Archive for dark ambient

Writing vs. Music: Labels and Publishers

Posted in Rumination with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2010 by scottsplatter

Since making writing a serious focus, I have tried to find parallels between small press publishers and underground record labels. Chances are if you’re reading this it’s because you found the site via my own music or because of something I released on Crionic Mind. I understand underground music and labels pretty well I think, so I keep hoping that familiarity will assist in finding a foothold in the publishing world.

There are similarities in the spirit of both worlds, but the machinations really are pretty different. This will be the first of a couple posts looking at those differences. The more I look into it the greater the differences become.  The soul of the participants share common ground but the approach and relationships are unique.

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Underground music for this discussion refers to experimental music, dark ambient, lesser known metal, punk, industrial etc. Music that is released by small labels that operate out of the corner of the labels owners house. Limited edition releases that end up somewhere near the high/low mark of 1,000 copies,  There are publishing companies that fit this description as well, good ones.

Underground music functions more or less on a barter economy. Labels and distributors trade merchandise more often than not rather than buying from each other at wholesale rates. This allows each to diversify their mail orders while being able to put any real money into releasing new product. Bands or projects are usually paid in product that they can then sell. There are exceptions, but much of the music is obscure enough, and the pressings small enough, that a royalty arrangement is essentially agreeing to do it for free.

If you aren’t familiar with my music and found this through a tag search, there is a discography in the side bar. I never signed a contract, never received a check for any of it. I received product. This worked for me because with running the label I was able to convert my releases into other releases and build a nice mail order catalog (that I will get online again at some point). The bands I did releases for –  I would take care of the artwork and mastering if they wanted, but I paid them in product. No one even raised the issue of money because we all knew how it worked.

I’ve been releasing music since 1995, and recording it longer than that. What did I get out of this model? Reviews, contacts, interviews and friends on every continent but Antarctica. It helped me build a record label that  garnered some amount of respect, had an identity and supported itself. It put me in touch with people who remain friends and inspirations and people who I think might say the same about me. Those things have a value,  but none of them pay my bills. For what I do soundtracks are perhaps the one area that could be lucrative, even then there are a lot of variables.

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I’ve not yet published anything, in fact I have not yet submitted anything, though that time is near.  These impressions are based on the extensive research, market reports, submission guidelines, classes and the advice and comments of those who have.

With publishing, the battle cry is that the money flows to the author. If you publish something you aren’t paid for it’s seen as an invalid writing credit by many. If you self publish, it’s viewed with scorn and can work against you when you submit through the established channels. The editors and publishing houses have determined the chain of worth. It counts if they say it counts.

Print on demand services and e-publishing  have made it easier than ever to self publish, just as affordable home recording software, mp3’s and cdr’s made it easier to make and spread music. The distaste for self publishing comes from the amount of sub par writing that surfaces there. There is so much garbage that the gems are not worth the energy it takes to find them. However, I’ve read books published by reputable houses that contained work I’d have been embarrassed to show anyone. It’s not that published work is better, just that it is more likely to be better.

There is a saying, the hardest book to sell is your second book. Publishers will take a chance on new writers, but once you are published your track record is established. If you aren’t able to sell through your first pressing, your opportunities become more limited. Other publishers have access to the sales numbers for books published by other houses. Not only are your chances diminished with your original publisher if you don’t sell through, they are hurt with prospective publishers. This is with marketing budgets nearly non-existent in the small press world and the responsibility falling to the writer to hustle their work.

Joe Konrath, has a blog called A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing that makes a case for ignoring some of this conventional wisdom and ways to get the money flowing to the author without filtering it through the publishing houses. Paul Jessup had a nice bit of musing on the state of publishing recently on his blog as well. The model is going to change because the tools exist now in such a way that it will have no choice. There will always be garbage on the market, but the time will come when it is the market that determines what is garbage and what is not.

R. Thomas Riley has a post on the Apex Books blog regarding the differences between writing and publishing which I think is a good place to wind this down. This is incomplete, and maybe even ignorant. I wrote it for myself as much as anyone else. Having had success, at least as I measure it, with music and exploring this new parallel underground is an odd thing. There are more rules and more divides. Right now my goal is to write well. I will try to publish. Whether I am successful at that end of it or not I will still try to write well.

To be continued…

What Do Ya Know…

Posted in News, Projects with tags , , , , , , , , on May 19, 2010 by scottsplatter

I just stumbled across something curious over at discogs.com

“I Hate The Tapes Fuck Them” C100 Cassette Compilation
Released in 1998 on Bizarre Audio Arts

“When the tape starts to run, you will hear two bands in the same time; one in the left speaker and the other in the right speaker. Edition of 25 copies.”

The most striking thing about this:  I am on it and had no idea. I’ve never even heard of it. I discovered this because someone added it to the Gruntsplatter discog page. There are 20 tracks on the release for a total of 40 contributors. The tape is limited to 25… no wonder I have never heard of it.

This is the second time Bizarre Audio Arts did something like this with Gruntsplatter. The other was a split cassette with Armenia allegedly released in 1999. The track that appears on the comp was one of the tracks from that release. After waiting over two years for the release to come out I withdrew the material because someone else wanted to release it. Just as the alternate release was slated to come out on Verbrannte Erde Prod. I got a package from Bizarre Audio Arts with two copies of the canceled split in it. Xerox cover, poorly dubbed cassettes that if I remember right cut something off… and took over two years to produce. I canceled the Verbrannte Erde release because of BAA release. I’m not sure the label ever produced more than those two I got in the mail. All the tracks from that (and then some) were included on “The Organ Harvest: Rare & Unreleased 1994-1999” CDR that Audio Savant released in 2004.

I don’t care at this point. It just reminded me of one of the very rare bad experiences I had in doing all of this music stuff.

“Ambient Morgue Music”

Posted in Recommendation with tags , , , , , , on April 25, 2010 by scottsplatter

Weird Tales Magazine has a piece of flash fiction running at the moment that might be of particular interest to anyone who found this blog because they had an interest in dark experimental music, or Gruntsplatter or anything else I do. The piece is by Richard Howard, unfortunately I can’t seem to find a web page or blog or anything for him online. I’m not going to set it up, the story speaks for itself. Enjoy.

“Ambient Morgue Music” by Richard Howard from Weird Tales #354

The Prophetic Maw

Posted in Projects, Video with tags , , , , , , , on March 29, 2010 by scottsplatter

I just stumbled across this “video” someone made for a Gruntsplatter track via NME of all places. The video is really just a photo with the track played over it. The song comes from the split release with Slowvent I released on Crionic Mind back in 1998. The track was probably recorded in 1997. The CD was limited to 500 copies and has been sold out for a very long time.

The title, “The Prophetic Maw,” was inspired by a dream that a co-worker told me about, and that I was  in. I’m sure there are other details I am forgetting but the basic idea was this… In the dream I was insisting that she was very ill and I could tell that by the look of her teeth. I continued to hound her about being sick until she relented and had me pull out all of her teeth so that she wouldn’t die.  Psychiatrists, take your marks.

The title popped into my head after she told me the story. I jotted it down and here is the result….

Luasa Raelon

Posted in Recommendation with tags , , , on March 28, 2010 by scottsplatter

David Reed recently impregnated my mailbox with the newest release by his project Luasa Raelon. I’ve been a fan of David’s music since I first heard it 2001 or so. He creates the kind of dark ambient that I relish. It has detail and teeth and uses it to build mood rather than disrupt it. I was fortunate to play a show with him here in Portland in 2004. That was the last time I played a show come to think of it.

This new one is called, Vampyre: The Light Of The Beast. I’m just listening to it now for the first time. It is, as expected, outstanding. The rich, creeping atmosphere that he conjures so well is as potent as ever. I’m not going to write a review of it on first listen because it’s music you must submerge yourself in to truly appreciate. However, if you like anything I have done musically and haven’t checked out David’s work you are missing out terribly.

In addition to Luasa Raelon, his projects Envenomist, Brittle Foundries, and Nightmares (with J. Canady & M. Solotroff) are all worth experiencing. Thanks David, I really appreciate it.

Ordering info and samples can be found here Reed Heavy Industries.

Slaughter Prod. Cassettes

Posted in Recommendation, Rumination with tags , , , , , , on November 29, 2009 by scottsplatter

The A5 bag cassettes that Slaughter Prod. released in the 90’s were such a pleasure.  It’s a simple, but interesting, presentation, and I was always really fond of them. The fact that there were very few (if any) disappointments in the ones I got my hands on doesn’t hurt.

I found a stash of these in a couple of crates I haven’t dipped into in ages.  Tonight I got  “Fac-Totum” and “Omega” from Die Sonne Satan and “Exile” from Drift burned into the computer. I had forgotten about Drift entirely, it was a Dark Ambient side project of the man behind Dead Body Love and Discordance. Good stuff. I don’t think that project ever had CD release or collection from any of the cassettes come out.

Slaughter Prod. was a label I had hoped to do something for at some point. These cassette releases, and  “Death Odors” series were among some of my favorite releases back then. There is a tone and mood that is captured in a lot of that material that is so definitive for how I view Dark Ambient and Death Industrial. It was a special label, and Marco Corbelli was always a good person to deal with. He’s gone now unfortunately, but aside from his own music in Atrax Morgue and Morder Machine etc. he left a brilliant capsule of dark electronics with the releases on Slaughter Prod.

Spookatorium Podcast

Posted in Projects with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2009 by scottsplatter

Prof. Gruntsplatter’s Spookatorium is a podcast I do that has produced 26 episodes in the last 3 years or so. I didn’t do any shows at all this past year, but I never officially canceled it. I had intended to do another Halloween episode this year, which would have been the 4th annual, and then hopefully revive it in some form going forward. Now it’s Devil’s Night (hello Detroit!!) and I don’t have anything ready. So, here are the last three years worth of Halloween episodes for you to check out should you be so inclined instead.

Professor Gruntsplatter’s Spookatorium 007 – 2006

Professor Gruntsplatter’s Spookatorium 017 – 2007

Professor Gruntsplatter’s Spookatorium 026 – 2008

If there is any real interest, and I can make the time, I would like to continue the show in some form. It’s fun to do, obligations and other interests just sort of moved it to the back burner and the next thing I knew a year had passed. All of the past shows are still online through the link above so feel free to check those out too.