DJ Mario Orduno, founder of Art Fag Records, says “It all really does stem from being an obsessive record collector — I’ve been collecting since I was 15.”
“I just wanted a place for my friends and I to be able to hear the records we love, whether it be between bands at a show or at a small bar hanging out.... But I don’t like attention — this isn’t about me.”
Orduno settled on the Art Fag name after a discussion with Dan Wise from Kill Me Tomorrow. “He actually really liked it,” Orduno chuckles. “I thought about it, and it’s stupid because I’m not really passionate about the name or anything and what it means in society, but it kinda takes it away from jocks when you use it as your own term, you know?”
“It seemed like a good idea — I don’t know where it came from. It would be petty to get upset over it.”
Art Fag released its debut album in late 2005, a three-track collaboration between Kill Me Tomorrow and Long Beach’s Dance Disaster Movement. “The response was pretty good, but I didn’t really know what I was doing — it was a learning experience.”
“I was bored and wanted to do something meaningful. I guess I always wanted to have a label or be involved in organizing a music project in some capacity. I’ve set up shows and DJ nights for years.”
Orduno’s second release featured The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower’s cover of David Bowie’s “Boys Keep Swinging.” He went on to release records by Dum Dum Girls and Crocodiles, as well as Best Coast, whose frontwoman Bethany Cosentino met Orduno while on her first date with Nathan Williams of Wavves.
So how does he find bands with music he wants to release? “I think I just happen to have very talented friends. Looking at labels that I admire, the people behind them were at the right place at the right time: Motown, Rough Trade, 53rd and 3rd…I just know what I like. That’s really the only thought I put into anything. If I like it, I wanna be part of it and I don’t really care if anyone else does or not. The little bit of success Art Fag has had does make for some cool opportunities, and I’m very lucky to be able to release some artists. That’s how I found out about Young Prisms.”
Orduno also organizes tours with collaborators CS Touring and Zoo Music. He releases vinyl from a growing roster of garage, noise rock, and other musicians influenced by punk and ’50s–’60s retro — other Art Fag associates include Psychic Dancehall (based in England), Las Robertas, Colleen Green, Young Prisms, and locals Raw Moans, Heavy Hawaii, and the Plateaus (whose frontman Jon Greene runs sound at Art Fag events).
Creating shows and recordings, along with filling orders, has become so demanding that, in 2010, the former Off the Record and Record City clerk had to give up the room he rented from a downtown law firm and get his own office space. He then moved the entire operation into his two-bedroom North Park home, near where he grew up.
As of 2011, the Art Fag moniker is now used by Orduno for his regular DJ gig at Kadan in North Park on Tuesday nights. “Tuesday nights have gotten so busy that it’s kinda hard to track what's going on,” Orduno says. “There was actually a couple caught having sex in the boys’ bathroom recently.”
In early 2012, Orduno announced that his new boutique label Dream Recordings will issue releases by bands like Dirty Beaches, Cathedral X, and Psychic Dancehall.