By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: featured, interviews On: Thursday, March 13th, 2014
I recently caught wind of the folks at Tridroid Records when they contacted Commander Mudrian looking for a promotional nod somewhere in the labyrinth of the Decibel empire. Thinking they were Canadian, he passed them my way, figuring we’d get along because, as everyone around the world assumes, everyone in Canada knows everyone else. Turns out, Tridroid is based in Minnesota and, for the most part, specialises in limited-run cassette releases. When we contacted label partner Jason Oberuc, he informed us that he also plays drums in a band named in homage to the almighty Anacrusis! Even if he wasn’t Canadian, based on these tidbits of information, we felt the pull to pick his brain.
All right, tell us a little about Tridroid: is it a label? A distro? Both? How and why did you decide to get into this game when everyone and their sister has been going on about the death of the music industry for a decade?
It’s a little bit of both. There’s bands we sign on to the label as official bands of the label and then there’s bands we do distribution deals with. And yeah, I know, but I was actually really interested in doing something like this so I could see how it works behind the scenes, what goes on with pressing albums, contacting bands and even being able to see who exactly buys music and where they’re from. So far from what I’ve learned since I joined the Tridroid team is that the “music industry” is still there. It’s definitely coming back. I mean, with all the bands out there, they’re the ones making it possible to bring back the music industry.
What are the origins of the label’s name?
In the words of Andrew Rehberger (CEO of Tridroid): “It sounded cool.”
When you started the label, was the intention to do cassette-only releases from the start? Why? Do you have some sort of romantic attachment or notion of the tapes’ place in the world of music?
I’m actually not the one who started the label, but one of the main reasons I was happy to join was because of the cassette releases. For whatever reason cassettes have always been a part of music I’ve gravitated to. Even when I was little, I had my Kool-Aid cassette player and my Queen Greatest Hits tape and I would listen to that shit every single day! But I think the main reason Andrew has done mostly cassette releases is the same shared love for them. Tapes, believe it or not, are coming back. Since working there I’ve gotten to see what other labels have to offer and there are so much cassette releases coming out recently. I think that, just like vinyl making a comeback, cassettes are another physical copy people want to be able to hold in their hands when they put on their favorite band.
How has Tridroid grown over time? How many releases do you have under your belt and at what point did you find yourself tempted to move beyond strictly doing cassettes and the 100 copy release count?
Believe it or not we’ve done 56 releases! And all of that is just out of one basement. We don’t strictly just do cassettes, though. We released Tyrants Blood’s Into The Kingdom of Graves on vinyl and we’ve done quite a few CD releases, too. Some contracts call for 500 pressings of an album, too. It’s more recent, though. So we’re going forward with the amount of physical copies we’re pressing. It amazes me when bands tell me they want like 40 or 50 copies pressed instead of 100… It’s completely up to the band. They don’t pay a cent. Why the hell would you want less?
What’s the process in organizing a Tridroid release like? Do the bands come to you? Do labels come to you looking to license a cassette release of an already existing album? Where and how do you get the tapes manufactured?
Well, what happens is we go on an online scavenger hunt for independent bands. I only choose bands I like. I’m not going to sit there and bullshit some shitty band just because maybe they could make some sales. If I like the band, then I send them an email about signing with us and doing some kind of release. The type of release we offer bands all depends on what we already have lined up and what the schedule for that month and months ahead is. And I haven’t had other labels looking to license a release yet, but I’m sure it could happen sometime soon. We get the tapes completely blank from different companies selling virgin tapes. You can find really good deals with virgin tapes, especially recently. We have an unlimited supply of master tapes, which is the tape that copies the music onto the other cassettes. We don’t go through another company to press cassettes, yet. Right now we have a duplicator which can press three cassettes at a time, which works faster than you might imagine. But we are soon going to switch to a manufacturer, since we’ve been having less and less time to press it ourselves. There are a lot of bands on this label. It’s great, but now we just need to move forward with having someone else do it, and hopefully they’ll come out even better than before!
In the last couple of years, it appears that cassettes are something people are still clamouring for. Explain this craziness? Who do you find are you core audience as far as purchasers of your releases go? Older dudes? Young kids steeped in the irony of a cassette release? Completist collectors?
I think it’s seriously every group of people you just mentioned. Our customer base isn’t just one type of person! That’s what I love. We get all kinds of people, from different countries, different races, that have been buying our releases. My theory is it’s been the deprivation of the physical copy of music. I think with all the downloading that’s been going on, people have realized that there’s something missing from their listening experience and they’ve finally figured out what it is. So along with vinyl, cassettes are another way people can hold music in their hands, instead of just seeing it on a screen.
What has been your biggest seller? I know it’s like picking your favorite child, but what are some of the highlights of Tridroid’s roster?
Oh man. Well I know that Tyrant’s Blood did REALLY well, and is still continuing to sell. The band themselves have sold a lot of copies as well. But if I had to list a few it would be the Amiensus and Oak Pantheon split. Amiensus features bassist Todd Farnham from Invidiosus, another band from Minnesota who recently signed to the label. I also really loved Ringbearer’s The Way Is Shut. That one continues to sell and get good reviews. One band that needs more publicity is Eschatos. They released an EP with us, but they’re from Latvia so they don’t get much attention. Amazing proggy black/death metal. I really hope more people start checking them out. A band we just signed called Wicked Inquisition are amazing, too. They haven’t released anything yet, but they need more publicity. If you like really really old-school doom, then you’ll enjoy this. They’re one of my all-time favorite bands!
What was the biggest surprise you learned about running Tridroid once you got deeper into this? What are you finding to be the biggest daily challenges for you?
The biggest surprise I’ve found is that there are still bands out there that are amazing and get no recognition and a lot of them don’t want any recognition for the things they’ve done for music. It makes me sad when an amazing band I find doesn’t get back to me because I so badly want to help them get their name out into the music world, but they just simply don’t want to. But that also means they’re truly only writing the music for themselves, which is something I look for when searching for bands. I respect that a lot.
What’s your policy on working with or distributing a band? Is there anything in particular you look for when you want to work with a band?
There is no policy, other than what the contracts state (which aren’t even a full page). We give the artists full artistic freedom to do what they want with their music because it’s simply their music. Why change the way a band sounds? I’ve actually gotten some questions about what we want them to change in their style. It always blows me away when those bands are expecting that. We want to give bands the chance to shine while still doing what they originally set out to do with their music. I think the intention of this label is the reason we’re becoming more successful. They intention the whole time was to actually help bands… not rip them off.
Rumour has it you’re also in a band called Suffering Hour. Tell us about it and give a little band history? Did you choose your name based on the awesome debut album by Anacrusis?
That is correct! I am the drummer for Suffering Hour. We were called Compassion Dies which is an Anacrusis lyric from the song “Wrong.” But that name wasn’t ours (one of the original members who came up with the idea to call the band that left very early on), so we thought with the new music we release, we should change it something new. The band early on started only as a project. It was mainly just an outlet for Josh Raiken [guitarist] and his friend to write music, but shortly after they started that, I joined, then his friend left. Maybe I’m too much of a dick or something? After searching for a bassist for a while, we found Dylan Haseltine. This is now the current line-up of the band. Obviously, as you can tell, Anacrusis was and still is a huge influence on us since we named ourselves Suffering Hour.
You’ve recently released an EP. What can you tell us about it as far as writing and recording it?
Yep. The title is Foreseeing Exemptions to a Dismal Beyond. I didn’t really do a lot of the writing besides the acoustic song that closes the EP. I did however record drums and some vocals on a couple of the tracks. Let’s just say, I fucking hate recording! When I went to record the EP, it’s like I forgot how to play our songs, Josh forgot how to play guitar and Dylan’s input on how to go about doing the next take was always taken as an insult. Just thinking about those days pisses me off! The second-to-last song, which is also the longest song on the EP, took hours to finish. It was almost 1:00 am and I finally was crashing. So I said, “Fuck it,” went up stairs and had an amazing roast beef sandwich, a glass of water and an energy drink. That formula of food and drink worked like a charm. That song may have been the hardest to do, but it turned out really well, and it’s all thanks to a roast beef sandwich.
I’m guessing by the title there’s some sort of theme to it. What might that be and how does the rather colourful cover relate to the title and lyrical content?
There actually isn’t really a theme. I guess if there was a theme it would have to be depressing bullshit. The wonder of what it’s like to die and what it might be like after you die. It’s all about curiosity of a subject that a lot of people find dark. The cover art is very colorful. When I look at it, I think that maybe that’s what death could look like to someone. The art is all in how you interpret it.
What sort of plan, if any, do you have for Suffering Hour as time trundles along?
Well, for me anyway, it’s wanting to tour at some point. Money is a big issue there, but we’d really like to release another EP or maybe even another album. One of the main issues with that right now is that Josh moved to Colorado. So, getting together as a band has been tough. He flew in for four shows last month and one of them was our very first headline show for our CD and cassette release, which was also released by Tridroid. One of my personal goals with the band is to eventually be able to travel around the world. I know that seems kind of crazy for how small we are, but I seriously think if we could get a bigger fanbase, then it might be possible sometime in the future. That’s my dream anyway.
Anything else that you think I’ve missed that needs addressing?
Nope, I think that’s it. But if anyone is interested in buying our EP, they can go to the Tridroid Records bandcamp page and order the cassette, CD or digital download. Thank you all!
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