Interview – ART AS CATHARSIS RECORDS (Label/Australien)

Da einige meiner Lieblingsreleases, des vergangenen Jahres, aus Übersee stammen, habe ich mich mal daran gemacht, dem, meiner Meinung nach, interessantestem Label Australiens ein paar Fragen zu stellen. ART AS CATHARSIS RECORDS ist, neben gefeierten Veröffentlichungen von BOLT GUN oder SLOWLY BUILDING WEAPONS vor allem für experimentelle Künstler bekannt. Mastermind Lachlan hat mir auf meine Fragen ausgiebige Antworten gegeben und liefert damit einen kleinen Einblick auf eine exotische Musikszene und den Alltag eines Labels.

Hey Lachlan, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions and giving all the European fans of your label the chance to get some more information. You’re the mastermind behind ART AS CATHARSIS. What is your project all about?
To be brutally honest, Art As Catharsis is all about the sort of music I want to hear.
As a listener, I’m always looking for intelligent, thoughtful music – not necessarily something intensely experimental (though that can grab my interest), but an interesting, fresh take on a style or an idea.
Through Art As Catharsis, I want to encourage that approach to music, with a particular focus on underground Australian artists.
It also seems that, as I get older and my tastes expand, I force the label to expand with me. We very much started on the heavier end of things – blackened hardcore, doom, drone and heavy prog – but now I’m incorporating experimental jazz, experimental pop, world music styles and string quartets.
So maybe we can say this: Art As Catharsis is an exploration of Australian progressive and experimental music (in the broadest sense).

‎Why did you choose the name ART AS CATHARSIS?
Because, at the time, having the cathartic outlet that music provides was very important to me. I needed music to help me function in my day to day life; to release stress.
I think the name signals that we do not deal in commercial music. We are talking about an important psychology need (catharsis), and we are talking about music that is in some sense “art”.

You have been part of the scene for a while now and manage one of the most well-respected labels for extreme music in Australia. How come you ended up taking control all by yourself?
Thank you for your kind words, but I could never say that we have taken control of Australian music. There are so many other labels working in this country who constantly inspire me: Birds Robe Collective, Black Wire Records, Bleemo, FALSExIDOL, Hobbledehoy, Mellum, One Brick Today, P.Rovernance, Wondercore – the list goes on.
Also, extreme music is also just an element of what we do. We certainly have artists who play doom, blackened hardcore, post-metal, noise, death metal – but we also have a string quartet, some acoustic folk artists, an ethio-jazz group…
I see managing a label as primarily about managing relationships: getting to know musicians in the scene, getting to know press contacts, and working with each to help get music out there. As trust grows over time, so do the opportunities.
The same goes for our fans. Over the years, people are starting to really trust in our choices, and will listen to our releases with an open mind. It’s a wonderful thing.

‎Which release did you start with?
It started with Serious Beak – a band that I play guitar in. We had just finished mixing our debut album Huxwhukw and were considering how we should release it. I had helped run another record label in the past, so this seemed like a good excuse to begin my own label with my own vision.
To our surprise, Huxwhukw ended up being quite successful. We put it up for free download on Bandcamp, and it spread like crazy. I put a lot of time and energy into hustling press coverage, but it was the best possible start to Art As Catharsis.
What would you say was your favorite release?
This is always a hard question.
Personally, my favourite releases might be Brian Campeau’s Don’t Overthink It, We Lost The Sea’s Departure Songs, and maybe Drowning Horse’s Sheltering Sky.
Brian’s record is a beautiful, intelligently-written, progressive folk record.
We Lost The Sea play a cinematic form of post-rock. They’ve gone on to achieve amazing things. It is lovely to feel involved in that.
And the power of Drowning Horse’s vision – their stripped-back and sun-baked form of droning doom – is undeniable.

‎Is there a record, which was especially popular with the fans?
Hashshashin’s nihsahshsaH has been our most successful album to date (which is another record I played on).
Our music blends progressive metal with drone, psychedelia and a strong Middle Eastern influence. We’re all still a bit confused at how well it’s gone.

Vinyl is currently on the rise again and you have committed yourself to them, too. Do disks have a special value for you or could you imagine using other formats like CD or MC?
I’m going to be sacrilegious here. I got on board with the resurgence of vinyl at first. It was lovely to have something physical to represent an album I love. But as I get older – and as I regard the dusty tower of useless CDs in the corner of my room, and the many thousands of dollars I spent buying them in my youth – I become more disinterested. With the exception of books and musical instruments, I’m sick of collecting physical objects.
This might also have something to do with the fact that my record player is broken, but I’ve broken the habit of buying vinyl, and that suits me fine. Streaming will eventually make vinyl superfluous once more. I don’t see it surviving in the longer term.
When it comes to our releases, it’s largely a commercial consideration. Do people want vinyl? Are there enough fans to cover costs? Then vinyl they shall have.
Sometimes it’s just the bands preference too. Personally, I like running with digital only (maybe with some merch) and seeing whether it’s worth a physical pressing later.

‎How do you choose your bands? Do they message you or do you come forward to bands you like? Are there any qualifications the artists have to fulfill to become part of your roster?
I just have to like your music. There are obviously patterns to the sort of music I like, but that’s the most important factor.
I do get a lot of submissions, and I try my best to listen to all of them. A lot of bands have been signed this way. Other albums come from friends or people I know. And then sometimes I try and actively chase bands I’m interested in.

Do you support the bands in any other way, except for the releases of course? Tour booking, promotion, etc. I read that you have recently scored some talented assistance. Could you tell us a little bit about the new team members?
Well, our primary focus is press engagement – that is, to get a band more reviews, interviews and airplay in the hopes of selling more music. We do also try and connect like-minded artists with our contacts and friends.
We did just welcome Ben Shannon and Joe Rabjohns to the label. They’ll be acting as bookers and talent scouts up in Brisbane. They are both amazing musicians in their own right, each have excellent knowledge of the Brisbane scene, and have very compatible tastes to me, so it was a rare and natural fit.
Our goal is to build our capacity to support tours, starting with the east coast of Australia (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane). The end goal would be to have label representatives in each major city across Australia and New Zealand – people who are tapped into the local scene, know all the great up-and-coming bands, and who can help book shows.

‎Are you already working on some of the releases scheduled for 2018.
Man, I am already very busy. We have 15 releases planned by the middle of the year.
On top of this, we are about to announce the dates, venues and line-up for NICEFEST 2018 across three cities.
I’m also running a monthly series of shows under a government grant at a small arts venue. I’ve been asked to curate an event for VIVID Festival in Sydney. And I’m currently considering putting in another application for a rather large project towards the end of the year.
What are your plans for ART AS CATHARSIS in the new year? What can your followers expect alongside exciting records?
I want to keep diversifying the sorts of musicians we work with. I want to see better gender diversity, better cultural diversity, and a greater range of musical influences.
Other than that… well… I might be starting a second record label this year with a bit of a different focus.
Perhaps we will bring over our first international band to tour, too.

Can you recommend other labels in Australia?
Birds Robe Collective, Black Wire Records, Bleemo, FALSExIDOL, Hobbledehoy, Mellum, One Brick Today, P.Rovernance and Wondercore are all the cool labels I can think of at the moment. I am sure there are more.

Which Australian bands should be paid attention to at the moment?
There are so many I feel like I’m losing all sense of perspective.
I am curious to see what Hiatus Kaiyote do next. I’ve also just finish listening to the masters of the new Instrumental (adj.), and that is pretty phenomenal. Tangled Thoughts Of Leaving have allegedly finished their new record. That will be worth a listen.

‎Looking back on the time with ART AS CATHARSIS, are there mostly positive experiences or did you also have to deal with setbacks from time to time?
Let me put it like this: every day I am drowning in excellent music. I am friends with a large number of musicians (far better than I) who I respect very much, and draw inspiration from. And I get to help artists whose work I love be heard by more people.
Sometimes I get too busy, or stressed, or lose money, but goddamn, it is just the most splendid thing having the label in my life. Especially in these last few years, where the respect for Art As Catharsis seems to have hit some lovely plateau.

aac5Do you have any piece of advice for somebody that is just starting to build their own label?
●     Fuck everyone and release music you think is cool.

●     You don’t need money to start a label. Go digital only, and learn how to use Facebook advertising so you get big returns for small investment.

●     Spend time building connections with cool specialist music blogs. Don’t just spam people – we all get enough spam. You want to form real and honest connections.

‎Any last words?
Death envelops all.

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