Everyone seems to be mourning the death of the label. Corporate monoliths–and even more monolithic blanket orgs like the RIAA–would rather spend their time suing the crap out of tech-savvy teens than allow the imprints they've swallowed up to actually develop artists. We still believe that the best music–and the curation, design, packaging, and sense of community that comes with it–is independent, created by teams of devoted, creative individuals with super-honed zeitgeist feelers and a profound respect for the art and the craft. These label owners faithfully plumb the depths of suburban bedrooms, shitty rock clubs, unknown MP3 blogs, and overflowing demo bins, putting their hearts, souls, and meager paychecks into bringing us what–10 years down the line–will come to define us. They just get it, and that's why we love them.
Homebase: Oakland, California
Sound: Individualistic indie hip-hop with personality, and silky nu-jazz and neo soul on the ABB Soul offshoot
Artists:: Little Brother, Likwit Junkies, Peven Everett, Lizz Fields
Funny story:: There's an artist who's taken five years to deliver a record...and they are being paid in exactly the same amount of time.
Obsessions:: Growing the export side of our distribution company (RPM), disco classics, seeing West Coast hip-hop come back in a major way, Solar Radio (Dez Parkes and Barry King).
Tell us something we don't know:: We listen to roughly 97.53% of all the music we receive in the mail or via internet.
Upcoming:: New albums from Defari, Planet Asia, Soul:ID, Evidence, and The Twilite Tone
Homebase: Montreal, Canada
Sound: An unpredictable stew of arty and experimental rock, electronic, and noise
Artists: Les Georges Leningrad, Merzbow, The Unicorns, Tim Hecker
Office vices: The internet, Soundscan reports, espresso, MySpace
Funny story: When The Unicorns were just starting out they bought this old school RV to tour across Canada and basically live in at the same time. Within a very short period there were countless problems with the vehicle, including a long tear along one side just below the roof that went on for 10 feet. It looked as if someone tried to break in with a giant can opener. I guess you had to see it.
Obsessions: Home brewing, Ruby on Rails, black metal, and '80s goth/new wave
Upcoming: The label turns 10 in September, and will offer direct digital sales from their website soon; they just dropped albums from Think About Life, Acid Mothers Temple, and Francisco Lopez.
Homebase: Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Sound: Crisp and clean electro and techno heavily influenced by '70s Italo-disco and '80s breakdance hits. Sublabel DUB releases less-danceable IDM bits.
Artists: Dexter, Alden Tyrell, Duplex, Legowelt
Office vices: We eat too many snacks.
Funny story: We are not very funny, unless you enjoy stories about anxiety attacks, fear of flying, nervous breakdowns, and a general lack of enthusiasm about today's music. These stories are the reason we started a sublabel called Frustrated Funk.
Tell us something we don't know: This month, we are starting a re-issue label (Clone Classic Cuts) to get old, deleted, and rare classic releases back in print!
Upcoming: New 12"s from Unit 4, The Isolators, Photocall, and Putsch 79 (with remixes by Prins Thomas and Daniel Wang), and a limited Clone X release from electronic funk act Applegarden
Cock Rock Disco
Homebase: Berlin, Germany
Sound: Where fucked-up breakcore, chip tunes, and rave anthems meet indie rock and pop
Artists: Jason Forrest, Stunt Rock, Vorpal, Doormouse
Office vices: We probably drink too much, but other than that, we're surprisingly all nice.
Funny story: On Duran Duran Duran's album Very Pleasure, the cock-sucking sound on "Interlude" was recorded live on stage after a maniacal fan offered her, um, services.
Obsessions: Japanese rave/trance/gabba, the Crazy Frog, and Satan
Upcoming: Audiogarde's Popular Emotions (Norwegian Italo-disco indie pop), Drumcorps' Grist (brutal grindcore fusion), plus stadium-filling booty breakcore from Duran Duran Duran and White Cock 1-4, a compilation of our first white labels
Homebase: Portobello Road, London, England
Sound: A cosmic kaleidoscope inspired by Krautrock, punk-funk'talo, and outer space dub
Artists: Depth Charge, Emperor Machine, White Light Circus
Office vices: An unhealthy obsession with rodents
Funny story: One of our inebriated artists (who shall remain nameless) was arrested in Russia for urinating in the street, resulting in a fistfight between the promoter and the local militia. Nice.
Obsessions: Rodent paraphernalia, strange Japanese kids' TV shows, Shaw Brothers films
Upcoming: A DC compilation album in September, plus albums from Emperor Machine, Padded Cell, and Orichalc Phase, and loads of 12"s
Homebase: New York, New York
Sound: Pop music made by man and machine
Artists: LCD Soundsystem, Black Dice, Delia & Gavin, Hot Chip
Office vices: High-end coffeemakers, studio gear, playing each other new music
Funny story: When Black Dice handed in the artwork for Broken Ear Record, they were sure I was going to have a heart attack, because of the somewhat explicit nature of it (a woman's ass) and [the fact that] we had just completed the deal with EMI for worldwide distribution. We had 24 hours to turn it in and when they gave it to me, they said "We knew you might be a little nervous or upset so we have a plan B just in case," then proceeded to hand me artwork which was a photo of an enormous bag [of] marijuana with Black Dice written on the bag. I chose option A.
Obsessions: James [Murphy] loves furniture and Tim [Goldsworthy] loves vintage video equipment and strange models of Polaroid cameras.
Upcoming: Two new bands (Brighton, England's Prinzhorn Dance School and New Zealand's Shocking Pinks), two new LCD Soundsystem singles, and a new label called Death From Abroad
Homebases: London, England; Berlin, Germany; Brooklyn, New York
Sound: An indie label taking chances, but maintaining exacting quality control; everything from singer-songwriter stuff to danceable rock to modern-jazz freakouts.
Artists: Franz Ferdinand, Juana Molina, Four Tet, Arctic Monkeys
Funny story: Caribou and Junior Boys (along with The Russian Futurists) were on a mammoth tour last year, six weeks with nary a day off, which was beset with pitfall after pitfall: heatstroke-induced vomiting, jellyfish stings, trips to the E.R., speeding tickets, abandoned vans, over-vigilant customs agents, and vehicular close encounters with quicksand and fuel pumps.
Obsessions: The Band's early catalog, instant messaging, iPod roulette on the office stereo, the prog rock co-worker Rebecca is able to unearth, HBO Sunday nights
Tell us something we don't know: The first employee of Domino Records in the US was a guy named Daniel Kessler, who had to leave when his "hobby" started to take off. That hobby was playing guitar in a band called Interpol.
Upcoming: New stuff from Adem, Clinic, Benjy Ferree, a new two-CD Four Tet remix anthology, and there's rumor of a new Max Tundra record in the offing