In 1996, Jason Dunn became the drummer for the hardcore band No Innocent Victim (NIV) and began touring the U.S. Having a business mind at an early age, Jason started seeing opportunities to help distribute talented hardcore, punk, and metal bands while on tour. That’s when he began Facedown Distribution. While on tour, next to NIV’s merch, he sold tapes, CDs, and vinyl from bands all over the country. He also collected names and addresses on paper to build his mailing list. When he wasn’t on tour, he was bagging groceries at his local market, finishing high school, and mailing out photocopied paper catalogs promoting bands from his parent’s backyard shed.
Inspired by the efforts of the labels he was distributing like Boot to Head Records, Sofa Records, and SA Mob, Jason scrounged up some of his grocery store earnings and released his first Facedown Records album as a 7″ vinyl record, which included three songs from his band No Innocent Victim, who were from California, and three songs from an East Coast band called Phanatik. His second release was a split 7″ record of a west coast band (Positive Youth) and an east coast band (Persevere). Before the internet, bands relied heavily on word-of-mouth promotion to get their name outside their hometown. These East meets West type splits were one small way to help bands get some recognition on the opposite side of the country.
No Innocent Victim often played in Arizona and became good friends with a band called Overcome, who had released two albums on Tooth and Nail Records but were no longer under contract. 18-year-old Jason Dunn pitched the idea of Facedown releasing Overcome’s next release. To his surprise, Jason Stinson (lead singer of Overcome) responded, “Yes!”
Overcome “The Life Of Death” CDep was released in May 1998. Two months later, with no store distribution and only mail orders packed up in the leaky backyard shed, Jason witnessed over 1,000 people singing along to those Overcome songs at the Cornerstone music festival in Illinois!
Facedown released Overcome’s “self-titled” 7″ later that year and a full-length album for them titled “Immortal Until Their Work Is Done” the following year.
“Overcome gave Facedown the kick start it needed,” Jason explains. “I always say that I don’t think Facedown Records would be around today without Overcome. They were the label’s cornerstone in its early years, and teaming up with them instantly put our name out there for hardcore fans worldwide, both Christian and non.”
Because of the momentum from those Overcome albums, Facedown was able to go full speed ahead, releasing fourteen albums in the next two years. Two of those releases, also pivotal in the label’s growth, were from a band called Figure Four. “When I first heard Figure Four’s demo tape in 1998, I wasn’t impressed because the 16-year-old singer Andrew Neufeld hadn’t reached puberty yet, but then I saw them live a year later and was blown away!” Jason reminisces.
Later, in 2003, Facedown released Comeback Kid, which was started by Andrew.
Without taking out a loan and relying entirely on the income Facedown was generating, they diligently released an average of ten albums per year in their first twenty years. Their independent do-it-yourself work ethic is one of the biggest reasons the label has persevered in an ever-changing music industry.
In 2005, Facedown partnered with Sony Music’s distribution company, RED (now called The Orchard), which continues to distribute its music today. Revelation Records also distributes Facedown releases worldwide.
In 2009, More Than Sound was born. Being moved by inspirational people (My Epic guys) and numerous friends, Jason wanted to do more than release music, so he started donating a portion of the label’s profit to non-profits who help people in need and make a difference in the world. He called it More Than Sound. This change eventually led Jason and his wife Virginia to live in Uganda for a year and a half and adopt their daughter in 2014.
Being a Christian, Jason has always felt passionate about releasing music with a message he can get behind.
“Not every member of every band has been Christian, and that’s not a requirement. It would be hard to support a message financially that I disagreed with,” Jason explains.
Some of the busiest years with the top-selling albums in the label’s history came out in the 2009 – 2010 window. As Christian or at least “faith-based” heavy music spread into the mainstream, Facedown bands also got lifted by the momentum that was happening at the time. Cornerstone Festival had a “Facedown Night,” Scream The Prayer Tour traveled nationwide, and Facedown Fest sold out multiple nights at the Glasshouse in Pomona, CA. That was during the development of Facedown bands like For Today, War of Ages, Impending Doom, Sleeping Giant, My Epic, A Plea For Purging, and many more.
The label refers to its bands as “The Facedown Family“.
Relationships were always more important to Jason and Virginia than business. They opened their home to traveling bands and desired to see them succeed.
With many record labels having a reputation for not paying their bands and Jason experiencing this firsthand with his band, he was motivated to have deals where they could split the profit equally with the artists.
Since 2000, the label has hosted an annual “Facedown Fest” in southern California, which feels like a “family reunion” for all the current bands. Over the years, the festival has packed out venues like Showcase Theater (Corona, CA), The Glass House (Pomona, CA), and Chain Reaction (Anaheim, CA). In 2017, Facedown celebrated its twentieth anniversary with a three-day festival, which saw the entire Facedown roster, as well as reunions from A Plea For Purging, In The Midst Of Lions, Overcome (Jason Stinson on vocals line-up), Nodes Of Ranvier, Bloodlined Calligraphy, Sinai Beach, xLooking Forwardx, and Hands!
The current roster on Facedown continues to deliver quality metal, hardcore, and rock music like they’ve always tried to do. Even though the family blurs the lines between genres, they stand together with their message of hope in a world that desperately needs it.