9TH MERIDIAN RECORDS – No rudeness or rock-star attitude
Eternal Terror writer Jens Nepper has interviewed the US underground label 9th Meridian Records, a label that started its history 5/6 years ago.
For those readers who are unfamiliar with 9th Meridian Records, could you please provide us with an introduction as well as a rundown of its history so far?
Greetings and thank you very much for the opportunity to share a little bit about my label. The history of 9MR is rather boring and typical. It is, quite literally, as simple as putting out one CD and then, when I have the money, putting out another. The release schedule depends on when I have cash on hand so there is no regularity to it. I just release one disc and then another.
What led you to start up your own label?
One day in 2007 or 2008 I was chatting online with Sergiy of Moloch/Saturn Form Essence and just decided to offer to release some of his material. I worked at a print shop at the time and had access to a bunch of high quality Xerox machines. So, when they boss was away, I printed up the artwork for the release and burned some all black CDRs. I did a run of about 50 units, some of which I still have sitting in stock. The release looks crude to me now but it was a big step forward for me at the time. Sergiy and I no longer collaborate due to ideological differences but I am grateful for his willingness to let a complete unknown like me release some of his music.
Do you remember how you became addicted to dark and obscure music? Was it one or more specific releases that changed your perspective on music, or was it something else?
I’ve been a fan of Metal for quite a while but spent years listening to rather generic Black Metal and some mainstream stuff. In 2006 I decided to go poking around in the discount CD bin at a local record store and there I ran across a copy of ANUBI: Kai pilnaties akis užmerks mirtis. Visually the CD was quite striking and unique but musically it was absolutely mind blowing. It was the moodiest and most original collection of songs I have ever experienced. After hearing that disc I felt compelled to know more about who made it and why and so I started sending out emails to connected parties which eventually lead to the creation of my zine. More on that later.
Just out of curiosity, could you list a few of your all-time favorite bands or just some bands in general that have meant and still mean a lot to you?
The list below does not include any of the releases on my label, since I love them all like they were my own children and wouldn’t dare rank them by number. Well, I love most of them. Maybe not the ones by that J.N. guy…
1: Anubi – See previous question.
2: Nightwish – They were quite revelatory when I first listened to them. To my ears their blend of Metal and symphonics was absolutely perfect. Say what you will about their thematic/lyrical content, "Once" was a spectacularly epic album.
3: Obtest – Their album "Auka Seniems Dievams" was another one of those revelatory experiences for me. It introduced me to that whole Pagan Metal genre of which I now own many albums.
4: Woods of Desolation – Specifically the album "Torn Beyond Reason." For me this is the perfect Black Metal release. It is harsh and melancholic but it is also soaringly epic and achingly beautiful.
5: Ozzy Osbourne – His works introduced me to Metal and I still enjoy listening to them today.
Judging from your releases it would appear that black metal and dark ambient music are those genres that you hold most dear, but are you open to other genres as well?
In the past I have indeed focused on mostly Black Metal and Dark Ambient releases but I am certainly not opposed to releasing other genres as well. I co-released a Grind album by CIRCLE OF DEFEAT with several other labels a couple of years ago. Plus there is the Doom/Drone split I produced for (((O))) and OVERHAUL IN DAMNATION. I have plans to release some more quality Doom as well as some rather non-traditional albeit still quite melancholic albums. Should the opportunity arise I’d like to branch out into Folk Metal as well.
What do you look for in a band when looking into the idea of signing them?
When I listen to a demo I can usually tell within the first few minutes if an artist’s material is right for 9MR. I will, of course, listen to the whole demo just to make sure. The second thing is whether or not the individual behind the music is worth my time. I can not abide rudeness or a rock-star attitude. I’ve run across this a couple of times unfortunately. I’m an easy guy to work with and all I ask is to be treated with the same respect I show the artists. The final piece of the pie is patience. 9MR is a small and poorly funded label therefore I can only release albums when I have the capital. Sometimes this causes delays. This is an unfortunate part of making physical releases but those who understand the process are willing to put in the time. Taking all that into account the most important aspect of choosing to release an album is simply whether or not I like the music.
How are important are a band’s lyrics to you? Would you say that lyrics are just as important as the actual music in some cases?
For me lyrical content isn’t nearly as important as how the vocals mesh with the music on a song/album. Take for example the entire genre of Black Metal: Completely incomprehensible lyrics in most cases even though the vocals are at the forefront of most compositions. Mostly I prefer to leave the artist’s lyrical content to the artists. They have something to say and it is not my job to tell them what that is.
Some labels have a very specific ideological or philosophical foundation and aim to spread some particular ideological/philosophical/religious message via their releases, but 9th Meridian Records doesn’t seem to belong to that category of labels. What are your thoughts on this?
What I said in the previous question still holds true in that I think people’s ideas are their own and far be it from me to say yay or nay to what they hold near and dear. That being said I will not be a party to the dissemination of any political or religious ideologies. I want nothing to do with bands/musicians who feel the need to use Metal as a platform to spread a political or religious agenda no matter what form it may take. For me Metal is the antithesis of politics and religion and adding any ideological stance to Dark Ambient is just nonsense. If someone wants to write songs about politics they should join a punk rock band.
NEFAS TERRA "Life in Darkness" (2011)
So far you have released a number of CDs and a couple of CD-Rs, but how do you feel about other physical formats? Is there any chance that we’ll see a vinyl release on 9th Meridian Records one day? What about tapes?
Vinyl yes, tapes no. The average shelf life of a CD is about 70 years, or so I’ve read. Vinyl can last even longer. I’ve held in my hands records from the 1920’s and earlier if memory serves. Tapes will last only about 25 years. My collection of cassettes from the early 90’s are already starting to degrade and my old VHS collection is in even worse shape. I don’t care how kvlt tapes are, they still fucking blow as a storage medium. If all goes according to plan I will be putting out my first piece of vinyl in co-operation with Broken Limbs recordings some time in late 2013 or early 2014. It will be a 7" EP with exclusive content from Colorado’s own DEAFEST, after that will be a split featuring Nefas Terra. And after that I will focus on vinyl releases for those bands that have stuck with 9MR for years including PICTURE ANN and MODERN DARK AGE.
What are your thoughts on all the different platforms for promoting one’s music that is out there on the web and that endless horde of bands that pop up every damn day of the week?
The internet is a wonderful albeit confusing and jumbled place. It is unsurpassed as a tool for promoting ones creations. I, however, have no patience for sucking the internet’s dick and begging people to buy my shit. I’ve kept a low profile online simply because it is such a hassle to always be joining the latest and greatest social networking or band promotion site. I trade CDs with other labels around the world regularly but I suppose if I want to make some money at this game I ought to get on my knees and open wide.
Would you agree that it can be difficult to locate the diamonds that are hiding in the dirt due to all those releases that are constantly flooding us all?
It certainly can be. I’ve been lucky enough to have stumbled across several very talented and otherwise (at the time) unrepresented bands like DEAFEST, PICTURE ANN and MODERN DARK AGE. It’s been a pleasure to watch the popularity of these bands grow and to know that I had a little something to do with it. Some I petitioned for a release and some have accepted. Others, like ASH BORER have turned me down. Now look at them! Anyway, some have come to me as well like the newest member of the 9MR stable NEFAS TERRA. I find it helps to check the Metal Archives every day or so to see what new groups/projects have been added. One does have to sift through and endless parade of new Retro-Thrash and Stoner Sludge bands though.
VORNOFF "Mellem Sjael og Legeme" (2011)
Have you ever composed and recorded any music of your own?
I bought a guitar a few years ago and swore I would teach myself how to use it. To date I still can only fumble out a few chords. My girlfriend is a very talented vocalist though and we’ve been working towards finding a few albums, which I can later release, for her to do a guest spot on.
I know that you once published a magazine named Meridian 9? Have you laid that to rest or is it merely hibernating?
After I discovered ANUBI I felt compelled to learn more about who created the album etc. so I started sending out emails. Since no one wanted to just answer the questions of some random fan from the middle of the United States I decided to write an article about the band. Of course I needed a place to present the article so I started a zine. Right now there are four issues of Meridian 9 in print and one available for free download. I ran out of money to print physical copies of the zine which is a pity since issue five is by far the one I am most proud of. Right now the book is on indefinite hiatus. I was never satisfied with what I had written about ANUBI so I never got around to publishing it. Now that Meridian 9 is no longer really running I’m not sure what I should do with all the material I collected about the band…
Could you let us in on a few of your future plans in terms of upcoming releases, bands that you plan on cooperating with, etc.?
Out in the next few weeks is a re-issue of NEFAS TERRA’s first album "Life in Darkness" with all new artwork by me and a bonus track as well. After that will be a full length album by DISPERSED ASHES then the second full length by MODERN DARK AGE. After that 9MR will play host to several demo compilations for SAGNTID and VORNOFF. We’ll see if we can’t cram their entire back library of songs onto a couple of discs. There are also the vinyl releases I mentioned previously.
Do you have any final words for the faithful readers of Eternal Terror?
Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to spread the word about 9th Meridian Records, it is very much appreciated. Though the internet is filled with all sorts of instant gratification in the form of all digital content 9MR will work tirelessly to provide music on archaic and outdate formats for consumption by devotees of the physical. There is nothing like holding a new album in your hands and knowing it will be sitting there waiting for you even if your hard drive explodes. The underground is my home and I will live in its filth for as long as I can.