For the Summer 2020 Issue we met with Cleopatra Records founder Brian Perera at the label’s headquarters in Los Angeles. Saryn Christina shot images of the office as well as portraits of Brian for the feature and editor Elizabeth Rhodes conducted the interview.
A tour of the Cleopatra office revealed lots of treasures, including cheetah print vinyl pressings of Danzig Sings Elvis, vintage (can we call them “vintage” now?) compilations that put Cleopatra Records on the map for many young listeners and a sprawling warehouse of vinyl. Since the pandemic began, the office has become a shipping headquarters.
On the topic of so-called “second wave” darkwave music and Cleopatra’s music compilations that captured these bands while integrating “first wave” postpunk and what would eventually be called “goth” artists, Brian told us, “I was into that stuff. Even the Hawkwind shows they were doing in the UK, they were playing with Alien Sex Fiend. So there was even a drummer from The Cure that was in Hawkwind, Andy Anderson. The whole psychedelic goth thing in the UK really intertwined in the 90s. It really wasn’t that unusual or different.”
A favorite from my own collection is Cleopatra’s The Black Bible (1998) compilation.
We held the interview in Brian’s office, which has an abundance of books, movie posters, and CDs.
Brian graciously allowed us to photograph him around the office. We loved the album, film, and flyer artwork seen around the space and wanted to capture that in his portraits. Seen below is a fantastic Gary Numan flyer!
Since Brian has been around the Los Angeles scene since the heyday of the hard rock era on the Sunset Strip, we had to ask for a story or two about his memories of that time. He told us about the early days of Guns N Roses and how the music scene looked, saying, “So a couple of those guys like Izzy Stradlin and a few others were hanging out in the goth scene and then there were a few other guys that were just hanging out, you know, maybe more at the Roxy and it was the first time where you would see people looking like they were Christian Death fans [at their shows]. The first year of Guns N Roses I remember being a lot darker. When it carried on, it was more the spandex crowd started coming into their shows.”
During the interview, the topic of musical heroes came up a few times with the legendary Johnny Thunders and Stiv Bator’s mentioned among others. Here’s an audio clip of Johnny (with support from Cheetah Chrome of Dead Boys) performing a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers” at Stiv’s memorial tribute show.
One of the highlights of this interview was seeing the connections among music fans and artists. Brian Perera and Cleopatra Records are examples of this interconnection that can turn a fan’s love of an artist’s work into a business that further supports the artists the fan loves.
Thank you to Brian Perera for this rare glimpse into the world of Cleopatra Records and for sharing more insight with Auxiliary Magazine readers on how it all began!