Derek Oliver talks Rock Candy Records, New York City, London & more

by | Jan 6, 2017 | Culture, Entertainment, Music

Derek Oliver began his A&R career with Atlantic Records in the late 1980s. He became Vice President of A&R at Atco Records shortly after and then Senior Vice President of A&R at Elektra Records. His next destination was Roadrunner Records’ A&R department. Notable artists that Derek signed and/or worked with include Pantera, Dream Theater, Mötley Crüe, Metallica, AC/DC, Bad Company, The Cult, and Better Than Ezra.

After leaving Roadrunner in 2007, Derek launched his own record label, Rock Candy Records. While most labels aim to discover new talent, Derek takes a different sort of path with Rock Candy, reissuing titles from other record companies that have since gone out of print. In turn, he has released hundreds of albums, including work from Sammy Hagar, Rick Springfield, Survivor, Quiet Riot, Damn Yankees, Ratt, The Babys, and REO Speedwagon. Upcoming releases include music from Mahogany Rush, Alannah Myles, Dokken, and Bad English.

Downtown caught up with Derek to learn about his music industry journey, which included plenty of years in New York. Rock Candy Records can be visited online at and followed via Facebook.

You worked in A&R at Atco Records, a New York-based label. Is there anything you miss about living and working in New York?

DO: All I miss are my friends and colleagues. New York and London share the same manic pace so the difference is minimal.

Do you have a favorite restaurant in New York?

DO: That would be Gramercy Tavern.

What about a favorite concert venue here?

DO: It would have to be MSG or the Beacon, of course.

Is there a signing from your Atco days that you are most proud of?

DO: All of them were very precious to me. Of the ones that hit big, I’d say Pantera and Dream Theater. Of the ones that got away, they would be the Mother Station and Jamie Kyle.

What led you to decide to move back to England? Did Rock Candy factor into that?

DO: I felt that I’d run out of track in New York City and there were mitigating circumstances personally that assisted the transition. Rock Candy was always in the back of my mind so yes, in all fairness it was a contributing factor.

What was the first album put out by Rock Candy?

DO: That would be Riot Narita — CANDY001. Oddly, nobody had reissued that record previously. It was a top seller for Rock Candy.

How many titles has Rock Candy put out at this point? Seems like there have been hundreds of releases…

DO: We’re up at about 325 with many more in the pipeline. 2017 will be a great year what with the U.S. expansion and some other projects in the pipeline.

As a reissue label, I’m assuming there’s criteria for what you put out to have had some success beyond being great music. Are there still a lot of titles left to reissue?

DO: If I live to be 150, I still won’t have enough years in me to reach the point where there is nothing left to reissue. There are so many great records in my collection that crashed and burnt and remain hidden from the masses. My mission in life is to shine a spotlight on every single one of them.

Rock Candy has released vinyl titles for the band Angel, but I’m not aware of Rock Candy putting out too many other vinyl releases. What is it about the band Angel that drew you to them?

DO: Angel were a unique band with a brilliant catalogue. They should have been massively-popular but they never broke through despite having everything in place, including an amazing look. Truly one of the greatest loses to mankind as far as I’m concerned.

Rock Candy started up a North American operation back in October. Does that mean that there’s an office in New York? Or you just have a distributor here?

DO: No office. I have consultants and the distributor RED handles all the nuts and bolts. Staying lean and mean is very much the way forward in this day and age.

What’s coming up for Rock Candy in the coming months? Any new releases or merchandise you can talk about?

DO: Well, we are scheduling releases from a number of class acts including Mahogany Rush, Warrant, 707, Creed, Valentine, D’Molls, Alannah Myles, Malice, Shaw Blades, Dokken, REX, Bad English, Bang Tango, King Kobra and a host of others.

When not busy with music, how do you like to spend your free time?

DO: I don’t have any free time. Rock Candy is my life. Building the brand is my main concern. I have no other interests.

Rock Candy aside, do you have a favorite new release of 2016?

DO: New music is pretty much a waste of space. The frontline business, as I knew it, is over — anyone can record in their bedroom and release the tracks online. The majesty and mystery of creating and unleashing new music has been drained to the point where anything that is good is hailed by internet trolls as the second coming. I have no interest in joining in with the great unwashed.

Frankly, I grew up listening to some of the greatest rock music of all time — Little Feat, Steely Dan, Kansas…even the hair-metal was incredible. Early Mötley Crüe, Dokken, Scorpions, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest. They were artists to celebrate. It was a time when great music rose to the top by virtue of originality rather than through digital marketing campaigns.

Finally, Derek, any last words for the kids?

DO: Make every day count and listen to every piece of pre-internet age music you can possible find.

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