Interview with James Light of the Die Song label!

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Die Song is a label that I actually got into by an accident. I slowly scrolled by on Facebook and found that one of my friends there liked this label. I imminently decided to check it out and was strangely attracted to the aesthetics of it. They were dark, they were somewhat nihilistic – almost on the verge. The first thing I got into was Carrion Sunflower, which had released their album “The Romantic Youth Of Jesus“. At first I was startled when I listened to it, and I couldn’t really fathom who would be into it. But after a few listens, it actually grew on me. James Light is the man behind this label, and it’s a label that is situated in the United States. He’s also released a split between Fistula and Radiation SIckness, which could be titled as the second release by this label. So, therefore, I decided to get in touch with him and ask him if he was interested in being interviewed. Now we’re here, with an in-depth interview in front of us. I asked him about the future releases, the meaning of his aesthetics, his craftsmanship, relations to other labels and many more questions. I hope you’re going to get your questions answered, and I hope you’d be as intrigued, if not more – as I was when I first stumbled upon Die Song.

Where does the name “Die Song” come from?

– Die Song as described by Herbert Mullin:

Your laws. You see, the thing is, people get together, say, in the White House. People like to sing the die song, you know, people like to sing the die song. If I am president of my class when I graduate from high school, I can tell two, possible three young homo sapiens to die. I can sing that song to them and they’ll have to kill themselves or be killed – an automobile accident, a knifing, a gunshot wound. You ask me why this is? And I say, well, they have to do that in order to protect the ground from an earthquake, because all of the other people in the community, because all the other people in the community had been dying all year long, and my class, we have to chip in so to speak to the darkness. We have to die also. And people would rather sing the die song than murder.

What is the Die Song?

– Just that. I’m telling you to die. I’m telling you to kill yourself, or be killed so that my continent will not fall off into the ocean. See, it’s all based on reincarnation, this dies to protect my strata.

So, I gather that you started up this label somewhere in between March and April. One noticeable thing that strikes oneself as interesting is the “not for profit”. How do you make that go around and why did you start up Die Song in the first place?

– I started die song sometime in January but it didn’t really come together until March/April after I moved from Massachusetts to Arizona. I had been planning on starting a label for some time but I wasn’t sure what direction I was going to take it in. That’s when Carrion Sunflower came into the picture. I heard his music and I wanted a hard copy of it but he had none. So, I knew if he would let me I would have to release it so other people could hear it and hold it. The “not for profit” thing is to let people know that this is not something I do to support myself. I’m not sure I would be able to support myself off of this even if I wanted to though. The idea is that any proceeds to any release will go directly into the next release. Even my own funds that were put into this project will be put back into the label as they are refreshed from people purchasing distro items and physical releases as they come out.

How was the process of making something of (and with) Carrion Sunflower?

– I feel really lucky to be able to work with Carrion Sunflower. I feel even luckier to be able to call the man behind this project a really great friend who has even been there for me when I’ve been down despite the fact he lives thousands of miles away. The packaging choices were mostly left up to myself so it allowed me to try some pretty cool things I’ve always wanted to do. A hand full of really great artists have also worked on the project as well. The only unfortunate stuff was that we hit a few snags that have caused some delays. I had a bit of a personal crisis in my life and Carrion Sunflower lost his internet connection and is still without it. But we are getting there and it’s going to all be ready soon hopefully. There is only one bit more I am waiting to receive at this point.

That seems to entwine with the aesthetics of the label. They seem to derive somewhat of nihilism, or symbolism in general. There’s something personal about it, something unique. What’s your task when it comes to the aesthetics in general and the releases in particular?

– Well, I by no means assert myself as the art director of the releases on my label. I love to throw around ideas and see if any stick with the artist. However if I am working with an artist and they already have art they want to use or have their own ideas they would like me to carry out I will do my best to make it all work. There was an instance with Carrion Sunflower where there was one image he really wanted to use but it was such a low res image I couldn’t get it to look good no matter what I tried so we had a scrap it. I obviously have the most fun though when I get to plan the release with the artist and come up with crazy packaging and multiple formats. I cover all of the costs myself out of my own pocket. For Carrion Sunflower I paid for mastering, art from multiple artists, screen printing, and obviously pressing costs. On the other side of things though I work with a band called Fistula. They cover all of their own costs and always have all of their own artwork. So my main job is to figure out if there is a way we can fit the artwork to a more creative packaging and to get the music out on whatever format(s) we choose. I think everyone will find that there will be a big mix of formats and art directions with the releases on my label over time.

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Fistula seem to be a whole other deal. It’s the second release on your label. Which was a split together with Radiation Sickness. Where did you stumble upon these guys and what’s behind it?

– Fistula is a doom/sludge/whatever hateful shit they feel like playing outfit from Ohio. I was a fan of their music for some time before I ever really got to start working with them. The relationship came to be when my former roommate and one of my best friends started releasing their music on his label PATAC records. Soon after he started releasing their stuff he became the singer of the band. I started talking to the man behind their music Corey Bing and we happened to just hit it off and really get along well. Corey much like Carrion has now also become a good friend of mine who has really put himself out there for me. We plan to work together a lot in the future.

What kind of collaboration would that be?

– I’m not sure I understand what you are asking here. If you are wondering what else we have planned for the future I can’t tell all at this moment. I can however mention that I am going to be releasing past material previously unreleased. The album is called Worship and the vocals are being redone by Coffinworms Dave Britts. That release will come out on both lathe and cassette. There is no set date yet for this release.

Another thing that seemed to have come very quickly were the t-shirts. First up was the one with the Baphomet print. What do all the symbols represent that you’ve got in there and how do you print them?

– The shirts did come very quickly. The shirts were based off a rough design I came up with but was later redone by a good friend of mine Dave Mahan. I originally was going to wait to do a shirt design but was so happy with the way the design came out I had them done right away. Several symbols are borrowed from the process. The symbol on the head of baphomet is the Die Song sigil created by Dave Mahan. Metatrons cube is what is used in the background. Danny at holy mountain handles all of my printing and the work he has done for me is amazing. He will be handling the the lids to the Carrion Sunflower wooden box set and the lathe cut LP cover. Both will feature art by GIVE UP.

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That’s interesting. What kind of craftsmanship does it take to make these boxes? Also, are you keen on continuing to make things more “exclusive”, so you can offer something “new” to people considering buying your releases?

– For these boxes due to a current lack of tools I am using cigar boxes. What I am doing with them is this: I am removing all hardware from the box and filling the spots with wood filler, sanding all edges and flat surfaces, applying a 1st coat of stain, rubbing it down with steel wool, and then applying a second coat of stain. All the boxes will then be shipped to holy mountain where they will be screen printed on. Once I get them back I will put on all new hardware and add the contents of this version. This version will include a hand bound booklet bound with waxed thread and hand stamped cover, the regular cassette edition and a bonus semi flexi lathe cut with a bonus song that is not included in any other version of this release. In future boxed releases I plan on constructing the boxes by hand, but at this moment I have no other wood boxes lined up. Most of the releases I do will be very limited and come in multiple formats with hand constructed packaging. Some of which will not be available from any other outlets. One example of this will be the Carrion Sunflower 12″ lathe cut. I will be the only one selling this (online Carrion Sunflower may receive a few copies that he can do whatever he pleases with) VERY limited version and it is an attempt to recoup the costs and to hopefully be able to help Carrion Sunflower with merchandise or another release in the future. I have a few things lined up for this winter and some others being talked about currently that I think will confirm the standard I want my label to push when it comes to presentation.

When it comes to aesthetics, I believe that your label is “up there” with some of the better. What kind of aesthetics influence you personally? What kind of formats would you like to work with and why do you work with these, at the moment?

– I really appreciate you saying that and I hope it shows in all of my releases. I am influenced by a lot of different things. I am a sucker for a beautifully packaged release, both musical and book. As far as the packaging goes I love hand cut and folded pieces with nice printing done on them. I am a big fan of letter pressing and stamping, wax seals, different textures, clothe etc etc. Visually I am usually a fan of minimal layouts with a “darker” look to them. I think negative space is a good thing, to much clutter makes things hard to look at and read whats really going on(however there are exceptions). In my own artwork I usually work with a mix of Graphic design, printing, scanning, pen and ink/cutting and pasting. As far as formats are considered I will work with any analog format. I have no plans of working with CD’s in the future or doing an exclusively digital release. I picked the formats I am currently using for there sound qualities and personal appeal to myself. The master for the Carrion Sunflower lathe cut is different than the one used on the cassette and they will sound very different from each other due to the different formats and the sound outputs that are unique to both. In the future I hope to work with vinyl records as well,t but due to cost it’s just not something I am ready to do yet at this exact time. I would also like to do some hardbound books in the future.

What kind of books would that be?

– I would really like to do some art books, though I am open to doing print books as well. Something I have really wanted to do is a hand bound hardback with a screen printed or hot foil stamped cover, wrapped in linen, housed in a custom made wooden box with wood burnt front panel. Hopefully someday I get the chance to try that out.

This makes me wonder, since this label is pretty new – what have been the reactions to it?

– The label has received a lot of good responses. I receive a lot of emails from people asking to hold copies of upcoming releases, people asking me to stock their releases, and people who want to distro my items. I also get really good feedback from the people who work with me on these projects. The people I have asked to work with all seem very excited with the chance to work with me as well(I mean this in the most modest of ways). I try to give the artists that I work for the best experience and loyalty I can. The biggest issue I can see right now is that the majority of people who are interested in my label live in Europe and shipping from the USA is very very expensive now. I try my best to keep shipping down but I really can’t afford to lose money on shipping. I am worried that the shipping costs will keep people from Europe from ordering my releases.

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That problem with expensive shipping, as the rates in the US went way up high, have induced a lot of problems for other labels. Do you suppose there’ll be a countermeasure deployed by you D.I.Y.-labels to somehow pass it overseas anyway? Also, why do you think Europe is so interested in your releases as opposed to the US?

– The shipping is really out of control. It really upsets me how high it’s gotten. Not to mention the US postal service is junk; I lost 6 packages last year in a 6 month period. Total nightmare. What I do to try and make sure my releases will get to the audience in Europe in a (hopefully) cheap manor is get my releases to labels and distros over there. Thomas Ekelund who runs Belaten will be getting a bunch of copies of the Carrion Sunflower cassettes, also Dean of knifedoutofexistance/outsider art will be getting a bunch in the UK. Of course Carrion sunflower will also be getting 40 copies of the regular and 15 of the boxed edition. I am hoping this will help some people in Europe get copies for a fair price. It’s not about me making money as I have already made clear I feel… but it’s about the artist getting heard and me hopefully not going completely broke while helping him or her do that. I think I have an ok base in America for interested listeners. I feel it’s only more popular in Europe right now for 2 big reasons… the first being that Carrion Sunflower is from the UK and living in Berlin now. So I imagine his listeners are located more to his area since his exposure to the rest of the world is just now beginning. Second would be that, well, the stuff I release, at least in my opinion, is just much more popular in Europe. Here is the US neo-folk, noise, power electronics, black metal, doom metal do not have the same fan base. It’s really much smaller, especially for the first ones I listed. I hope to make it over to Europe again in 2014 to meet up with the people who I am working with and maybe even get to play some shows myself.

Play shows yourself? Are you in a band or something?

– My new project will rear it’s hideous face this spring. It will not be associated with my Label in any way. I don’t want to say to much about it yet but it’s presence will be known soon enough. I am really really excited about it. I started making “experimental”/noise/electronic music when I was 13 years of age. I haven’t made anything new in almost 9 years now. I have 2 releases fully planned and I’ve been considering where the 3rd will be going. That’s all I want to say about it right now.

Could you reveal more intricate details about this?

– The project is called Finders.

If we swerve into questions about the label again, I saw that you’re a lot about other labels too. Do you support each other more then distributing each others stuff? Also, could you tell me more about what merchandise you’ve got available?

– I love the labels I work with and I appreciate the things they do. Some of the labels I do distro for helped inspire me to start doing hand made packaging again like I did when I was playing in bands as a kid. I have found friends in some of the people I work more closely with besides distro. Thomas at Belaten is a really great guy who is beyond friendly. He is working on a secret project for me right now and he has been AWESOME about it. BEYOND AWESOME even. Also SISSTER SSOUND is another label I am close with. Artist “GIVE UP” runs that label and I consider him a good friend. He helps me out with artwork and we exchange packages in the mail occasionally. The way I look at it is we are all striving for the same thing, to do well by the people we work with. To help their vision become a piece of work you can hold in your hands and love hopefully just as much as we all do. So I am willing to help and work with anyone who has the same passion as I do. Perhaps someones label doesn’t release something I want to have in my store, but that doesn’t mean I won’t do my best to help them find good distribution or whatever they need. I also get stuff directly from some bands too. I keep in regular contact with Kevin of SVARTVIT who I will be doing a release for this winter and Dean of KNIFEDOUTOFEXISTENCE/outsideart who I hope to work with later. I spread myself a bit thin sometimes but I try to do my best. As far as merchandise goes for die song at the moment only shirts. Distro stuff is constantly coming in and rotating. There will be a new batch of distro titles coming up soon. I mostly work with noise/power electronics/industrial/neo-folk/black metal/and doom. Some stuff has a small taste of punk mixed in.

That’s cool! What kind of project is Thomas doing for you?

– The project with Thomas will be a little while but it involves artwork for my first 2 EP’s.

What’s SVARTVIT and what do you have in mind for this Winter, with him?

– Svartvit is the noise/power electronics outfit of Kevin Jansen of the Netherlands. A truly amazing guy with a really awesome project. He tours like a mad man. We are going to be doing a lathe cut with some really crazy packaging. He deserves a lot more recognition for his art. He is one of the hardest working guys I know in noise. I am hoping to fund a Svartvit US tour next summer as well.

Do you put up shows also, or do you simply promote the artists that are on your label? Are they in your roster, or are they just “released”?

– I want to get into booking shows more. If I am successful in getting SVARTVIT into the states I will surely be helping book that. I also promote as much as humanly possible, but I don’t really have money for ads or anything like that. I’ve attempted at contacting some blogs but with little resolve. I imagine my emails got lost in the clutter. I don’t have a roster but I hope that people are happy enough with the way I work for them to let me do it again.

Well, lucky for you, this might get you somewhere! Just kidding. But that’s a mutual experience that can be shared and you can simply help people out if you like their stuff. What kind of advice do you have for people that want to start their own label out?

– Honestly, I don’t care if my label is recognized or not. I just want the artists I work for to be able to hold something I helped make for them and say. This looks really great. After that I hope that there are people out there that like the stuff as much as I do. When I have contacted blogs it’s never been to promote myself but the artist I am working with. Advice? I don’t have any. If you want to do it, just do it. If you aren’t passionate about it, do something else.

Alright, thank you for this James! I might’ve missed something, so plug anything you want now.

– That’s it. It was nice talking to you.

Listen to the current releases on Die Song by tuning in beneath this sentence. Currently, you can choose in between Carrion Sunflower and Fistula / Radiation Sickness. Of course, there’ll be a lot more coming. Do also peek into the Die Song-shop if you’re interested in buying something. A big thank you to James Light for letting me ask him these questions.

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