Friday, February 21, 2014

Interview with Drowning Records' Danny Kreutzfeldt

Not long ago, I discovered doom droners SOL. And along with SOL, the netlabel Drowning Records, which released SOL's And The Mouth of Time Is Open as a free download. As a follow-up to my interview with SOL's Emil Brahe, I sent some questions to Drowning man Danny Kreutzfeldt, who was kind enough to answer my questions. 

Dreams of Consciousness: Where is Drowning Records based?

I’m located in Aarhus, Denmark. The website and music files are hosted on a server in Utah. The domain is registered on the Cocos Islands, which are some atolls in the Indian ocean.

DoC: What made you decide to start your own label?

I have been more or less active in music since around the turn of the millenium. From 2005 to 2008 I had a CDR label for ill-tempered and extreme electronic music called 8K Mob. Even though I closed it in 2008 I kept getting all kinds of demos. Some of them were with decent drone doom, which was a thing I was listening a lot to at the time. In 2008 there was (to my knowledge) not a single netlabel dealing specifically with metal - let alone drone doom metal. However, I had good experiences with releasing my own music on both regular labels and netlabels. I knew a bit about building web pages, doing music promotion online and was swayed by the whole Creative Commons / anti legislative approach to content distribution.

So more than anything Drowning was started in November 2009 out of curiosity about if it was possible to successfully release metal on the internet so that the audience would feel their time wasn’t wasted, the artists would feel their music got recognized and I would see Drowning become an island of quality and authority in an ocean of open platforms. That it was drone doom metal was a bit of a coincidence.

DoC: Most of the artists released by Drowning are in the drone doom field. What attracted you to the genre?

I like things that take it to the extreme and in one way drone doom is an extreme type of metal as it blurs the line between conventional music and sound as pure force. In another way, drone doom is the natural amalgamation of noisy abstract drone music and of the more explorative elements of doom metal, which became much more prevalent during the '90s and '00s. Just like whisky is distilled beer I like to think of drone doom as doom metal distilled. However, a problem with drone doom is that even though it started as an experimental style, the experiment has now been completed and true originality within the traditional boundaries of the style is becoming pretty hard to manifest successfully. The good and exciting new drone doom is getting rarer each year.

Today Drowning is not just a drone doom label, but also releasing other takes on droning or doomy music. I like to call it a “drone & doom metal netlabel”, and not really speculate in whether or not everything I put out fits the “drone doom” tag completely.

DoC: Drowning's releases are all available as free downloads. Cheers for that! But how can you survive with this as a business model?

The business model is not based on the transfer of money but the exchange of time. The musicians spend time in the studio, I spend time curating and promoting, the audience spend time clicking and listening. In return the musicians get an audience, some free propaganda and sometimes constructive critique on their music. I get to see Drowning grow in terms of coverage, downloads and popularity. The audience get to experience exciting heavy slow metal packaged along with some fitting quality artwork and a well-written introduction.

The main problem for me with Drowning is always time. Finding it in the other aspects of my life and spending it most meaningfully on the label. As the expenses for running a netlabel can be boiled down to web hosting, subscription to various web services and the occasional printing of some flyers for a concert with one of the bands, I don’t think there’s any point at involving money in the project just yet...

DoC: As a netlabel, what do you think of online distribution systems like iTunes and Bandcamp?

They all have some benefits and drawbacks. Some of them are convenient for the audience, some for the labels and some for the musicians. What they all have a problem with is multitude and excess of content. This is where a netlabel has its main justification. A netlabel is not an openly accessible platform where good and bad stuff is senselessly added, leaving it up to a ridiculous algorithm to create order out of chaos.

On a well curated netlabel there’s strict quality control and style consistency so when the audience arrives on the site for a release, they get a lot more out of checking the other stuff out. All this being the case, I have recently made arrangements so that the Drowning catalogue can be made available on the most popular streaming platforms. I also have some plans about a complete addition of the catalogue to the most popular streaming platform of them all - YouTube.

DoC: What are your thoughts on physical releases, such as CDs, vinyl records, and cassettes? Will Drowning ever produce physical copies of its releases?

Maybe. I’m a vinyl addict, and have released vinyl elsewhere. It takes more time and puts money back into the equation. I hate CDs. Worst music format ever. I have previously done two releases in collaboration with tape labels, so that the free download release on Drowning happened in conjunction with a tape release elsewhere. No reason why this can’t be done with vinyl as well.

DoC: If you had to name 5 essential drone doom albums, what would they be?

If you’re new to drone doom, here’s 5 classics I still listen to from time to time:

Black Boned Angel - Supereclipse 

Boris - Amplifier Worship

Earth - 2

Moss - Thee Bridge Ov Madness

Sunn O))) - Black One

If you’ve been through a drone doom phase, here’s another 5 “drone & doom” albums I would have loved to release on Drowning:

Asva - What You Don’t Know Is Frontier

Celestiial - Where Life Springs Eternal

Lustmord - The Word As Power

SOL - Offer Thy Flesh To The Worms

Urfaust - Drei Rituale Jenseits Des Kosmos

DoC: Make a bold prediction about the future of music and/or music distribution.

Even though increasingly popular with metal bands, the open platforms like Bandcamp and Soundcloud will decline in popularity with music listeners. Instead we will see the appearance of curated platforms for specific genres, styles or trends and with quality control editors making sure only decent and fitting stuff is entered. Something like you have on a real label but with the artists themselves editing and presenting their work online once they have been granted access.

DoC: What can fans do to support Drowning?

Download the releases and listen to them at a decent volume. If you like one of them spread the word and follow the band. If you like more than one of them follow Drowning. Either on Facebook or sign up for the newsletter.

DoC: What does the near future hold for Drowning?

Apparently there’s a label convention of sorts taking place in Aarhus this Saturday and Drowning has a stand there. The SOL release is still happening and there’s a show in Copenhagen on March 15th. The release queue stretches some years into the future at the moment, so I’m currently not accepting demos. For release in the next year or so it holds stuff like cosmic ambient black metal from Texas. Intense acoustic drone meets doom from Canada. Dreamy riffs and guitar drones from Finland.

Drowning Website

Drowning on Facebook