Some questions for Michael Thiel from Weyrd Son Records!

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Michael Thiel is the son of the man that was Snowy Red, whose name was Marcel Thiel. With the first release coming out from his newly started label, Weyrd Son Records, which was a tribute to Snowy Red by a multitude of synth-artists – his label became a part of what might be a future legacy. This son of Belgium is the sole proprietor of the label, and he makes everything work. Since he shaped the idea for the label back in 2012, it started to become a real label when the compilation “_ever Alive – a tribute to Snowy Red” was released in May, 2013. Which had the catalog-number WyS-001. I’m all about this label, so I sent Michael some questions about it, hinting on future releases, the symbolic nature of the first compilation, the artists featured on his label – and much more. Tune in for another questionnaire, that is simply too great to be overlooked. At least if you ask me, but I hope you’ll enjoy reading it.

Your label is pretty new, since it’s only been around since the late December of 2012, from what I’ve noticed. The first release, the tribute to Snowy Red, seems to have been a huge success. What was it like in the process of starting your label?

– Indeed. I officially announced the creation of Weyrd Son Records around late December 2012. A full tribute album to Snowy Red already crossed into my mind a while ago, but it was in the morning of a day in April that I clearly stated; that from that day on, I would work seriously on that first release. I had a few band names in mind, but for some reason I thought it would be quite hard to find a record label that might be interested to release a records with so many “new bands”. I didn’t want anyone to impose any bands or artists I wouldn’t work with, so I immediately thought I would do everything by myself and create my own brand to have a full control of that project.

How hard was it to gather all these artists for this huge compilation?

– I would be lying to say it was a piece of cake doing this. The most difficult part was to be sure I would receive all the tracks on time, which didn’t happen. It takes a lot of energy to give everyone the same motivation that you have yourself. They were of course motivated, but as long as the project is not 100% theirs, you can’t really expect for them to be involved in it – as much as you are. I mean, from that morning of April 2012, I decided to dedicate the biggest part of my time to everything related to the compilation. All those great artists have their own life, their own music and duty, it’s a normal thing – that they would put me on hold for some days. Plus, I didn’t want to push them too much, because I wanted them to take the time they would need to do what they do, in the best of ways. I guess I was just too confident about the deadline. Now I know what it’s like, for the forthcoming releases.

I’m just guessing that you are the brother of Marcel Thiel, so it seems pretty obvious why a tribute to Snowy Red was the first release. Was this a symbolic act for you in honor of his memory?

– Micky Mike was my dad.

It’s true, I didn’t want anything else to come out first on the label. It was at first pretty symbolic, indeed. I had already experienced such a workload three years ago when I was in charge with the art direction of the 5 LP boxset of Snowy Red that got released on Onderstroom. I insisted to do the artwork, and write the text for the whole booklet, so what I did was to get in touch with everyone who was close to my dad and worked with him; photographers, musicians, make-up artists, film makers, sound engineers, friends, etc. I then started to interview them all and my whole work was based on what I’ve learned about him. It was my way to get closer to my dad and to his music, I guess. I was only 4 when the first Snowy Red record came out. Of course I knew all the records by heart already, but I needed to have another approach towards the music and the artist himself. I used to listen to the whole discography while working on the designs and texts. It was pretty inspiring and I did exactly the same thing this time, with the tribute album. Every time I discovered a new facet of Snowy Red, and even more now when other people are playing it.

You’ve got a lot of artists featured on your “roster”, which is pretty weird since the label is very new. Since you aim on giving them total artistic freedom, would that be why they’ve joined up with Weyrd Son Records?

– I can’t really speak for them, but it’s true that I to give the artists 100% control of what they work on for Weyrd Son Records. I really think giving everyone the space they need is the best way to get great things in return. I would never tell anyone “hey, you should sound more like this or that”, or: “that voice part should better be done this way instead”. Who am I to pretend that I know better than themselves, in what their true musical personality is?

Are you the only guy working with the label, and how much time does it consume from your everyday life?

– I’m officially the only person involved, as I’m the only one making the decisions in the end. But there are a few people around me like friends, my sister and my girlfriend, who are giving their opinion – or simply giving me advice. But there’s always one person that is constantly around that I speak a lot with. I would say that it helps me to understand what people are waiting for, what kind of things they would expect from a label. I don’t really buy everything he’s saying, but at least it’s really interesting to hear someone else’s point of view.

Since you’ve already revealed what you’re going to release on your label, both for me and Radio Campus, I was wondering if there’s something you’d like to cover about these releases that haven’t already been said?

– So far, I haven’t really been talking about the fifth release, which I know is some kind of event. It’s about a fresh new band out of the LA-scene. Their name is High-Functioning Flesh, consisting of the duo Susan Subtract (Branes), and Gregory Fronczak. They released a four-tracked tape four months ago and the whole synth-scene in LA went into a mini-blast. I immediately fell in love with them, and I’m counting them in amongst my future projects, which is truly my biggest pride.

Have there been any other labels that you’ve taken influence from, when you decided to start up your label?

– I guess that every single label that has a true and strong personality has or had an influence on me. They are most of the time pretty different, musically speaking, to what I tend to work on – but things like visual communication or artistic coherence are always good lessons to get influenced by. Sometimes I listen to every single artist or record that the label is showing to the world. My interest for a label is sometimes as strong as for music itself. To speak more about the ones that impacted me greatly, I would say that the following three, were those responsible of influencing me: Ideologic Organ (a sublabel of Mego), Sacred Bones Records and Sige. I truly love their artists, but I’d say that it’s pretty far from what I’m working with, musically. But I admire how coherent they are, and the quality of their products, design and inventiveness.

What kind of artists and bands have gotten in contact with you, besides those that are already confirmed?

– Actually, Marburg, the Polish band that is on the tribute to Snowy Red, have gotten in contact with me. There have been a few, mostly doing synth music, of course. But the one I got the biggest interest for was a band doing some true rock’n’roll music. It kinda reminded me of POP 1280, which I ‘m quite a big fan of. I hope I won’t sound like an asshole, but I don’t really like the exercise of being contacted by bands. The reason is that most of the time people aren’t really fitting my vision of what I want to work on. But if I like their stuff, I’m always ready to help.

As a celebratory gesture, you also released the mixtape “The Weyrd Dig Nasty” – celebrating the release of your label. Did it live up to your objective of the label?

– That mixtape was a way for me to put something out that was related to the label, with almost all the artists involved in the tribute, being featured on it. I wanted to give an overview of what Weyrd Son Records was all about, at least for the next few months of action.

When thinking about the label itself, how much response have you gotten from people since the start?

– I got lots of great response so far. Both from the artists I’m working with and people who have heard about Weyrd Son Records, that purchased the first release. Those great comments are making me thinking this was definitely the right move, and certainly the best thing I’ve ever started.

If you got to pick for yourself, what kind of artists or bands would you like to have on your label as a complement?

– Oh, wow. There are so many. There are awesome new bands that I really love, like BOAN, Ssleeperhold and Keluar..They’re all releasing their first record this year on great labels. But if I had to pick some names among confirmed artists, I would say Mushy, Lebanon Hanover and Scorpion Violente. Also, if we were to speak of other music that can’t be fitted into what kind of genres I deal with, I’d say that Chelsea Wolfe, who’s become my biggest musical crush since a decade ago. Or, if we move in the periphery, Eyvind Kang, if we’re going to speak of someone who blew my mind for the last two years.

Since your label is an independent one, are you going to expand in any direction or keep it smaller?

– I’m really not thinking about the possibility to expand. Plus, I think that it would be a mistake. I don’t want to loose a dimension that works, which makes me so happy right now. What I like here is that I have a privileged relationship with everyone, and with the bands. I also try to have a great contact with the customers by replying to every single request or remark. It takes time, but it gives me a really strong feeling to read that someone’s happy, from having a nice reply in the mail. I guess that only I will do for now. As long as I can do everything by myself, I will.

When you package things, they seem luxurious. Do you devote a lot of time to make it unique?

– I don’t think they’re so luxurious right now. But I guess what you could say is that I want them to be more and more luxurious. I’d like to make even more beautiful packages. But that takes so much time, because mostly I have to ship forty copies in a day.

The general aesthetics of Weyrd Son Records seem to be somewhat  industrially influenced, but also minimalistic. Where do you seek your inspiration for that?

– Graphic design is one of my biggest passions. I studied fine arts at school and I used to be really inspired by ancient Japanese art and paintings. Mostly because they use space and “visual silence” as a dialogue with forms and colors. The purity of a line, and of a shape is important to me, as they’re much like a signature. It’s also true that there’s something “industrial” about it, like the logo I created, and the colors I use. I want it to be something in between old fashioned and contemporary – but always classy.

Alright, it’s time to wrap up. What’s going to happen in the coming months?

– The next six months will be pretty busy, filled with lots of surprises. I just sent the artwork and mastering for the second release to the pressing plant, which is the Mushy/Meddicine split EP. It is a re-release on vinyl of the split tape that got released a year ago on Meddicine’s own label Sixsixsixties Records. Then there will be another reissue that will see the light of day around September. Which is the Linea Aspera 3-tracked EP. They released the amazing tape “II” right before they split up. It got sold out almost immediately and I was so pissed off that I missed it. The artwork of that one will be pretty special, but I won’t say too much about it now. The fourth release, that will actually have the catalog number WyS-003 is a three-EP boxset of White Horse. It’s the solo project of Ben Chisholm, who’s a full time member of Chelsea Wolfe’s band. He recently changed the name of White Horse into Revelator, but since he created all that music under the name of White Horse, we both agreed it was better to keep it under that name. This masterpiece in three volumes is titled “The Revenant Gospels”. Haunting and haunted.

I’ve know this music for two years now. I’ve been waiting for someone to release it, and for me to have the chance to hold a copy of it in my hands. But for some reasons that puzzles me, regarding the so outstanding quality of it, it never happened. But I’m ultimately happy that no-one did, because I’m so proud being part of this. And the fifth release will be a six-tracked EP from High-Functioning Flesh. The band that I was talking about earlier.

Listen to the tribute compilation for Snowy Red, that was released by Weyrd Son Records some time ago, down below.

Spotlight: Various Artists – _ever Alive – a tribute to Snowy Red

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I just thought I had to push for this compilation, because it’s awesome. A truly great one, which is a tribute to Snowy Red, which was the moniker for Marciel Thiel. One of the more influential artists within the minimal synth genre. This release feature a lot of the up and coming people, mainly from America, whom have contributed a whole lot to their own scene. But there are also a lot of artists from other parts of the world. The following are represented: Bestial Mouths, //TENSE//, Strange Powers, Mushy, Violet Tremors, Mirror Mirror, Meddicine, Nové Můra, Jessy Champagne, Revelator, Freddy Ruppert, Animal Bodies, Newclear Waves, Safyée, Led Er Est, Bright Future, Marburg and Deathday. So, it’s jam-packed with the best of the best, covering songs from albums like “Snowy Red“, “The Right To Die“, “Vision” and “The Beat Is Over“. Meaning; virtually every album he ever released. It’s inspiring to hear such a flawless re-interpretation of those legendary songs. All from different areas of the minimal synth sound. This is surely an investment, as you get a gatefolded double-LP, 180 gram, with hand-numbered packages limited to 500. You’ll can get this for twenty-two euros, and you really should, because it’s a great release. It’s also the first release on Weyrd Son Records (WyS-001), but surely not the last. Artwork was made by Betsy VanLangen.

A tribute to Last Days Of Man On Earth!

Dave Zukauskas

I found the blog Last Days Of Man On Earth some years ago and didn’t pay as much attention to it as I should’ve. Since there weren’t a lot of blogs around then, I started to venture around (thanks to it) and also found KBD Records. Now that I’ve read everything on the blog, I started to mail around and got a hold of Joe and others. But a man called Dave Zukauskas wanted me to do it in text, so here’s his tribute to Last Days Of Man On Earth and mine too. I asked him a bunch of questions about what blogs he visits, how the “shut-down” of Last Days affected him and a range of other questions I wanted to ask. So let’s see this as a tribute to the immense work that laid the path of that particular blog and how much it actually influenced people around it. Thank you, Joe and thank you Dave for wanting to get interviewed. I also had a question about the Hardcore Superiority myth which you can read over here.

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Min hyllning till Frank Tovey aka Fad Gadget!

Frank Tovey har varit min musikaliska och emotionella influens under ett flertal år. Vad många inte vet är att Depeche Mode var tungt influerade av denna man, likväl har en stor mängd andra band och artister också varit det. En otroligt duktig musiker men även performanceartist om man nu kan använda det ordet i ett enda sammanhängande ord. Frågan är då vilket alterego han har använt sig av? Namnet  är Fad Gadget. Förutom detta har han lämnat ett avtryck på musikscenen för evigt, särskilt inom electronica. Tyvärr så hade han haft problem med sitt hjärta sedan han var liten och dog den 3:e April 2002 till följd av en hjärtattack – endast 45 år gammal.

Den första dagen i Mars detta år så dedikerades en heldag till hans minne där band som Xeno & Oaklander samt Ike Yard uppträdde. Detta skedde i New York, där de även visade dokumentären som avhandlade hans liv, vid namn Fad Gadget by Frank Tovey.

I April detta år så fick han även en video tillägnad minnet av honom. Detta stod det legendariska skivbolaget Mute Records bakom.

Själv spelar jag hans låtar dagligen och om jag inte gör det, så sker det åtminstone varannan dag. Att en person kan beröra en så pass mycket med sin musik är på ett sätt märkligt men förståeligt på ett annat sätt. Den känslan man får av att spela samtliga av hans låtar men särskilt Coitus Interruptus, Lady Shave, Collapsing New People, Life On The Line, Back To Nature och Fireside Favorites, för att nämna favoriterna, är något som man inte kan beskriva med ord om man inte upplever det själv. Visserligen är musiksmaken subjektiv, men det känns som att Frank bidrog med mycket mer än just bara musik. En konstform i sig, som han själv gav upphov till och lyckades förfina under sin tid på denna jord.

Det finns få band som lyckas skapa en sådan total känsla av emotionell tillfredställning. Ytterst fåtal band eller artister, som enligt mig borde ha förtjänat mer än de fick till att börja med. Där man faktiskt blir lycklig av själva musiken, kanske inte just av ämnena men just att det är så välproducerat och att musiken står på skiljelinjen mellan konst och musik. Att lyckas kombinera de elementen är otroligt svårt, men det är just vad Frank hade lyckats med och har, med tanke på att det spelas ännu och människor uppskattar hans musik än idag.

I skuggan av Fad Gadget fanns nämligen ytterligare någonting, en slags utveckling men ändå frånkoppling från Fad Gadget. Där han under sitt eget namn, Frank Tovey, lyckades skapa något som var relativt annorlunda om man jämför det med just hans alterego. En slags folkmusikalisk version av honom som kanske just representerades bättre under det riktiga namnet. På den numera nedlagda hemsidan Underground.se tipsade jag om just den plattan som släpptes 1989. Nio år efter debutalbumet Fireside Favorites, åtta år efter Incontinent, sju år efter Under The Flag och slutligen fem år efter Gag.

Ett album som kanske inte direkt stått i rampljuset, eftersom att han fortsatte att producera elektronisk musik (till en viss grad) under sitt riktiga namn. Därför vill jag introducera er till just det albumet, som heter Sam Hall. Det är en EP med fyra folklåtar där han tolkar just gamla irländska visor och sånger. Särskilt underbar är låten med samma namn som Epn: Sam Hall. Min andra favoritlåt från samma platta måste vara tolkningen av House Of The Risin’ Sun, som han lyckas genomföra med bravur och versionen av den är minst sagt annorlunda.

Förutom detta album vill jag även hävda att det finns ett annat album som inte stått under strålkastarna särskilt mycket. Detta album är en av hans soloalbum, som han släppte året innan han släppte Sam Hall – nämligen 1988. Namnet på detta album är Civilian och var det näst-sista albumet som han släppte under sitt eget namn, samt det tredje i raden av album som han skapat under det namnet. På just detta album får han utlopp för den mer experimentella sidan av Fad Gadget, där han inkluderar en hel del experimentella influenser för att höja ambitionsnivån ytterligare.

Nu när ni vet detta så tycker jag att ni bör spana in dessa album. Jag tänkte även lägga ut min egna favoritlåt (just nu) som är Collapsing New People (Berlin Mix). Så låt oss återigen hylla Frank Tovey och tacka honom för det han lämnade till oss. Njut av musiken och lyssna på det ni ännu inte lyssnat på.

Tack Frank för allt du har gjort.