.San Jose’s Underground Comes Together on ‘SJ Compilation’

Now on its fourth version, the ‘SJ Compilation’ highlights the 408’s heavy underground

For a city with such a diverse and active music community, it’s surprisingly hard to get a sense of San Jose’s musical output as a whole. 

There’s hip hop and banda, punk, metal, slowcore and stoner rock, indie, folk, electronica and experimental, almost all of it flying under the radar. But no matter how hidden, there’s bands playing shows and music around here almost nightly. That’s where Gareth Morris of Dullahan Productions comes in.

A veteran of the San Jose music scene with stints in various local bands, a concert promoter, as well as sound tech at The Ritz, Morris has seen and done just about everything in South Bay music. He started Dullahan Productions in 2018 with the intent of promoting shows and soon came up with the idea to compile music from the local punk and hardcore scene. This summer, Dullahan released the 2023 version of his recurring SJ Compilation.

“The main inspiration at first was trying to find more local bands to play with my bands in like backyard shows,” Morris says. “I just missed finding compilations, whether it’s in a skate shop or at a record store. When I was a kid without much money, compilations were always the best bang for your buck.”

The SJ Compilation series showcases San Jose’s diverse and eclectic underground talent. Although the 11 artists on this year’s edition all fall under the wide umbrella of ‘distorted guitar music,’ the comp features an incredible variety of approach within that larger soundwave. There’s thrash (Mokosos), synth punk (Bomb PE), pop punk (the Roughies), hardcore (Jaws of Life), death metal (Here at the End) and a host of other sub-variants too technical to mention. There’s riot grrls and pigsquealers, there’s doom and there’s joy, but above all there’s raw energy packed into each CD. 

“That’s the best thing about comps,” Morris says: “not every song has to be something that appeals to you but it will appeal to someone.”

Beginning with the 2021 issue, and its dilapidated reimagining of The Ritz on the cover, the compilations’ visual artwork has been rooted in San Jose as well. This year’s release features a tough crowd in front of legendary dive bar and venue the Caravan. It’s exciting to think where Morris will choose next, even if it’s a ghost of venues past. 

“I’ve tossed around ideas for the next one, whether it be places that are still here or bring back some spots that have closed like Johnny V’s or the Gaslighter or even the Pillars,” he says.

Morris is a busy man, often in demand. For the SJ compilations, he does almost everything himself, including assembling the CDs. Tracking down the bands and gathering songs can be laborious. Usually it takes him at least half a year to get everything in place. 

“For the most part though, bands have been stoked to be a part of it,” he says.

Music, and especially any local music scene, is like water: amorphous, transient, taking form, breaking free and spreading in every direction. One of the SJ Compilations greatest strengths is its documentarian quality. Some stars shine bright before burning out. For example, at least 15 of the bands featured over the years are no longer with us. 

“I’m just trying to get as many bands locked in as possible,” Morris says. “It’s like a little snapshot of San Jose music history.” 

The latest SJ compilation is for sale at Streetlight Records, On the Corner, Needle to the Groove, High Voltage and a few other locations in the South Bay as well as online. 

“It’s been a labor of love for a long time. I think I’ve broken even on two of the compilations,” Morris says, “I’m not worried about making money off it, but if I can sell a couple hundred [of each compilation] I’m happy.”

As for the future, Morris plans to keep using his little musical ecosystem of promotion, sound engineering and showcasing to the advantage of South Bay music fans. 

“I really want to keep expanding it, making it bigger, and I really want to do something on vinyl or even tapes,” Morris says, “but I plan to keep doing something every year regardless.”

SJ Compilation 2023

Out Now




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