Saturday, July 16, 2016
Interview With Robert Black Of Dark Hedonistic Union Records
How long have you been doing this and what got you started running an independent record label?
Dark Hedonistic Union Records was founded in April 2014 as a means to help up and coming or already existing bands to release their music on Limited Edition Vinyl.
What motivated you? Why here, why now?
My unending love for music. So many great bands were going undiscovered or unnoticed, especially on bandcamp. Over the last few years that has changed immensely with independent labels popping up and signing some of these bands and helping them with a release in one format or another. It's a shame to see so much talent wasted so I'm glad to help each and every band out as much as I can and feel proud to be part of a movement that's pouring their blood and sweat into this. Worth it every damn step of the way! I've been a music fan all my life and my motivation in DHU stems from the fact that I want to help out some of these bands and help them to get their vision and music out to their fans, including myself!
What's your prior history in the music world?
I've been in 14 bands/projects since 1997 and have been writing material since 1995. Everything from classic rock to hardcore to metal to experimental music to soundtracks and the combining of said genres. Sadly none of them amounted to anything, but I like listening to it occasionally. Put most of them up on bandcamp as well, made about 10 bucks in the last 6 years from it haha. I've roughly written, recorded and produced about 40 Records on my own. Not the highest quality but definitely DIY!
What was your first release?
Year of the Cobra - The Black Sun EP (DHU001), although that was released by 3 labels, with Devil's Child Records (US) and Heavy Metal Vomit Party (Slovenia Republic) respectively, so actually the second release Brume - Donkey (DHU002) was DHU Records' first official solo release.
Any special projects planned?
Every damn one of them! Already out, sold out or soon available are Year of the Cobra - The Black Sun EP (DHU001) in 3 different color variations (Sold Out), Brume - Donkey (DHU002) in 3 different color variations (Sold Out), Inuka - Anno Doomini (DHU003) still available in 3 different color variations, an album fans of heavy music are still warming up to, but I tell you, it's a personal favorite. Great song writing, and just really classic doom metal, from Singapore! Florence Lee has an amazing voice and I truly believe in her vision. There's the Little Foot Long Foot - Woman EP (DHU005) which to me is one of the finest female fronted rock record I've heard in ages, seriously underrated. Joan Smith is a truly talented guitarist/vocalist, you can't deny this fools, get on it! Coming in September is a brutal split of 2 cult bands, namely Black Capricorn and Weed Priest (DHU006) with a double sided cover with some very fitting wax colors. But in particular the Disenchanter releases (DHU004+DHU666) that are coming up. Disenchanter and DHU Records decided to release their whole catalogue on vinyl at some point during a lot of very crazy and long conversations (what's up Joey!) Back to Earth, On Through Portals and Strange Creations will all have their vinyl release this year. It has grown into something really special that the fans and ourselves will dig very much. We went all out for this one and will blow people's mind for sure! Lots of exclusive artwork by Amy Morris, Rosario at Unexpected Specter and Sabine Stangenberg of Disenchanter respectively, with some damn sexy wax to go with it! Grajo's self titled (DHU007) album is coming soon with some very unique artwork and wax colors, pure heavy doom metal from Spain sure to tremble the earth's crust! There's a 7 inch coming up of the band Doomstress (DHU777) with badass cover artwork by none other than David Paul Seymour and with some sassy wax to boot, very limited! We got a vinyl version coming your way of one great album by Mother Witch and Dead Water Ghosts called Ruins of Faith (DHU008), pure fucking doom from Russia, released earlier this year on CD by DGRECORDS. The Mother Crone - Awakening (DHU009) release which was at first going to be a single LP but later on we noticed it went over the time limit a bit so it's going to be a 2LP. Side A, B and C is the album Awakening and we'll do some bonus stuff on the D side, get ready for that one! The Youngblood Supercult - High Plains (DHU010) 2LP release with artwork for the gatefold done by the amazing Branca Studio, an album that's surely going to be in the top ten list everywhere at the end of the year and rightfully so. Then there's Old Blood's debut (DHU011) which is going to be something very extravagant to say the least; a real red carpet treatment. Next to the music, which is in itself a breathe of fresh air in the world of heavy music, there's lots of cool stuff coming along with it, but more on that later as it unfolds. A split between 2 DHU bands is coming toward the end of the year as well with a very slick concept that I'd never expected, really looking forward to that one. Plus! A new signing coming up of a band that is going to break the barriers of heaviness once more with their outstanding debut. It's gonna get a lot darker in this union I can tell you that much. So brace yourself fans of all that is heavy, there's a lotta cool shit coming your way from DHU Records!
Are you looking to tap into a particular local scene or were you aiming to capture a sound?
No, not really. With DHU I literally wanted to release music I like and listen to myself and that could be any genre as long as I dig it. I'm actually not really fond of scenes. I love music. If DHU would be going for a scene specifically that means I'm limiting myself and then I'd be doing this for all the wrong reasons. But, to narrow it down a bit, I like dark, cold, deep, groove-driven heavy music the most i.e. Doom! But I'm also a huge fan for instance of movie soundtracks, that's why I like a label like Poisoned Mind Records, they have all those elements just mentioned. I love the way they have heavy bands, experimental bands, synth bands, soundtracks and the affiliation with horror movies, it all fits perfect to me. It's cool if, as a label, you can incorporate more elements than just one. For me, as long as it's rebellious, revolts against the standard, goes against the grain, works from a DIY ethic and totally kicks your ass with true conviction, DHU Records is happy to help and support in any way possible.
Tell us about the label Name and logo.
As a musician I always wrote down words or sentences that had a dark or occult ring to it or just sounded cool to me. I was watching a documentary on National Geographic about religion and the occult and the guy being interviewed mentioned certain types of people being in a 'Dark Hedonistic Union' and I was like wow, that sounds cool! This was 2-3 years before I started the label, I just kept it as a note in my phone and didn't look at it anymore. Until I decided to start a label, it was the first thing that came to mind, the rest is history. Plus, I'm fascinated by all that is dark, heavy and unknown, always have been, in movies, music, books and art so the name fits in and makes complete a life dedicated to the dark arts. The logo DHU Records uses now came maybe a year after I started and was messing around with letter types til I found the right combination and later added the evil eye with the inverted cross, which was basically a drawing for a tattoo. My first logo however is on the Brume - Donkey release and was made by my brother-in-law, a tattoo artist, but after a while I thought it looked too much like the Darkthrone logo so designed the current one myself and asked Joshua Wilkinson at the Company Design to perfect it. I think it looks awesome.
There's so much to learn about running a label, share with us some of the lessons you're learning along the way.
To me it's kind of learn as you go along and just communicating with a lot of people from other labels, musicians or just business people; you learn and so do they. When working with bands I just try to come to a mutual agreement and provide the best deal for them where we can both be happy and move on to the cool and most important stuff; the art and music! All cards on the table all the time is how it works best.
What changes do you see ahead for the music industry?
There's so much going on right now in the music industry in terms of technology and the DIY movement that it's hard to say really. I keep myself more busy with what is at hand rather than thinking about what lies ahead.
What will you do to stay on top of new and emerging technology?
Not much I reckon. If some new thing comes along I'll read into it and if it's worth working with it I'll definitely go along with it to get the best out of it. But the old adage 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' goes a long way for me.
What's the biggest challenge facing you today as an independent label?
Record store day? Waiting periods are so much longer once orders go in for RSD at the plant. At first I didn't see the problem but then I'd have to wait for a test press for a month/month and a half and was like 'oh, I see' and waiting times for the actual vinyls being like 4 months or so. They're like: "Get in the back of the line you puny little shit, big spenders are coming, make way!" It's not cool, especially when you have to break these things to a band and their fans. Independent labels are vinyally challenged in that way. And there ain't a damn thing you can do about it either. Other than that the challenge is to keep it interesting for yourself to keep doing this, keep getting inspired etc. No problem there though, I have access to so much cool shit you wouldn't believe, and from those wells I can extract profusely and endlessly.
Seems like there are a lot of independent heavy labels emerging these days. What will you do to set yourself apart?
Keep doing my will. It's the whole of the law. Every independent label supports music they like. If a band I like gets signed by a label I like, that's a win-win. If a band I like will release with DHU Records that's a win too. I don't see this as a race or competition. We are all different entities that support one another one way or the other. There's a unity and it's mostly under the banner of heavy music but not exclusively. Every band is unique as is every label. The end justifies the means, and in this case that is some very exclusive, limited and damn sexy vinyl! I have seen the best vinyl releases come out through independent labels and I love it. My personal vinyl purchases come for about 98% from independent labels. So what I'm actually saying is, the labels are apart in the sense that we're unique but are united when it comes to the music. Real music: not radio friendly, shit kickin', rock 'n' rolling, satanic, ugly, sweaty, dark, compelling, thought provoking, occult, unnerving, bong toking, blood shedding, lovecraftian, goat worshiping, evil, high, swift kick in the nuts, adversarial, riff filled, hardcore, weedian, off the deep end, guts spilling, witchy, inappropriate, DIY, beautifully depressed, inebriated, black coffee slurping, damned if you do, doomed if you don't, shitfaced HEAVY FUCKING REAL MUSIC!!!
What do you look for in your bands?
Honesty, integrity, heart, balls, a hard working 'take no crap off of no one' diy ethic! Oh, and any or all of the aforementioned references in the last line of the last answer.
How do you find your artists? Are you a club rat, constantly searching live venues for cool acts?
No, I'm on bandcamp all the time since I discovered it some years ago and that's basically where I found all the bands I'm working with today. Bandcamp is probably THE place to find the best music that's not discovered. I'm truly amazed how many gems I have encountered these past years and still encounter almost weekly. I actually can't thank them enough for that.
What are you looking for now?
To get all these releases out to the bands and fans!!
Are you involved in all the creative decisions?
More or less. I definitely think with the bands I work with. If they present something cool and it touches me I leave it as is. The whole picture has to fit. So sometimes I'll just say, a little more to the left, a little more to the right or something like that. Other than that, maybe the logo placement. Fortunately I work with some really artistically creative musicians and that's truly a blessing and very inspiring. I love art and get very excited to see what all these bands and artists have in mind for their music.
What would you like to see happen for the future of the music industry and your label in particular?
I'd like to see a future where Major labels like Sony and EMI etc. are being exposed for not producing real music and are nothing but fat cats filling up a bowl that's already overflowing. They produce so much copies of a copy with their 'flavor of the day artists' and get way too much money then is good for these corporate pigs. They sell products not music. Promoting herd mentality instead of individuality. More bands should levitate toward independent labels and more independent labels should be created. DIY for DIY. Supporting one another and stand united. The pulse of heavy music lies in the underground and that's where it's always been and always will be. It's rooted in hard work and passion and is where the heart of music beats the loudest. If I could make the same money with DHU Records as I do with my daytime job I'd be content. I just hope I can do more killer releases as they come along and keep it up and leave a mark and an example for future independent label owners and a dent in the giant corporate machine, slowly dragging that wretched beast into the ground. We as fans are doing a way better job. There, I said it.
Anything else you'd like to share with the waveriders?
I want to thank each and every single person that has shown or given support one way or the other to DHU Records these past 2 years; The DHU Cult, bands, fans, other independent labels, buying vinyls and showing those pics on social media, and, most importantly, digging the music I dig the most! You are all a true inspiration to keep DHU Records going and we are all part of a movement that is growing in numbers rapidly, so hails to that!
And of course: Do it first, do it yourself, keep on doing it. Support DIY!
Hails and Horns!