Posted by Nick Skog on Thursday, November 8, 2012 Under: Hypnotic Dirge Records
*Originally published June 2010
This interview was originally completed in June 2010 and published on Hierophant-Nox in October 2010.Original Link
Hypnotic Dirge – Hierophant Nox
Hail Skog, how are you doing?
Not too bad. As I write this, I am enjoying a couple days off from work, but really all that means is that it's time to catch up on some label things. haha At least, this way I get to work at my own schedule and do what interests me.
Over the past months we have seen a number of interesting releases from your label, Hypnotic Dirge Records. When was the label formed, and what was your inspiration to begin a new label?
The label began in October 2008, and stemmed out of a desire to be able to be in control of distributing my own music, choosing my own release dates, and being in control of the promotional aspects of my own music. Also around that time, a few of my musician friends from around the world were without a label and since we all seemed to share a similar vision and viewpoint on our music and what we wanted to accomplish with it, it just seemed natural to group all of our projects together and have it running under the same record label. In particular I am speaking of Scott (Astral Luminous), Bruno(Immundus), and Mort (Winds of Sorrow) who are all good friends of mine. Luckily I had the necessary finances at that time to make this a reality and it basically grew from there. Shortly after, I was able to get Mort's main project 'Exiled From Light' on the record label and we have since expanded from our beginnings and added other essential projects such as 'Funeral Fornication, Neige et Noirceur, The Foetal Mind, Old Forgotten Lands, and One Dark Curse.
How would you describe the style of music represented on the label? Do you have quite a range of artists, or is one style particularly important?
The label is basically known around the world for depressive black metal, atmospheric music and experimental dark ambient. I do believe even within those genres we have a nice variety of artists who all have something different to contribute. The only artist on my roster which I would define clearly as Depressive Black Metal would be Exiled From Light. Neige et Noirceur is more of an atmospheric Ambient Black Metal project which makes some really interesting music, a lot of it based on the history of Quebec, and Astral Luminous, Funeral Fornication, and The Foetal Mind are also all unique projects in my opinion who do things in their own way, not limited to genre restrictions. All of those projects are currently working on new material for their second release on Hypnotic Dirge and from what I have heard so far, they are all progressing nicely and defining their own sound. That was basically the goal of Hypnotic Dirge from the start, to not release any cliche music but rather to make sure that every artist on the roster develops their own sound and actually contributes something interesting and meaningful to the music scene in general. So far, I'd say things are right on track, and especially with the recent edition of the project 'One Dark Curse' we are really starting to expand our vision of the label to carry a wide variety of different types of music. We are certaintly not limited to specific genres.
What attracted you to extreme metal and experimental music in the first place? Which bands and artists inspired you most when you first discovered this music?
It's just real music I guess. I never know how to answer these questions actually. I like music that actually has an artistic value to it, rather than just a formula. At the end of the day, music is supposed to be art, and art is supposed to be something that comes from the soul and a person's innermost thoughts, emotions and beliefs. It's not supposed to be mass-produced garbage that is designed to sell millions of copies. Generally, the more of an album sells, the more mainstream society approves of it, and most people on this planet have no idea what real music is. It's not necessarily that people have no taste for good music, but the media and mainstream record lables condition people to listen to music that is instantly catchy, but that has no real substance. Any genre of music can be good and have real substance to it, even rap music was respectable at one point, and still can be today when it has a real message and stays away from the cliches, but the mainstream has always been really good at butchering every kind of music and creating mainstream music based on trends and formulas rather than anything meaningful. It's called math instead of art. They probably all sit in their high-level suites and look at sales graphs and then shove shitty music down people's throats. I guess Cradle of Filth is what started me off towards extreme metal and experimental music, and it has expanded from there. I don't want to get into too much detail and start namedropping bands and artists, you've probably heard 'the list' many times before!
Where did the label name come from? (I love it)
Just from brainstorming. When I started the label, I just tried to think of possible names that would describe what the label represented, and this was the best choice. I do think every artist on the label has a "Hypnotic Dirge-like quality to it. Over time, I've grown to like the name more and more and it has really stuck with me.
You have stated that your aim is to make a 'proper' label, not a Myspace, CD-R kind of a label – what steps do you take to make sure your quality is good?
This is something that I have learned over time. The longer that Hypnotic Dirge Records has been around, the more steps I took to make it a more professional label. A lot of it is the way in which you promote yourself, and your artists, a lot of it is a visual thing, and maintaining a well-rounded and complete website, and a lot of it just comes with time, and developing a reputation around the world as a 'successful' record label, not in terms of monetary success, but more in terms of people respecting and being aware of what you are doing. Hypnotic Dirge Records will of course always be an underground record lable that will be completely unknown to the vast majoritiy of people but for those who do find out about it, and like the music that I release, then I want to make sure I do things in a professional manner. This just basically means releasing quality music, having worldwide distribution, with fast shipping, and being an important part of the underground metal, and ambient scenes. It's an ongoing process, that we can hopefully expand on all the time.
I understand that you are also a musician; is Ancient Tundra the only project you have been involved in, or have there been others in the past?
There's been a few others that I have been involved in but Ancient Tundra is really the only recognizable name. I don't really think the others are worth mentioning actually at all at this point as they are all quite old now and I haven't worked on any of them for a long time. The only other one worth mentioning in my opinion is a Symphonic Gothic Black Metal project called 'Our Diabolical Embrace' which I only wrote four songs for, but I am pretty happy with how it turned out, and finally decided after thinking about it for over a year that I wanted to release it as an EP, so now it's going to have a limited release of 50 copies through Hypnotic Dirge in August or September.
You've released Ancient Tundra albums through Hypnotic Dirge- does this make you more critical of your own creations? Is it difficult to be your own boss?!
Actually, no. I always want to release quality music no matter which record label it is being released on. I don't find any difference between releasing my music through Hypnotic Dirge or an outside label, the writing and recording process remains exactly the same either way. I don't tell other projects on the label how to write their music, or if I don't approve of something- they get 100% artistic control, and it's the same with my music, I get 100% artistic control, so really, at least in my eyes, I am nobody's boss. I'd rather be looked upon as a friend, and a partner. Regarding the first half of your question, I'm always critical of my own work anyway, so this doesn't change much.
It's a hard time to compete in the music industry – what particular difficulties have you faced so far? What does the label do to stay ahead of the economic climate?
Nothing I can do! It is what it is. Basically the music is available, and those who are interested in buying CD's from me are what keeps the label alive. If your too poor to buy CD's, then I can't force you to do so. All I can is make sure that people are aware that the music is available and see what happens. I offer free shipping on orders of 5 or more CD's to try to encourage larger orders, and try to maintain an interesting list of distribution albums available from my store as well so that people aren't limited only to the CD's that I officially release. I think if you ship out orders in a timely matter, and package it up nicely, so nothing gets wrecked on the way, people realize that I am not incompetent and trust HDR for their future orders.
Even if it is a difficult job, you have said that Hypnotic Dirge is here for the long run – what is it that keeps you going? What have been some of the highlights for you so far?
What keeps me going? Basically hearing the music that the artists on the roster are coming up with for future albums, It makes me want to release it. I want to see Hypnotic Dirge Records continue to expand along with all of the artists on the label. I'm never satisfied with releasing one album from a project - only for about a month after the release date, and then I'm already thinking of what they are going to come up with next. It's a continuous process that I want to be a part of, and I'm always excited for upcoming releases. Highlights for me is when the label is really busy, particularily around the time of a successful release when I am shipping away a bunch of packages and receiving tons of orders, and emails. It makes it feel to me like what I want to accomplish with the label, and hopefully one day, I will always be that busy. I have a higher sense of enthusiasm around these times, and basically even though it is a lot of work, it is also a lot of fun.
We've touched on some of your feelings towards Myspace, but do you feel that there are also benefits to the latest web technology? For example, has being able to offer downloads of albums that will not have a physical release helped the label?
I'm not sure if it helps the label with sales or anything, but that's not really the point of the downloads anyway. I'm not a greedy capatalist pig, so it's not about making money. I just need to be able to break even in order to keep on releasing new music. I like offering the free downloads when it makes no sense to make a physical release, basically just for demo albums, already sold out albums, and compilations. I released a HDR Compilation album on October 20th, 2009 as a special one-year anniversity album for the label, and I've decided to make this an annual thing, so that is kind of exciting, to be able to release a free compilation once a year featuring some highlights of our releases from the past year. I think it does help in getting some of the music out there, and introducing our music to a wide variety of people who will never buy a CD from us. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter. We all write music for ourselves, and we are not fake elitist black metallers, who say we don't want our music to be heard. I think I speak for all of us on the label when I say that I want people to hear my music, so if that is through myspace streaming or free digital albums, that's perfectly fine with me!
Everybody can access a huge range of bands through the web, but the quantity makes it difficult to choose the best. How do you choose bands that you would like to work with? Are there particular features that you look for?
Your certaintly right about that. I get a lot of demos and requests to join the label. When people send me a two line request through myspace asking me to release your album, I'll probably just completely ignore the message altogether, and even when people send me an email with download links or myspace links, I'll usually ignore those too, or at the very best have a 30 second listen. It's not that I'm trying to be an asshole or anything, I just don't have time for that. It says right on my website, that if your interested in joining the label, then send me a physical demo in the mail. If people don't have the time to read a little about the label that they want to represent their music, then they are obviously not serious about their project anyway. This is a big part of what I mean about the bedroom black metal myspace culture, everybody's got a project and everybody thinks they can send a 10 second thoughtless generic message across the internet and get signed to some label. It's fucking annoying, and particularily bad in the 'depressive black metal scene' At least in other metal genres, people seem to put a little bit more effort into getting signed. People seem to forget that there is a big difference between being 'underground' and being unprofessional and amateurish. My basic argument is that I put a lot of effort and money into your project when your part of the roster, so I want people who are equally dedicated about their project, and not just doing it to be trendy or whatever other stupid reason. If you send a physical demo in the mail, then I'll give you a fair chance. Also, it is financially impossible for me to release everything that I would like to, so unless your something that I just can't pass up the opportunity to sign, I most likely will not be looking to add any additional projects for a while.
Once you have chosen to work with a band, what matters are involved in releasing an album? How long does the process usually take?
Once an artist is a part of the roster, we'll keep in pretty regular contact. We would usually discuss the details of the album, such as the release type, the packaging, and anything else which might be important. As soon as they send me the complete album, and the artwork, then basically it all comes down to funding. Once I have all of the files ready to go, we'll discuss a release-date and come up with something that works for both of us. Usually the process doesn't take too long. There hasn't been many delays in terms of releasing an album, and as soon as everything is in my hands, it's usually just a 2-3 month process to get the album released. There is sometimes a small financing wait in order to gather enough money to get the album printed and then about a one-month manfacturing wait. During the manfacturing process is usually when we'll do the bulk of the promotional work.
Would you say that you have a favourite release so far? Or are you not allowed to choose one?!
I'm not allowed to say!! Politics will play a part even in the smallest of underground record labels and we will end up having a black metaller crying in his room somewhere!
Nahh, I'm just joking. Umm I don't have a favourite release, but I have a few which I think turned out really well, such as the Astral Luminous release which is absolutely beautiful musically and asthetically. Also I think the Funeral Fornication release is absolutely underrated, as it hasn't sold very much and I consider it one of the best releases on the label so far! The Neige et Noirceur releases are really cool as well, and I'm particularily proud of the Old Forgotten Lands/Ancient Tundra split which I had a part in with Elan O'Neal of Old Forgotten Lands, both musically and aesthetically, it came out exactly how I had hoped. In truth, I like them all, but I am particularily excited about the upcoming releases in 2010 as I think they will be some of the best HDR stuff yet! Exiled From Light, Funeral Fornication, The Foetal Mind, and Astral Luminous will all be releasing a new album this year.
You have used a company called Depraved Designs to do many of the graphics for the label – how did you come into contact? Have you been happy with the work produced so far?
Depraved Designs is great. I came in contact with Niels when I first opened up the record label, just by browsing around on myspace. As you've said, I've used his work to do almost all of my graphics. He has created every release flyer so far, as well as contributed his photography for the Exiled From Light - Descending Further into Nothingness promo video, and did the complete album artwork on the Old Forgotten Lands/Ancient Tundra split album, the new upcoming Exiled From Light album - There is no beauty left here..., and the HDR Compilation album. This basically stems from myself not being very good at computer graphics work, and needing someone else's expertise in order to properly represent the label esthetically. It's yet another expense for the label, but his prices are definetely fair, he is a nice guy, and I'm always happy with his work, so it's worth it in the end.
I know that you are also a keen photographer yourself – is this an art form that is becoming a bigger part of Hypnotic Dirge?
Time will tell. Right now, all I am doing is taking photographs leisurely, and sending a free 4X6 photograph along with all orders of Hypnotic Dirge Records. I find it to be a nice bonus to someone's order and it only costs me 15 cents to print each photo and this allows me to write a personalized message on the back of each photo and add a personal touch to each order. Plus this way, my photography finds its way all around the world! I also upload all of my photography to 'www.myspace.com/hypnoticdirgephotography' and they are available for any bands and projects to use on their album artwork, merchandsie, or promotional pictures for free. All I ask for is a copy of the album in which the photography appears in, and I'll send the photo(s) to their email address in high quality. Noone has taken up this offer yet, but I have not really promoted it either. It's there if people are interested, and if not, no problem. Just a hobby of mine to go on little photoshoots from time to time and see if I can take any interesting photos.
Amongst the bands on the label, are there any we should be looking out for in terms of releases and activities in the near future?
Yes. I've mentioned this a few times already I think, but the new Exiled From light album is going to be released this July as a double-album with almost two hours worth of brand new music, so that is the bulk of my focus right now. I believe I've already sent you a promotional copy of the double-album for review on Hierophant Nox, so I'm focusing pretty hard on promoting that as that's our main release this summer! Coming up after that however, we've got a very exciting Uruk-Hai/Funeral Fornication Split album which should be really interesting, as well as a short EP release from my own 'Symphonic Gothic Black Metal' project which should be quite a change from the usual sound of Hypnotic Dirge, but it's just a limited-edition release. Both of those albums should be out in August or September, and then we have new full-length albums coming out from The Foetal Mind, Astral Luminous, and Funeral Fornication to close out the year. We are also strongly looking into the possibility of doing a re-print of the sold out Exiled From Light T-Shirts, and also possibly new t-shirt designs for Astral Luminous and Neige et Noirceur.
In any case, it's going to be a very busy year after a slow start in the first half of the year. Hopefully we can manage to get all the necessary funding for all these plans!
Are you looking to add more bands to the HDR roster, or are you focusing on the artists that you already work with?
Not at the moment. There is actually one project we have on the sidelines right now, but we're not announcing that yet. We're currently working with this project in preperation for a future signing with Hypnotic Dirge and a debut release from this project which has been in the works since 2005, so it's really a fantastic album! That's about all I can say about that, as it hasn't been made official yet, but when it is eventually unveiled to the public, I think people will be absolutely fascinated by this project, as I was! The music this guy writes really pushes the boundaries and is one of the most unique albums I have heard in years. This was a case of not looking for or wanting any more projects at the time, but being unable to pass up the opportunity to work with this particular project.
Along with choosing bands and directing production and design, a big part of your job must be promoting your releases; is this an aspect that you enjoy? Does it take up a lot of your time?
I don't mind it. It definetely gets tedious from time to time, and there are aspects of it that I do not particularily like, and other aspects which I do enjoy. The main thing is to do the right type of work at the right time. The benefit of being your own 'boss', is that for the most part, you can choose your own schedule and if you have a big list of things to get done, you can choose what to work on and what you are in the mood to be doing at that particular moment. Of course, I work together with the artists on the roster, and share the same goals and visions as them, so it is a nice partnership and we all work towards the same things together, although it is my responsibility to do the bulk of the promotional work.
Right now, my regular days off work are Monday and Tuesday which makes it difficult to be very social on those days and hang out with friends, go camping, or have some drinks or anything of the sort, so it gives me two complete full days to work on the label whereas if my days off work were on the weekend, I would probably not be sitting in front of the computer doing this interview right now, I'd probably be out in the middle of nowhere right now having a beer, and camping! haha, I'd still get all of my label work done on the weekdays though, as that is how I operated last summer, and I always got everything done, so there are no worries there, but my current situation just gives me more time to work on promotion I guess, which is definetely not a bad thing. Howeverrrrrr, I DO want to go camping still!
You're based in Saskatchewan; do you feel part of a Canadian 'scene' or 'flavour', or does your geographical location have little effect?
Geographical location has no effect on what I do. Whether I lived in Tokyo, New York, Yellowknife, Madrid, Baghdad, Oslo, or Swift Current, Saskatchewan I don't think I would be particularily influenced by my surroundings. It's not that I'm against Saskatchewan, or Canada for that matter. I think I mentioned in an interview with Heathen Harvest that I really don't like the city where I live, and I guess that still hasn't changed much, but since I am moving in September to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for university (Yes, the label address will change once again soon!) I have come to be a little more symphethetic towards the area. Anyway, I've completely strayed from the original question once again. I guess what I should say, is that when it comes to my music project, the environment around me probably plays a part (or has played a part) in influencing what I write, but I don't really feel connnected to any Canadian scene, especially being such a large country, I don't know of any projects anywhere near my area. and the closest projects I know much about are Funeral Fornication which is based on the western edge of Canada, and the vast Quebecois scene, including Neige et Noirceur which is on the eastern edge of Canada, while I sit in the unpopulated region in the middle of nowhere. There are some definite benefits to living in a city, especially when it comes to running a record label and promoting locally, but I have actually comes to like quite a few things about living in the middle of nowhere.
What are your plans for the record label this year? Have you set yourself any goals to reach?
The plans for this year is just to release the albums that are planned for 2010, and make sure that they are properly promoted and distributed around the world. In July this year, Vultyrous'(of Funeral Fornication) death metal band is doing a 6-date Western Canadian tour, so I'm sending him a parcel in the mail of HDR Flyers to post around Western Canada, and hypnotic Dirge CD's to sell at his merch table during the tour, so hopefully it can result in a little bit more of a localized awareness of the record label. Other than that, the only goal is to sell enough CD's to release all the albums that I plan on releasing, and continuing to spread the word!
What would be the ultimate aim for Hypnotic Dirge?
The ultimate aim of Hypnotic Dirge is to grow and gain a favourable reputation around the world. I think I'll be doing this for a long time, so it's a definite long term goal that will probably have lots of ups and downs. At the end of the day, it is a part of my life, but it is not my entire life, so it will hopefully continue to grow and develop and it will take a natural evolutionary course throughout the next...who knows...10? 20? years. If the label is still around in 20 years, then I will already consider that a massive success, first of all that people are still buying CD's at all at that time, and that I have been able to probably release, distribute, and promote 150-200 albums by then! Let's see what happens. 20 years is a LONG time.
Thank you for all your time and for working with us over the past few months; if you've got any more messages for the world, please go ahead!:
Nothing else I can really say. Thank you for the interview Ellen, and count on us to continue working together as long as your running Hierophant Nox and your still willing to review our albums. Oh and also, if you've managed to read this entire interview, thanks for being interested, and thanks for reading!