"Karim Khan" might sound like the name of Captain Kirk's latest nemesis, but he's actually something much more benign: Pittsburgh's latest vinyl supremacist. Originally from upstate New York, Khan moved to Pittsburgh in 1999. While working on mortgages at PNC Bank during the day, he indulges his yearning for music at night by attending heavy rock shows at local clubs such as the 31st Street Pub and the Smiling Moose.
Last year, he opted to take his passion one step further, establishing a vinyl-only label dubbed I'm Better Than Everyone Records. "It was more or less just to support bands that I really like, that don't get noticed, and also because I love vinyl," he says. "I don't even buy CDs anymore -- I keep them in the car and sling them around, but other than that, I only listen to records."
It all began with his pursuit of a lesser-known Arkansas band called Deadbird. They're loud, they're heavy as hell, and they've got a gravel-gargling vocalist. The band also has Pittsburgh connections -- local metalheads Serious Grind recorded its new Still Only Working CD at Deadbird's Fayetteville studio.
For Khan, it was love at first riff. "I saw Deadbird at [stoner rock fest] Emissions in Youngstown, and I was blown away. Then they played the Moose, and I took them for a talk at the [now-defunct] White Eagle. I stayed in touch and hung out with them again in Austin, and from there pretty much decided the initial stages of the label."
The first release for I'm Better is actually a re-issue of Deadbird's 2005 album, The Head and the Heart, originally released on the now-kaput Codebreaker label. You can find it on sale currently at Wicked Discs. But Khan also has exclusive releases in the pipeline -- a split 10-inch between Deadbird and Hail!Hornet (side project with members of Alabama Thunderpussy, Weedeater and Sourvein).
"That'll be brand new songs from both bands," he says. "It's going to be vinyl-only, but I might do the download thing as well.
"I've got possible things lined up with Altamont and Dixie Witch, and a couple of up-and-comers -- Black Skies, and this Shreveport band called Power Pellut." As far as movement on the local front, Khan has loosely talked to Satanic Bat, Vulture and Argus, and expressed some interest in Behind Enemy Lines. "But there's nothing concrete for Pittsburgh yet," he says. "It's all in the planning stages."
For more info, visit www.imbetterthaneveryonerecords.com.