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Saturday, March 2, 2019
interview: Hypnotic Dirge Records
Hypnotic Dirge Records is a black and doom label in Saskatoon, Canada. The label began in 2008 and there are some 70 albums that have been put out. For 2019 they are planning new releases from bands such as NONE (DSBM, US), Mavradoxa (atmospheric BM, US), Frigoris (atmospheric BM, Germany), Kval (atmospheric BM, Finland), Omination (funeral doom, Tunisia), Il Vuoto (atmospheric doom, Italy) and more. Find out more about them in this interview.
Hi, please tell us about Hypnotic Dirge Records.
Of course. First of all, thank you for your interest in Hypnotic Dirge! I started HDR in 2008 out of the desire to simply try something new and release the second album from my own project Ancient Tundra on my own. I had released the first Ancient Tundra album through a label called EEE Productions (probably most well known for releasing the works of Njiqahdda) and though I was perfectly satisfied with how they handled promotion on the first album, the idea to start my own record label seemed like something interesting and potentially fulfilling. I spoke with a few other musicians that I was in regular contact with at the time (Astral Luminous, Immundus, Exiled From Light, Funeral Fornication, etc), mentioning the fact that I was considering starting up a new record label, and asked them if they would be interested in being among the first Hypnotic Dirge releases.
The perspective has changed a lot over the past decade, but it was an organic and natural process rather than something planned. I was 18 years old at the time, and quite honestly had no idea what I was doing. Mistakes were made, lessons were learned, and everything sort of just gradually improved over time. I wouldn’t say that I’m less or more exclusive now, my music taste has remained similar, but my goals and the seriousness of the label has changed a lot. I certainly didn’t think I would still be doing this ten years later.
Do you receive lots of demos for release consideration?
Quite a few demos, yes. And of course I am restricted to releasing no more than 8-12 albums a year. Any more than that and the workload becomes more than I can comfortably handle and it’s just not that much fun anymore. You need to leave yourself time for other hobbies, other projects, and just unwind, think, and gain perspective. Otherwise you just become a robot, you never develop new ideas, and you don’t necessarily do things for the right reasons anymore. I receive a lot of albums that I quite like, demos I often go back and listen to on my own time later whether it ends up being self-released or another label picks it up for release, but being able to release everything I would ideally like to is, of course, impossible. Besides that, I already have some core bands I am working with and that I wish to continue working with so taking on many new projects simply isn’t feasible.
Record labels come and go, and losing money is a big reason. How was 2018, from that perspective?
It was a long road to get here, but I can say that the label is sustainable now. I don’t make a full-time income from HDR but it covers some of my expenses and I take on other side jobs when needed as well. For the first 5 or 6 years, yes, I did lose a significant amount of money and there were many times when I considered shutting things down and calling it quits. It is a lot of work and it does get stressful when you are depending on sales month-to-month, which are only predictable to a certain extent. When you have expenses coming up for scheduled releases and you still have debt from previous releases, it’s obviously less than ideal, especially if it is taking up a significant amount of time which prevents you from working elsewhere, so of course it makes sense why many labels come and go.
It’s a similar situation if you are in a band. There are a lot of expenses - buying instruments and gear, recording costs, merch, music videos, gas money for tour, etc. so it’s difficult for anyone involved in underground music. You have to be passionate for what you do. If you’re in it for the wrong reasons, I don’t think you would last even a year. That’s also why we have to develop networks of mutual aid and help each other out!
How were the finances at the beginning?
Yeah, as mentioned above, I lost a lot of money at the start, but that’s alright. On the one hand, I was still learning how to run a label properly so I made plenty of mistakes along the way, and on the other hand, it should almost be expected for it to take a few years to get to the point where all the hard work pays off. It’s a journey and I’m glad I stuck with it.
What happens to the personal life of a person that decides to run a label like this one?
I’m beginning to get better at reaching a balance in my life. I had a regular day job as well until the spring of 2018 so it was always a struggle to find enough time for everything that was a “responsibility”, let alone hobbies and relaxation time. Nowadays, I’m finding more time to play guitar and piano, write music for some projects I am working on, read books, take and edit photography, and learn Spanish, among other things that I find interesting. I’m currently involved in three music projects which are progressing nicely and I’m hopeful that an album from each can be released in late 2019 or early 2020. Besides that, I’m also working on the launch of Hypnotic Dirge Design which will be related to HDR in a sense but focusing on photography and graphic design. I suppose you have to set realistic goals and just make a little bit of progress in various areas.
Significant time is spent packing orders, but that’s when you put on a good podcast or find an interesting interview or something on YouTube. Something you can listen to that you don’t necessarily need to keep your eyes on. I don’t mind packing orders as that is often the same time that I’m learning something :)
What releases from your label would you recommend to fans of black metal?
Obsidian Tongue and Frigoris seem to be among our most well-received black metal releases from earlier on in our history. More recently, I would recommend the most recent albums from NONE, Mavradoxa, and Kval, all three of which will also have a new release out on Hypnotic Dirge this spring.
I suppose we dabble more in atmospheric and depressive black metal than traditional black metal. I like all types of black metal but the stuff I release is more-or-less a reflection of my personal taste.
What do you have in terms of doom?
We’ve released mostly death-doom and blackened doom, but there are elements of progressive doom, funeral doom, and sludge as well. A lot of albums naturally incorporate many different influences so it’s really tough and ultimately pointless to classify! Check out Altars of Grief, Norilsk, Vin de Mia Trix, Subterranean Disposition, Immensity, Orphans of Dusk, and our most recent release Il Vuoto!
Do you also have ambient and experimental noise type of stuff?
Not too much that is entirely ambient or experimental noise, although some of our releases incorporate various influences. For music on our label that deviates from black and doom metal, I’d recommend checking out netra, a really interesting project that blends elements of black metal, trip-hop, and alt/goth rock among other genres. We’ve released three full-lengths from netra as well as a collaborative EP between netra and the hip-hop group We’rewolves. I’d also recommend checking out stroszek for something that blends neo-folk, goth-rock, and western music, ultimately it’s just very melancholic and contemplative music, so the aura itself is quite similar to what I most appreciate about atmospheric black and doom metal.
Where can people find your label?
We have an official webstore on our main website with our releases, merch, as well as a distro with 1000+ titles from bands around the world. Besides that, we also sell on Bandcamp or Discogs, and our full discography is available on Bandcamp for Name-your-price download!
We want our music to be as accessible as possible so we place no monetary restrictions on our downloads. Let’s be honest, if you want to download our releases for free, you’ll find them elsewhere online for free anyway, I’d rather people download them directly from the source. If you want to support the label when you download material from Bandcamp, donate what you can, buy the full digital discography (90 releases) for $25 or Subscribe to us for $5 a month. Every physical order, donation, or subscription helps us to release new material, artwork, merch, etc.
Where in Canada is your label based? How is the scene there? What local bands and projects do you like in your area?
As of now, I am based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. It is a small city in central Canada. The metal scene here is small, but probably not too bad for a city our size. We have some solid bands in the area such as Goathammer, Shooting Guns, Lavagoat, and The New Jacobin Club among others.
We’ve released three albums from Altars of Grief, a blackened doom band based in Regina which is about three hours south of where I am, but still considered “local” to me given the vast size of the Canadian prairies. We also released a split album from local doom band Black Tremor and Sea Witch which is based on the east coast of Canada in Nova Scotia.
There are a couple other bands in our neighboring provinces that I would be interested in working with as well at some point, but ultimately Hypnotic Dirge has always been an international label so while I do like working with more local bands when the opportunity presents itself, I also don’t want to restrict myself to any particular geographical area.
What is next for your label in 2019 and beyond?
Up next is The Haunting Green’s album “Natural Extinctions” coming out on March 5, an interesting Italian doom band that incorporates post metal and percussive elements.
Afterwards this spring, we will be releasing NONE’s third full-length album “Damp Chill of Life”, a depressive black metal band from Oregon, the third full-length from Rochester, NY atmospheric black metal band Mavradoxa entitled “Nightmarrow”, and the second full-length from the finnish atmospheric black metal project Kval, entitled “Laho”
Later in the year we will be releasing an amazing album from the apocalyptic funeral doom band Omination, based in Tunisia, and we will also be working with stroszek again, who some may remember from the earlier days of HDR. He has a new album in the works entitled “about all the bad days in the world”. We are working out details for other releases as well but the other stuff isn’t quite ready to publicly announce yet!
Thank you once again for your interest in Hypnotic Dirge.