Interview – Ominous Recordings

Ominous Recordings is an independent Stockholm based record label, dedicated to pushing the boundaries of music and bringing you weird and wonderful sounds you’ve never heard before. M3 spoke to the label about how C60 tapes can save you from bankruptcy…

M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself and what it is that you do?
Ominous – I am the CEO, founder and only employee of Ominous Recordings, also guitarist/vocalist in the noiserockband Vaginia Wolf (who are mixing the debut at the moment) and perform/record solo under the name Herr S-H.

Apart from music I study religious science, write poetry and novels and try to combine that with being a dad.

What inspired you to start the label? What is your own musical background?
My first musical revelation was when my dad taped Nick Cave’s “From Her To Eternity” for me in 7th grade, I guess that’s when my life took an extremely wrong turn, since I still hold that album as the best album ever, and I mean that, for real. Going through different phases of Grindcore, Black Metal and then, at the age of 17 turning onto noise, I still kept that Nick Cave tape and listened to it just as much as all other kinds of music. So I owe as much to him as to Darkthrone, Whitehouse and The Locust.

Ominous Recordings was something I had to do back in 2005, I got sick of the constant battle between labels who claimed that their Black Metal was the most depressive and uneasy music in the world, or labels that wouldn’t think of releasing something outside of a selected genre.

Ominous was supposed to be something free of boundaries, genre limitations and claims of having the most uneasy music in the world, if it wasn’t true.

In the beginning, if you check the catalogue, there was a lot of noise, which was mainly what I was listening to then. But as I have evolved so has  Ominous, since the label profile is my personal taste, which means I release whatever I want, if I like it.

What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
Vinyls or tapes, without a doubt, mainly because of the sound, the scratch of the needle before the track starts, the low buzzing of the tape. And it’s more “active listening”, you have to actually get up and change side, you are not just a passive recipient to a bunch of digital tracks that you’re listening to on some streaming site or from your harddrive.

Ominous Recordings is somewhat unique, in that it only puts out tape and CDr releases. Why did you decide to focus on these formats?
At first I was working towards having pressed CD’s only, did CDr’s to start off the label, but then actually released two pro-pressed CD’s (OR004: Charons Nymfer & OR008: The Balustrade Ensemble).

But I realized that it was useless to try invest in that, no-one I came in contact with wanted to buy CD’s anymore, and I didn’t want CD’s either, everyone wanted vinyl or had stopped buying music, asking for downloads instead, because they thought that records/CD’s took up too much space (get more space, perhaps?).

And then, 2009, I was more or less bankrupt. I had 60 white C60 tapes in the wardrobe, 60 euros on the label account and no idea what to do. That’s when I came up with the idea of “The Bankrupt Tape Series”, so I released 4 split tapes limited to 15 copies each, in ziplock bags with pieces of printed photopaper inside. And I guess it was then that things started to change. I got a whole new customer base connected to the new artists, and got a foot in the door to the underground noise/alternative-scene in Stockholm.

After that I stayed with the tapes and have only released limited CDr’s on request by the bands who don’t think that they can sell tapes to their friends and fans. Preferably, I’d like to stay away from the CDr’s as well, but will reconsider if there’s good reason to.

What benefits and/or disadvantages have arisen from this policy?
Benefits are of course that people who are into the music I’m releasing actually buy tapes, like tapes, prefer tapes, like I do. They are pretty cheap to produce, which means you can keep the price low as well.

Disadvantages are of course people who aren’t really into it all, only certain bands I release, or are new to the whole thing. Which usually means that they don’t have a tape player, cassette deck or walkman. Then there are good bands who don’t want to release on tape or CDr.

Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
Yes, very much so. The effort of writing music/lyrics to an album, recording it and then the postproduction, as well as the layout and cover art is just not worth anything anymore. People want the easy stuff, the easy-to-handle, people don’t want albums, they want hit singles, preferably free downloads or free streaming.

Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
As a record collector I think it’s a tragic loss. I don’t want my music as a download or a streamed file/album, I want to have it in my hands, cover and all, and I want to feel the weight, look through the booklet, read the lyrics, I want to own it, I want to know that at least I supported the ones releasing it, and also to be able to take it out and show others and say “this a great album/record/CD/tape, you should get it!”

Recently, there seem to be a large number of bands offering their releases for free via sites like Bandcamp. What do you think of this distribution method, do you think it is an effective solution to the problem of illegal downloading?
The good thing about Bandcamp is that it’s easy for underground bands, like the Ominous act Avgrunden who recently put up their “Den Fördömda Jorden” there, since Spotify and those other sites/programs need you to go through paperwork and policies. It’s also a good way of spreading your music to a larger number of people who might not be in the reach of the label and the artist without some serious promotion.

The whole thing with illegal downloading is very hard. You can’t do what I did when I was younger and go into a record store and listen to an album at the counter anymore, so how are you supposed to know if you like it before you’ve heard it?

So some people download an album illegally, if it isn’t available to stream, listen to it to see if they like and then go out and buy it if they do, or delete the files if they don’t. That’s not a problem in my opinion.

But the backside of it is people who have no intention of buying it and just want it for free, they ruin it for everyone else.

What is your take on the current SOPA/ACTA controversy?
Yet another attempt to try and control everyone and everything and make sure to get all the money imaginable, not to let the people in on it or give us a chance to say what we think about it.

These kinds of decisions are being made by people who have very little interest in anything other than control and money.

Finally, what does the future have in store for Ominous Recordings?
This year Ominous is releasing the HQ Tape Series, which is an ongoing tape series with one tape a month, the entire year. Apart from that there will also be at least two other tapes, a live tape with the german noiserock’n’roll trio Nicoffeine, who also are coming to perform in Gothenburg and Stockholm (we’re working on Malmö as well) in April, and Avgrunden will release a second tape sometime during the summer/fall, an excerpt is available on their Soundcloud until the 1st of April.

For more information on Ominous Recordings, visit their website or follow them on Facebook.

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About M3 Event

The music industry is rapidly changing. The internet has enabled widespread piracy, as well as a variety of new business and distribution models. We want to offer an engaged audience in and around the Euregion an opportunity to develop a coherent and detailed picture of the future of music distribution. On the 31st of May 2012 a music conference in Maastricht, consisting of oppositional debates, creative workshops and lectures, will provoke opportunities for intellectual stimulation, debate, as well as networking. We hope to utilise the skills and ideas of some of most forward thinking minds and operators in the industry in order to highlight some promising new ideas and areas which can be improved upon.

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