of encouragement that I’ve received over the past two days, I’m forever grateful.

From all here at Collect Records, thank you.

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It started out as a feelgood story of a punk rock fan-turned-venture capitalist giving back to the community that inspired his success. And then it turned ugly.

Martin Shkreli, the 32-year-old founder of Turing Pharmaceuticals, contacted Geoff Rickly (frontman of the post-hardcore band Thursday) in 2014, bought one of his guitars, and said he would like to finance Rickly’s label, Collect Records. Shkreli reportedly claimed that Thursday’s emotional lyrics and cathartic music had been helpful to him when he was younger. After going over the proposal written by Shkreli’s lawyers, Rickly signed the deal.

Then this week, Shkreli came under fire for hiking the price of Daraprim, a 62-year-old drug used for treating life-threatening parasitic infections, from $13.50 to $750 a tablet. Daraprim is commonly used to treat people with compromised immune systems, including AIDS and cancer patients. When confronted by CBS This Morning about the ethical dilemma of boosting the medication 5,500 percent overnight, Shkreli said the increase provided “a reasonable profit, not excessive at all” and that he would not consider lowering the price.

Shkreli has since been criticized by Hilary Clinton and numerous members of the medical community. And at least one rock band on Collect, post-rock/shoegaze quartet Nothing, is also disgusted by Shkreli’s move. The band is contracted to release two albums with Collect, but frontman Dominic Palermo, who posted a furious statement on the band’s official Facebook page Tuesday morning, says he wants out of the deal.

“The whole situation makes me feel sick to my stomach,” Palermo tells Yahoo Music in an exclusive interview. “I put so much time and effort into the band, and now I really don’t know what to do. The only thing I’m sure of is I’m never going to put any of my music out with someone like this. I would rather not make music than let this person profit off of it.”

When Palermo decided to leave Relapse Records, which released Nothing’s debut album Guilty of Everything in 2014, he wanted to land a deal that would be more profitable for the band. But he never wanted to make money at the expense of sick individuals, who now may how have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars more than they expected for their treatment.

“This is essentially the kind of person that’s almost like the Antichrist,” Palermo says. “He’s a border sociopath. It’s unheard of that someone could do this and be so unapologetic about it. He looks at human lives like they’re dollar bills. It’s disturbing and sickening and I feel like s— that I was even that close to someone like that in the first place. I know he has us in a really rough position where he could really make things difficult, but I don’t care. As long as I’m not contributing anything to his empire, that’s good enough for me for now.”

Nothing has a history of supporting charitable organizations and recently donated the profits from a special edition of their debut album Guilty of Everything to LGBT homeless youth. As soon as Palermo read about the controversy surrounding Shkreli he texted Rickly, who is currently in Germany about to launch a European tour with his new band No Devotion, which features former members of the Welsh band Lostprophets (sans the singer Ian Watkins, who is in jail for multiple child sex offenses). “Geoff was like, ‘Yeah, man. I don’t really know what’s going on right now. We’re trying to sort this out and figure out what’s going on.’”

Rickly was not available to talk to Yahoo Music at press time due to his international touring schedule; however, Noisey.com tracked him down. While Rickly told the site he was astounded by the reports of Shkreli’s acts, he stopped short of saying he wanted to sever ties with the venture capitalist.

“If you know me, you know that I am definitely two things: naive and loyal,” Rickly said. “I want to believe that Martin wants to do the right thing overall. I’ve seen the guy give away money to schools, charities, and frankly, our bands, who if anyone really knows the industry, is a hard sell. I am struggling to find how this is OK. My head is still spinning, and though I want to believe that there is some reason that he would do this that is some remotely positive way, the only thing I can see is that it is totally and completely heartbreaking.”

Rickly added that he plans to talk about the situation with all of the bands on his label and will see if other artists hold the same position as Palermo.

“More than anything, I want the bands to see that I hold art as the guiding force in my life,” Rickly told Noisey. “Ultimately, I see this going in the same way it always does, where all the artists get blamed for everything and capitalism is never held accountable. I really think that if Collect is going to be scrutinized as being capitalism, but that is how music survives. I’m not making excuses for what has happened, but there is no corner of the music industry that doesn’t live and breathe from subsidies from business. It’s reductive and hypocritical to hold us and only us accountable though we are all at fault in some greater way.”

While Palermo hopes Rickly severs ties with Shkreli and finds a new financial backer, he doesn’t blame Rickly for going into business with someone who has turned out to be so disreputable. “I know Geoff’s a really great guy and I know he’s undoubtedly going to make the right decision about this,” Palermo tells Yahoo Music. “But I’m sure it’s going to be difficult for us to get out of our predicament, judging by this guy’s tactics. I’m just hoping for the best.”