Hi there, Skog! Busy Summer, isn't it? Last month you have signed two new acts and this month you have planned 3 new CDs for release...
Busy indeed. It's been good though as I had a fairly slow first half of 2011, due to being busy in other aspects of my life. However, progress and slow promotion has been occuring on both the Funeral Fornication, and Ekove Efrits releases since about February. Ov Hollowness however sort of came out of nowhere, and added another release to concentrate on. In actuality, doing three releases on the same date actually makes things easier in a lot of ways, as everything can be grouped together and worked on at once.
Also, about the two new acts you mentioned, this is correct. Stroszek, and the previously mentioned Ov Hollowness are now members of the HDR roster.
I've been reviewing your releases since last November, so not for a long time, but in the meantime I've seen your label progress a lot and taking a more and more professional attitude. How much time do you spare for HDR daily?
Depends on the day. Sometimes, I spend up to 7 or 8 hours working on various aspects of the label. (There really is a lot) but sometimes it is mixed up in between periods of procrastination as well. Other times, I go a few days without working on the label, asides from the absolutely necessary aspects like answering emails.
HDR is starting to become a business or do you treat it as a hobby? If it's just a hobby, do you think you can keep it up for a long time? Any ideas how will you fight against lack of time if the label keeps expanding?
Always a hobby! To be honest, there has been a few times where I have felt like maybe taking a break on the label or even quitting entirely in the not-so-distant future may indeed be a good idea, but that has never happened, and I always tend to get excited about something coming up, whether it be new releases, new signings, or just good enthusiasm about the label, so I always go back on those thoughts. HDR will probably keep on going for as far as I can see, although it's hard to predict the future, so I'll just take it one release at a time.
As for time, well, you always have to find time in life for what you enjoy to do. As long as it's the label I'll find time for it. If the label becomes unenjoyable for me, then I probably won't be doing it anymore.
Hey, let's talk a bit about HDR's beginnings. Was it like the old labels, started out as a distro then evolved into a label, or like the new ones that are besically started for own bands' releases and in time enrole other bands? When did you open it?
HDR began in October 2008 out of a desire to have complete control over my own project Ancient Tundra. I wanted to eventually be able to release quite expensive packages and also wanted to experience the label-side, and the responsibilities that came with that for my own project. I figured I was perfectly competent to handle doing the promotional aspects that I was getting from outside labels and there was no reason why i couldn't do so myself. At the time, I hadn't spent thousands of dollars on CD's yet so I had a fair bit of money to "invest" in the beginning of a label, so the idea basically grew from there, and I figured I shoudl ask a few friends of mine that I had met over the internet that were without a label if they'd be interested in having their material released on my label. Specifically, this was Mort (Winds of Sorrow, Exiled From Light), Scott (Astral Luminous), and Bruno (Immndus).
I guess over the years, it has really grown beyond what I expected from it at the beginning, but as is the case with underground bands and projects, it is the same idea with labels...you have to grow and build slowly, and over a fairly long time period. Hopefully HDR can continue to build slowly into the future.
Tell us a few words on each of the bands on your roster. Also, what happened with Immundus and Echoes Of Silence, were the deals finished or were there any problems?
There was absolutely no problems with Immundus. We have known each other for a few years now, and in fact both released our debut albums around a similar time, and continue to respect and keep track of each others' work to this day. The reason why Immundus is no longer on HDR is simply because he received an offer from Quartier23, which is one of the better underground ambient labels in the world, which specializes specifically on Dark Ambient, whereas on Hypnotic Dirge, dark ambient has sort of turned into more of an afterthought. Simply put, Immundus' ambient music wasn't catching enough attention on Hypnotic Dirge, as asides from a small handful, most followers of HDR seem to be more into the metal variety, albeit with ambient influences placded throughout. Bruno accepted the deal with Quartier23 for his latest album 'Eye of the Serpent' but we remain friends and there are certainly no hard feelings.
As for Echoes of Silence, I will just say that that was a mistake done by a young label which should have known better. The music of Echoes of Silence does not in any way fit into what HDR is trying to acheive, and the release of the Echoes of Silence album on HDR is unfortunetely something I regret to this day.
As for all the other projects, unfortunetely, I'll be writing an essay if I continue to write a paragraph for each project, so I will simply state that they are all great, and different from each other, and encourage readers to go to the HDR website, and check out the profiles on there dedicated to each specific artist.
You're based in a quite remote part of Canada. Does it had an impact on your work with HDR or that doesn't matter? Was/Is it hard for you to build the distribution for your releases?
Not really, actually. Everything is done on the internet now, and the postal service here is the same as the rest of the country. In fact, since last summer I've moved to a fairly well-sized city called Saskatoon which has about 250,000 people and a bit of a metal scene as well as a couple independent shops, so it is a lot better than where I used to live which was a lot smaller.
The distribution of the releases has not been a problem at all. First off, HDR ships worldwide, and an airmail package can reach anywhere in the world within 2 weeks. Asides from that HDR releases are represented in distros and online shops all around the world and in 4 separate continents, and recently a North American distro deal was made with RED Distribution for the latest three HDR releases, which I think will be a really good thing for the label.
From my point of view, your biggest hit up until now was the release of netra's latest album. Was/Is it a big success for the label?
Thank you! The netra album is amazing, I personally really enjoy it to this day. The best news I have received in the past month or so is that a second album is now being worked on and will likely be ready for a 2012 release. As for whether the album was a "success" for the label, that depends on the way you look at it. In terms of finances, it was not any more or less of a success than most of the other HDR releases, and like all but one of the releases on HDR so far, I have lost money on it. However, way more importantly it was a great success in terms of the feedback which the album has received. I have seen nothing but positive feedback on that album, and out of about 30 reviews of the album, only one was negative, with a lot of the others giving the album a lot of praise, and one particular reviewer statting that it was the best release of 2010.
The new netra album in 2012 will be released alongside a T-shirt, and a poster - much like the current Funeral Fornication package deal going on now.
Do you still have time for your musical projects? Please tell us a few words on them and their plans for this year.
I haven't worked on any new music for a long time, to be honest.
However, I have been playing keyboards regularily still to make sure I still know how to play, and I am finally going to be able to get myself a new Korg Kronos keyboard in September or October which has been about 4 years in the making now.
So for that reason, I'm excited, and having an amazing keyboard like that will no doubt lead me to start writing music again! It will be a while and there are no updates, but it will happen someday.
What are you looking for in the bands/projects you sign and what are you offering your bands?
Mostly, I am looking for quality music, presentation, and dedication. I have come across so many shitty projects that have a myspace profile with a few of their songs on there recorded in horrible quality, and no other trace of them anywhere else on the internet. These are usually the projects to send me a 2-3 line email asking me to listen to their myspace page and looking for an album release.
I have stated before in interviews, but just because a label (or artist for that matter) is underground, does not in any way mean that their presentation should be amateur. There are now more bands and projects than ever before, so you cannot expect a label to sign you if all you have is a myspace profile. I only want projects that take their art seriously, and are dedicated to it enough to actually put some time into their presentation and promotional aspects.
Once I do sign a project or band, they can expect some pretty good promotion and distribution in return, as well as high-quality professional releases. They shouldn't expect to make any money as I don't either, but what they can expect is worldwide distribution of their releases - both from HDR itself, various other labels and mailorders through trades, local indepedent shops in Saskatoon, and digital shops like Metalhit.com, iTunes, Amazon, etc. Furthermore, it's important to me that myself as the label owner, and the artists maintain regular contact and that I am always available to answer questions or concerns.
You have 3 new releases coming out this month, can you please present them to our readers?
Sure! The three new releases are Funeral Fornication, Ekove Efrits, and Ov Hollowness.
The latest Funeral Fornication album 'Pandemic Transgression' is being released together with the first ever Funeral Fornication T-shirt with the slogan 'Black Metal is Dead, I am fucking its corpse' along with a poster signed by Vultyrous of Funeral Fornication.
Also being released is Ekove Efrits from Iran, which is in my opinion, a contender for the best black metal album released in the Middle East thus far. Saman is an incredibly talented individual who is a multi-instrumentalist, and graphic artist.
And finally there is the new Ov Hollowness album entitled 'Drawn to Descend' which is a one-man project from Edmonton, Canada.
In reality, all three releases are fantastic, come in large booklets with all of the lyrics printed, and are of the utmost quality. However, they all differentiate from each other, and some listeners may appreciate some more than others, naturally. They are all available for pre-order already and officially come out on July 29th. I would also invite the readers to check out the HDR website, as there are streaming songs from each album, as well as links to download specific tracks from the album for free.
Your releases are mainly on CD. Are the CDs selling well nowadays? Are you planning on sticking to this format or will there be some other formats as tape or vinyl in the future, too? What about t-shirts, do they sell well?
CD sales have been staying steady for the most part. I definitely do not sell 'a lot' but I sell enough to keep the label afloat, and in position to release 4-5 releases per year.
I actually plan on sticking to only CD for future HDR releases as well. There's nothing wrong with vinyl, and I understand the nostalgic value, but for myself and for HDR, I could not be bothered to get involved in another format. Another problem is that the cost of manafacturing vinyl is a lot more expensive, as is the rate of shipping, and Canada is already one of the worst countries in terms of shipping prices, so for those reasons I will probably just stick to CD's.
There are quite a few good underground labels that can fill out the demand for vinyls, and HDR artists are welcome to release a vinyl edition through them if they want.
As for T-Shirts, I definitely plan on making them more often in the future. They sell pretty well, but mostly I would just like to eventually have a T-shirt released for every band on the roster for aesthetic reasons. The next T-Shirt released will be an HDR T-shirt released in an edition of 100 this October.
Since most of your releases are on the Ambient or Depressive side of metal (and not only) music, what do you think of the actual state of the worldwide scene (the Ambient and Depressive Black Metal scenes). how do you think this period overcrowded with bands will affect the scene's future?
I guess what has happened lately with the overcrowding of bands, as well as labels was inevitable in the age of technology and instant communication. I can not honestly say I hate it, as otherwise I would not have a label, so I obviously benefit from it as well. Like always, there are a lot of mediocre bands, and then some that stick out and create amazing music. No matter the amount of technology in recording music, it cannnot replace good creative ideas, and competent musicianship, so all technology really does is provide a tool for musicians to create music. If you sucked before, your still going to suck. If you were good before, and lacked recording equipment, it has become a lot easier to record a professional sounding album with the sound you desire for your music.
You're a pretty young bloke, but your professional work made you respected in the scene. Who was/is your inspiration? I mean, do you have a label or an individual you look up to? What's the best reward for you when you look back at the years working on this label?
I don't really have an inspiration of any kind. There is a lot of people that I respect, both in music and other arts, and in society in general, but I wouldn't say there is anyone that has "worked hard" in the scene that I look up to or anything like that.
One label that I really do enjoy personally, as a fan though is Solitude Productions from Russia. They have released a lot of really great sounding albums, and all of them come in really impressive packaging, and quality artwork. Also, they seem to be a label that doesn't worry about
"genre restrictions." Despite the fact that they label themselves as a doom metal label, the music they release encompasses a variety of different styles, and their mantra seems to be quality music and quality presentation above anything else. So thinking again, Solitude is defintely a label I really respect.
I think I'll know a lot better what the best reward for HDR is in a few years. Right now, the label is not quite 3 years old, so nothing is too far in the past yet. I suppose the best reward is getting the music to as big as audience as possible, while not sacrificing artistic integrity, (and letting the artists make all of the creative decisions on their work. ie. No censorship)
Are there any bands out there that are not signed with HDR but you would have loved to have working with you? In other words are there any bands not signed with HDR that you can recommed us?
Yes, there's bound to be a few. Some are realistic and some are just bands that I like a lot but know will never be on HDR.
I'll only recommend a few bands, as I could go on all day. These are all different styles, and some of these are not black metal, but I'll state a few:
Unleash the Archers, The New Jacobin Club, Mirrorthrone, Ea, The Morningside, Alcest, Austere, Deep Mountains, Njiqahdda, Pensees Nocturnes, and one mainstream one - Serj Tankian.
Who takes care of your website and graphic related things for the label? Is there anyone helping you first hand with the label or you're on your own?
I built and regularily update my website myself. In terms of the programming there is nothing on the website that is too hard that I - as an average computer user - cannot handle myself. Plus, since I update the website every few days, it would be way too much of a hassle to have to contact someone else to constantly be doing these things for me. As far as graphics go, I am really horrible at graphics programs actually (it's really time to learn) so I have a couple of friends who always help me out with that. It's been a giant help, and their contributions are absolutely necessary to the graphics side of the label.
In fact, the upcoming Hypnotic Dirge T-shirt is being designed by a friend right now. Of course, I am contributing themes and ideas, but the actual work itself is being done by him, not me.
Ok, Skog, thanks for your answers, I wish you the best of luck with the label and hope to speak again soon.
Thanks for the interview Adrian. Keep up the good work with Pest as well.
Also, thank you to everyone for reading!
Interviewed by Adrian
Answers by Skog