Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Label Interview: Skeleton Dust

skeleton dust 

[PURESTENCH: Starting out with the usual...introduce yourself and tell us when you started the label up. What was it that encourage you to start a Noise/PE label in the first place? ]

My name is Luke Tandy and I currently reside in Dayton, Ohio. Operations at Skeleton Dust Recordings began in 2006 while attending college in Muncie, IN. The label began as a means of releasing my own recordings as well as work from other artists I admired. 
[PURESTENCH: Is there a sound and subject that you like to deal with specifically? Do all the Skeleton Dust recordings somehow illustrate a central theme or idea of the label itself? Do these artists have to meet a certain criteria with their sound, subject matter, style, etc. or is each artist free to do whatever they want? ]

A variety of artists and styles are represented on the label but there is a definite focus on harsh noise/harsh sounds. Artists working with Skeleton Dust certainly aren't required to meet a certain criteria regarding type of sound, subject matter, etc. As long as I find something sonically interesting and captivating that is enough reason for me to want to release their material. My only real goal I've had with the label since the beginning is to release work from artists that I take a great personal interest in. 
[PURESTENCH: What qualities or subjects (politics, sex, hatred, etc) are not appealing to you? Have you ever turned a release down based solely on the subject matter or a certain philosophy that the artist may have which is not agreeable to the label and yourself? ]
I try to keep Skeleton Dust a sort of an open forum for artists to explore various subject matters including violence, sex, nature, the human condition, society and so on. I am open to pretty much any kind subject to be explored by artists on the label as long as there are no expressions of hatred or bigotry.  That is one thing I am definitely not interested in supporting. There are a good number of other labels in the noise/pe/experimental realm dealing in such cliche issues so I'll leave it to them to send out that message. I have never turned down anything based on subject matter. 
[PURESTENCH: What does the name Skeleton Dust mean? ]
The name Skeleton Dust came about when I used to have morbid yet light-hearted conversations with an old roommate about life and death. We reveled in the fact that eventually every living thing would become nothing but a mere shell of what it used to be and that shell would eventually turn into nothing but dust. I guess its an ode to organic decomposition; a celebration of mortality if you will. 

[PURESTENCH: The Skeleton Dust discography has a host of different artwork which doesn't seem to have a real predominant style or repeating characteristic to it, each one is fairly unique or at least each batch is. Who creates the art for the bulk of the releases, you or the artist(s)? What type of art do you personally find most appealing? ]

I've always tried to keep the artwork fresh by trying different things and utilizing different styles. I respect labels that stay within a specific aesthetic or design for all of the releases in their catalog and many of my favorite labels practice these ideals. Since starting the label I have tried to go with art that best represents each individual artist, even if it is different from release to release. In the earlier days of the label I would invite artists to submit art or source material to make the artwork a collaborative experience. Lately I have been doing most of the art and design and consequently it seems like there is more of an underlying theme throughout all of the releases. I have taken a great interest in xerox collage-style art in the last few years and have used this type of art for many releases. I feel like this style of art has the ability to visually represent the sounds presented on the label very accurately. 
[PURESTENCH: The art of a release is a large part of the Noise scene. Is it crucial to the release that you have a really nice piece of art to go along with it? ]

I don't think its crucial to have great art to compliment a recording but it definitely makes the whole package much more pleasing. I have heard a lot of incredible recordings that don't have that great of art and have also heard crappy recordings that have amazing art. Good art has the ability to ultimately make a recording more meaningful and interesting so I try to design art for Skeleton Dust that does just that. 
[PURESTENCH: What would you say has been the toughest part about running your own label? If you could change anything you have released or done in the past, would you and what would you change? ]

The toughest part about running a label is just sticking with it. Doing anything utilising a DIY approach is always a labor of love and running a noise label is certainly not a capitalist venture. You have to really want to do it, to share art and sounds with people all over for the sole reason of wanting to share it and support artists whose work you believe in. I think the only thing I wish I could change about past releases was some shitty-looking artwork I did for a few items in the catalog, but in a way I'm glad I experienced that in a way because I have definitely learned a lot from it. Other than that I have no regrets. 

[PURESTENCH: You release both CDr and cassette. Do you prefer one to the other? A lot of people dislike CDr's and think they don't belong in Noise. Why do you release CDr's, is it purely economical? ]

Well I guess I should clarify that I have released CDr's in the past as the last one I did was released about 3 years ago. At this point the only formats utilized are cassette, pro CD, and vinyl (eventually). Although CDr's have lost their "cool" factor for whatever reason in the last 5 years or so, I find them to be a great format. They are cheap, fast and easy to produce and theoretically last a lot longer than the cassette format. I also chose to release CDr's in the early days of the label for aesthetic reasons as well. One of the first releases was a 3" CDr for a project called Is from the Chicago area. The CDr was mounted to a piece of broken mirror and somehow I don't think a cassette would have looked/worked as well for that particular release. However, I do prefer cassettes over CDr's as I do all of my own recording to cassette and enjoy the unique characteristics of the cassette format over CDr's. Also, its a hell of a lot easier to sell tapes than CDr's these days!
[PURESTENCH: It's not a rare thing that in this genre labels release "limited" amounts of each title. Why is this, and how has it been for you? ]

There is quite a bit of debate about this subject. I think its a good idea to adjust the edition of a release according to the specific demand for it; a label doesn't want to produce too few/many copies of a release. Since starting Skeleton Dust, I have tried to keep in line with this philosophy as much as possible. Most releases in the beginning were released in an edition of 33 or 50, then as the label moved along I started doing editions of at least 100 for all official releases. If I produce 100 copies of something it allows me to give the artist a decent amount of artist copies, sell what copies I need to in order to cover production costs of the release, and then have a lot left over to trade with other artists and labels. I like being able to keep items in the catalog for a little while after their initial release as opposed to almost immediately selling out of something. As mentioned previously, I want to be able to share these recordings with lots of people from all over, not just a select few that happened to be at the right place and right time when an item is released.
[PURESTENCH: When did you get involved in the Noise/PE scene and what got you into it? ]

I first got involved with noise after going to a show in Cincinnati in 2005 called Brutal Cincinnati Damage which was a 2-day benefit show for the Cincinnati-based noise/experimental radio program called Art Damage. I was actually surfing rave forums online looking for local events happening and I stumbled upon the post for Brutal Cincinnati Damage. It seemed interesting so I went to the show with my friend and had my previous connotations of what music and art was completely shattered and cut to shreds! Notable performances of that evening were a Robert Inhuman hardcore accapella set, Iovae and his stack of churning oscillators, and Jason Zeh doing his cassette tape wizadry. I was so blown away/confused by Zeh's set that I remember emailing him a few days after the show asking him how to make noise, heh. Needless to say, that one show impacted me pretty heavily and was the catalyst for where I am now.
[PURESTENCH: What does Power Electronics/Industrial/Noise mean to you? What do you feel, see, hear when you create and listen to these genres? ]

I think the answer to this question has been constantly evolving since first getting interested in noise/experimental music 7 years ago but there is always a certain sensation I experience when listening to a recording or witnessing a performance that I find especially enjoyable. It's hard to describe in words but it's like feeling completely cathartic yet simultaneously filled with this raw, unstoppable energy. That's why I'm attracted to harsh noise so much because there is certainly a lot of force created by it with loud volumes/dynamics, etc. that not only affect the physical body but the psychic body as well. I feel like I am bringing myself back down to a primitive level as a living thing, away from all the distractions and constraints we experience as humans on a daily basis living in society.
[PURESTENCH: What projects on the label are you a member or? ]

I am responsible for Being, which has been my primary harsh noise recording/performance project since starting the label. Occasionally, I record and perform under the moniker Tephra which a project that solely utilizes cassette/reel-to-reel tapes. Aside from gear differences, Tephra is more of an "ambient" project when compared to Being. I also have a project with my brother Nate (who also performs as Diaphragmatic) called Orgasmic Response Unit. I'm also involved in a group called Heart of the Whore with my friend John Moloney. There have not been official releases from ORU or HOTW on the label yet, just limited pressing tour-only recordings that I have released. I have a tendency to put my personal work aside and focus on representing other artists on the label. Fortunately, there have been several great labels that have released my own work however. 
[PURESTENCH: What do you think the current state of the P.E. and Noise scenes are like? Can Power Electronics and Noise grow or will it be forever stuck in the same arena due to the limited amount of sounds one can achieve within these genres? ]

I think the current state of these genres is really strong and full of a lot of interesting acts. There are definitely throwbacks to older "classic" PE/noise acts in terms of sounds and aesthetics used by current artists, however that is just the nature of the beast. Artists are and always have been inspired by other other artists that have laid the groundwork before them. It seems as though the audience for noise and power electronics will always be limited to a small, dedicated underground group of individuals but I don't feel as though the limited audience dictates the progression and evolution of these types of expression. There are a lot of artists trying new things and pushing the boundaries in noise and power electronics that provide a lot of inspiration for other artists to branch out and try something different. 
[PURESTENCH: What can the world expect from Skeleton Dust in the year 2012? ]

The first release of the year was the "Brûle Mon Ame" cd by french project Tourette which was co-released with Phage Tapes. It really is some of the finest cut-up/dynamic noise as of recent, so if you're not hip to Tourette's work yet, check him out! Coming up is a c20 from local Dayton performance artist John Moloney. His tape will certainly be the strangest material released on the label this far. Also coming up is the 2nd volume in the Contemporary Harsh Noise compilation series called Disconnection. Artists featured on this 2xc20 box will be A Snake in the Garden, Coastal, Endless Sea and Fissure. The long-awaited 2xc20 box from Vancouver harsh noise project Taskmaster should also be out this year as well. 

[PURESTENCH: Any final comments to add... ]
Thanks for taking the time to interview me and thanks to all that read this and support the label. 

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