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We’re continuing our conversation with indie labels – the beginnings, the challenges they face and more! This time our interviewees include Asura Revolver (Norway) and Flag Day Recordings / Dead Definition (both based in Pennsylvania).
Two of the aforementioned labels made guest mixes for us recently (one by AR is here and one by DD is here). Its highly recommended you jump into ILR archives / read interviews we did other labels such as Whited Sepulchre and Tymbal Tapes!

 

Asura Revolver

Asura Revolver - Label Logo
What made you start a label?
Well, Asura always had it’s own origin in the vaporwave scene/subculture/etc. So it was very much born out of frustration of seeing a lot of ambient/electronic based music being very pushed aside or seen as a novelty at the time, and wanting a home for those works. And as such, I’ve also admired like a lot of reissue labels and wanted to combine like a label where lesser known (well known as well, don’t wanna say popularity is a bad thing) electronic works from those angles could thrive. Of course over time that morphed to the style that is today but I’ll leave that to the fourth question.


What are some of the challenges you see as a label owner?
I mean to say it frankly, it basicly boils down to a rhetorical question of “There’s a million music labels out there, why should people listen to yours?”. So yeah, so alot of the challenges is to build up an identity and a fanbase for that identity. And trying to like to try to find the answer to “why do you think people like your label” and being able to experiment in that range.
Also, the always looming thing of any passion project of balancing your real life with it and the troubles of running a thing that costs alot. Also the costs is always a big problem, I’m lucky to be in a situation of having government help and a relatively safe money situation. I know it’s generic but honestly alot of labels have the same problems!


What is your take on Spotify and streaming services?
It is what it is, streaming services got born out of relative ease and like you could lump a lot of our modern listening senses into it being relatively easy, as in Bandcamp or Youtube full album uploads. Personally we distribute our works to streaming services because of demand and as I said again and will most likely repeat again relatively ease, being able to recommend our works to people that way.
All I’m saying is that you can’t really comment on streaming services without recognizing that it is just a part of how alot of art has to be streamlined to the digital age for consumption, and how while people like to say it is not connected, services like bandcamp are a fact of that too.
But to comment on the money thing and such, it is just what it is. I understand that streaming services basically exists by severely undercutting people because there’s millions of artists on them, hell even billions. And like you honestly can’t say you aren’t walking into being on streaming services without knowing that fact.
But that being said, customers are willing to support to labels and artists if it’s easy (ala bandcamp, subscription services or t-shirts.) and that’s really what we could ask for at most in these tight times.


Is there a specific focus as far as genres or local/regional aspect of music you’re releasing?
Alright, so I guess the big thing is we have like a very subtle consistent value or sound to our whole discography that I’ve just coined the Asura Sound or Asura Feeling but if you honestly asked me what that is, I couldn’t tell you lol. I guess it is like a very just I can sense it type of deal. But we could really say that we thrive due to electronic music being relatively connected in sound even if the person being made of it isn’t necessarily connected in scene or genre.
Like to compare, expanses by valyri and Mettle. by Autocreation was made in different times, on different equipment and in inspired by different things but you could compare those two and still find a lot of similarities which is I guess is why we have thrived while keeping a relatively tight scale in sound or genres.
Also, we are focused on supporting a lot of side projects or taking chances on artist trying to evolve their style or doing something new, like for example (sorry for doing this again lol), you got our album There Is More Beauty In Corruption by Jamie Awakshidar which was born out of trying to make something akin to a post-rock album while keeping in check with an electronic dreampunk sound to it. So we really pride on allowing artists do something they might have not been able to do or wanna do but haven’t been able to do.


Do you believe that music could bring about social change?
We do support trans artists as well as looked down upon artists in electronic scenes. So yes, music can be (and has) been catalyst of social changes but applying it to AR gets really muddy.

Flag Day Recordings


What made you start a label?
Part of it was because I would have a hard time hearing back from labels to release my material. The waiting around for an answer drove me crazy. I told myself that I would always give someone an answer if they took the time to share their work with me. When the label first started out, I was experimenting with bringing artists into a studio to record their sessions in one day. I wanted to help my friends have their work have that studio clarity that a lot of experimental artists seem to deny themselves, either because of funding or because they don’t think their work is “good” enough for a studio.
I know when I was first starting out; I didn’t have the means to record at home so I needed to rely on a studio. I was pretty self-conscious about that, because I knew I wasn’t playing “real music”, but I was able to build an awesome relationship with Kenny Eaton at Mystery Ton Studios over the years. So with that relationship, I’m able to work as a sort of liaison between the studio and artists. Making sure the session time is being used as wisely as possible since we only have about 8-10 hours to work.
The studio sessions haven’t been done since the Tag Cloud EP, I still need to work out some logistical things to make it work better. So right now, I’m just focusing on curating the best experimental music I can find.


What are some of the challenges you see as a label owner?
Trying to find a balance in curating a catalog that I personally enjoy while making sure it can still appeal to my target audience so that I may break even to continue releasing music. As with other label owners, our goal isn’t to make money doing this, especially in the experimental genres, but unless you’re some sort of millionaire philanthropist, you just can’t operate at a loss if you want to continue running a label. Having to say no to releases I’d really like to release because of finances is tough for me.


What is your take on Spotify and streaming services?
I personally love it. I buy a lot of music and having a Spotify account has allowed me to better support smaller labels and artists by buying their releases and using my Spotify account to stream the “bigger” artists. I’m also a frequent user of the Bandcamp platform and it is my favorite way to buy music from artists.


Is there a specific focus as far as genres or local/regional aspect of music you’re releasing?
Not purposefully, but it seems like a lot of what I’ve released on Flag Day in the past year has been ambient driven. I’d definitely like to make Flag Day Recordings a home for harsh noise and more sound collage releases as well, but I’ve yet to fully do that. I hope that’s something I can change in the New Year. As much as I love ambient music, I don’t want to pigeon hole myself as being an ambient only label. I did at least throw two curveballs this year with the Tired All the Time and Dry Bath EP’s.
2019 will definitely see some more ambient releases, but I’ve got a few releases planned that will be more experimental and noisy


Do you believe that music could bring about social change?
Yes, but I think it depends on the artist. For example, I don’t believe my own personal work could be a beacon for social change. Maybe it is to some, I really don’t know. But ultimately, yes, I do believe that music could bring about social change and progression.

Dead Definition


What made you start a label?
I’ve worked in many capacities on many different types of music projects over the years. Performance, composition, concert promotion, recording.
At some point I released some splits I made with friends on cassette. Helping connect people I didn’t know to sounds made by friends hit me as a tremendously worthwhile endeavor, along with the appeal of curating music I believed in. I helped other friends with releases, and things kind of slowly expanded outside of my immediate creative circle into something bigger.


What are some of the challenges you see as a label owner?
Forgetting why you’re doing it. It’s a passion project, for sure. Personal reminders are paramount; you have to remember that culture work is important labor worth every unpaid hour you put into it. Managing expectations, both your own and those of others.
The press game is a struggle, and there are so many variables that go into creating physical media that you have to be along for the ride and remain present, not letting the rough spots stop you from finishing through with something even if you think it could have glimmered more than the end result.


What is your take on Spotify and streaming services?
It’s difficult. For the most part it seams that these companies are horrible. They’ve kind of augmented the surplus value of musicians’ labor, compensating creators virtually nothing even though their work generates wealth for these companies.
But I don’t see anything wrong with reaching a few new listeners who wouldn’t have otherwise found out about an artist I’m working with because I chose to put a record up on Spotify. At the end of the day, it’s about reaching individuals who are genuinely impacted by our music. I have misgivings about the business practices behind it, but as a super small indie imprint I think we’ve only benefited from playing the streaming game. At least up until this point.


Is there a specific focus as far as genres or local/regional aspect of music you’re releasing?
Yes, though it’s going to seem super general. We started with drone and ambient music made by folks along the East Coast. It grew to include the work of multi-media performance groups and modern dance ensembles. Kind of neo-classical and minimalism, post-rock and instrumental. Then into that mix we introduced some avant-folk and punk. We’re based in Philadelphia and the DIY scene here is incredible. It’s young, it’s inclusive, and it’s producing a lot of great music. Music is a social art form, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of the city’s music life right now. In short, thoughtful experimental music from around the world and Philly’s next wave.
We’re based in Philadelphia and the DIY scene here is incredible. It’s young, it’s inclusive, and it’s producing a lot of great music. Music is a social art form, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of the city’s music life right now. In short, thoughtful experimental music from around the world and Philly’s next wave.


Do you believe that music could bring about social change?
Where music makes a very concrete, palpable impact is the space where it’s created. Philly’s DIY scene is glorious, and part of this is because of the welcoming venues that pop up here. The world is really shitty and scary, but you look at places like these and you see folks creating small worlds that presage better, less destructive, more desirable futures. And that’s really fucking cool and worthwhile. Music makes it happen.

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