Like much of the extreme music underground, hardcore is thriving right now. With an established old guard of bands in addition to a fertile class of young bands, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about hardcore. Falling into both categories is WAR Records, run by Andrew Kline, guitarist of well-known outfit Strife.
WAR caught the attention of Decibel after releasing albums from Strife, Miracle Drug, Shadow of Doubt and Piece by Piece, so we got in touch with Kline to discuss running an independent label.
WAR started in 2015. Why did you decide to start the label then, in a time many might consider less than opportune?
I always wanted to start a record label. I think the motivation to get it off the ground came with the release of Strife’s last LP, Witness a Rebirth, in 2012. 6131 Records put that record out, but before they were even involved, I basically had funded the record, recorded the record, created a three part mini-documentary about the making of the record and developed a lot of the marketing initiatives including music videos and even a giveaway with Schecter Guitars. I put a ton of work into that record, and I pretty much realized that there was any reason why I shouldn’t have done it myself.
We recorded a few extra songs during the making of Witness A Rebirth, so I figured this would be the perfect way to jumpstart my label. 2 years and 8 releases later, here we are.
I definitely didn’t go into the “record business” to get rich, and that’s something I make clear from the beginning when I start working with a new band. The days of selling thousands of records are over, and at this point, starting a label is a labor of love. That being said, I enjoy putting my energy and hard work as well as everything that I have learned from being in bands for over 25 years to help bands that I like and respect.
From your perspective, what is the current state of hardcore music? Do you hear a lot of new bands that excite you?
I think hardcore is in a great place… There are a lot of newer bands like Give, Praise, Protester, Higher Power, Free, Miracle Drug and others that are creating music that is really interesting, fun and refreshing. There are a few little scenes within hardcore… you have the bigger bands like Terror, Turnstile and Power Trip, and then you have the heavy beatdown-style bands that I’m not really a fan of, and you also have a younger smaller faction of bands playing warehouses, skate shops, and rehearsal spaces!
Andrew, you play in Strife. What, if anything, have you learned about running a label from being in a band yourself?
I think being in a band has really helped to set me up to run a label. Pretty much everything that I earned about business I learned from being in a DIY hardcore band. Plus, being on a few different labels over the years really taught me what not to do!
An important lesson that I learned is that the label and a band are like a team… Working together will always yield the best results. That being said, a few people like Dave from Indecision Records, Vique at Revelation, and Patrick from Reaper Records have been extremely helpful in guiding me along the way and helping me out when I need it.
What is the biggest challenge of running an independent record label?
I think the hardest part is really just getting people’s attention. There are thousands of bands and so much music being released that is trying to get to people’s ears, so it’s very hard to cut through and get people to give stuff a listen. Thankfully I’ve got someone like Dave at Earsplit to help get some good publicity for my bands.
The biggest reward?
I really like seeing a project to completion. From picking a band, finalizing the artwork, listening to test pressings, and then finally receiving the final product! Hopefully the fans and the bands I work with appreciate all the hard work and attention to detail that I put into every release.
Do you have a favorite release or proudest moment from running WAR so far?
I just released the new Miracle Drug EP and it has been getting a great response, so that definitely makes me happy. Seeing them play this years This is Hardcore Fest and seeing all of the other cool shows and fests that they have been playing is pretty cool as well.
What are your goals for the future?
Our next release will also be our very first Record Store Day release. We are putting out a live Strife record that also comes with a live DVD! There will be a limited RSD pressing on vinyl and also a CD/DVD set. The DVD was filmed in 2005 at the Troubadour with 5 cameras and a crane of the balcony, so it looks and sounds really amazing. The sound was recorded to 24 track audio and recently mastered by our friend Arthur Rizk (Power Trip, Cavalera Conspiracy). A lot of people have been waiting a VERY long time to see this live footage and I know they won’t be disappointed!