The Organic Ideologies of Stephen OíMalley [2013-04-08]When early twenty-first century music becomes defined it is currently unclear what directions, genres or tropes will be set down in the history books. Experimental music genres seem to fragment themselves into oblivion, fuelled by technologies that enable pretty much anyone to record and distribute, leaving a stockpile of unheard digital files in its wake. But it is, perhaps, safe to cite Stephen OíMalley (SOMA) as one such artist whose repertoire will rise above the current confusion to firmly stand the increasingly difficult test of time.
Not just because Sunn O))), the band he formed with Greg Anderson in 1998, has somehow managed to singularly travel beyond the tight confines of metal in which it was birthed to prick up those ears usually inclined towards avant-garde composition or electronic music. Not just because of his prolific output outside of Sunn O))), and, particularly, his ceaseless creative collaborations with artists as diverse as Peter Rehberg, Merzbow, Alan Moore, FM Einheit, Iancu Dumitrescu, and Nurse With Wound. But also because he has become something of a beacon, shining a light across the spectrum of twentieth and twenty-first century music via the rich contents of his blog and, for the past two years, via his record label, Ideologic Organ, which has now expanded into an occasional series of concerts at Londonís Cafť Oto. He kindly took time out on Easter Sunday to chat with Musique Machine about his curatorial approach to the label to reveal some of the reasons behind the valuable signposts he erects. But first, thereís a question of volumeÖ
m[m]: You played Dunk Festival (Belgium) the other night and I noticed on your Twitter feed that there were volume restrictions - you suggested that youíre increasingly finding this to be a problem.
SOMA: Oh yea, across Europe Ė well, it was a new one across Belgium that apparently went into effect on January 1st and itís a shame because Belgium and Benelux has always been the motherland for loud bands. Itís a huge scene, especially in Brussels; weíve done some incredible things there with Sunn. This festival, they were victims of this [law] Ė apparently it canít be over 102 dB which is pretty difficult to keep if you have amplified guitarsÖ the festival had police there monitoring Ė it was shit!
But the festival was great and the people were fineÖ apparently I was the odd one out because all the other bands were playing at 100 dB - I donít know how thatís possible, maybe Iím deaf or something, and canít imagine how to play at such a low volume.
m[m]: Yea, itís one of the key elements youíre aiming for, of course.
SOMA: Anyway, I improvised like a quieter ebow guitar piece - it worked out okay, but if I knew that was going to happen I wouldnít have played. Itís not because I canít do that, itís just unfortunate to have to be put on the spot Ė suddenly Iím a problem yíknow? I donít want to create a problem, Ö itís really about [the] pleasure of this engulfing physicality, certainly with my approach.
That show was on Friday night, [the following] night Swans were playing in Antwerp and people were talking about ďyea, Iím going to Swans tomorrow nightĒ Ė Iím like ďhowís that gonna work?!Ē Swans are a fucking loud band yíknow? Thatís not gonna work!Ē Ö Iím curious to find out how that went downÖ and Iím curious about what will happen in the long run. It could really damage the underground music culture up there. It could encourage a new form of music to come out of Belgium. Some sort of different type of music as well that fits within the lower volume, maybe itís a turning point in the long run?
m[m]: Well, it would be a shame Ė itís one thing to experiment with quiet music, but to be influenced by the law as opposed to be influenced by your own muse, itís a sad thing.
Anyway, weíre here to talk about your label, Ideologic Organ; but, as this is not your first record label I thought we could begin our conversation talking about your earliest experiences with running a label. I think in the mid-nineties, you art director for Misanthropy Records?
SOMA: Yea, actually that wasnít the first thing, I used to do a fanzine with a man called Tyler Davis and called Descent Magazine throughout the nineties but there was a point in í95 when we started releasing a few CDs and vinyls under the name ĎThe Ajna Offensiveí and that labelís still going. When I was involved in it we did some good things - it was purely a mail order, pre-internet, make flyers and send them out type of thing - but Tylerís really taken it far now, he releases a lot of amazing bands.
m[m]: Aluk Todolo are on there?
SOMA: Yea, he put them out in the States, put out Deathspell Omega in the US, thatís kinda top of the totem pole right now for that kind of music. Actually not even right now, in the last ten years.
That was my first experience, we were like twenty years old, and then I was invited to be the art director for
Misanthropy Records which was in Suffolk (UK) in í97 and I moved out there and worked for a year. My involvement with that label was purely design, Ö and then in 1998, I was living in LA and Greg Anderson started Southern Lord and I was involved with that in the early period and then I moved to New York and continued doing design for him as well, and figuring out aesthetic principles for the label and that continued until 2007. Yea, those are the three labels I worked for but thatís over the course of ten years. And when I lived in New York I was working in a couple of advertising agencies so that was like a heavily design-centric time for me Ė that was my lifestyle.
m[m]: So did you train as a graphic designer?
SOMA: Yea, I went to university and did basic art stuff. I wish I had studied more about it Ďcause I became really inspired, I get more and more into typography as time goes on.
Anyway Ideologic Organ is simply a partnership with Editions Mego. Peter Rehberg, he was working with John from Emeralds on the Spectrum Spools sub-label for about a year and he decided to offer that kinda trading role to a couple of other people and he asked me if I wanted to do something. Peter and I do a lot of music together in different projects so, I said ďyesĒ and Iíve been trying to build my stay up so far [by] curating with conceptual music from composers who are not known so well, especially in vinyl format and to bring other recordings into the vinyl format that Iíve found to be interesting and maybe rare to find. Itís not a reissue label but there has been a couple of things like that on the label and I think the vitality of that stuff can be really inspiring Ė people who are musicians or super sound heads, yíknow!
m[m]: The name, which youíve also used for publishing and your blog, is unusual. I take it to mean a physical extension of your body Ė another limb say Ė whose function is perhaps to indicate your ideology or ideologies. What does it mean and how did you conceive of the name?
SOMA: I didnít come up with the word, but itís something IĎve used for my blog since 2003 when I started that. In a way itís a self-fulfilling adverb [laughs] - you know you go through with your ideology, no matter what it is, to create truth out of your ideas Ė thatís a stretch on the actual definition, but itís kinda the way I see it, itís like manifest destiny or something like that.
m[m]: As ideologies go, the first pair of releases seemed to suggest a vinyl-only label that re-released overlooked gems primarily concerned with, what I think you described as ďacoustic spectral musicĒ?
SOMA: Which is how the first several releases were Ė if you had to tie together Phurpa and Eyvind Kang purely musically (thereís a lot of theoretical stuff that they would have in common but you donít market a record on Buddhist theory, that would be ridiculous to do) it would be in that spectral, phenomenology area that could apply. Quite quickly that transferred into electric music when I did this Nurse With Wound collaboration, although I think thatís also related in that area of phenomenology amongst sound and of course Akos Rozmann is somewhere between those two realms, so may be I should have said ďelectro-acousticĒ earlier on but then that phrase has got so tied to certain mindsets and so much baggage. Itís hard to describe an overall arc, Iíve done some interviews about the label where Iíve simply said ďitís music that is interesting to me that I think other people will be interested in,Ē and people arenít satisfied with that Ė they want a solid reason and the only way I can respond to that is ďmaybe Iím not the right person to do a business of selling somethingĒ [laughs]. And, this has been a problem with the other labels Iíve been involved in [where] the business side I can handle, but the curatorial side is much more interesting [and] of course, thatís the least responsible part as far as sustaining the business. But this partnership is cool with Peter because the distributionís built in, we have all the manufacturing and mastering contacts set up and everything, and heís an incredible businessman for the type of business weíre offering. So I can be a little less responsible for that side but you have to be wise with your decisions because you donít want it to be completely foreign to people because then no one wants to take the risk of spending 20 euros on a double LP. But I think thereís a good medium right now with the label - itís quite small Ė yíknow selling 1,000 is a lot for most of these releases, that is a lot of copies to sell of Akos Rozmann you know.
Even Norbert MŲslang, if youíre into noise music heís kinda well known in that scene in Europe but surprisingly his recordings arenít easy to find, theyíre all from small presses - like Ideologic Organ actually - but his recording output career has been sustained by this calendar of small editions over the years. Maybe itís pleasant for record collector people to follow, but itís not like thereís a catalogue of items of Voice Crack available in stores. And the man continues to make really interesting music, thatís the first thing.
m[m]: You mentioned earlier that the initial releases (Phurpaís LP, Kang & Jessika Kenneyís Aestuarium) and later Akos Rozmannís LP have Tibetan influences. How important is spiritual or devotional aspects to the music you enjoy?
SOMA: Well itís important to the musician more than myself. Of course, I do have an interest in that side of things, Iím not a Buddhist but I am intensely interested in ceremonial rites, different paths of spirituality or magick or occult. Where Phurpa is focussing with the Bon tradition that is a really tasty meld of all of those things Ė spirituality, black magick or magick, occult, and stuff like this because the form itself - theyíre devotional rites, in fact the music is power music so these Russian guys are trying to interpret it in an anthropological way, yíknow correctly, but of course theyíre modern people living in Moscow and they have their own viewpoint on it and we have our own cultural viewpoint on these things where it seems like very intensely dark music to some people. Who knows what it was like in 500BC in Tibet - what kind of emotional or ethical overtone it had, if any. Maybe it was a purely natural approach more to do with living at 10,000 feet in nature, I donít know, Iíve never had that experience Iíve always been an urban person, so, itís more theoretical to me all the time. But they have some very interesting colours.
Eyvind Kang I know quite well as a friend so weíve had a lot of discussions, but this man is so intensely curious about so many topics itís kind of idiosyncratic - when you see someone with this mass of curiosity and interact every six months and then suddenly youíre with them for two to three days and theyíve all of these new topics, new names, poets, philosophers, Chinese techniques. But overall the character of this person is intensely open to the energies of the universe, and that is what comes across in the music.
Akos Rozmann Iíve never met but the guy who takes care of his musical estate is Mats LindstrŲm who Iíve also released, and Iíve talked to him about Rozmann a lot, and, of course, read a lot -apparently he was a practicing Buddhist so it was also important in his own ideology as well as far as composing. The piece I released was part of a cycle on the Buddhist calendar, Iím not sure in what way but I assume it was mathematically-based. Like going through the mind of an electronic musician [or] concrŤte composer itís interesting how these things meld, like John Cage was very interested in Eastern systems as well, I think itís more about the system or maybe itís the system is almost as important as the spirituality in some cases, seeing as musicians and composers are open to mathematical structure of course.
m[m]: Sure, and itís just as much about the process design as it is about what outputs from that process, I guess. I noted that on the latest KTL release you recorded at famous electro-acoustic studios: EMS (Elektronmusikstudio) in Stockholm and also at GRM (Groupe de Recherches Musicales) there in Paris, and over time there has been many parallels drawn between your own music, particularly in Sunn O))), and some aspects of modern composition, minimalism etc. (for example, La Monte Youngís sustained tones). So I wondered when starting Sunn O))) how aware were you of the history of Twentieth Century avant garde classical music Ė was that an early stage influence or did you become aware of that part of musical history in parallel?
SOMA: I was aware of [composers like] Ligeti, sort of pre-minimalist I suppose, but I didnít become aware of Tony Conrad or La Monte Young, Rhys Chatham, these types of people, until Sunn was going and then they were brought to my attention. Actually, the editor of The Wire, asked me about La Monte Young, Iíd heard his name living in New York at the time but I hadnít heard the music, and he was like ďoh man you gotta listen to him Ďcause I see some ties here,Ē so I have to thank him, Chris Bohn, for introducing me to La Monte Young. Funny to say that, but, anyway, Iím not going to put any more pretence on Sunnís music [laughs] than needs to happen, thereís already plenty there! I mean Greg and I were starting [Sunn] because we loved the Melvins, Earth and we loved playing together ourselves Ė thatís the most important thing, itís the relation of Greg and myself as players Ė weíve played in other groups before and we were trying to do something new together and, well, Iím a huge music fan, like yourself - the curiosity and the pleasure of discovering something that you can connect with in some oblique or some direct way is paramount. Itís why you write about music, itís why I play music, write about music, release records and stuff, this is the point. And another extension of that is - okay Iíve connected with this music and now maybe Iíll transmit that to someone else who can access it too and continue spreading this. Iíve gone through so many things in the past ten years because of the external influence of people telling me what they think about music and connections versus my own experience and then a fabrication of a third combination of that which exists in the mythology of the group, but I think the most important thing over time is realising that as a musician youíre a continuation of many other artists work, itís a responsibility to show those influences and study those things. Okay, thereís La Monte Young but thereís also Hindustani music and Carnatic music which Iíve been really inspired by, and then, continuing historically through these things, there are all of these branches from La Monte Young like John Caleís early works and all the Theater of Eternal Music people basically. Eventually meeting someone like Phill Niblock, talking to him about things and realising yea, heís a dude yíknow Ė the guy likes to drink wine and weíre playing the same festival Ė KTL and Phill Niblock Ė itís great! ďNice to see you again, sir!Ē yíknow? I hope Iím kicking as much ass as you are when Iím eighty - there are many, many facets to all of this.
m[m]: Itís interesting because when I first saw you play, I think it was the first ATP Festival to feature Sunn (curated by Autechre in 2003) and at the time I wasnít into anything you could describe as metal, although Iíd dabbled here and there, so to speakÖ
SOMA: Dabbled? It sounds like a drug! [laughs]
m[m]: Yea, it seems to me that throughout the noughties Sunn were on their own in being a revitalising force for metal, allowing it to perhaps be taken seriously once more as a progressive art form (and like I say people were aligning it with the minimalists: La Monte Young, Tony Conrad etc.) and I guess it encouraged me to re-connect with some rock music after years of writing off traditional guitar/bass/drums formulations as a bit Ďold hatí if you like. Did you feel alone, like sole campaigners for metalís continuing artistic relevance?
SOMA: No, it wasnít so Ďconquistadorí as that Ė to actually clarify what was really going on [laughs] the stuff we were working on in the nineties, things like Burning Witch, Thorrís Hammer and early Sunn was not really recognised until later. In fact, that ATP, maybe it was that alignment of Autechre and the other modern musicians, and there were so many: Yasunao Tone played, Florian Hecker, all the Mego people Ė it was an incredible line-up. In my opinion itís one of the best ATP line-ups Iíve seen and theyíve had some amazing line-ups. But putting us in that context was like changing the lens from close-up on a heavy metal band, or a death metal band Ė slow death metal, so a doom metal band Ė to opening up this wide angle lens. Actually the whole surrounding picture can be more interesting and where we fit inside that landscape there are lots of ways of looking at it for people who are open minded. And literally, man, that was like a doorway for us that opened and then The Wire was involved, electronic musicians and fans saw something there, it was a big change and once that happened all these other things got thrown on the bonfire. Because the first couple of Sunn records came out in 2000, Sunnís like a twenty-first century band on record, in fact, and they were panned, man. The first album, 00Void, was released by Rise Above Records which was run by Lee Dorian, one of the first supporters of Sunn for various reasons, but the Sunn album was their very first collaboration with Music for Nationsí P&D deal [laughs] and so they delivered that album to the A&R guy at Music for Nations Ė ďokay, hereís the first thing we want to do with you guysĒ, and the guy was like ďis this a practical joke? This is bullshit basicallyĒ. That was the parent label thing, and I remember reviews about that in 2000 like Kerrang magazine gave us zero, they were like ďthis is fucking crapĒ. But then a few years later they gave us five on another album, you know itís a big lesson in the timidity of the press. But itís really good because the growth of interest was real - itís not marketing yíknow, this sort of systematic build-up of the group, it was real. Also the fans that came from the metal side, who may have known about it or known about our other groups in the nineties, itís a very, very real tangible support base for Sunn. ItĎs not like a pop, flash-in the-pan, Ö they followed the growth of the group and theyíre interested to see how it continues to grow.
m[m]: I think people learn how to listen and when somethingís very different like you guys were in the early noughties it takes a while for people to learn how to absorb it. Itís not as straight forward as listening to something thatís a lot more familiar, thatís more of a genre if you like?
SOMA: I just know from myself that my hearing and my ability of listening and focussing changes all the time and as a music fan I love that because, yea, itís a learning process and you can really become more educated in a lot of different aspects - not just the band or the music itself but the continuity of music and theoretical things - what is happening with sound or the history of it and hearing influences coming through that you recognise.
m[m]: You mentioned the first Sunn album, that was the album that you gave to Nurse With Wound to remix that youíve re-released. I read their brief was to come up with something along the lines of ĎSoliloquoy for Lilithí, which also has parallels with La Monte Young. Given the brief, I guess you were surprised at the results?
SOMA: It wasnít so straight forward as that. I mean you donít really place an order with Steven Stapleton, but the conversations I had with him and Colin Potter were, yíknow, these are Nurse records which I particularly admire and the Soliloquoy one was one of them. Thereís one Sunn tour we were driving round in the South West US and we were going through the desert in Arizona listening to that record and it was so extra terrestrial and struck me as a strong memory of listening to music in a time and place environment and having it click Ė I told them that story but I didnít know what to expect . It was really amazing to get those mixes and, actually, they really did some archaeology on the masters because there are lots of elements we had mixed very differently on the album which were brought forward, like the vocals, and then of course their processing and re-interpretation is beautiful I think. Although there was mixed reactions from Greg and myself, which kind of sustained the chemistry that makes Sunn the way it is, where we have our different points of view [which] are not always in parallel in our tastes, but coming together on those things is what makes Sunn what it is. And it was that way with that record too, so they went back and re-did one track because of that for us - very generously - but itís a magnificent work, I think itís really special. And itís interesting to listen to something like that after these other genius artists have interpreted our thing and then to hear what remains in common.
m[m]: Steven Stapleton played as part of Sunn some years back at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and Nurse With Wound supported Sunn last year in London, while Colin Potter played an amazing set at one of your Ideologic Organ nights at Cafť Oto. Is this relationship continuing in the future?
SOMA: Iíd love that. We donít have any concrete plans yet, but it seems that each time we meet thereís a really nice rapport, thereís nothing concrete though, Iíd like it, I mean Iím a fan. I played with Nurse With Wound for one show, in Dublin in 2007 or 2008.
m[m]: The Electronic Music Festival, DEMF?
SOMA: Yea, thatís right, which was kind of fun and hilarious. Just being on stage with them then you realise theyíre really enjoying doing their thing together; itís pretty Fluxus actually [laughs].
m[m]: Iíve been lucky enough to go to all of your Ideologic Organ nights so far and Iím looking forward to next one in a couple of weeks time. What led to this occasional series of shows and why Cafť Oto?
SOMA: John from Oto wrote me a message and it was like ďWhat do you think about curating a series of concerts around your label?Ē and that happened really early too, I think Iíd only put out a three or four of records, ďYes! Perfect!Ē Ė thatís a good place for a lot of these artists to do something, especially ones who havenít played in London very much. Itís a good size for these artists, and the audience that goes to that venue theyíre very into that music, theyíre not going to party or for other reasons - people are going to listen to stuff. Sso that was pretty fortunate, I consider that to be a very positive thing in many ways, especially the timing.
m[m]: Are the forthcoming Gravetemple shows going to feature solo sets from each player?
SOMA:No, but there will be one support for each night. The first night is Russell Haswell, and the second night is Crys Cole, sheís from Winnipeg and does really low, quiet music, sort of textural electro-acoustic music Ė letís use that word now [laughs] Ė a safe word!
m[m]: I use it a lot these days I must admit.
SOMA: Well everything is electro-acoustic Ö this phone Iím talking into is electro-acoustic! So we have on the one hand, I donít know what Russell will do but on the times Iíve seen him itís been pretty aggressive, Crys will be a different flavour and my idea is that Gravetemple will definitely be doing different things each night, perhaps it will contrast or parallel with the support acts.
m[m]: Do you get the sense that both the label and the shows are establishing some kind of sense of community?
SOMA: Oh, I donít know, thatís something that you have to look at in the past, you know. I donít know, I donít think so yet, to be honest, maybe with people like yourself who go to all the shows maybe youíre interested in what the next ones are. I mean if you went to the last one and youíre still interested then that means youíre really interested [laughs].
m[m]: With Iancu Dumitrescuís Hyperion Ensemble? It was awesome. And Mats LindstrŲm in support! When am I going to get the opportunity to see all that kind of stuff? I feel so lucky to able to reach Cafť Oto and the sort of stuff it puts on.
SOMA: Yea, great, thatís perfect and I think thatís why it works there. ĎCause their scheduleís already amazing, then you have a little lens on a series, thatís really nice.
m[m]: Have you got a fifth Ideologic Organ night planned?
SOMA: Not yet. I kind of take it step by step with both the label and the nights at Oto just because itís a responsibility working with these people, I donít want to be talking people into doing stuff, I want people to be into the idea. I donít want to sell stuff like ďoh, well thereís this record that Iíve just released so why donít we put on this person and help promote the recordĒ itís not that way.
m[m]: Iíve been thinking that never before has the role of curator Ė this word that is getting used more and more in relation to labels in particular - itís never been needed so much as now with the combination of cheaper recording and distribution technologies meaning we can all become quickly oversaturated with the vast amount of listening choices we now have.
Is part of having a label today due to a feeling of responsibility, perhaps, to help signpost stuff that might otherwise get drowned out by the overabundance of media in general?
SOMA: Itís a big topic this over saturation. Well you need a map to look through things like we were saying earlier about learning about Tony Conrad, La Monte Young and stuff after Sunn had started becoming more visible I guess. I needed people to tell me about that you know. I need my friends to advise me on new stuff, I need people that I know or who I trust know my taste a bit to advise me, I like that, thatís part of sharing the knowledge right? So, music fans need that too, when I was a kid Iíd always buy stuff on Earache records at the time.
m[m]: Yea, I used to buy that stuff too.
SOMA: There was a period there in the late eighties, early nineties where I knew that each record would be somewhere in my tastes, before they put out Atari Teenage Riot or whatever it was and went in that direction. It was someone I could trust in my journey of exploration in music and my obsession, so, yea, the word curator is used more now than it was then. Itís kind of an appropriate word, though, I think. I mean when you go to an art exhibition thereís always a curator. Someoneís got to create a framework and when thereís oversaturation, well, maybe itís not over saturation to people who are eighteen right now, they know how to navigate in a totally different way than I do, but itís an opportunity to create a framework that people can try and relate to and maybe develop some trust and follow.
m[m]: Iím guessing you now get sent a load of demos?
SOMA: Oh my god, yea.
m[m]: And on top of your personal listening choices and the amount you need to do with your own music, how do you find the time to get through it all?
SOMA: I donít, simply. Especially when you get five emails a week Ė and this is not much for a label I understand Ė emails with links, yíknow ďHereís my new album on Soundcloud thatís 75 minutes long,Ē and, yíknow, ďWeíre a string quartet from New York doing this and thisÖĒ, thatís great, but Iím sorry I didnít find time to listen to it, and I probably wonít and itís not because Iím not interested itís just because, yea, the over saturation goes in that way too. Honestly, Iíve released less than 20 records on the label, thatís pretty specific, itís not hundreds of albums. And there are plans Ė each decision to release something is a big step and takes a lot of work. There are several things I want to work on, Iím not saying donít send any demos in, but, at our pace weĎre putting feelers out there and asking people weíre interested in already. I wish I could listen to everything Ė I was looking at Mute, at their website recently. Iím always curious about record label websites and what they say is their demo admission policy, some labels are like ďdonít even botherĒ.
m[m]: A lot are like that and increasingly so.
SOMA: I mean, come on, you have a label like Blackest Ever Black, really in the present you know, people are focussing on them and paying attention to them, they must get tons of demos that sound like the bands they already put out. Itís like Peter tells me he gets tons of demos of guys trying to sound like Fennesz, from Lithuania and Poland and Germany and stuff, why would you want to do that? But it doesnít mean you donít respect music or anything itís just practical. But Mute actually say on their website, they have an A&R address and they claim they listen to everything.
m[m]: Wow, Iím impressed!
SOMA: But Mute is not one person in their living room [laughs]. Mute is a big, established place.
m[m]: Itís effectively a major label, isnít it? Itís grown from an independent into a major.
SOMA: Yea. But itís brilliant because it still has the illusion of being independent. Daniel Millerís thing yíknow?
I wish I had more time to listen to music, thatís the point Ė demos, albums I buy, albums I want to find out about - I always wish I had more time. But I got, hopefully, another forty years to get into it!
m[m]: What are your feelings about the internet in relation to running the label. I imagine itís a bitter sweet, but nonetheless essential?
SOMA: Exactly, well put. The label probably wouldnít exist if people didnít know about it through the internet. I donít think any label would really, I mean itís hard to find music not linked to the internet these days in some way. On the other hand thereís this whole Bandcamp phenomena and Soundcloud thing where, Greg Anderson from Sunn, heís into that, he discovers all these bands on those platforms, I havenít really got into that. It could be amazing. Iím still into the physical stuff. On the positive side of extreme saturation is the availability is there, so if you know how to navigate then itís as many gems as going into the record shop and just flipping through whatever section youíre not familiar with and taking chances.
m[m]: Are you finding your releases on Ideologic Organ sell as well as downloads? I know theyíre primarily released, more often than not, as vinyl only, but thereís always the option to buy the download. Does that work for you?
SOMA: Well, of course there are some sales that way. Itís not as much as Iíve experienced with my own band but itís there. We donít really have the resources to keep the catalogue in print and everything we release is essentially a one time pressing. There has been a couple of represses of a couple of the more in demand titles like the Sunn O))) / Nurse With Wound record but itís expensive to press records so the choice is: do I repress this record, or do I release a new record by another artist or the same artists? Maybe weíll get to a point where the label has enough funding to repress a bunch of stuff but we havenít got there yet. In the meantime, if people are dying to hear Phurpa they can get the download and thatís kind of like time travel - you get a .flac download of music from 600BC yíknow - itís kind of weird. But thatís amazing; this is a positive side to internet.
m[m]: Yes, it keeps things alive, keeps an archive of things (as long as the site remains). I noticed on the vinyl side of things theyíre always cut by Rashad Becker of Berlinís Dubplates & Mastering Ė what is it about using them?
SOMA: Oh, theyíre fantastic. Iíve had the best results in Europe with that studio for cutting vinyl. We worked with Rashad too on some Sunn records, with mixed results to be honest, but ultimately it was an extreme learning experience. This man knows what heís doing scientifically and [I] learned a lot from his comments on process, and basically I love the results. The other company I like to work with, that Iíve just started working with, is CMS -Chicago Mastering Service - which is Bob Weston and another guy named Jason Ward. I havenít worked with the other guy, I worked with Bob on a recent album I did which was great too. Iím sure there are other vinyl cutting engineers out there who are amazing, [I] just narrowed in on that studio, and the results have been great. Some of these pressings are 500 copies so itís actually a luxury to have a studio like that. A lot of the money in the pressing goes into that process. But on the other hand, this is high quality sound on vinyl, I wouldnít say itís audiophile, but itís really as good as we can possibly make it I think.
m[m]: Are you not tempted to release them on CD as well?
SOMA: Thereís some talk or reissuing some stuff on CD, especially the stuff with Eyvind Kang and Jessika Kenney. That duoís building up more of a live [thing], doing more tours and concerts and its kind of a shame I canít supply them with records each time Ďcause people love it. I mean, you saw them play - itís beautiful, itís really different too. If I walked in on that concert Iíd be like ďfuck, I want to hear this album, I want this in my house, yíknow?Ē
m[m]: Wasnít that the one where Andrew Chalk supported and it was snowing outside?
SOMA: That was incredible. It was the first one; it was a good start, for sure. But itís a resources thing, we talked about reissuing those records on CD [but] Iíd love to be able to just reissue it on vinyl though Ė maybe weíll wait to do that. I mean I donít have plans to reissue anything right now. Weíre trying to do some new pieces like the Gravetemple and Wold album are for April and then in September weíre doing another Akos Rozmann, a triple LP actually, which is kind of a reissue of this album ĎImages of the Dream and Deathí which came out on a Swedish label in the late seventies, I think, or the early eighties. Thatís been very difficult to find, and Iím releasing [something by] Okkyung Lee, whoís a cello player from New York, itís a solo cello record, itís pretty cool. So, even having two releases in the pipeline is kind of enough at once for the resources.
m[m]: Well, that was my last question, to find out what was next for the label. Anything else you wanted to say?
SOMA: Iím just really grateful that people are paying attention to the label and that itís able to sort of flourish in its own way. Itís really, from a Ďcuratorí side, amazing to be able to work with these artists in this way. People are really appreciative of that kind of support. Although thereís this over saturation of everything online and digitally it may seem simple to release music these days, but in fact itís quite hard to get a proper edition out there. Hopefully Ideologic Organ is doing that for these people in a way that becomes a part of the musical history of the artist in a serious way and also for the listener - you know the label as a pseudo serial thing which can be seen as a compartment of a point of view. Maybe people can relate to it overall like we were talking about. It would be amazing to have a label these days where someone thought about it in the same way we were talking about Earache when we were kids. [laughs] Thatís a big fantasy, but, hey, I guess Editions Mego is like that for some people, Southern Lord is for sure Ė you know, like ďI trust the label, I donít know who Nails are or whatever Southern Lord is putting out, but Iíll buy it and check it out, man.Ē Discover something new and get psyched about it Ė I hope we can provide that role for some folks.
Many thanks go to Stephen OíMalley for all the time and effort he put into answering our many questions.
Ideologic Organ #4 sees Gravetemple (Stephen OíMalley, Oren Ambarchi and Attila Csihar) perform two consecutive nights at Cafť Oto, London on 13 and 14 April 2013. For more information visit: http://www.cafeoto.co.uk/
To keep up-to-date with all of Stephenís activities, his blog can be found at: http://www.ideologic.org/
And for a full rundown of all releases on his Ideologic Record label visit: editionsmego.com/releases/ideologic-organ/
Photo credits: Front page sun glasses picture by Mathieu Drouet. Interview menu picture by Nuno Moreira. Live picture by Tom Medwell of Gravetemple show. Red & black cover artwork from Gravetempleís forthcoming album Ambient/Ruin on Ideologic Records. Blurred underground picture by Randall Dunn , and lastly album artwork Woldís upcoming release on Ideologic Recordís Freermasonry.Russell Cuzner