Handmade Birds started off with a huge bang in 2011, building a roster that is full of great artists both obscure and a little less obscure (to the public at large but well known within their respective musical circles). Every release was excellent and eye-opening in some way or another. Following up such a monstrous year is a tall order, but the label mastermind R. Loren (Pyramids, Sailors With Wax Wings, White Moth) has plenty up his sleeve for 2012.
Scene Point Blank: Why start a record label in the age of “illegal downloading”?
R. Loren: I must be insane, really. Upon the birth of my second child, I decided to catapult my family into debt to release music. The reality is, however, that I insist on my two daughters growing up around tangible art, and the boutique nature of the label and its small pressings allow me to appeal to an audience, however far it may shrink. This is in my blood and the time to act on the label endeavour had to be now and not ten years down the road.
Scene Point Blank: Does Handmade Birds have a conscious goal or a theme with all of its records?
R. Loren: All cliché aside, I have to love it. The overarching theme, though, is that the artists all have an affinity for texture. That is the thread that runs through the roster. I try to keep a good balance of both dark and light artists, and within their respective realms there is sonic layering and textural patterns in the music and/or production that keep them linked. This allows relevance between artists without the label getting nailed to one specific genre.
Scene Point Blank: Please recap your 2011 (and early 2012 as you had some bleed over) for the readers that may be unfamiliar with your label. [Editor's Note: SPB has reviewed many of these items.]
- Evan Caminiti – When California Falls Into The Sea LP
- Blut Aus Nord – Mort LP
- Key – Birch Skeletons... 3x10" Box Set
- Servile Sect – Trvth LP
- Servile Sect – Svrrender CS
- Crooked Necks – Alright Is Exactly What It Isn't LP
- Crooked Necks – Something Must Break 12"
- White Ring – Hey Hey, My My + Felt U 12"
- TenHornedBeast – Ten Horned Moses Descended The Mountain 3xCD
- His Name Is Alive – King Of Sweet 2xLP
- Der Blutharsch – Werkschau 2xLP
- Swamp Horse – Winter Ghost CS
- Hostage Pageant – Abuse Generator CS
- Preterite – Pillar of Winds CD
- Celestiial – Desolate North LP
- Circle Of Ouroborus – Eleven Fingers LP
- The Human Quena Orchestra – A Natural History Of Failure LP
- Demian Johnston – If They Even Find Me CS
- Sadness Saturn / Utarm split CS
- Sadness Saturn / Golden Raven split CS
- Blood Of The Black Owl / At the Head Of the Woods split CD
- Dreamless – All This Sorrow, All These Knives
- The Rita – The Rack CD
- Sutekh Hexen – Larvae LP/CD
- S/V\R – Celebration Noire
- Sun Devoured Earth 4xCD Box Set
- Gates – They Hide In The Shadows CD
- Aelter – III LP
- Hunter Hunt-Hendrix – Transcendental Black Metal Book
I am typing this list and it feels really long. I think it is time to slow down a bit. Seriously, wow.
Scene Point Blank: What challenges has the label had to overcome so far?
R. Loren: The post office: customs forms, packing orders, standing in line. Meeting deadlines for the release dates, and hoping the cassette manufacturer can get jobs done on time. Oh, yeah, and debt. [Laughs.]
Scene Point Blank: What was your most surprising release and in what way?
R. Loren: The first release of 2012, Sutekh Hexen's Larvae. The pre-order color vinyl sold out in less than a day and the rest in less than a week. I knew the response would be positive, but not overwhelming like it was.
Scene Point Blank: So what does Handmade Birds have in store for its devoted following in 2012?
R. Loren: A new Circle of Ouroborus album called The Lost Entrance of the Just will come out in March, and I am really excited about that because the record we did with them last year is one of my favorites of all time. Speaking of which, it [Eleven Fingers] will be released on CD alongside the new LP in March. Other than that, two milestone releases from Locrian with Christoph Heemann and Panopticon's Kentucky—both of which will be game changers. Also new stuff from Our Love Will Destroy The World, Jason Zeh, Jazzfinger, lovesliescrushing, and an amazing band from Denton called Pinkish Black who sound like The Birthday Party—only they have completely reinvented that sound with two people.
Scene Point Blank: With the boom in cassette tape releases, what kinds of issue have there been producing tapes?
R. Loren: The production is really slow. Often the turnaround will be quoted as 30 days, but the job won't even start for weeks after that. I think many of the factories have sold off their dupe towers and are short on staff, not expecting such a rise in business. I have heard they are working on it, though. It can be frustrating when a cassette is what holds up a package from being mailed out, and it’s painful to send part of a package and then spend another afternoon later trying to pack just a cassette to send to Spain or something.
Scene Point Blank: What is your favorite format to release? Why?
R. Loren: My favorite format to release from an aesthetic standpoint is vinyl, from an economic standpoint cassette, and from a personal preference CD. I still use CDs for the majority of my listening. Vinyl obviously offers a ton of visual options.
Scene Point Blank: What 5 artists not on your label would you kill to work with?
R. Loren: This question is always hard, because I desperately want to answer it, but am convinced I will jinx myself if I did. I would say that doing a solo record for James Plotkin or Toby Driver would be fun. There is one Canadian band I would do anything to release something from, and I hope one day that happens. Fingers crossed. CoO was a pretty big deal for me, because I love their music, so to do two of their records is a huge honor.