If you seek off-kilter music, Nefarious Industries is the label you need to be following. More a collective of like-minded individuals than a proper record label, Nefarious Industries is home to a diverse array of artists that range from very metal, to metal-related, to not metal at all. Two of Nefarious’ most-trusted operators took the time to speak to Decibel about running “a label that showcases the most adventurous and least commercially viable artists that it can manage to locate.”
When did you start Nefarious Industries, and why?
Kevin Conway: The initial reason for starting the label was really just to put our own stuff out. Our band (El Drugstore) and Greg & Matt’s band (A Fucking Elephant) recorded a split EP in 2011 and we just thought it made the most sense to put it out ourselves. We wanted to do all of this elaborate packaging for this really unpleasant sounding EP, and it seemed crazy to ask a label to front the money for that, especially considering we knew we weren’t going to tour on the record. That was more or less how we developed the entire ethos for the label. It was supposed to be an outlet for music that didn’t have a home anywhere else. We weren’t going to put any money into your release, but we weren’t going to take anything from the sales either. The hope was that we could develop a community of like-minded artists that there would still be some promotional benefits to slapping our stupid logo on the CD or tape you were about to press and self-release anyway. I’ve always thought of Nefarious Industries as more of a collective than a record label, and I hope the artists we’ve worked with felt that way too.
Greg Meisenberg: The 2011 El Drugstore // A Fucking Elephant split was the sole reason for starting the label. We new we wanted to promote the record in a more serious way, with PR and some minor touring, so we enlisted the help of Dave and Liz at Earsplit PR. But the picture looked incomplete without a label, so we started one. Kevin and Rolando had the Nefarious Industries moniker on the back burner for years, and after a few beers and Red Lobster bottomless shrimp platters, a label was born.
You self-describe the label as “a label that showcases the most adventurous and least commercially viable artists that it can manage to locate.” Where do you go about finding the artists on Nefarious Industries?
KC: We’ve all been really lucky to be friends with a wide range of people that made interesting music. A lot of our releases in the early years were from friends we made touring with the bands we were all in. When people we knew and respected were looking to release something and were meeting dead ends with more traditional outlets, we tried to offer them an alternative as long as we were also into the music. As the years have gone on, our circle has expanded enough that a shocking number of people have approached us looking to be a part of the family. Some of my favorite bands in the world have actually sought us out to release music with us. That’s unbelievably humbling and awesome.
GM: The music industry is such a social world, and the connections we’ve all made and continue to make through touring and creating music is what has always fueled the label’s activities. We’ve worked on a lot of projects that aren’t intended for the traditional album release and touring cycle, but still benefit from PR and other resources. Serving this niche for the past several years has kept our catalog full and eclectic.
You release everything from jazzy music (Brandon Seabrook’s Needle Driver) to technical metal like Bionatops to more straightforward sludge, as well as noise rock, synth-heavy music, etc. How do you decide what you do and don’t want to put out on the label?
KC: We all have very diverse tastes, and as long as at least one of us is really into a record that’s generally good enough. Thankfully the label was founded by 5 people who are into all sorts of different stuff, so it has created this amazing diversity to our catalog that is up there with just about anyone else doing this.
GM: Yes, besides being an outlet for our own various projects, we all trust one another’s taste and judgment. If it’s sick, it’s sick, haha.
What has been the hardest part of running Nefarious Industries so far?
KC: We’ve avoided a lot of the traditional pitfalls of running a label by treating it as a DIY outlet because we haven’t invested a lot of our own money into it. But it’s still hard. A lot of what we’ve put out has been music that our friends have made, and if a release doesn’t go well that can put a strain on a friendship. Also, we’re all getting older and life gets in the way. Greg is really the label at this point. He basically does 100% of the work and Nefarious Industries wouldn’t exist in any meaningful way without him. I’m very grateful that he allows me to be involved to the extent that I want to be and am able to be. The groundwork that he has laid over the past few years since I’ve been less involved has really made the label what it is today.
GM: One of the greatest challenges has been attracting the particular kind of artists who truly benefit from being involved with our collective, while being realistic about the things we cannot currently offer. This is something that Kevin, who often understates his value to our operation, was very instrumental in accomplishing. His touring experience and connections forged many lasting relationships and he’s responsible for the existence of at least one third of our catalog.
What is the most rewarding part of running Nefarious Industries?
KC: I just can’t believe that we’ve been able to cover such a broad spectrum of music, and knowing that we’ve been able to bring so many cool records to at least a few extra ears that wouldn’t have heard them otherwise is about as good of an outcome as I could have ever dreamt up.
GM: There’s nothing like building something from the ground up with your friends, and watching it grow into something we couldn’t possibly foresee when we started out. We get to work with amazing people on music that we love. I couldn’t ask for more.
We’re suddenly facing the end of 2017 and the start of 2018. Looking toward the new year, what does Nefarious Industries have planned?
KC: El Drugstore is nearing completion on 2 different full length albums. If all goes well at least one will come out in 2018, but we’re also considering releasing them simultaneously if we can.
GM: 2018 is going to be outrageous. We will be releasing a brand new 7” EP from Valdosta, GA based sludge punk outfit Dying Whale. Laces Out (Orange County, NY) are working on a follow up to their debut EP. Out in Chicago, our boys in Mine Collapse are working on some new heavy grit, and we’re proud to welcome crust thrashers Nequient to the family in anticipation of their next full-length. Expect a proper full-length debut from Morgantown, WV 2-piece Fuck Your Birthday, who are currently recording in Wenzhou, China, where guitarist Christopher Henry (Humans Etcetera) is based. Come to think of it, we’ll probably see another Humans Etcetera record as well. A Gridfailure release, the dark ambient noise project of our PR slinger and main henchperson Dave Brenner, is on the horizon. Maid Myriad is actively working on a second LP and 2018 tour dates, A Fucking Elephant is slowly but surely demoing new tunes, and let’s not forget the aforementioned El Drugstore albums. And in case that’s not enough, NYC pre-calculus post-trauma avant-jazz trio Zevious will unveil their next coma-inducing prog tantrum on Nefarious Industries. I hope that last sentence makes you as excited about life as I am right now.