David Brand of the incredible Astral Noize Records took some time out to talk to us.
Rodge: Hi David. Why did you decide to start a label?
David: We’d been running Astral Noize as a blog and magazine for about 18 months already, and the idea for a label had been there from the beginning, but it wasn't until we got the chance to do the Aerosol Jesus EP that we actually bit the bullet, and it came around a bit earlier than we had expected.
What is your main goal for the label?
Probably the same as most labels, to put out consistently great music made by amazing people. There is so much great music being made, and there's probably a lack of labels able to handle that quantity of output, and we just try and do our bit to find some of it a home.
Rodge: Can you give us the history of the label? First steps, first signings, what it was like to build it up?
David: It started properly when I met Tom for Aerosol Jesus, who I've known for ages, just for a beer and a chat. He was having issues with the label ‘Failure’ was supposed to be released on and was a bit disheartened with it. I offered to release it without even hearing it, which is definitely not the way to go but I know how good and committed he is when it comes to his musical output. I had no prior knowledge and just worked it out as I went along. Luckily it's an incredible release and it got a fair amount of attention. I learnt probably 50% of what i know now about putting out a record just from that 1st release.
Now we are at 21 releases, mainly tape only, but we did do our 1st 7” last winter which was the Kurokuma and Under split. Hopefully this year we’ll do a few more vinyl releases, but probably some small tapes run’s too as I personally love that format and we are kinda known for it now.
Rodge: Can you tell us about any specific moments that really stand out to you? Best moment so far?
David: Every time I open a box of a new release is always a great moment, I don't think that will ever get old. Also we did a magazine launch show last year with a load of bands we’ve put out and that was amazing, having so many people who had worked on the zine, website and label all in one room was special.
Rodge: What’s the biggest challenge you think the label has overcome?
David: Money. we’re constantly trying to bounce cash around trying to pay for the next thing we want to do. Sometimes things don’t sell as well as you expected and you end up paying out of your own pocket, but that’s the risk you take if you just want to put out stuff you personally love.
Rodge: If you could sign anyone who would you sign?
David: Such a tough question. We’ve had plenty of offers to be involved with stuff that for whatever reason we have had to pass on, even though we would have loved to have made it happen. I really love the Shuck debuut that came out on Hominid Sounds, I've been listening to that a lot lately and wouldn't have loved to do that. And Sabbath, for the royalties.
Rodge: How do you find your acts? Do you find them and approach them, or do you accept submissions, or both?
David: Generally we are approached, and the way we are asked can have a big bearing to. A bit of effort always gets noticed even if we can't come to an arrangement. Also, with having a big team involved with Astral Noize we have quite a lot of ears on the ground. For example we were sent an EP to review by Tilde, and Adam who runs our review section was so impressed he sent it my way as it was going to be self released, and we ended up doing a tape run for it.
Rodge: What perks your ears up musically? Is there a certain criteria you look for in an artist?
David: I think we have a pretty varied roster so there is no specific sound. We’ve had Noise Rock, Doom, Sludge, Grind and a lot of crossover stuff. We’re conscious that the people we work with are politically sound as we couldn't work with anybody that isn’t in our opinion, the zine and website has always operated that way, so the label has to as well.
Rodge: The world of physical release formats seems like a constantly changing landscape. What have you noticed about demand for physical releases? What is your preferred format to release music on and why?
David: We’ve mainly done cassette releases, which meant we could put out 4 or 5 for the cost of 1 vinyl release.Weirdly since we started tapes seem to be making a bit of a comeback, which has inevitably pushed the price of producing them upm a bit too. we seem to sell a steady number with everything. We have a few people who buy everything we do, and those guys are amazing. It takes a lot of stress off knowing we will sell X amount regardless.
Rodge: What are your thoughts on co-releasing with other labels, especially for more expensive formats such as vinyl? Are there any other considerations or bright ideas you’ve had about making higher-investment releases possible?
David: We did co release the Tides of Sulfur EP with our friends at APF records and Sludgelord Records last year, albeit on a different format each. It's not something we would be looking at doing as standard but i can certainly see the appeal and wouldn’t rule it out. For me doing a vinyl co release only makes sense if each label is covering a different area geographically. Having 3 UK labels doing the same vinyl release work’s for some people but i'm not sure if it's for us.
Rodge: Is there anything you’d like to see more of in the underground scene?
David: I think the scene in general is pretty healthy, but there is definitely room for more DIY labels.
Rodge: Do you play music yourself? Any projects we should know about?
David: Not for a while. I used to play in a pretty rough and ready band called SYP. We were once described as ‘Ministry on Quaaludes’ which was probably too kind.
Rodge: What are your future plans for the label, and are there any releases in the pipeline you’d like to talk about?
David: Before the recent Coronavirus outbreak we were gearing up for the new Aerosol Jesus Ep, meaning we’d gone full circle. I’ve heard it and it’s incredible, a true emotional rollercoaster. That's ever so slightly on hold now, along with the next issue of the magazine, but both will be out as soon as it makes sense and i can't wait for people to hear it. Obviously i’m biased, but i think a lot of people are going to take notice of it.
We’d like to say a huge thank you to David for taking the time to answer our questions. You can check ut everything Astral Noize Records has to offer here: https://astralnoize.bandcamp.com/music