Posted by Nick Skog on Thursday, November 8, 2012 Under: Hypnotic Dirge Records
*Originally published June 18, 2011
HDR has conducted an interview with the zine 'Zwaremetalen' which is the biggest Dutch speaking metal zine in the world!
Thanks to Bart, and the rest of the ZWaremetalen staff for the opportunity!
Obviously the version on their website is in Dutch so is unreadable to the majority of English speakers. Therefore, I have decided to also publish the interview in English. You can read it below:
Hello Nick. Thank you for this interview. You are the head of HDR, the president, how is your baby doing?
Hello! The interview is a pleasure. I hope this will help HDR reach more of an audience in the Dutch speaking world, and your help is certainly appreciated. While I may technically “run” Hypnotic Dirge, and I am responsible for much of the work of the label, I must stress that I don’t really like to think of myself as “running” anything, or being in “charge” of anything. On the contrary, the more the musicians in the projects contribute ideas, and work together with me in all facets of the label, the happier I am. And certainly this has been the case with many of the artists on the label! Generally though, I think HDR is doing fairly well. There is always room for improvement, but at the end of the day, I (we?) measure success by the satisfaction reached by our releases, and of course the more people appreciate the releases, buy the releases, or even illegally download the music, at least it shows that people appreciate and like the music. Success is not measured commercially, or through sales. With that being said however, commercial success is still important in the fact that HDR must be self-sufficient and able to recuperate at least some of our operating costs.
You are Canadian I presume? Quite a scene you have over there! Labels and bands are popping up. Do you know your colleagues from Transcendental Records or Sepulchral?
I have tried to contact both of those labels in the past, but sadly have not gotten any replies. It is a shame too because we seem to have similar visions, so it would be nice to cooperate with them through trades and other things. However, there’s lots of labels around the world that are interested in trading, maintaining contact, and other things so I’m not too worried about not being in contact with these two particular labels. I wish them all the best though. I have bought a few Sepulchral releases before starting HDR and they have some fantastic projects!
You don’t limit the releases to black metal only. Dark ambient and neo-folk are welcome too. Does this reflect your taste in music?
Definitely. I obviously like black metal, and it would be a lie to say that I am not a fan of black metal as a whole. However, with that being said, black metal can also be a really restrictive genre of music, as can all genres of music. When choosing bands to have on Hypnotic Dirge, or just choosing bands to listen to on a regular basis, I tend to try to find something a little bit more innovative. Nothing is more boring than hearing the same “pagan black metal”, or “satanic black metal”, or “depressive black metal” project that is a perfect representation of the genre, because that just means that they are sticking to a basic formula and are unwilling, or in some cases unable to truly create art, which is not something that can be calculated, or boxed in to a particular sound. At the same time though, let’s not kid ourselves. Being totally original is not really possible. Your always going to have influences from various bands, and music genres, but there is a big difference between creating art, and sticking to a “safe” formula.
For this moment, I see ten “projects” on your roster. Are these really projects, or bands?
They are all projects at the moment. However, I’m really looking towards getting some touring bands signed onto HDR as soon as possible at this point. I get hundreds upon hundreds of demos it seems, and 99% of them seem to be “bedroom projects.” I’m not saying that there are not good one-man projects, because there are undoubtly tons of fantastic projects that do not tour, including the projects on HDR which I obviously like since I wanted to sign them! The problem is that I need to actively seek out some larger projects and bands in order to keep the label alive at this point, and help expand the label’s reputation as truly legitimate. If I can get a nice mixture of touring projects, and recording projects in the future, that would be ideal!
Some releases are not Canadian (like Neige et Noirceur), but far away, even from Iran! How do you get in touch with Ekove Efrits for example?
I was contacted by Ekove Efrits this February and was really intrigued and impressed by the music he sent me. It’s absolutely fantastic stuff. The Ekove Efrits project has been around since 2002 now, and what I really appreciate about it is that it has grown steadily throughout this entire time. I’ve listened to some older material from the project, and while it is still good, I don’t think it is nearly as good as the Conceptual Horizon album which will be out through HDR this summer. Also, Saman (Ekove Efirts) is a really nice guy, who creates excellent music which is actually a perfect representation of all the various moods and elements that I’d like to showcase through Hypnotic Dirge, so it’s a perfect fit.
To me, I don’t care where the project comes from. Whether it is a local project based in Saskatoon, or a project from any country in the world doesn’t matter. As long as the music is good, and the band/project doesn’t mind that their label is situated in Canada then the situation is easily workable.
I must say that you have one of the most generous labels that I know. Downloads are often offered for free, the promotion is made very professional and frequent. It seems you are a musical messiah!
I don’t think there is any point in denying that people download music both illegally and legally. This might sound very uncharacteristic for a “label guy”, but I believe that music should absolutely be free. In an ideal world, art and business would be kept completely separate. Business destroys art. At the end of the day, a musician’s true motivation is to create music, play music, and share their art with all those that find value in it. If their primary motivation for writing music is to “pay the bills” then I don’t think that person is a true artist. As for a label, I believe a label’s job is simply to help spread the music, help promote it, and take care of the logistics that the musician does not want to concern itself with, such as printing CD’s and merchandise, certain aspects of promotion, distribution, etc. The whole reason why labels have a bad reputation in the first place is that when most people think of labels, they think of six assholes in suits that completely leech every cent from the musicians while contributing nothing artistically. That’s a fair assessment because it has happened so much in the past, and continues to happen, especially in the mainstream world.
The flipside to all of this though is that the label obviously needs money to print CD’s and merchandise, promote the releases, and distribute the music around the world. It’s a sad fact and unfortunately the ideal situation cannot be attained. Therefore, I encourage people to download music if they want, but also urge them to support the label and the musicians by buying CD’s and merchandise whenever they can as well.
How many different releases have been sent into the world with the HDR-label until now?
So far, HDR has released 17 albums since November 2008. It has slowed down lately though since I’ve been spending more detail, and money on each individual album. Coming up next is HDR – 018, and HDR – 019 which will be the new releases from Funeral Fornication, and Ekove Efrits both to be released this summer.
I see there are two new albums that came out not too long ago. The French project netra (no capital N?) and The Foetal Mind. Can you tell us something more about them?
That is correct. The Foetal Mind’s The Grand Contraction album, and netra’s Mélancolie Urbaine were both released this past December, and are the latest HDR albums at this time. The Grand Contraction is a giant step up from the previous The Foetal Mind album in the sense that the production, and guitar sound has been improved tenfold! It’s an interesting album because of the fact that it’s a very guitar-heavy album with lots of interesting leads and melodies while also having to distinction of being highly instrumental. Most people seem to have either really enjoyed the album, or dismissed it for its “clean” sound and lack of vocals.
As for netra’s Mélancolie Urbaine, it’s a really interesting blend of trip-hop, depressive black metal, and alternative rock. Really hard to characterize but when I received the netra demo last year, I was fucking blown away. It’s a fascinating album that really seems to embody the emotions that depressive black metal albums try to do without resorting to the typical elements of the genre. Also, the album from start to finish really flows like a story. Of course, the entire thing is open to interpretation, and Steven (netra) would be better able to describe the album than I am.
What has been your favourite release up till this moment in time?
This usually changes all the time, but at the moment, I would have to say that the netra album is definitely one of my favourites. But, with that being said, I also really like the upcoming Funeral Fornication album, Pandemic Transgression, and the next Ekove Efrits album Conceptual Horizon
What do people have to do to interest you in making them a member of your roster? You probably have some preferences or conditions before you make a band licensed.
The main thing is that I have to like their music. If I’m going to spend a lot of time listening, promoting, and being an advocate for your music, I have to like it! I’m not going to promote something that I don’t want to listen to. One of my primary motivations for signing a band/project and later promoting them is to try as many like-minded people to listen to the music which I’m certainly not going to do if I don’t like the music myself. Other than that, there are some basic agreements we have to come to in terms of how we choose to promote, and they obviously can’t be expecting “big label” type support, but usually agreements are really easily made between band and label. As long as the band doesn’t want or expect to make money from their music, then our expectations and goals are the same.
Do you live in the French speaking part of Canada or the English speaking region? I’m just asking because I’m Belgian and the two regions here (French and Dutch) don’t get along very well. We don’t have a government after more than 250 days because of the fundamental troubles between the two regions…
I live in the English speaking part of Canada in a city called Saskatoon which is a small city of about 250,000 people. This is a longer story then an interview possibly calls for, but to make it short, I was actually born in Montreal, which is a primarily French speaking city, but moved to Western Canada when I was 7 not knowing any English. I quickly learned English at that point, but in the process I forgot how to speak French completely.
I started to study French again a few months ago at university because I really want to know both languages at this point, so that is what I’m working towards now.
It’s a shame about the division in Belgium. It sounds like the situation over there is more severe but it’s definitely similar in Canada. It’s a shame that these two groups feel it’s worthy to compete over language and culture, because this unnecessary nationalist fervour has been the cause of so many conflicts and wars throughout time.
Do you play in a band, of played in a band? Does that matter if you are a label ”owner”?
I have had some projects in the past, but I don’t have any active music projects at the moment. In fact, I have released some of my own music through Hypnotic Dirge in the past such as the Ancient Tundra full-length, and a couple of split albums, as well as a short limited run release of a symphonic black metal project called Our Diabolical Embrace.
Right at the moment, I am in the process of trying to figure out a way to somehow get enough money together to buy a Korg M3 keyboard. My main interest in music at the very beginning has always been composing, and playing piano, and I have sort of deviated from that throughout the years as I became more focused on the label. That is certainly not a bad thing, as I consider the label important as well, but I would also really like to start a new project, and perhaps take the project to a live setting, and finding musicians for a live band.
What else is going on in your life? Is HDR the main purpose and source of meaning in your life?
It is a source of meaning for sure, but I wouldn’t say that it is the source of meaning. My main interests lie within music in one way or another, but I’m also interested in film, and photography. Basically Hypnotic Dirge takes up a lot of my time so I haven’t been able to really delve into anything else full time in quite a while, but as I mentioned, I’d really like to start up a new project/band playing the keyboards. I decided to go to university this past year as well which really took up a lot of my time having to do 20 page philosophy papers, and so on. But, I have also realized throughout this time, that music is my primary interest, so I would like to focus my time on getting a job instead to raise some money for the keyboard I mentioned and go from there. This will also benefit HDR too, because when I first started the label, I was working full-time and able to put in my own money into the label, but in the past 2 years, I haven’t worked except for the summer and have instead been living on student loans, so only the money generated through CD sales could be fed back into the label for new releases.
What are your favourite bands? I mean, which bands would you contract in a second without thinking if you had the chance?
There are a few! I think my favourite band of all time (and this may be a weird answer to those expecting a “black metal” band) is Nightwish. Tuomas Holopainen, the keyboardist from Nightwish is the epitome of true musician, and artist in my opinion. Obviously, bands like these are completely out of the question for possible HDR signings! I couldn’t provide a fraction of what these bands would require. As for actual logistically possible bands, here are some names: Alcest, Darkspace, Deep Mountains, Ea, Obitus, The Morningside, Pensées Nocturnes. These are all fantastic projects which I’d be honoured to have on the label.
Thank you for this interview. Any last words for our readers?
Yes, of course. Thanks for the opportunity! I would encourage any readers that might have possibly read through the entire interview so far without getting bored to go to the official Hypnotic Dirge website, www.hypnoticdirgerecords.com, and familiarize yourself with the projects on the label, and the HDR releases. There is lots of streaming videos and songs on there for exactly this purpose, and quite a lot to explore overall on the website. If you become further intrigued, it may be a good idea to “like” Hypnotic Dirge on Facebook if you use that site, as there are almost daily updates on there. Also, you are welcome to join the HDR mailing list, and please contact me if you have any questions at all!