What's this then, Nazgul? Well it's a rare interview feature, that's what! Once a common sight in these hallowed pages, the 'An Interview With...' slot has lapsed somewhat in recent times so Nazgul is more than pleased to resurrect it today!
And who is it with...? The American label Out Of Season, who have been referenced in more than a few recent reviews of Uruk Hai material, so old Uncle Nazgul thought he'd go forth and find out about them for you...
Welcome to Honour and Darkness! Please introduce yourself?
Greetings, and thank you for the invite of the interview! My name is Kyle, owner of Out of Season, since its inception in 2015. The label releases dark ambient, black metal and 'dungeon synth' music on cassette tapes, and to date we have 45 releases.
So as the owner of underground label Out Of Season, how did your involvement in the music business begin?
I have been first listening to black metal and its related sub-genres since approximately 2001... A friend made me a tape copy of Summoning's "Nightshade Forests" EP and then shortly thereafter I heard the early Mortiis Era I albums (the forefather of the sub-genre that is now known today as "Dungeon Synth" in my eyes) along with various other black metal side project bands such as Neptune Towers, Wongraven, etc.
This really sparked my interest in both black metal and dark ambient music. After a few years, in approximately 2003, I started another label which lasted from approximately 2003-2008 releasing mostly black metal on tapes, as well. This gave me a lot of prior experience for down the line when I decided to start Out of Season a few years ago in 2015, but a lot had changed in that 7-8 year window when I had previously stepped away from running a label, for sure, in terms of the internet and technology, and people's tastes and expectations.
Is there a philosophy or mission statement behind Out Of Season?
Not necessarily, there is not a published one, but unofficially, I strive to release high quality product of artists that I think are special and bring something refreshing to the table in terms of their creative output and that they carry a certain 'spirit' of being which is not anything spoken, but just something that I can tell instinctively.
The entry for your label on Discogs states "Dungeon Synth/Black Metal/Dark Ambient tape label based in USA" - whereabouts are you based, and what is the local music scene like?
I'm based in the Portland, Maine area, which is a coastal city in the most northeastern state of the USA, which borders Quebec & New Brunswick (Canada) on the north & east, and New Hampshire to the west & south.
The metal scene here is very strong with most shows having good attendance. Perhaps the most well known band most would have heard of from our area right now is Falls of Rauros - but there is a number of other good bands too - namely Apollyon, Feral and Obsidian Tongue to mention a few.
What's your view of the metal scene in the USA at the moment?
To be honest I don't really follow or care about this, aside from my local area. Since we are in a somewhat remote area of the country, not very many tours come here, and people often have to travel to Boston (2 hours south) or even Montreal (5+ hours northwest plus a border stop) if they want to see specific bands. This makes people appreciate the bands that DO make the effort to come to Maine even more, and also makes the shows a bit more special versus living in a place like NYC, where there are 100 great shows every week.
Running a label sounds like a glamorous lifestyle, but I imagine it's far from it! Can you give us some insight into life in the underground scene?
You are correct in that it is not glamorous whatsoever, especially at a label of this level... I do not have much of a social life, partly due to the fact that I spend many, many nights in my basement workshop putting together orders and taping up boxes by myself. A lot of days I will finish my job and then start work on the label for another 5-6 hours at night - its a bit taxing at times... Everything is done 100% by me - all the layouts, prepping for production, assembly (if required), order processing, packing, shipping, etc. It's a total DIY effort at its core!
Is music your sole business activity, or do you make a living in other ways too?
I would never want to depend on or make my "hobby" my main "job" - there is not much money involved, for one! Some releases I make just 100 of and it takes months and months to sell them all (if at all!). The appetite for this kind of music on the physical medium is still quite small and has even dwindled over the years... My normal runs used to be 300-500 in the early 2000's - now just 50-100 only.
I much prefer to have a normal job and then pursue the label as a separate part of my life as a labor of love, where it doesn't matter if I make any money doing it, I can just do it as i want and not care about any "profits."
Out Of Season seem very dedicated to the cassette tape format, which to many readers will seem like a long-dead format. What's the logic there?
Cassettes capture the spirit of the underground perfectly. We are connected to the roots of these genres. Tapes you can hold in your hand and look at the art. They just have a certain 'feel' that I don't feel is captured by other formats. They are also inexpensive to sell and produce compared to especially vinyl, which allows us to keep the prices down in the store. Now with some vinyl being around $30 each, you can buy 4-5 tapes for the same price, which I think is still really awesome!
Amongst the label releases have been some recent works by Uruk Hai - how did Alexander "Hugin" Wieser and yourself cross paths?
I have been a big fan and admirer of Hugin since the early days. Back when I was doing my previous label, I first got copies of his tape releases on Skullfucking Tapes in a trade (I believe this was "Across the Misty Mountains" and "A Viking's Journey"!) The fantasy art and atmosphere really grabbed my attention and from then on I followed his work. The vast output of creativity and his ability to stick with it for so many years now - this is the 'spirit' that I mentioned before that I look for in the artists I work with. Its something unspoken, but he 100% has this!
Initially we discussed making the cassette of the U-H/Balrog split release as I quite enjoyed this upon hearing it, and then talks progressed into doing the 'Twilight' album on tape, as well.
How 'successful' have those releases proven to be, or is that not something that you measure?
I made 100 of each Uruk Hai release, "Twilight" and the split with Balrog ("Ashes of Battle"). Like I said, the appetite for this kind of music on tapes is not incredibly high unfortunately, but this is something I want to get released as it deserves to be out there in the tape format in my opinion. "Twilight" sold out a few months ago and "Ashes of Battle" is still available from me, with about 10-15 copies of the 100 left. So, in my eyes, these were 'successful'. It really depends on the release though and at times it's hard to know how many copies to make to meet the 'demand' that exists.
My interactions with Alex have been not that many, but we email from time to time, and he seems like a very nice and dedicated person to his craft as I elaborated on a few questions ago, which I admire. He isn't afraid to move beyond the boundaries of his 'comfort zone' and create new styles of music!
Do you have any particular projects or releases of his that you are particularly partial to?
Probably those first two tapes I mentioned before, the first two that I got so many years ago. I still listen to them often, and those are the two that I recommend if I get the question of where to start with Uruk Hai. I also really enjoy the split with Balrog that I released. I think this tape is fantastic.
Returning to yourself, which of your own label releases would you point someone towards to get a representative idea of the genres you support?
Someone else recently asked me this, and I suggested that from an acclaimed point of view, to check out Thangorodrim "Taur-Nu-Fuin", a true masterpiece work of 'dungeon synth' which I had the honor of releasing on tape. This is sold out, but will be re-released by Deivlforst Records on vinyl very soon!
From a personal/overlooked standpoint, I suggest checking out МИРА ДРЕВО "Следы на снегу" (Mira Drevo "Footprints in the Snow") - this is fantastic dark ambient music from Russia! And to round out for the black metal side of the label, to check out the Arath "Ungedul" and Emyn Muil "Túrin Turambar..." tape releases. All of these really capture the full essence of the label, I feel.
Are there any funny tales from life in the underground scene that you'd care to share with Honour and Darkness?
Unfortunately, I feel like the underground metal/dungeon synth/dark ambient scene is very straight laced for the most part. I've not had many 'funny' experiences per say, but I did always enjoy back in the day when I first started trading tapes with people from around the world, getting requests to 'send back my stamps!' so they could reuse them in whatever country they were in. These were simpler times - people are too demanding now and have no patience!
Your house is on fire (no, really, it is...) - what three possessions do you save first?
My wife and cats, all the rest can be replaced or doesn't matter as much!
Your 3 books and 3 albums for live on a desert island would be....?
Wow, very difficult question! For Books, I would probably say a Norse mythology book, "The Odyssey", and Lord of the Rings! For Music, even tougher, but first three that come to mind would be the "Conan the Barbarian" soundtrack, Summoning "Minas Morgul" and "Storm of the Light's Bane" by Dissection.
Your vote for the best cover art to a demo or album you've ever seen?
Again, have to mention Summoning's "Minas Morgul" - it is an absolutely stunning painting and layout....Perfect!
Thank you for sharing a bit of your life with us - do you have any message for Alex and/or the readers of Honour and Darkness to end this interview with?
Thank you for offering this interview, and for the engaging questions.
Please check out my website at http: