Interview With Brian Miller Of Deathbomb Arc About The Second Year Of Their Singles Club
The concept of a singles club has been around for some time now. One of the very first was the one Subpop began in 1988 & whose first release was by the band who were to become the label”Å¡ÃâÃÂ´s most famous recording artist, Nirvana. The single was. ‘Love Buzz’ & it was released a month before Bleach came out. Subpop’s singles club set the archetype for singles club’s in that it consisted of a single being sent from the label to your home on a regular basis, often something rare & obscure & most of which are now worth a fortune. (That last bit probably isn’t typical of most singles clubs of course).
Now it seems singles clubs are rife, something that can only be a good thing. With the advent of the internet a new dawn arrived for the singles club, namely the digital singles club. The only difference of course being that rather than a physical release arriving on your doorstep once every so whenever a download link arrives in your email inbox once every so whenever. This obviously takes a lot of the work out of running/operating of a singles club meaning there’s been a positive explosion in the number of singles club’s vying for your attention.
Which brings me to what has, over the previous 12 months, been my favourite digital singles club, the one run by Brian Miller of Deathbomb Arc. It’s hard to describe the typical Deathbomb release but something all they share is a tendency to the more noisy side of the avant-garde. If you like music to surprise you & to blow the cobwebs out of your pretty little heads then this is the label for you. To quote from the Deathbomb website the releases so far have covered musics from noise-rock to breakcore, from witch house to new age and more”Å¡ With the emphasis on the ‘and more’ in my opinion.
The first year’s club is drawing to a close. It has been an absolute delight. For a mere $10 my iTunes Deathbomb playlist has filled up with at least two new tracks a week, plus occasional bonus tracks. Some of the bands names you may know but most will be new to you. The good news is that while the current club is still running you can hop on board & download every single release thus far. The club runs to the end of September so I’d suggest as soon as you’ve done reading this you consider a subscription. If you are unsure what you are letting yourself in for Brian has put together a selection of some of the tracks from this year’s club for you to download for free. You can find them here: Also on that page you can find a link to subscribe to the club.
At the top of the page is a video by Brian”Å¡ÃâÃÂ´s current musical project, Foot Village. They’ve toured the UK a couple of times & are pretty astonishing live. The video kind of gives you an idea of what the label is about.
I was curious to find out more about the label so contacted head Deathbomb honcho Brian & asked him a few questions, the answers to which are below:
Louder Than War: Why did you start a label & what is your label’s ethos.
Deathbomb: My dad does R&D in the field of robotics. He always warned me that a company on the bleeding edge is doomed to loose all their money. That the first people to try something face this huge obstacle of the public not understanding what is going on. Then, a few years later, after people are used to it, a company that copies the same idea but hasn’t sunk all their money into it yet will be the one to get rich. I really failed to take this advice. Instead, I’ve just adopted this “fuck you” attitude towards a music industry that is afraid of new ideas. When I started Deathbomb Arc in 1998, it was to release a band called Turbine. They combined live instruments like guitar and drums with an expert understanding of everything that was going on in the electronic world a la Warp Records. Nowadays this is nothing unique, but back then I just kept getting the same rejection from any distro or record store I approached: “The guitars will alienate electronic music fans and the beats will alienate rock fans.” Yes, the record failed to really reach anyone. But it lit the fire under me to find the audience that I knew must be out there, because there was no way that I’m totally alone in my tastes. It has definitely been a slow road, but especially thanks to the internet Deathbomb has been able to cultivate a devoted following. I’m not saying everything is easy now. It always requires lots of work. But I’m inexplicably drawn towards it.
Louder Than War: Describe the label to someone who’s never heard of you.
Deathbomb: Genres Unknown. There are entire worlds of sound out there waiting to be discovered. Deathbomb is a portal and sanctuary.
Louder Than War: You say on your website “our criteria for putting out bands is inexplicable”. Can you explain what you mean by this. I don’t mean explain the inexplicable I mean explain why it’s inexplicable.
Deathbomb: When ones interest is in things that don’t sound like anything else, you’re really talking about something highly subjective here. Also, the category of things that sound unique still is a mixed bag. I do try to come up with projects that allow me to share a lot of different acts. Young people with new ideas often have a spark that gets me really excited, but they also need a lot more years to experiment and get things really right before I’d say they’ve mastered what they’re doing. When the cost of putting out releases can range from nearly nothing for a digital-only thing, to a kings ransom for say a double vinyl release, I’ve got to consider lots of things before putting out a band. There are many ways to share new ideas, learning to be pragmatic has been important to pulling off a label for so long.
Louder Than War: A lot of independent record labels in the uk seem to end up forming partnerships with major labels once they become established. If you were approached by a major label would you consider going into partnership with them?
Deathbomb: If the deal was right and non-intrusive, for sure. I know some labels that have partnerships like this that pretty much just insure the records reach more stores and nothing else. Thats a good situation for the bands. Other labels I know have had a more difficult time with majors trying to influence releases and such.
Louder Than War: To throw one of your own quotes back at you you once said “Get real, genres are dead.” Personally I listen to all kind’s of music so love the concept that the pigeonholing of bands is in the past but I’m not sure I agree with you on this one. Recently I seem to be hearing about a new genre every week. Can you explain you’re thoughts behind the claim that quote.
Deathbomb: I think it is a good idea to take a zen / conflicting message attitude towards language, especially when it comes to proper nouns. The recent trend in DIY music journalism, to embrace a genre name for what a handful of bands are doing is fun to me as an embrace of spontaneous art movements. On the other hand, it turns things into fads. Pronouncing the death of genre is more like a battle cry, a proclamation of pure sound without cultural context. In other words, a request for the impossible. Lately I’ve been fond of the modo “Genres Unknown” because it gives me a sci-fi feel to what Deathbomb does. This idea that there are alien worlds or alternate dimensions where the music Deathbomb puts out is just the tip of the iceberg for entire music movements. The reality is that most acts I put out aren’t a part of any genre as that would require some sort of larger norm that they just aren’t actually participating in. “Know the truth but tell only lies” You know?
Louder Than War: What advice would you give to anyone considering starting up a label?
Deathbomb: Don’t spend more money than you are willing to lose.
Louder Than War: It would obviously be totally unfair of me to ask you for your favourite bands on your own label but what about bands not on you label? Maybe do something like Pitchforks 5-10-15-20 and name some of the bands who you think may’ve influenced your taste in music & hence the bands you sign to your label.
Deathbomb: As a 33 year old man, 5-10-15-20 all feels so long ago, but I do remember fairly distinctly. I’ll give it a shot:
5 – The entirety of my music taste was caught up in the excitement of when my parents would throw an “adult” part and play oldies… usually silly ones like “Splish Splash” or “Zombie Jamboree”. Anything to get me bouncing off the walls and singing along.
10 – My dad started getting into contemporary music again and I’d listen to Talking Heads and Depeche Mode with him a lot. The lyrics didn’t make any sense to me, I thought they were just being absurd. That was appealing to me. It would be about a year later that I’d become obsessed with radio hip-hop and rave music… Bel Biv Devoe “Poison”, MC Hammer “You Can’t Touch This”, Messiah “Temple of Dreams”.
15 – Nirvana becoming a mainstream act when I was 13 changed everything. By the time I was 15, Kurt’s dedication to sharing underground bands in interviews and stuff had me buying up tons of 7″s at an indie record store near my school. I mostly loved Riot Grrrl stuff, especially Huggy Bear. I still consider Huggy Bear to be a standard by which to measure my own music.
20 – In college I was obsessed with a local San Fransico band called rRope. I went to every show they played in California for a few years. A simple description of them would be something like My Bloody Valentine if they were an AmRep band. At the time, kids in the bay area were really into emo-hardcore so it was hard to turn people onto them. After rRope broke up, the guitarist Scott Thiessen and his friend David Barrett started a band called Turbine, which was the first release on Deathbomb. About a year ago, Mic, rRopes drummer, started putting rRope stuff on youtube. People I’ve been showing it to have really been flipping out. I guess it they were nearly 2 decades ahead of their time.
Since their material is almost entirely out of print, I’ve decided to release a box set full discography of rRope. It will be the first release on Deathbomb for 2012, a triple LP. My life comes full circle.
Louder Than War: Your bands are released on different labels here in the UK. For example Teeth are released on Moshi Moshi here & Bitches are on the Palmist imprint. Would you ever consider starting a label in the Uk?
Deathbomb: The UK and Japan seem to be the most open to new sounds in punk. The UK has been especially welcoming of my own music in the band Foot Village. I’m not sure it would make sense for me to start a label in the UK unless I lived there though… the Deathbomb webstore will ship to anywhere in the world! I promise.
Louder Than War: I first heard about you via a tweet from BITCHES, a band I’ve been a fan of for some time. How come you started working with them?
Deathbomb: I’ve known Blake and Staz from BITCHES since before they started the band. Met them on the first Foot Village UK tour. They are both incredibly inspired artists and I encouraged them to get their shit together and do a band. Since then they’ve come to LA a few times and kids go nuts for it. It is a relationship I’m very proud to be a part of.
Louder Than War: Tell people why your single club’s so flipping great.
Deathbomb: It is great because you get a ton of music, in fact a years worth of music, that no one has ever heard before for the same price as a cheap super. All the singles are presented with love and classy virtual packaging. As a teen, there was so much excitement in getting new music. While I love that the internet makes it easy and cheap for bands to share their music, I wanted to find a way to make digital music feel special… not just this cluster fuck of song being posted on blogs in hopes of being stumbled upon. Door to door delivery. The digi club is your internet milk man.
Louder Than War: Are there any questions you would have liked me to ask or anything you’d like to say.
Deathbomb: I’d just like to add that RIGHT NOW is the perfect time for bands to send me their music to check out for next years digital singles club. It is easiest for me to check out stuff that is streaming and my email is email@example.com … even if I can’t work with every band that writes, I love meeting like-minding musicians. Who knows when you will be in LA or I will be in Moscow, why not have a friend there already!!
If your band would like to be considered for inclusion in the next singles club send links to your streaming material to this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.