In your own words, could you describe the basics of what Mind Flare Media is and does to our readers?
S > Mind Flare Media is, first and foremost, an underground media company, which most people donít know because Iíve only released music so far. So I guess weíll just stick with record label for the moment. Having run this business now for over two years, Iím well aware of the current state of the music industry, especially in the underground. Thereís an element of personal love that has to go into something like this, and a great deal of the funds which, especially at the beginning, were my own money.
My main focus for the label aspect has been releasing underground music in a professional form, mainly bands and musicians I find interesting. That can be very subjective, but having been involved in music for most of my life, I like to think I have something of an ear. Of course, though, not everyone will always agree. I also utilize an element of what Iíll call ďquality controlĒ, where I function as almost a form of producer. The first album I did this on was the Melted Cassettes release The Real Sounds From Hell Recordings. They initially sent me a finished set of songs, only 4 or 5 of which made the final cut. When I released Return of the Bloop Beep Buzz for Army of 2600 I edited out some cable buzz, extraneous noises, and adjusted the overall volume levels.
I like to try to make albums the best they can possibly be, but try to keep that in the hands of the band, leaving me to dictate what Iíll publish and what I wonít. The main reason for this is I got sick of buying albums, only to find the music therein consisted of 1-2 good tracks. So I want to provide great music to people in totality so you listen through an entire album. But I also donít want listeners restricted any more than I want my bands restricted, so in terms of the business end it also functions differently. I contract only by work. By work also means by form, so if for some reason a band wanted to release their material both on CD and cassette, I have no problem with the latter existing from a different label. At present, I only release material via real, replicated CDs, professionally packaged. This is similar to the early days of Relapse, and exactly what he wanted to do with it, create a more consistent, professional release of various underground bands.
Mind Flare Media was originally founded to release noise and experimental music, with the first release being by your own band, Comparative Anatomy. What led you to form a label for the band instead of searching for an already existing one?
S > Well, as you hint, it was never my intention to run this fully as a noise/experimental label. I wanted it to be strange, different, but never strictly one genre or the other. Iíve recently found a hardcore band and as of the writing of this interview, as well as an awesome post-hardcore/punk act called Bad Biology (not officially signed yet). I just received my next release from the factory, which is from the doom/stoner metal band Yama. Itís my hope that the label name becomes recognized in many different genres.
As for Comparative Anatomy, I seem to remember hearing back from three different labels. One was in the UK and we didnít really want to deal with the legal issues, the other was mostly a brutal death metal label and by the time he responded about our demo we had taken a different direction with our music. Another was from New York and was the end of it because of the overall experience. I donít want to name it to give her a bad reputation, suffice to say she was a dreamer with no real plans. Sheíd think up things, talk a lot, but never do anything about it. I think thus far for the artists she represents sheís only printed a single compilation CD in four years. I occasionally get emails from her to join her on business sites. Seems sheís still thinking, but not doing. So we got sick of the runaround and figured it would make more sense to just do it ourselves since weíd obviously be dedicated to our own material. I remember one time it took her over two months to return a call and when she did she outlined all these plans and then I think she did a bunch of E and forgot about the world for awhile. Most of her Facebook pictures involved her partying, pretty heavily. Not so much promoting.
So basically Mind Flare Media started like many other successful underground labels today. Usually someone whoís responsible gets sick of all the irresponsibility, and then does something about it.
How was the name Mind Flare Media chosen, and what does it represent?
S > This was the toughest part. Researching how to run a business, looking at CD production factories, and the like, was time consuming but enjoyable. The name, that took forever. I know I went through several ideas initially, but I canít remember any of them. The thing that popped in my head was the sensation you get in sleep paralysis, the auditory hallucinations that sound like your brain is about to explode in a ball of electricity. Then I wanted to put that into a name. I played around with the word Ďexplosiveí I think. So then I thought, well, something that suggests the music is a little more thought-provoking perhaps, stuff that goes against the grain or is the best of its genre but underrepresented. How would the experience equate to the mental process involved, something like that. So somehow the idea of a flare came up, and I thought about the sleep paralysis sensation. Media was tagged on to the end because I still intend on taking this to a further inclusion of movies and books. Iíll answer that in the relevant question I see below.
So, basically, Mind Flare Media seeks to push boundaries and help you to expand your understanding of underground culture. I think it feels kind of catchy too, and with the new logo I enjoy it even more, but I guess the story behind its creation is kind of stupid. The original logo that Iíve also sent to you was really abstract. I found an image of a brain and skeleton from some neurological article, changed the colors, and then added four symbols that are alchemical representations of the four elements. The fifth element, is your mind! I donít think anyone ever figured it out, and even if they did they probably just say ďhuh, okay...Ē So I changed it to the new one, which I think looks a lot more professional, has cool color, good design, and more importantly it fits more with the experience and style I want Mind Flare Media to present.
Later down the path MFM started releasing other bands' works, obviously. This question might be a bit weird, but what is it that makes you sacrifice your money to make professional releases for bands that are firmly rooted in the underground of music? There are a lot of CD-R-labels and such that make pressings of 20 pieces, but we're talking about something a lot more time-consuming and otherwise demanding here.
S > There are several reasons why I like doing this. First, I got really sick and tired of bands throwing around poorly recorded bullshit (no offense to some of you out there) and trying to hock it at shows for way more than it cost to make. Not that money is everything, but hey, it goes both ways. People want everyone to enjoy their material, but they need to be more realistic in the current market and with what theyíre actually offering. CD-R, plain and simple, is a poison. Now, I have a few interesting albums on CD-R, but those are far-and-few between. Problem with CD-Rs are theyíre cheap and easy. You can throw one together on your computer and essentially do a print-on-demand service in certain cases, if you know the right factories. Cost comparison of replicated (real) CD and CD-R (duplicated) presents a huge difference. Weíre talking several hundreds of dollars. So I wanted to create a label that released music in a professional form. It says, at least to me, someone put money into this because they think itís good for it. Also, it goes without saying this gives me access to distributing through stores and more professional outlets.
Itís funny you see so many CD-R labels that apparently sell fairly well and hear people ranting about the ďdeathĒ of the CD while buying CD-Rs, since in essence theyíre relatively the same format other than some quality issues, production standards, and data storage. Cheaper, sure, but itís enabled too many people to get involved in music who shouldnít have in the first place. This, in my opinion, is one of the great problems in the current industry, this whole blown-out-of-proportion DIY ethic. Itís been around for awhile, but back in the day, you had to really want to do it to do it. As things got cheaper, everyone said ďhey, I want to do that tooĒ! Should they? Probably not, in most cases. Iím not trying to say Iím superior to anyone else, but itís like art, not everyone can get involved, and not everyone should. But the CD-R has let everyone pretend otherwise.
Like it or not, the idea of the CD-R, regardless of whatís on it, still carries a stigma of being cheap, because it is, and in the end it affects the perception of whatís on it. There are some great factories that can produce very professional CD-Rs, but most ďlabelsĒ donít want to put the money into it. As I said, goes both ways. Why should I take your releases seriously if even you donít seem to?
How do you find the right bands to release - or do they find you? What must a band possess in order to get a release on MFM? You've released material ranging from IDM to harsh noise, and from chiptune to ritualistic drone, so genres are less likely a limitation.
S > Correct, I like to think of that as an eventual strength that will show through more. There are tons of excellent labels out there, but for some reason lots of then like to focus on only a few genres. Iím not sure why. Perhaps this started when Relapse came into effect and its experimental side, Release Entertainment, kind of faltered. They should have simply kept it all under the same label name. That particular example is what made me want to keep one label with many genres under it.
Finding bands, I basically just wade around the internet, paying close attention to new and underrepresented bands. If I find something good, I send them an email and then we talk about how the label works in terms of the contract, distribution, and so forth. Other times, bands come to me. I can tell you, and I equate at least some of this to the fact that I run a real-CD label, I get around 3-5 demo submissions per week now, which jumped significantly after Cheezfaceís Circumstantial Pestilence CD was given a thorough review in Decibel. Most of the demos, unfortunately, arenít up to standards. As I said before, because of the CD-R and letís say Myspace effect, lots of people feel like making music, they just donít know how to do it. With my background in classical music (Iíve played piano for almost two decades, previously professionally) Iím used to analyzing and breaking down structure more than the usual listener.
But, anyway, at least 15% of what I receive ends up being interesting enough that I decide to take it on. Also, of course, if a well-known name comes around, like Torturing Nurse or recently Kylie Minoise, I have more of a tendency to consider it for obvious reasons. Those two examples have released in practically every format imaginable. Torturing Nurse I started with a straight harsh noise album, just because I liked their sound. Kylie Minoise, on the other hand, did a lot of harsh noise before approaching me, but for his newest album, which I just released in February, we decided on taking an approach I can best call harsh noise pop/dance. The end result was just awesome, with incredible artwork by Lea (his real name).
So, if something sounds good to me, fits the genre itís in, perhaps pushes some boundaries, knows what it is and how to work it, Iíll consider it. Thatís not a really good explanation, but itís the best I have at the moment. Letís just say that I think itís foolish for a label to be run by someone who doesnít have experience in music itself. Noise can be Ďmusicí, but it involves more than just throwing around a bunch of pedals. Some bands get this, and seem to have a natural, primal quality that enables them to create, but most, unfortunately, just fill a suitcase with pedals. Iíve noticed recently that lots of noise music has become ďhipĒ and you have a plethora of sub-par bands out there that do the same thing: jump on pedals and cables while screaming and wearing or doing something ďshockingĒ. Thatís not what noise should be; it should display a creative understanding of the technology being used, how to push its limits and how to develop sounds artfully. Noise is chaos, in essence, but some people just canít do it right, which is pretty ironic.
Are there some things that you won't accept from a band and thus won't release their works, even if the music was really good? Political or ideological views, certain themes, or things like that for example.
S > Hmmm, I havenít encountered this yet. Iíd have to say that if I knew for certain someone was overtly racist, that would be a problem. I definitely donít want the label to be known for promoting hate. Politics, thatís a little tricky too. If someone was a staunch Republican and anti-abortion, I probably wouldnít care about it, provided the idea was presented in a clever fashion. I donít like things that are clichť, either, good music or not.
A release thatís in the works right now, and which kind of fits this idea a little, is by a one-man, absolutely incredible underground black metal band called Hallowed Butchery. He wants to do his next release as a tribute to abused children and donate the proceeds to their cause (Iím looking around for a good non-profit at the moment). So, thatís a case with a sort-of political element involved, but clearly a good one.
So, I canít say I have a definite answer to this, but I definitely donít promote hate so if youíre a Nazi skin band, probably not a good idea to send me anything, though, like anything else I will give you a creative, critical look at your music so you can broaden as a musician and/or band. Thatís another thing I like to do. I remember that we, in Comparative Anatomy, got sick of all the absent-minded, pointless email declines, oftentimes making it obvious the listener gave it a few seconds of their time at most. I like to give almost every submission criticism, positive or negative. I think itís important.
How about your distro; how do you choose the material to distribute?
S > I primarily use distro to spread names and albums out there. Iíve had a number of good relationships with several underground labels like Heart & Crossbone, and more well-known labels and online stores like Relapse and Old Cafť Europa. To start I took the time to email most of them individually and then we talked about trades. Iíd send them my catalog, and theyíd send me theirs. I tried to select an album that was close in style to what I was trading, and that was about it for the criteria. Iíve traded with CD-R labels, tape labels, pretty much everything because I like to support the hard work out there.
However, I have to say that Iím starting to lean towards eliminating distribution as of late because of different changes Iíve made in the past year. In particular, the usage of special shirt/CD package deals has made trading unnecessary. Further, Iíd rather put the money into promoting my own bands through proper advertising in magazines, for example. Some of the money that goes into distribution can be costly, like over $50 for a single mailing to one location sometimes. Iím starting to feel itís just more beneficial to put that into promoting the bands I carry. For example, recently I finally got into full digital distribution with Melted Cassettes through a third-party to sell my music on more sites. Takes a lot of money, and Iíve been drawing former distro money to support it. So Iíll probably eliminate this as the next two years move by.
Just out of curiosity, do you have a favourite release from your catalogue? More generally, what's been the highlight with MFM for you this far?
S > Personally, and part of this is just general music taste of myself, Iíd have to say Melted Cassettes first full-length with me, The Real Sounds From Hell Recordings, has been my favorite. Iíve been listening to a lot of noise rock over the past decade or so, and I was really blown away by them, especially the vocals. We worked hard on putting that one together, and it was also the first example of an album that I exercised some of the Ďquality controlí I spoke of earlier. Out of the initial demo they sent to me I only wanted a few tracks. They made more, same thing, we cut it down to the best ones, as far as I perceived it, and then I suggested an order, which they altered, and then we released it.
I also felt like the artwork for it was really striking. The plain, creepy face (which is not George W. Bush, by the way), the plain, white inside, the sudden, shocking image on the interior, itís the one album I started to really apply myself to. I also have a background in art history and art, and Iíve done a lot of the work for my releases, but this one I was always particularly happy about. I just think the entire package, including the shirt (first time I did that too, so it was a test run of sorts) was spectacular. So thatís a bit of a difference I think, but I think itís also quite important. Any business owner likes to have general control of their product. If a companyís making a new product, in general the owner is going to approve of it, they just donít want anything going out there, because that will affect sales as a whole. I think thatís something lacking in most modern music, and itís important.
Unfortunately, lots of label heads just donít know what theyíre doing in the first place. This leads to lots of wasted time and effort. I canít tell you how many unprofessional, poorly written mass emails Iíve received over the past year from respected labels. People just donít take the time anymore to be professional, they just want to increase sales or base their business/labor-of-love on ideals without putting the real work into it that needs to be there.
What do you offer the bands you're releasing? How big are the pressings, what kind of a "cut" does the band get, and so forth.
S > I start out my contracts at 50/50. In reality, it ends up usually being more like 70/30 in their favor because I like to help out bands when I can with extra funds. Sometimes I give CDs out to people and pay for them myself, just to spread the sound and label out there more. Most labels donít do that. So, I like to think of it as a business, and itís pretty much self-sustaining at this point, but I make it a priority to make sure my bands are happy with our agreement and get the most out of it. As I get the ability to do real advertising that will only make things even better. Pressings I do a bit differently too, I do a number at first (which always varies based on initial sales), and then the contract is slated for continuous production. This means I continuously produce CDs based on their sale value. When stock dips low, I have more printed; saves me storage fees.
This past year I also finally started doing some legit accounting and Iím starting to give bands a quarterly report on their earnings. I usually give them around 50 free CDs from the pressing for their own sales too, and in the case of shirts I try to give a few free there as well. But sometimes I will simply front the band the product, like a middle man of sorts, giving them a huge discount on it. Yama, for example, wanted a horde of shirts to sell and more CDs over their contracted amount, so I threw a bunch of money into it and sold to them at cost only. They can sell for as much as they like. Since I get business deals from the factory I print through, that helps the bands out in the end.
How do you promote your label and the releases? Have some methods been especially successful in creating a name for MFM? I'm asking this on the behalf of all those who're searching for a good way to promote their material - assuming it's worth promoting in the first place!
S > This took a lot of work, itís another thing people that want to run a label need to carefully consider and most do not. This aspect alone has helped my sales increase by about 30% over the past year. I spend time sending out at least 50 emails and 50 hardcopy promos for every release. Itís a pretty good number. Might not sound like a lot, but I tend to send personal emails each and every time. Time consuming doesnít even begin to describe it. For hardcopies I print out a nice, single-page (front and back) press release in full-color. Pack that with a single CD, still sealed, and send it off.
I have a number of great sites, like yours, that I work with frequently. Some sites and magazines Iíve stopped sending stuff to for two reasons. One, they review horribly. I donít care if you donít like the music, but for the love of god please explain yourself! Canít tell you how many reviews Iíve seen that are a waste of everyoneís time. Decibel did one for Melted Cassettes last month that was short and said something like ďsounds like Skinny Puppy jumping off of a bridgeĒ. What in the hell does that even mean? Did you like it, hate it? Iím still not sure. Two, lots of sites out there cater too much to bigger labels. Business speaking, it gets them more hits, sure, but eventually youíll end up selling out as your need for profits and traffic increases. Itís a dangerous road, just look at Pitchfork, who reviewed Fiona Apple recently. Not that I donít like some of her music, but...
Very few sites out there work to truly promote music as it should be, such as Deaf Sparrow, who will review a tape you made in your garage if you have one. Sites like Pitchfork, for example, used to be cool, but now they cater too much to stuff that gets them business. Such sites and magazines also tend to have these cocky phrases that usually read like ďwe canít guarantee reviews for everything we receiveĒ. That should be footnoted with ďunless youíre a popular bandĒ, ďunless youíre considered hipĒ, or ďunless youíre a well-known labelĒ. That sort of mentality needs to go. A certain amount of selectivity needs to exist for some magazines, sure, but some of them need to remember their roots. Decibel is one of the few I can think of that has found a good balance between underground and more mainstream underground.
Anyway, with promotions, one good thing to do is, letís say you have a doom metal band; look for a popular name in the genre and a recent album. Search through sites that have reviewed it, contact them, offer to send hardcopies. Lots of review sites and magazines now prefer hardcopy and give it priority, so I suggest you do it. Sending digital is not an option for smaller labels, in my opinion. If you want to get into actual magazines like Terrorizer and Decibel, in most cases you need to send hardcopy. A couple of those, and the name gets out there enough that they look for it the next time and youíll start to see response through an increase in demo submissions. At least, thatís been my experience. So, email, email, email some more, but use that as an opener primarily unless they request digital. Donít be bothersome if you can help it, but sometimes you need to prod a bit to get stuff done. One problem with this is, if you prod too much, they might rush the review, and you donít want that at all.
I've noticed that all your releases have a striking visual side. Have you just had good luck with the bands providing the artwork, or do you partake in creating the visual side?
S > I kind of already hinted at this above, but let me state it outright. I have a background in art and web design, so I have a great deal of experience with artwork and layout, how to put things together to make artwork really pop and catch the viewerís attention. I think this is important. Lots of bands out there just put together whatever, and this, to me, affects the perception of the music, just like the format can.
Iíve done a good portion of the artwork of most of my releases. In other cases Iíve hired out to private artists in the underground for work (such as the first Cheezface release I did). I like people to notice the cover, itís a dying art in itself. You always hear people touting the benefit of artwork on LPs, when itís just a bigger version of the CD art, if a CD form exists. LPs give you a larger canvas essentially, but you can do more clever things with a CDís layout in my opinion.
One of my favorites was the front cover of the first Torturing Nurse CD I did (second release of mine), which I created using old Soviet and Chinese propaganda, and then juxtaposed that with skulls of those murdered by the Khmer Rouge. The eventual limited shirt we made out of that was awesome. I get a lot of stares and questions about that one. For artwork Iíve done, thereís usually quite a bit of thought that went into it, so it makes me happy at least someone has noticed it. That means, in my mind, that other people have probably noticed it as well. Sometimes people have criticized it though, and I wonder if theyíve even read the press release...
Along with releasing CDs, you're selling the albums digitally through Bandcamp. How did you come to make this choice, and has it been a profitable one? Was music piracy a partial reason, and what's your opinion on the subject?
S > Well, like it or not, a lot of people just like digital for some reason. Not sure why, itís just the generation I guess. So I want to make sure at least part of the label is up-to-date, letís say. CDs are for the true audiophiles, people that like a hardcopy version, just like a book collector (which I do on the side as well). I actually sell digital through my own site at a single dollar less than Bandcamp, and much less than my music on sites like Amazon and Rhapsody. Bandcamp is excellent for this. It provides a clean, simple way to display your albums, and the ability to listen to them in their entirety before purchasing is a must I think. Its only downside is no built-in volume control.
Piracy, well, weíre a little beyond being able to do anything about it, like it or not, so I try to make sure the hardcopy is notable for some reason, thus another reason why I decided to start doing these shirt/CD packages in the past year. I donít like piracy, of course no one owning a label would. The fact is a lot of hard work and money go into my releases, just like anyone else. Even CD-R labels pay good money, and itís a shame to see people stealing it. If you want to listen to it for free, use Bandcamp on your smart phone or whatever, but donít steal it. It just isnít right from a legal and ethical standpoint. People expect to be treated fairly and then they spend their time taking music for free. We all work to buy things, so why should music be any different?
I think one of the reasons this happened, in my opinion, were the mistakes made by the mainstream and even some underground labels. Biggest problems were too much filler, too little goodness in a release. I mentioned that earlier, but hey, think about it, why would someone buy a whole album when only one or two songs on it were any good? If you think digital is keeping things alive, you can forget it. Single-song purchases cost nothing to make, yeah, but the revenue is much, much less, you can see figures of the status of the general industry online. Most functioning bands today, and by that I mean who actually make a living off it, get their funds primarily through live shows and merchandise, not music, and that includes digital and hardcopy. People arenít buying, because, well, most labels arenít releasing enough quality music and theyíre certainly not doing it at reasonable prices most of the time. People need to be more realistic on both ends. Can you entirely blame someone for burning an MP3 from a friend from a CD where they only like a single song and the song costs over $3 to download? Hell, there are sites out there now that can rip MP3s from Youtube videos! It will never stop, legally people waited way too long to get involve. Once something like this starts, if you donít keep up with trends, youíll be too far behind to do anything about it when it becomes a real problem, and thatís what weíre seeing now.
In the end, smaller and underground labels will probably be all that remains of any real industry in about twenty or so years. It will be interesting to see what happens to the mainstream over the next decade due to the digital craze and piracy. They can partially blame themselves for it. One good thing, though, is I think this makes more people who are really interesting in music involved in it, since it becomes more of a labor of love than something you can live off of. When creativity isnít forced by business, it tends to be more productive.
All your releases this far have been full-length CDs of (more or less) noisy experimental music. To my surprise, your next release will be a CD-EP from Yama, a band that plays Southern stoner metal with a hint of country. How did the release come to be? I know your label is rather open-minded in releasing bands of different styles, but that doesn't really make Yama stand out less from your catalogue.
S > I guess I didnít mention something about this early, though I did mention Yama. I started out with noise/experimental, because well, no offense, itís easy. There are a lot of great bands out there lost in the mire of crappy CD-R acts that donít have a clue what theyíre doing. So it was quite easy to release them on CD, because hey, if someoneís offering to release your music and all you have to do is make it and sit back, why not? Because of that, though, it was hard at first to spread around. I have death and black metal bands in the works, and both of them first asked me ďarenít you a noise labelĒ? So it was a bit of a curse.
Yama are great guys and they make great music. Doom/stoner has seen a huge upsurge in the past decade and Iíve looked through a number of bands. I came across them on a great underground review site and couldnít believe someone hadnít snatched them up yet, so I took a chance and sent an email. Sure enough, great guys, and weíre hoping the hype from this one will lead in to their first full-length (probably start of 2013). The main idea for me is to put this one out to a lot of more high-end, as well as underground, sites and magazines. The front cover is incredible, done by one of their friends, the rest by me, and I think the overall package, for just an EP, is awesome. They were looking for a label to rerelease their demo in a professional format for upcoming shows and a tour, and I was happy to do it.
Iím also hoping this finally dispels the ďarenít you a noise labelĒ myth and gets the name out there to more bands. Iíve already talked to a hardcore band from Maryland, and this other band from Virginia called Akris that plays a sort-of noise rock/grunge thing with a female vocalist and just bass, keyboards, and drums (sheís on bass). I think with bands like that, and especially Yama, thatís going to change the perception quickly over the next two years. I have a new corporate slogan too, Bent on Destroying the World!
Some of your releases, such as the ones from Kylie Minoise and Cheezface, have a certain type of (dark or "not funny") humour in them. Has this aspect been a bother to you, meaning have you received complaints about releasing too humorous or even joke-music? Some people are easily be distracted by an album's most shallow sides, and some of MFM-releases surely have pretty provocative and distracting cover arts.
S > The only time Iíd say this was an issue is the Cheezface release, Circumstantial Pestilence. I loved the artwork, I thought it was awesome. The idea was to present it as Ďdeath metalí and then the listener finds out itís anything but. Lots of people, especially some reviewers, didnít seem to get it. I mean, I explained the meaning of the art in the press release! Sometimes, it amazes me who actually reads those and who doesnít.
I originally wanted to utilize old plague-era stained glass windows as the basis for the art, mixing them together myself and basing it on the title. But Bryan was friends with Lou Rusconi. His artís very raw and I like the underground comic aspect to it, kind of like Ed Roth. I was all for it, told Lou I wanted him to utilize several pieces of old plague art in one landscape, and he did it. Thereís really a lot of thought behind it, but most reviewers wrote it off initially as ďdeath metalĒ or looking like a ďporno grindĒ release before they even listened to it and complained about the artwork after listening. I like it still, but that release taught me that ideas need to be pretty clear to the viewer, otherwise their meaning is easily misinterpreted, especially when they donít even read the press release!
Kylie Minoise, well thatís just his art style, I wouldnít call it funny really; I think it captures the weirdness of the album as a whole. But sure, I like the art to equate to the music and both to sort of appear as a whole.
As a related question; what do you have planned for the label's future? You've mentioned having intentions to release films as well, any news on this front?
S > Nothing solid yet, other than one thing Iíll get to in a moment. This is going to require more capital and personal investment. Right now, probably to start the ball rolling, Iím completing the first-ever paperback sci-fi collecting guide, so I wouldnít be surprised if that appears in print as the first thing I do outside of music. Thus one of the main reasons I originally decided on using Ďmediaí in the label name.
For films, Iíve been considering locating out-of-print VHS-only releases and rare films that no one cares about other than a few hardcore collectors. Something Weird Video is what gave me the idea because of their huge catalog of out-of-print and forgotten trash films, but I havenít started any work on it yet. When more money comes in, definitely going to happen, but it will of course be difficult to function in that capacity with a number of sites and companies out there that already release such things. So Iíll need to think of a way to make it more of a reality, perhaps DVD and shirt releases? Most likely Iíll lean towards new films that have yet to be released. Maybe I can convince Guy Madden...
Any plans to release music in other formats than as CDs?
S > Iíve considered this, but Iím focusing on CDs for a few reasons. First off, letís consider vinyl. I like vinyl, I have a decent vinyl collection, but it involves music recording in analog. As much as people like to claim vinyl is analog, if you record digital, which nearly everyone does today, it doesnít make a single difference. They degrade, theyíre a real pain to ship because of their size, and storage, phew, weíre talking at least three times the amount of needed space for stock. Sure, theyíre big, and I guess thatís a plus for the art, but you donít mount them on your wall! I also find vinyl to be just another fad at the moment. It will always exist, but like CD, the people that truly collect music will buy it. I have the same general issue with cassettes, though theyíre of course much smaller. Itís a fad, and the cost is much less, so theyíre really not too much better than CD-R in most cases, unless youíre pretty professional about it. Already Dead Tapes comes to mind for that end. Great guy. CD-R, well, you know how I feel about that.
The reason I like CD too much is due to several reasons. First, the format will never become obsolete until we find a way to replace CDs for computers. Once that happens, then yes, Iíll need to rethink direction, and who only wants things in digital? Any label that sticks to one format is going to face the problem of being obsolete, so thatís why Iíll definitely consider other formats. Second, CDs can be played in most cars. Third, you can use CDs to rip your own digital tracks and have a hard copy for your collection. Fourth, theyíre much easier to store than vinyl, and donít risk damage in storage like cassettes. There seems to be a slight fad mentality out there that CDs are ďon the outĒ, but itís just not true. Sure, sales are down, but thatís in the industry in general because of how major music labels function. My sales have been fine over the past two years, enough to keep me basically self-sustaining. Money goes to bands and then back into more releases. Itís like a circle of life!
You recently started making pre-orders for your new albums that come with a t-shirt with the album's graphics. These shirts won't be available anywhere after the pre-order has passed. How did you come up with the idea, and how has it been received? Are you a fan of limited edition-type of releases yourself? At least none of your albums this far have had any bonus tracks or such "attractions."
S > I do like limited editions. I have, for example, a pretty decent Aube collection, and most of his releases were extremely limited and difficult to find today. Set On, for example, was packaged in stone and I think limited to maybe 200? I forget. So yeah, I like that, and for certain types of music it makes it more attractive to people. But then, you have to think, is availability the only determining factor here? If a label makes a CD-R in a run of 20, does that make it more desirable? Of course not, unless it has content worth your time!
I wanted first and foremost to release good music in a variety of genres at a realistic price, even though Iíll see sellers on eBay trying to hock my goods for almost four times the original cost in certain cases. Iím just trying to give bands a good profit, a professional release they can look back on, and kept the label running without seeming greedy. I can tell you from running Mind Flare Media that CDs absolutely do not need to be sold at $18 each. But, sure, because of the digital focus now, you need something to make the hardcopy more attractive to buyers. Digital download for everything will likely become the norm, but people still like to have hardcopy, at least for now. Perhaps when my generation dies out youíll see this happen.
So the idea was conceived as a simple way to make things more attractive to buyers. I found that, yes, as a whole the inclusion of a shirt with every new release has done wonders. One from the end of last year, Army of 2600ís Return of the Bleep Boop Buzz, sold roughly 45 copies (with shirt of course) in about the first five days. Bonus tracks are definitely something Iíve been considering too, but you really need to make it worth it. Some B-side recording doesnít cut it in my mind, it needs to be content people will actually want. Iíve considered removing the best tracks from download form, but that doesnít seem fair, so for the moment Iím just releasing them as-is in both hardcopy and digital form, hardcopy coming with a shirt, download with just the music, not even any art. Before, I would actually include artwork with downloads so people could print out their own homemade copies, but then I thought twice about it, for no particular reason other than I didnít want anything bad to happen.
There are good labels, and plain worthless ones. Have you encountered any rip-offs or such that you'd like to warn people about? How about some plain great and trustworthy ones that you'd like to mention?
S > Hmmm, canít say Iíve dealt with any bad labels as of yet. I mean, most ďbadĒ labels are run by people that donít know what theyíre doing in the first place, so answering email kind of isnít part of their basic functioning capacity, so I donít have to talk to them anyway! I did notice that Relapse tends to like to price drop to compete with other labels, selling your CDs for around $2 cheaper or even half, but thatís their business decision, and you canít get a shirt with that anyway.
Some good labels Iíve dealt with are Heart & Crossbone and The Eastern Front from Israel, Cold Spring, Old Cafť Europa, and Crucial Blast (sorry to anyone who didnít come to mind at the moment). So, thankfully, everyone Iíve dealt with in the underground thus far has been good, sometimes not as professional as Iíd like, but theyíve all come through. Iíve had some problematic customers though, but weíll avoid that, suffice to say running a business shows you how stupid human beings can be sometimes.
Do you have any musical outlets yourself, in addition to Comparative Anatomy? If yes, want to share a word about them?
S > Comparative Anatomy is my main focus now (weíre finishing our second album at the moment, in final mixing stages). Weíre currently playing around with creating a new, live version of the band. Thatís gone through a lot of changes, but itís outside the scope of this interview anyway so Iíll skip it.
A friend of mine and I used to make experimental music together using a series of processors and sampling units, as well as found objects. Weíd take a series of similar objects and make on-the-spot songs out of them. I have all of the original, raw tapes, and Iíve been planning to release it on a special CD just for us, but I havenít gotten around to it yet. If so, that one will be quite limited since thereís no real intention to market it or take it further than that.
Again, just out of curiosity; if you could pick one or two specific bands to release an album from, what would they be? I'm looking for artists you'd definitely be honoured to release an album from.
S > Hmmm, first guy Iíd have to say is Contagious Orgasm. In spite of his popularity and notoriety, heís really approachable and dedicated to music. Originally, when I intended to release a special compilation every year of various unsigned and signed artists in a particular genre (so one for noise, one for punk perhaps, and so on), he was one of the few to actually complete his track in a reasonable amount of time, or actually way ahead of time. I never mentioned a full-length to him, but Iíve kept thinking about it.
Aube would be another, because Iím a big fan of his work. The Residents would be awesome too, but how in the hell would I even get their attention? But, in consideration of my own bands, Iíve been proud to have released any of them.
That is all the questions we have. This paragraph is reserved for anything you might have to add.
S > I just would like to thank everyone out there who works hard in the underground to keep releasing bands that deserve it. With the way modern music works, the underground is really the only realm where you see true creativity happening, true workmanship. This mentality is dying in the big markets, and digital isnít helping. If it wasnít for such labels as Mind Flare Media, music would be drab. So itís good, in a way, that people are more open to try it. Sometimes they shouldnít, but without the potential to at least attempt, well, we wouldnít have such as active underground market out there. And the underground, in most cases, is what drives the rest of the industry. You can find countless examples of popular bands that are fans of underground acts and are heavily influenced by them. So, letís keep it up.
Thank you for taking your time to answer our questions, and good luck with the label!