Pipe & Hat

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By Jared Story

“I like to say we do everything but make the music. You make the music, we do the rest,” says Pipe & Hat co-founder Tim Jones. “Whether it’s dealing with the producers and the folks doing the mastering or dealing with the promoters and the agents and the venues or picking up a 3 a.m. phone call when one of our artists is having a meltdown, we’re there. We get extremely invested in our artists.”

Jones, along with business partner Kenny Huynh, started the company in 2009, meeting each other while each was helping out local hip hop act The Lytics. Three years later, Pipe & Hat has worked with a dozen or so different acts and currently represents four Winnipeg bands/musicians including rock duo Mise en Scene, rock ’n’ soul band The Noble Thiefs, indie-roots darling Ingrid Gatin, and cosmic rockers The Nonsuch. It’s a diverse roster and according to Jones and Huynh, that diversity is deliberate.

“Because we’re constantly approached with opportunities for our acts and because we’re constantly finding opportunities for them, the last thing we want to do is have to decide who gets said opportunities,” Jones says, who also drums for the Thiefs. “Let’s use Ingrid as an example. If we worked with another folk, grassroots type artist and somebody has only one slot for such an artist, it puts us in an awkward position because we don’t want to favour anybody.”

“It also opens us up to a lot more opportunities,” Huynh adds. “Because Tim and I have an appreciation for good music in general, be it a metal band or an electronic group, we can explore the possibility of working with anyone we think is good.”

Jones says Pipe & Hat’s checklist for who it decides to work with is a) talent b) personality and c) ambition. For artists like Gatin and Mise en Scene who fulfill all three requirements, the amount of help Pipe & Hat can then offer them is quite impressive.

In addition to artist development and management, Pipe & Hat offers in-house web, video, graphic, publicity, and photography services. Also, the company has a distribution deal with Fontana North, who has won the Independent Distributor of the Year award at the Canadian Music Industry Awards five years running.

Furthermore, Pipe & Hat along with audio engineer Rob Hill operate a 3000 square foot recording studio and creative space in a century old building located in Winnipeg’s Exchange District.

“Now we have a place to demo everything for our artists, potentially even more than demos,” Jones says. “Since we have a studio in place we know exactly what to put on grant applications when we’re filling out budgets. Also, when the grant comes in we know the studio’s schedule. We’re not waiting on an engineer.”

Jones says Grammy-nominated producer Howard Bilerman, known for his work with Arcade Fire, Basia Bulat, and the late Vic Chesnutt, recently used Pipe & Hat’s headquarters to record some of Gatin’s new album.

From the studio to the stage, Pipe & Hat featured its entire roster on its own showcase at Toronto’s North by Northeast festival in June, and in September, the company will feature prominently at BreakOut West in Regina.

All in all, Pipe & Hat is riding high, without losing sight of why it’s here in the first place.

“For me it’s just about being part of the process, being able to provide infrastructure for really talented and passionate people,” Huynh says. “These musicians are passionate about their craft and to see them succeed is really

fulfilling. At the end of the day it’s all about the music and their dedication to the craft drives us to be dedicated in what we do.”

Originally published in Manitoba Music’s newsletter vol. 21.2

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