Mike Folker has been busy with lots of projects since getting cut loose from CD101 last year.

One of his pursuits has been booking concerts like Saturday's multi-venue extravaganza Broken Hearts and Broken Strings. Two Cow Garage, Earwig, Chelsea Automatic, The George Elliott Underground and more will be on hand at The Basement and A&R Music Bar in the Arena District, starting at 6 p.m.

A brief snippet of my interview with Folker ran into today's paper, but I typed up quite a bit more of it to run here on the blog. I didn't get around to typing up the bit about his new record label, Secret Song Records, but suffice it to say Folker hopes to cherry-pick his favorite recording clients at Rokcity Studios to release them on his label.

For everything else, follow the jump.

Mike Folker has been busy with lots of projects since getting cut loose from CD101 last year.

One of his pursuits has been booking concerts like Saturday's multi-venue extravaganza Broken Hearts and Broken Strings. Two Cow Garage, Earwig, Chelsea Automatic, The George Elliott Underground and more will be on hand at The Basement and A&R Music Bar in the Arena District, starting at 6 p.m.

A brief snippet of my interview with Folker ran into today's paper, but I typed up quite a bit more of it to run here on the blog. I didn't get around to typing up the bit about his new record label, Secret Song Records, but suffice it to say Folker hopes to cherry-pick his favorite recording clients at Rokcity Studios to release them on his label.

For everything else, follow the jump.

Alive: It seems like your involvement in local music might have actually increased since CD101 cut you loose.

Mike Folker: It changed a lot. I worked at CD101 for seven years, so people knew me from that. I had played in some bands around town. I think the only pseudo-notable one would be 99 Heartaches, which actually we have a reunion show on the 17th. That was the biggest thing where I was actually out playing.

A couple years ago I opened up a recording studio, Rokcity, with some friends of mine, Oscar and Crystal Harris. Then it was like, OK, weíre going to do this recording thing, and I was like, if Iím going to be producing bands, I want to release some too, my favorites, I want to help the bands I can help. Iíve always been the sort where if I can help a band, I will. Itís kind of hard because I feel like I can never do enough. Thereís only so many hours in a day. It kills me. Especially since Iíve not been in the air anymore, Iíve actually had a lot of time to help promote.

What were the circumstances of you getting let go?

The economy hits broadcasters really hard. CD101 is entirely supported by revenue, and the local revenue is great, but a local client is going to spend in the four figures a year on advertising, but a national client is going to spend six figures. The first thing when thereís a recession is they pull back their advertising. And that really, really hurts a station like CD101.

How hard was it to leave?

It sucked because I mean I was there forever. I worked there longer than any other job I ever had. And itís the most fun you could ever have at a job. You know, it is what it is. Thereís no hard feelings. Everyoneís cool. I still feel like theyíre my family.

Matter of fact, Joe and Andyman are great. I still talk to both of them quite a bit. Joe helped out with the (Haiti) benefit at Ravari Room, had us bring Phantods on the air and come down and talk about it. He helped us promote it quite a bit. And also I was down there for the Andymanathon. Helped out. Did some engineering and generally hung around and had fun with my friends.

Have you been upping your involvement at the studio since you left the station?

Recording is weird. Thatís one of the things thatís entirely based on bandsí budgets. Thatís another thing that you wouldnít think slowed down. We assumed when we opened it, we were like, ďThis thing will be recession proof.Ē Because we were thinking weíre probably due for a recession. The next year it came, and yeah, business slowed down. So the amount of time I put in, I try to spend as much time as I can promoting and just getting the word out about it, but as far as recording, you never know. It comes in streaks. For two months Iíll be literally sleeping there, and then for a month Iíll be there a couple times a week and thatís it. Itís the oddest thing. Actually weíre on a nice little upswing. My next couple of months are going to be really, really busy.

Any projects youíre particularly excited about?

Yeah, Iím working on a thing with a band called the Matte Black Silhouettes, which I think are my new favorite thing in town. Itís two guitar players, drummer and Krista, their singer, is super talented. No bass. So itís fun, and the sound is really cool. Itís real dark and dirty and spacey and pretty much everything that really gets me into a band.

You work with a lot of bands Iíve never heard of before. Is it important to you to work with bands that havenít been established?

I try. I really go and I try to go to shows, I try to see new bands that are just starting and try to work with those bands as much as I can. I donít know why. I think maybe itís more fun for me to try and find new things. Iíve worked with some bands that really have been around for a while, like The Slangís got a record coming out. A lot of people donít know the band Yellow Light Maybe, but their CDís coming out on the 27th. I think at the time maybe people werenít aware of Karate Coyote when I recorded those two EPs.

Thatís part of my goal, too. The bands I record, I try to promote them too. I like to see those bands go on and do something bigger after they record. You hope thatís the point of the recording: OK, you can take this and hopefully take a step up in your career with it. I figure if thatís whatís going on, then Iím doing something right. Of course you never know.

I do a monthly night at Circus thatís not like a giant thing, but then I do try to periodically do the large-scale shows like RCS Fest back in August and Broken Hearts Broken Strings. Iím really curious about shows like that, if they can shoot energy into the scene. Thatís something I want to see. The bands we have in Columbus are great. I mean really, really great. I donít think they get the support they need as far as people just coming out to shows. For the most part theyíll go see a band if they know somebody in the band, but you donít see as much of people you donít know coming out to shows. And Iím curious to see if doing shows like this, these sort of big true events, will bring new people out to the scene that havenít been out to see some of these bands before.

The other thing I try really hard is to mix scenes together. Like next week Iíve got four different groups of bands that would never play together normally. Like Two Cow and Earwig are not the oldest guard, but older guard. Theyíre sort of the classic Columbus cowpunk sound. Theyíre out of that school and that pedigree. And then George Elliott, Chelsea and Stucco, those guys are newer, but theyíre doing that new straight-ahead rock out thing, which I like. Thereís a good chance that thatís the next sound. And then my bandís different. Weíre a country band. And then Dirty Flaggs and Yellow Light Maybe are real poppy. But itís all different audiences. Same with The Slang. They write great pop songs. So itís these different audiences, and I want to see what happens when I put these different audiences together and help everyone make some new fans and maybe sell some more merch ícause theyíll be playing.

It seems like kind of a gross thing to say, but I really want everyone to make money. It seems like an odd thing for some people because I know no oneís really in it for that. The biggest problem that bands have in town is that theyíre not making money doing what theyíre doing. Theyíre working hard. They earn it. But theyíre not getting paid. Part of it has to do with the structure of things. But this whole bands not getting paid thing is the reason why bands arenít getting signed. I mean, honestly, thatís what a major label cares about: Is the band making money? If your band is out making $1,000 a night, then yeah, some major record label is happy to come up and take a cut of that. And then theyíll help a band go national, go to the next level. But if no band in Columbus is making any money, nobodyís getting signed. And thatís definitely not good for our scene.

So you think getting signed to a record label is still a viable business model?

You need a team to help you get out of Columbus, to help you get out and build yourself up in other markets. You need somebody who can help you book good shows. It doesnít make any sense to try and just go out and weíre just going to go on a tour across the country and do 30 dates. You can get those dates booked, but if you go out and youíre not booked with good bands, youíre not working with a good booking agent and you donít have good promotion behind you, youíre going to go out and lose money. And thatís not good. That just leads to your band breaking up. You donít want that.

Thatís where even if itís not necessarily a major, if itís just a good label or a good management team or a good booking agent, theyíre all looking for the same thing. Theyíre all looking for a band thatís going to profitable. They donít want to sink their money into a band that loses money. And they always look at whatís going on with the hometown first.

You were at CD101 for seven years. what about before that? Howíd you end up there?

I grew up in northern Michigan, and I came to Columbus to go to Capital. I started as a music major for a year, and that kind of took the fun out of playing. After that, I was like, I donít really want to go back to Michigan. Because who wants to go back to Michigan? No, itís a lovely place. But I switched to radio. Jack DeVoss, who was at CD101 at the time, was also the radio instructor. I didnít do well as a music major, but I did well as a radio major. I sort of beat around the bush and tried to get some internships at other stations, and finally I just gave up and asked Jack, and he was like, ďI was waiting for you to ask me!Ē I didnít want to be like, OK, Iím going to go to the obvious place."

But Jack brought me on and took me under his wing there and really took care of me, taught me the ropes. And slowly sort of worked my way up at CD101. Was hanging around as an intern and did some production stuff and behind the scenes stuff for a year, and then they put me on air, which was cool, like be on air when I was still in college. Eventually ended up as assistant production director, and I was on the music team so I was getting to talk to record labels and help research and find new bands to play. Plus being on the air a bunch. That was a lot of fun. Youíre not going to get a better job than that, I think. Being paid to be a professional music snob.

How did you end up playing with Lydia? She told me you kept calling her until she finally caved in.

Thatís exactly how it happened, actually. I saw her at ComFest last year and I was like, ďWhy the hell did I not know about this?Ē Apparently everyone else did and I didnít. And I was like, this is amazing. The thing that grabbed me was Iím a massive Neko Case fan. Like obsessive in a creepy way Neko Case fan. And Lydiaís voice really sounds like Neko to me. So I was like, ďAlright, Iíve got to record this girl. I donít care.Ē So I was messaging her like, ďHey, you should come to my studio.Ē And she was like, ďNo, Iím working on a record. Iíve been working on it for like two years.Ē Iím like wow. OK. And she was like, ďWell I do need some musicians.Ē And Iím like, ďWhat do you need? I got this! Iím a decent guitar player, I can hold my own.Ē And I just kept messaging her and bugging her until finally she let me try out. It went well, I guess, and she let me in the band.

Itís cool. I think itís the best band Iíve ever been in. Lydiaís songs are great. Iím looking forward to what sheís going to do. A lot of whatís on her record started when she was 16. You can hear the progression. Some of the songs in it are newer than some of the other songs. And itís like she just keeps getting better. Every new song she brings out is even better than the last, and Iím like, gosh, whereís she going to be in five years?

You've talked about doing an anti-pay-to-play show. What do you mean by that?

Thereís all these production companiesóand I guess technically I have a production company. Mike Folker Productions. Itís the official business name for all the crap I doóbut there are a lot of these companies around town that honestly are just ripping off kids. They make their money off of getting kids to do things and then basically taking all that money, not paying the bands. You know, dangling carrots out there like we can do this for you, and that for you. But that stuff doesnít really add up. The reality is if youíre selling $10 tickets, and youíre selling 100 of them, why would you ever hand that over to some production company thatís going to give you back $100? If youíre willing to do that hard of work, book the Treehouse and keep all that money for yourself. You can do it. Donít give somebody a giant cut. Giving somebody 20 percent for helping you book, thatís a reasonable thing. You taking 20 percent out of some show that you worked your butt off, thatís not fair.