During the course of my most recent travels (across the US of A slinging merch for the mighty Corrosion of Comformity) I was fortunate enough to make the formal acquaintance of Colloquial Sound Recordings label head Damian. He sauntered up to my table during our Grand Rapids, Michicag gig, handed me a beautifully crafted cassette, and introduced himself. Given that said tape (Aksumite’s ‘The Gleam of Wetted Lips’) was one of my favorite releases of this past year, I was delighted, and wanted to delve a bit deeper into the story behind the label. Damian was gracious enough to submit to a couple questions about his young but prolific endeavor.
Where are you based, and when did you launch the label? What was CSR's first release?
CSR is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. The label was launched in spring of 2011 and Aksumite - The Gleam of Wetted Lips is our first release.
What prompted you to start the CSR label in the first place? What is your goal?
I had been compiling material for years that I had wanted to release. It always seemed like getting someone else to be as passionate about the things you create is nearly impossible. It just seemed like a logical step to create CSR to release the music I felt most passionate about. I could have total control over everything 100%. I wouldn't have to compromise or pander to what someone else thought. The goal is simple: When I started buying underground music (1994) you would see an indie label's logo on the back of a release and you would know right at that moment that you would like the music on the record, even if you've never heard the band. The goal of the label is to create an aesthetic and experiment within that aesthetic.. If you like one CSR release, you'll probably like most, if not all the other releases. CSR is a there to develop a taste, a flavor. Granted that flavor is very specific and not everyone will like it, but the various shades of style exist under the same sonic umbrella. I have nothing against labels that are diverse, Profound Lore does and amazing job at this, but I also like when labels have an identifiable sound and aesthetic. Think Dischord, early Sub Pop, early SST, Amphetamine Reptile, early Touch & Go, Hospital Productions, Mego (Editions Mego), early Epitaph, Tragedy Records (hahah!).
Why cassettes, instead of CDs or digital releases? What other formats are you planning to work with down the line?
Cassettes are a perfect embodiment of the underground aesthetic. To the mainstream, they're useless, antiquated, and even laughable. But for the underground - they're a very powerful symbol. In the days before every man, woman and child knew how to download mp3s, people swapped tapes. They took time. This is how the underground flourished and bands were heard all across the world. I also like how there is something very temporary and fragile about them. They're a temperamental format, prone to all sorts of problems. It's an almost endearing trait. Also, due to the nature of CSR's music, there is a certain sort of "finishing touch" that happens when you place the music on a tape. The music of CSR is all relatively "lo-fi" and placing on a cassette compresses the sound in such a way that seems natural for the music. That being said, I'm certainly not opposed to the music being on CD or LP, but I have no plans for doing so at the moment. I have never and will never be interested in releasing something digitally exclusively. That's such a foreign concept to me. There should always be some sort of physical product available (or at least available at one time). But as a child of the 90s I'm enjoying the full-swing return of the cassette. Break out your No. 2 pencils!
Tell me a bit about Aksumite. The filthy raw punk'n'black feel of 'The Gleam of Wetted Lips" totally floored me, and you mentioned something about recording some new material?
I grew up being into punk and hardcore, I discovered metal around 1997 and started digging into really underground stuff in 1999. Aksumite is just the synthesis of styles I love. No regard for genre. It's unrepentant about what it is. We want to be like Hellhammer, loved by punks and metalheads alike. We will be recording our next album on March 17, live to 2" tape in a proper studio. Totally analog. Totally raw. Expect more thrash influence. It's going be a thrashing, d-beating, floor punching, black inspired dose of 100% blood cult metal punk. It will be titled Prideless Lions.
You told me a bit about the idea behind the band - the African Christian empire of Aksum, and its blasphemous implications for tr00 kvlt black metallers. Can you expound upon this? I think it's really interesting.
CSR is not, never claimed to be, and will never be a black metal label. We love black metal. We are certainly inspired totally by it, but it's not what we do. It's not who we are. I don't buy that a majority or even a large percentage of black metal playing Satanists actually are committed to any sort of theology or orthodoxy. The ones that are, and are religious about it, I actually admire completely. How can you not respect someone who believes something with conviction? Even if it differs from your own opinion. That being said, we borrow a lot from the musical heritage of Satanic bands, but are not Satanists, or grim or evil people. Quite the opposite. We're nice guys who actually do something with our lives to incite a change around us rather than bitching about how people "don't get us" like the scores of long-haired, army boot, camo-cutoffs wearing metalheads to busy swilling beer being burnouts to work hard and amount to anything. Or the laziness incarnate unwashed crust punks who scam their way through life spending what little money they've conned people out of on getting wasted and cool patches. Don't even get me started on their dogs... that shit makes makes me so angry. I say this as someone who has friends in both camps, the stereotypes are more often than not, sadly true. We respect all extreme genres and viewpoints no matter how they differ from our own. I thought it would be poignant to write about themes that hardline black metal people, supposedly the most extreme of all music fans, find so deplorable. Black and Semitics people and Christianity. So, why not start a band whose lyrical themes deal with the first Christian kingdom in Africa, Aksum (modern day Ethiopia). Furthermore, persons of this region claim to be the true chosen people of God, not the Jews. They are orthodox Christian keepers of the faith even still to this day. It's a fascinating country and story. They claim to own the Ark of the Covenant, and their claim is uncontested. So here we have all the things that the most extreme fringe black metal hates, rolled into one. I could not resist.
What other releases have you got coming up?
CSR just put out it's tenth release and will have upcoming releases from A Pregnant Light, This Station of Life, Aksumite, Obliti Devoravit and more.