Interview: Art As Catharsis Records
A couple of weeks ago Serious Beak dropped the first single (check it out here) from their long awaited follow-up to their 2011 debut Huxwhukw, which will be released in November on Australian label Art As Catharsis records. Your resident lizard was fortunate enough to procure some of label founder and multiple band member Lachlan Dale’s scant time for an interview via email, covering topics such as; getting started in the music industry, running a label, spreading time across multiple projects, single malt whiskies, coffee beans and greens.
Instead of trying to describe the label to those who are not yet familiar, I’ll embed their description –
Art As Catharsis is a humble Sydney-based record label with a love for music that is progressive, psychedelic, or different.
Lacertilian: Hi Lachlan, first of all, would you like to give us a little bit of background info on yourself and how you first got involved in the music industry?
Lachlan: Sure thing. Well, I began writing album reviews at fifteen years old. It was a great way to get access to free music. After a few years my interest slowly shifted towards unearthing underground bands, because being the five-hundredth person to write about the new Slipknot album wasn’t particularly satisfying.
But the real turning point came when I was around seventeen years old when an older friend of mine ask me to help out with his record label. I slowly started taking on the digital side of his business; helping set up his online store, pulling together press releases, learning how to promote and run shows, and meeting a huge variety of bands and promoters in Australia’s underground. That provided me my first experience in the business side of the music industry.
He also invited me to join his band – a progressive grind group called Ebolie, which was reasonably established at that point. We played some reasonably high profile shows. At that point I was completely hooked.
Were you always interested in the management side of things or did it come about as a function of being in a band?
I’m a little weirded out by being called a “manager”. I feels like too professional a term for what I do – which is help people discover new music out of the sheer love of it rather than for any sort of financial goal.
That aim of helping other people discover excellent underground music is why I began writing reviews, and it’s why I began promoting releases through a record label. I’m a complete music junkie, so this seemed like a positive way to spin my addiction.
In the band context – you’re right, somebody has to take on that role, and very few people are legitimately interested in doing that. I think at some point I just got sick of playing shitty shows and decided I was going to book the gigs that I’d like to see. I also felt like that if anyone was going to push the music I was creating, it had to be me.
For our readers who might not be aware of your label (Art As Catharsis records), could you give us a run-down of the labels history and a run-down of the bands on your roster?
In late 2011 my band Serious Beak was preparing to release its debut album, Huxwhukw. With a few other musical projects on the horizon, it seemed to make sense to house them all in one place, and so Art As Catharsis was born.
In the beginning I was quite interested in the digital music revolution, which had opened up new possibilities for the role and function of a record label. At first I offered all my releases for pay-what-you-want on Bandcamp, which was a fairly new platform at the time. I also spent time pulling together a series of free digital compilation to help spread awareness of underground Australian bands I was passionate about.
I saw myself as a not-for-profit record label. I had no real capital to speak of, so I kept my overheads low and passed 100% of the proceed back to the bands. I’ll admit I bought into the utopian idea that digital media was going to completely level the playing field against the majors. Of course its had a huge impact, but those pesky majors keep managing to squeeze blood from stone.
Art As Catharsis has evolved a lot since those days; it’s been steadily growing in size, I’ve been growing in competence, slowly developing a more coherent vision of what I’d like to achieve. Anyone who has followed the label for a little while would know we touch a huge range of genres – I’ve released everything from experimental IDM (Anklepants) to acoustic folk (Jess Locke) to miserable doom/drone (Drowning Horse) to progressive hardcore (Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt) and beyond. I want people to engage with music as an artform, rather than being advocates for a particular scene or style.
After three years I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of my favourite Australian bands of all time – Brian Campeau, We Lost The Sea, Space Bong and those I’ve mentioned above. To help promote the bands you are truly passionate about is a deeply rewarding thing.
For the aspiring musicians/bands among our readership, are there any particular qualities or fundamental elements you look for in a band prior to signing?
Well there are two main criteria; firstly I have to be passionate about the music you’re creating. Secondly, the band has to actually value what I do. I see releasing an album as a collaboration between the label and a band.
I’m flexible in how I approach releases, and I recognise there are hugely varying preferences when it comes to digital distribution – some people are happy to give away their music; others really want to try and monetise. That said, we’ve ultimately got to have mutual respect and compatible ideas for us to begin a project together.
One of your bands Serious Beak is about to release their second album (details below), the first album Huxwhukw came out 2011, do you ever find it a struggle to manage balancing the pressures of being in multiple touring bands with the responsibility of running the label?
Not particularly. At the moment I’m playing in (a few) bands, running the record label, working full time, and writing for a few publications. At this point I’m pretty confident in my time management skills – and there is quite a bit of crossover. When I book shows, one of my bands will likely be playing – and I have an incentive to search out excellent bands that might vibe with the projects I’m involved in.
Ultimately I want to help build a healthy underground music community in Australia – not only so I have people to play to, but more so that I have people I can share music with. The overarching goal is the same for my bands, and the label.
Exactly how many bands are you a member of currently?
I guess four: the psychedelic prog dudes Serious Beak, the psychedelic post/doom outfit Adrift for Days, the sludge/hardcore void of Jxckxlz, and the latest project, Hashshashin, which mixed in progressive, Middle Eastern and world influences. They tend to ebb and flow a little so that when one is quiet, another will ramp up to take its place.
Is Hashshashin supposed to be pronounced in the way that Sean Connery would say “assassin”? I can’t help but read it that way, it’s awesome!
Hashshashin is actually the root word for assassin, and yeah, it is kinda pronounced like that!
What would you say are the biggest influences on your music?
That’s a difficult question to answer. I’m constantly searching out new styles and new bands to inspire and challenge me. These last few years I’ve been listening to a lot of neo-soul and experimental hip-hop, a lot of progressive black metal influenced sounds, and am trying to branch out into more exotic styles, like some of the traditional music of Palestine or north Africa.
Locally there is no shortage of incredible bands to fuel me. Groups like Tangled Thoughts of Leaving, We Lost The Sea, Brian Campeau and Instrumental (adj.) give me plenty of drive to keep playing. I’ll see them at a show, or hear their new record and it’ll just encourage me to try and rise to the challenge they’ve set.
But aside from all these external influences, I ultimately create music for deeply personal reasons. As the name Art As Catharsis probably suggests, I use music to help regulate my psychological state. If I’m feeling depressed or stressed or anxious, I’ll pick up a guitar and try and express that emotion. Somehow, through that process of expressing that feeling creatively, the intensity of that pain is dulled and I can function once more.
To be able to create something from the moments of darkness in your life is an incredible gift; it allows you to resolve some of the bleakest aspects of human existence. How people get by without art I will never know.
Is there anything you like to do to get away from music? Do you even have any time for such pursuits?
I’m an avid reader and aspiring writer. I’ve been working on a short narrative based on my time in Myanmar earlier this year.
Your ‘About’ section at Art As Catharsis Records says you run on love, coffee, single malt scotch and finely rolled joints. What are your preferred variants of these essential items? I’m a sucker for a smoky highland or islay whisky.
For coffee? I do love Seven Seeds.
My favourite whiskies at the moment are Laphroiag Triple Wood (fairly smoky but with reasonable complexity) and Hibiki 12 year (much lighter and sweeter).
When it comes to greenery, nice, natural and mild is my preferred produce. I’ll generally smoke a joint and work on my writing or music, so becoming zombiefied on ultra potent hydro is counter-productive.
On behalf of all the people of the bowl, I’d like to thank you for spending your time to answer these questions and giving us some insight into the label.
Thank you for the time and the support!
That’s it for now bowl-dwellers, time for you to go check out Art As Catharsis on bandcamp and grab some of their killer releases (Show them some appreciation on Facebook too and help out a budding label).