Posted by Nick Skog on Thursday, November 8, 2012 Under: Hypnotic Dirge Records
*Originally published May 28, 2011
1. Hells Skog, as the owner of one the most consistent and focused record labels I was wondering what motivated you to start a label? What do you look for in an artist when you are considering which bands to sign? How big of a factor does money play into it? How many demos do you regularly receive?
Hey Brad! Originally, the idea to start Hypnotic Dirge Records was simply born out of a desire to be able to release my own music and be in control of the promotion and distribute that went along with an album release. I asked a few friends I knew online that were without a label if they wanted to join the label I was starting up and have me release their albums. Specifically, I had asked Mort, who has the projects Exiled From Light, and Winds of Sorrow among others, Bruno from the ambient project Immundus, and Scott from Astral Luminous. Eventually over the months and years, the label expanded into a more complete entity, and to make a long story short, it just naturally progressed and grew from there.
First and foremost, I look for bands and projects that I personally like when considering bands to sign because if I do not like the music, I am not going to have much desire to work hard to help promote and distribute the album. To answer your next question though, money unfortunetely has to be factored in to each decision which is a fucking shame. I obviously can't sign every band and project I like, and it becomes even more difficult if they are essentially brand new and unheard of because it is a delicate line for an extremely underground label such as Hypnotic Dirge to be able to survive and keep a consistant release schedule. I have gotten probably well over 500 demos at this point. A fucking lot of them. Some of them are quite good and I just have no money or time to take on another project, yet some of them are basically crap, which is of course a reflection of the fact that there are thousands upon thousands of projects nowadays.
2. Have you noticed that bands come to you with unrealistic expectations on what they are going get out of their relationship with you? How do you deal with a difficult artist and set them straight as to what you will provide? Without discussing money figures, what does a standard contract with Hypnotic Dirge involve?
I think most bands understand the situation with Hypnotic Dirge, as well as the current state of physical CD sales in the age where less than a week after you release an album, it is all over the internet on countless "blog sites" that give away your music for free. My stance is that if it were free to release the album I would be fine with it 100% because I have no desire to make money from this, but since it can cost up to $2000 per album release, maybe these blog sites should be helping with the costs of the album!
There have actually been no disrespectful artists so far. In fact, I am in a very good relationship with everyone on HDR, and we tend to work together very well in my opinion. There are no "hierachies" in Hypnotic Dirge unlike the stereotypical label, and I think that is the case in most underground labels. I am content to hear any ideas, criticisms or anything else from each artist, and work together to reach something that works for both of us. And considering we both want the same thing, and money or royalties is not an issue within HDR as noone makes any, there have been no problems!
Actually, call me naive. But there are no "contracts" per se, just verbal agreements. People sign contracts because they do not trust each other, and I think trust is an important thing. The agreements are simply though. Artists receive 10% of album copies (typically 50 out of 500) and 25% of any profit that may come around after costs are recouperated although this has not happened yet.
3. What aspects of running a label do you think people most overlook? How much does advertising consume your time and resources?
I think some people understand the work involved, but it is hard to fully recognize until you are in the postion yourself. Running a label, you are responsible for a lot of other people's art in a way and it's not like you can just fuck off for a week or two when you don't feel like doing anything. I mean, in some cases and times you can take breaks and that is very neccesary, but you also have to make sure you are on top of all kinds of things and meeting deadlines. Most of the label work, in all honesty, is very tedious stuff. Lots of promotion stuff, answering similar emails, website updates, wrapping packages, keeping inventory, and going to the post office every couple of days. In the end, it is worth it because of the chance to put music out into the world, distributing it to various labels, the appreciation from artists who understand the work you are putting in for no "real" personal gain, and most of all when you hear an amazing album/demo that you really want to share with others.
Also, the free CD's I take for myself through trades with other labels are a nice bonus!
4. I don’t want to set your roster against one another but what has been your favorite release so far on Hypnotic Dirge Records and why?
Hmm, no harm in being honest I suppose! I think I have mentioned this in another recent interview too, but if I had to pick, my favourites would be the netra album 'Melancolie Urbaine', as well as the two albums coming up next on Hypnotic Dirge - that is the new Funeral Fornication album entitled 'Pandemic Transgression' and the new album from Ekove Efrits called 'Conceptual Horizon' which is from what I have heard at least, my favourite black metal album from Iran. Simply amazing stuff!
As for a reason, all three of those albums have specific reasons as to why I like them the amount that I do, but to put it simply, it is because they are all unique in their own sense and represent a large part of the variety that I'd like to acheive on HDR. I mean, specifically with the netra album, who would of thought that depressive black metal, alternative rock, and trip-hop (a sub genre of hip-hop) would mix so flawlessly and produce al album that is so abundant in feeling. I was extremely pleased when I heard the netra demo for the first time!
5. Let’s get back to the name of your label, Hypnotic Dirge. Why did you choose that name and how do you think that moniker embodies what your label is about? What were some other names you considered during your brainstorming?
Haha, I don't remember the other names now. I have a stack of papers somewhere in my closet that had some other potential names, but who knows where it is now. Hypnotic Dirge Records is so engrained in my brain now that if I saw another name, it would probably sound completely stupid. 'Immortal Night Laments Productions' I think was one, but I'm not completely sure. In reality, that name actually became the name of an EP I released last summer through HDR of my symphonic black metal project.
As for why I chose the name...it's been so long that I can barely remember, but I think I had narowed it down to 3 or 4 possible choices and sometimes when that is the case, be it with a lable name, album title, song title, or lyrics, sometimes you just have to sit on it for a few days and then come back to it and decide what best represents what you are trying to acheive as well as what "sounds beter."
6. Your ambient project Ancient Tundra is a very singular vision you seem to have. What emotions drive it and how do you approach your songwriting in regards to Ancient Tundra? How does where you live influence (not country, but environmental influences) inspire your musical output?
All emotions! Because Ancient Tundra has put out a variety of different types of sounds over the years, which may not be neccesarily shown to the listener simply due to the fact that I have not released a lot of the music I wrote with Ancient Tundra, specifically the later stuff which is ironically the best material in my opinion, simply because I grew a bit bored with that project in all honesty.
Some of the unreleased material is full on ambient black metal and one track in particular is 17 minutes in length and reminds me of the 'I will lay down my bones among the rocks and roots' song from Wolves in the Throne Room, although obviously different in many many ways. Some of the other unreleased material is full-on classical melodies that sound very light in nature but also quite atmospheric but almost in a movie-score, disneyesque sort of way. Over time, I believe Ancient Tundra grew from simply being just another ambient project to being a vassel for all of my musical aspirations. Unfortunetely, a combination of a period of writers block, a disinterest in writing music (which has now passed!), and the workload of the label meant the halting of that project and my favourite Ancient Tundra has sadly never been properly released. Lately however, I have been pondering the idea of finishing 2 albums that I began - One in a atmospheric black metal genre, and the other in a classical movie-score type of genre, and finding outside labels to eventually release some new material!
7. I know artistic vision/creation/direction is important to you in a project you choose for Hypnotic Dirge, but what to you does that mean? That sort of process can be so subjective.
Your certainly correct there. I guess I prefer when a project puts some sort of intellectual process into their songwriting, but I also understand that a truly unique concept is not a strength of every person, and in reality there is hardly anything that can be defined as truly unique anymore. Everything is borrowed from something in the past and then reworked. I don't even really expect people to have a coherent theme throughout their music either, because I totally understand that you cannot be expected to have the same themes and concepts throughout many albums. I experienced that myself with Ancient Tundra, and I grew tired as fuck of writing albums based on winter. People grow, evolve, and change throughout their regular lives, and the main point of music at the end of the day is to express your feelings, so it is pointless to stagnate yourself into one theme if you have something else that you want your music to represent or portray. Look at Darkthrone! They have been doing this for over 20 years now. People that expect them to stick to one genre of music without any exploration throughout 20 years of their lives are fucking idiots. This sort of thing has been repeated by many in the past, but Nocturno Culto, and Fenriz are doing what they want, writing the music they want, the lyrics they want precisely because they are real musicians. If they just stuck to what their fanboys wanted them to play, then that would cease to be art as it really is - an expression of yourself and your emotions.
8. A lot of people talk about how education has affected their growth as a person as well as intellectually. I know that you have gone in depth to college. How do you think it has helped you develop? I mean, where do you think you would be if you hadn’t ever attended higher learning? What courses did you most enjoy and what was your major?
I went to the University of Saskatchewan this past year, and while I did enjoy it and there was interesting things to learn, at the end of the day I realized it was not for me. I noticed that going to cllege to take academic classes such as Philosophy and English was interesting but it also deeply cut into my free time and ability to write music, take photographs, and work on the label as extensively as I would of liked. That is the difference between work and school. When you work, you go to hell for 8 hours and then you are free, your mind does not have to think about your job outside of work hours in most cases. When it comes to school, you do have to put time in outside of class so in a lot of ways it is more demanding.
I actually really enjoyed Philosophy class and I appreciate the knowledge I gained through that. It is something that will likely stick with me my entire life and something I will pursue at my own pace and leisure.
This is an entire different discussion point but I really do not appreciate whatsoever the fact that you have to pay money for knowledge, but that is capitalism for you. it's absolutely sickening that there are hundreds upon hundreds of jobs out there if you take business and finance courses, which of course contribute nothing to society, yet if you take a philosophy course, there are literally no job options asides from a philosopher teacher. Business courses give you more opportunity for jobs than science classes. To me, that shows that the behaviour that is rewarded in society is completely backwards and flawed. In business, you learn to trade abstract concepts, and exploit people as well as entire nations for the sole purpose of profit. In scieince, you learn actual real physical knowledge, and contribute to the only thing that has actually improved and advanced humanity - technology.
As for actually answering your question, I only took one year or university, and now I plan on getting a job in order to save up money to buy a Korg M3 keyboard, and have more income to put into the label if neccesary. At the end of the day, I don't appreciate having to pay for knowledge, and truthfully I will eventually regret getting a massive student loan.
9. I read in another interview that you didn’t really feel like you had branched out into the experimental regions you were hoping to yet. Do you feel since 2010, when the article was written, that you have managed to further push the boundaries of your roster into more experimental regions? And where would you like to go from here? Do you really feel that there is any truly “experimental” music out there anymore? At least experimental music that could have an actual audience?
Yes, I believe so! I think when the interview was written (I actually can't remember specifically which interview this was!) I had not yet signed netra or Ekove Efrits which are both perfect representations of the label. Of course, the quest is never truly complete and I want to eventually sign more bands when I can afford to do so. To be clear though, the criteria for signing to Hypnotic Dirge is not neccesarily that you have to be "experimental", whatever that may even mean! It is just that I will not shy away from something experimental if the chance portrays itself. In actuality, what I think I was saying in that interview is responding to a question about my label banner at the time saying "Releasing Depressive Black Metal, Ambient, and Experimental music" which was something I couldn't really defend properly since I knew I had no real "experimental" projects on my label at the time.
I think there are still some experimental music out there, but as time goes on and more and more bands try new things that what can actually be classified as experimental dwindles more and more as time goes on. If you try to write based on a specific formula to create music that can be considered experimental, or something that has not been tried before on purpose, I believe you will fail. It has to come naturally, and I think there are still some artists out there who will break out of the mold and innovate new sub-genres of music but it will have to come completely unintentionally and simply be a product of their various influences and personality traits.
Of course, this will become more and more rare as time goes on.
10. What releases do you have slated for release in the near future? How do you want Hypnotic Dirge to grow? Any new Ancient Tundra recordings coming our way?
Coming next through Hypnotic Dirge Records are the new Funeral Fornication, and Ekove Efrits releases, as well as a Funeral Fornication T-Shirt which will all be released on the same date in July. The official release date hasn't been confirmed yet, but pre-orders will begin for this batch of releases in a couple of weeks. Afterwards, there are some definite plans and ambitions including the first ever Hypnotic Dirge Records T-Shirt which will be released in an edition of 100 copies some time in the fall. Asides from that, there are 3-4 albums in the sidelines right now but the order, and exact release times are still up in the air so I'd rather remain quiet about that for now. However, it must be stated that the more people buy the Funeral Fornication, and Ekove Efrits releases and help support the label's activities, the quicker the next stuff will be released!
As for Ancient Tundra releases, no clue right now, but I'll definitely be working on some new music of my own again soon. Whether it will be for Ancient Tundra, Our Diabolical Embrace, or a completely new project is up in the air right now, but I assure you that when the time is right, I will announce it.
11. I’ll leave any suicidal thoughts and overwhelming isolation to you. Death to bedroom black metal and “Give me a razor!”
Thanks for the interview Brad! Also, anyone who has read this far, thank you for your interest!
I encourage you all to go to www.hypnoticdirgerecords.com and explore further!