Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Interview with Dave Voelkl of HADES MINING CO. by Dave Wolff

Interview with Dave Voelkl of HADES MINING CO.

Discuss how Hades Mining Co. began in 1999. Did you start the band independently or with other musicians?
At the time HADES MINING Co. started, I was living in Phoenix, Arizona and the other members were living in Rochester, New York. I am originally from Rochester but was living in Arizona. I had been in bands with the guys before I moved. Every year in the summer from 1999 to 2001, I would fly back to NY and stay with my friend/bandmate [Chico Z.] for a week of jamming, recording and getting wasted. It really just started out as me flying home to see family and friends while on vacation but that first year we inadvertently created HADES MINING Co. during those early jam sessions. I was playing bass in a death/grind band called BURN VICTIM in Arizona at the time and I always had a huge passion for noisecore. BV was pretty structured with songs that were written and rehearsed and I loved the idea of improvised or at least somewhat improvised noisecore/sludge/free scum jazz. No rules, just drink beer, get high and make noise. It was a perfect situation as we only got together once a year when I’d fly out on vacation. We couldn’t be structured because we lived on opposite sides of the country.
In those early years we had two different drummers, Subzero and Sleepy Eye Oxman. We would jam with which ever guy was available. In the week that I would visit we would try and get a jam session off the ground every day for the most part. We recorded tons of material in those three years. Over time I started turning people onto HMCo and to my surprise the band started to generate a little bit of interest. Sometime in 2000 we were contacted by a small label out of Nebraska called Accidental Therapy and we were asked to submit tracks for a cassette comp was being put together. We sent him some material and that ended up becoming our first official release. Coming off that I figured why stop there. I had started my own label back in 1999 and I decided to go ahead and release our debut 7”. It was released in 2002 and titled ‘Setting Records In Futility’. The mission was to record and release the shittiest lo-fi noisecore we could come up with. That first 7” was a one sided EP that had ten tracks and was limited to 200 copies.
That same year [2002] was also the year that I moved back to NY. Ironically when I moved back the band got quite dysfunctional and we were not able to keep a steady drummer around. We were more productive when I lived across the country. Go figure. A decade quietly slipped by with the band doing very little. In 2010, I met Sean Beard, the mastermind behind WAVES CRASHING PIANO CHORDS [solo power electronics]. He was also playing drums in a grind band on the side. We became instant friends and I told him about HADES MINING Co. I asked him to join. Unfortunately he declined because he was already involved in two projects. He did agree that if the other band ever split he would be interested. In 2012 that happened and I jumped at the chance at finally bringing HMCo out of its slumber. Beard joined and the band was instantly back and more furious than ever. We started recording and those sessions spawned the next release which was a 40 track split 7” with Buffalo NY’s WATER TORTURE. During the Beard era we were also able to finally get the band on stage and we started playing live shows. Again this was unfortunately short lived as Beard ended up moving away and we were forced to begin the search for another drummer. Satan must have been looking out for us and we landed our current drummer, Malachi Nachos almost immediately. From 2013 to now we have been jamming and recording regularly and much of that material has come out on various releases. That as well as playing live anytime someone is dumb enough to put us on a show.

For what reasons did you decide to move from New York to Arizona? Did it have anything to do with building a career?
I moved to Arizona to expand my horizons. See some of the country that I’ve never seen. Experience new things, new people, different cultures. Things like that. I was also interested in seeing what music had to offer out there. I was fortunate enough to meet some cool people right out of the gate and I was able to form some good bands. Aside from BURN VICTIM I also played in a noise rock band called FORK and a grind/power violence band called TOMSK 7. We were able to tour throughout Texas and up and down the west coast. We managed to get some label support from some great labels of that era. We had releases on Bovine Records, Slap A Ham and Satan’s Pimp. I am forever grateful for those opportunities and the opportunities to tour thanks to the support and exposure from those labels. Things were so different in the 90s because the internet was nothing like it is today. We really depended on the label support and word of mouth and being out there playing as much as possible to get anything done. You didn't have YouTube and Facebook and Bandcamp to rely on for exposure.

What do you remember about Rochester before your move across the country? Was there a scene comprised of a lot of bands? As far as the club situation, were there mostly venues, bars or fan-run places?
Rochester had and still has a healthy music scene. There have always been original and unique bands from here. One of the coolest things is many of the same musicians that were around in the early 90s are still active today, some in the very same bands. There’s a strong metal and punk scene here. Rochester has things that you normally only see in big cities. For instance Rochester has its own philharmonic orchestra. We have a major Jazz Fest every year. Eastman School of Music and Hochstein Music School are here. We also have quite a few actual vinyl record stores here. Some cities don't have any or only one and there are at least four or five I can think of here. I’m sure that has played a big part as to why this mid-sized city has a pretty large and diverse music scene. The venues also vary. There are bars, bigger clubs and house shows. There are a lot of grass roots efforts here and people play all sorts of places from coffee houses to basements. The entire region is strong with Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse all joining forces to make Upstate Western NY one big scene.

Have the vinyl stores in Rochester been around as long as the scene? What are their names and what gear do they carry? Do the fans from Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse generally get along well at shows?
There are a few stores that have been around forever and one that is been around for a few years. The Bop Shop is great for jazz and they have an amazing selection of vinyl. The Record Archive has a great selection of vinyl as well and they carry everything. The House Of Guitars has tons of music on vinyl, CD etc. They also have a ton of instruments and amps and gear. The place is like a rock and roll museum. It’s a must see if you're into music and visit Rochester. The newer place is called Needle Drop Records and they carry a selection of metal and punk vinyl. All are great places and we are fortunate to have them. In my experience dealing with other bands from the different cities has been nothing but positive. Everyone helps each other out.

Did you release anything with Burn Victim that is still available? How much material has HADES MNING Co released since you began working full time in 2013?
Burn Victim released a 7" ep, a split 7" with Australia's FILTH, and a full length CD. I only played on the split 7". They started out as a two piece grind unit and then I was recruited to play bass. I stayed with the band until I moved back to NY. I believe most of those releases are sold out but I’m sure copies are available somewhere in cyber space. ‘Ill put this out publicly here for the first time, I was a little pissed off for a minute when the CD came out because I co-wrote a lot of the material during my tenure with the band that ended up on the album and I didn't get a single mention in the liner notes. It’s all good now though and I’m still great friends with the guys to this day.
Hades Mining Co has released a bunch of different material. 7" vinyl, cassette releases and a few lathe cuts. We have more releases in the works. Because of the nature of what we do we always have tons of material laying around. Some of the newer releases feature older material from the AZ/NY era because I felt it was necessary to get more of that material out to tell the whole story. Each release is like a chapter in a book. We have done splits with some amazing bands from all over the world and I’m grateful for all of the support other labels and bands have given us. Releases include splits with SEDEM MINUT STRACHU, SETE STAR SEPT, DECHE CHARGE, ADOLF SHITTER, HARSH SUPPLEMENT, CUM SOCK, SLOTH, DEATHWANK, COLOSTOMY BAGUETTE?, WATER TORTURE, WAVES CRASHING PIANO CHORDS. Physical copies are available for most of those through us or the various labels that helped release them. Every release HMCo has ever done is also available on our Bandcamp page. We have a bunch of unreleased tracks up on our Soundcloud page. I guess that is technically an internet release so the material is not 'unreleased', it’s just that there are no analog versions of that material available.
Working with UNDERGROUND POLLUTION RECORDS/France, NOISE CARNAGE RECORDS/Poland and DENTE PODI RECORDS/Brazil has been a tremendous experience. They are all great people and fans of noisecore should support those labels because their DIY efforts are keeping vinyl and cassettes alive and I think that is very important in the digital age.

How many releases does Waves Crashing Piano Chords have out, and which of these would you recommend listening to?
I’m not sure how many exactly, but there are quite a few. They are all killer and you can’t go wrong with any of them.

Why is the band named Hades Mining Co? Is there an intended meaning to the band’s name?
No meaning or intent. When we realized that the early jam sessions had become something we wanted to quantify as a legit band we knew we needed a name. Hades Mining Co was originally on a list of potential song titles and concepts and we just lifted it from that and decided to use it as the band’s name. I went ahead and drew a logo for it and the rest is history.

How did the label Accidental Therapy hear of the band and what interested them in HMCo?
I have no idea. I’m sure I sent the dude that ran that label some stuff to check out. He was in a band back then that I traded with so I’m sure I slipped some stuff to him in a trade at some point. I can’t really remember exactly how it went down. The 90s and early 2000s are a bit of a blur to me now. I know he was into noisecore and grindcore so he heard something he liked and asked us to contribute to the comp. Much of the early interest in the band always caught me by surprise because the band was not serious in how we did things. The fact that we lived across the country from each other. We recorded this lo-fi noisecore on an open mike right to tape. Everything was no budget, no talent retarded crap for our own entertainment. We were in other bands that actually wrote and rehearsed songs, did proper recordings in studios, things like that. Suddenly I found HMCo getting more traction than the 'real' bands that we were in. It was all unexpected but it happened so we went with it.

How many copies of your split with Water Torture were distributed and how much recognition did it get you?
The real question is how much recognition did it get them? I’m kidding, haha. That is a great split and I’m glad those guys agreed to do it. I became friends with one of the guys in the band and asked him if he thought they would be down with doing the split and he made it happen. That was the only release that featured Beard on drums before he moved away and I’m glad we were able to document that period of the band’s history with a solid release. There were 250 copies of that record pressed and it’s pretty much sold out, although I do still have a few copies left.

How much has social media helped bands get exposure in other countries and increase opportunities to be signed to independent labels? When you were touring Texas, how hard did you have to work to get word around?
I’m not sure you can even measure the impact of social media. Its huge, a game changer. The possibilities are endless. You have worldwide exposure instantly if someone is looking for your band. Having said that, it does have its downside. I think the internet has made things so easy in some ways that bands don't get out and work as hard at getting known as they once did by necessity. Also music scenes seemed to be more watered down than they were before. I’m not sure you can blame the internet for that or not. The good bands will always get exposure and labels will take notice. The internet and social media is a great tool for furthering the goals of labels and bands who are trying to get their stuff out there. The problem is, it’s a massive sea of data and you still have to do it in the trenches if you really want to get your band anywhere. I’ve always thought there should be a balance. You need a Facebook event page for your band’s show, but I also still believe it’s equally important to make flyers and hang them up at the venue and local record stores and various places as well.
When we were getting ready to book and tour in Texas, Maximum Rocknroll's Book Your Own Fuckin Life was our resource guide. We were able to set up shows and crash pads and everything from that. You made phone calls and wrote letters; it seems like ancient history to me even as I’m saying this and I lived it. When I look back on it all, it’s amazing we were able to pull anything off successfully. We put all our gear in a van and hit the road with no GPS, no cell phones and a paper map on a promise that someone you never met set up a show for you in a town you never heard of hundreds of miles away. My band and countless other bands did it and never gave it a second thought. You'd network with other bands and labels and everyone helped each other out.

Did you and the other band members read Maximum Rocknroll often? How valuable do you consider the zine today as representing punk and DIY scenes in the US and overseas? Does it still have a large readership?
We read MRR pretty faithfully, that and Short Fast + Loud which is a great print zine. I also used to love a zine that is no longer in existence called Monkey Bite. I loved it for the ads and record reviews. It was a great way to discover tons of bands. Again, there was no internet to speak of for the most part so those zines were an extremely valuable source of information. I don't read it as much as I once did, but when I do grab the occasional issue, it still has what it always had and it still does a good job of representing the punk and DIY scenes. I can only assume it has a decent readership because they're still around. The internet hasn't killed them off yet.

What bands are covered in Short Fast + Loud that you have read about? How long has that magazine been in publication and how well does it keep people informed about underground punk zines?
There are tons of great bands featured in SF+ L from all over the world. Punk, grindcore, noisecore, power violence. It’s one of the better zines out there and they do a great job of spreading the word and supporting the underground scene. I don’t really want to name bands because it would just be a list of some of personal favorites. It’s best if somebody has an interest in this music to jump in and start discovering bands on their own. That’s part of the fun, discovering a band, turning your friends onto them, buying their records. I think SF+L has been around since the 90s although I’m not exactly sure when the first issue came out. I know they've been at it for a while and they are good at what they do.

How did you hook up with those labels from France, Poland and Brazil (Underground Pollution, Noise Carnage, Dente Podi) to release your material? How did you go about contacting all those bands you mentioned to release splits with?
The labels contacted us and asked if we were interested in doing the splits with them. Since I run a small label of my own, I’ve made some strong connections and friendships doing trades with other labels. In the case of Underground Pollution, I was a fan of the label and collect his releases, so I sent him some of my band’s tracks just for the hell of it not really expecting much. Next thing I know he contacts me and asks us if we want to do a split. Again it’s all about networking and building solid relationships with other people. Same goes for all the bands we have done splits with, some we were asked, others I reached out to. You have to be willing to invest in yourself before you can expect anyone else to invest in you. If you don't see enough worth in your own band and music to put a little financing behind it, you can’t expect anyone else to.

How long have you been running your own label altogether? How did the label originate and what resources did you have to found it in the beginning?
The label is called CONTINUUM. I started it as a DIY photocopy zine in 1999. I released three short run issues then decided to turn it into a record label. I wanted to get my band’s material out there and although we had label support here and there from other labels, I wanted some control of our stuff. It’s great to have a label release your stuff on their dime but you are also at their mercy as to how long the process takes, how many copies you end up with, how much promotion and backing you really get. No one takes care of you as well as you will take care of yourself. Some labels were super supportive and some took advantage to some degree. Some made promises to release something, you take the time and spend the money to record material and send it off only to never have it happen. That really irritated me as we would send some of our strongest material to a label to represent us on a release. It would be given to them exclusively and then months and months would go by and nothing. Then it never would come out and by the time all this happened, so much time had gone by that it was yesterday’s news and the band was on to different things. Or in one case the band had broken up by the time the label finally got around to putting the record out. I decided I wanted some control of my bands destiny so I started releasing some of our own stuff. I went in blind and made mistakes along the way. For the most part though it’s been fun. It is a true labor of love, because there’s no money in it. The label barely breaks even. I usually lose money and now with international shipping costs so high, it really hurts to trade with overseas labels. But you have to do it and at the end of the day I’m happy to have my stuff out there and I’m happy to have made the friendships I have along the way. I’m at a point now where I will only do co-releases. If I’m going to put out a split 7" or tape or whatever, there needs to be another label or band putting up half the cost. I don't mind handling the pressing and dealing with the record pressing plant and taking care of the business but I just simply can’t afford to release stuff by myself.

How much distribution did Continuum receive when it was a zine? How much more control do you have over band promotions since you founded an independent label?
Continuum did not have any distribution as a zine, which is one of the reasons it became a record label. I only released like 50 copies of the three zines. Copies went to the bands that were interviewed and that was it. The label was an afterthought to wanting to get some vinyl out for some of the bands I was in. It was just a vehicle to achieve that. Suddenly I had a label on my hands and I was like oh shit, now I have to cultivate this and my band. As a label I have all the control over promotion. Doing co-productions with other bands and labels only helps to spread the word. I mostly use social media to promote the releases on the label, but I have and do take the occasional ad out in MRR or SF+L. The rates are expensive but it’s worth it every once in a while to get an ad in a print zine.

Why do you think print zines like MRR and SF+L and independent labels releasing physical CDs have managed to continue in the age of digital downloading and internet zines?
I think there will always be a demand for 'analog' media. I’m sure many zines and labels have been put out of business by the digital age but there seems to be a resurgence. Vinyl and cassette sales are up. I think some people have grown tired of buying 1s and 0s. People have re-discovered the value in having a physical release in their hands. It’s still a very small segment of the music buying public but it all comes around. I love the convenience of digital music but it stops there. The most important thing for a band is to get your music heard, and you have to use every available option at your disposal to achieve that goal.

Do you see more support between bands in the underground these days or do you see more bands stabbing each other in the back? In Long Island, NY in the 90s there was a lot of backbiting going on in the scene. Do you prefer staying in touch with bands who support each other?
I typically see a great deal of support, at least from the people/bands/labels I’ve done things with. Everyone needs each other to survive. A scene cannot thrive if everybody works against each other. Everyone has an agenda and looks out for themselves to a degree but I’ve always found you get more support when you give support. That’s what it’s all about. Working together, helping each other, supporting each other. Shit talking and back stabbing serves no one’s best interest at the end of the day.
I only stay in touch with the bands/labels who support the scene in a positive manner. In all the years I’ve been doing this going back to the early 90s, I’ve only been ripped off twice in trades. That’s pretty remarkable considering all the people I’ve had dealings with all over the world. The scene weeds out the bad apples pretty quickly and that’s especially true now with social media where people can be exposed instantly for being a bad seed.

Do you want to mention who the people who ripped you off were, so that others will know to avoid contact with them? Which bands and labels have been most supportive of the band since it started?
One guy who ripped me off is Alastair Mabon of At War With False Noise from Scotland. I sent him a bunch of stuff in a trade and never got anything he promised me. I tried contacting him at least four or five times by email, the same email we used to set the trade up to begin with, and they all went unanswered. The other was some guy in Indonesia whose name I can’t recall but I did see him pop up on some other people’s rip off lists after the fact. The label’s policy now is if we have never traded before, I will not send anything until I’ve received my half first. If I’ve successfully traded with someone before then I have no problem sending my stuff right out. There are tons of great people in the scene that more than make up for the rip offs. Vivian/Adolf Shitter/Underground Pollution Records from France is incredible. His label and band are top notch and I am forever grateful for his efforts in getting our split out. We had some trouble on our end with some things that delayed the project and he was super understanding and supportive. Patryk/Noise Carnage Records from Poland is another guy who is awesome to do business with. We have plans to do another split release together later this year. I’m looking forward to working with him again. Joao/Dente Podi Records from Brazil put out the split tape with HMC and Sedem Minut Strachu. That dude is solid. Niels/CSMD/No Fucking Labels from the Netherlands is another guy who I’ve had a long standing relationship with. Joao, Niels and my label are working on a 3 way split release that will be out later this year or early next year. There are also plans in the works for a split release with Ben/Agromosh Records/Gorgonized Dorks. I’m really looking forward to that one as well. Marty from Jerkoff Records is another rad dude whose label has supported my band with a release and another one in the works due out this summer. I have to give a mention to Jeremy from Cum Sock and David from Disleksick. Both those guys have been beyond awesome and thanks to David, HMCo will finally make it up to Canada to play in the fall.

The underground seems to be the only industry that exposes and weeds out ripoffs. How actively do you generally see ripoffs exposed in print and on the net? How well does your trade policy work for you?
I don't see rip offs exposed as much as I’d like. It’s good when people do out these people who rip off others. The thing that really sucks about it, in my own personal experience, is they ripped off a guy [in myself and everyone else they ripped off] who doesn't make any money. Who does this for the love of the music and bands. It’s not like they ripped off some major label who has millions of dollars in capital. You are hurting the very people who are operating at a loss in order to keep the scene alive. It’s the worst possible scumbag thing you can do. The one dude in Indonesia just wanted a few free records and scammed me. No big deal, it still sucks, but the truth be told I probably would have given him a few records if he was willing to cover the shipping. Half the time I’m just happy someone likes the records I’ve put out. The other dude is a different story. It was a sizable trade that came with a sizable shipping cost as well. That one hurt because I take a loss in selling the merch I get from overseas trades because international shipping is so high to begin with. That and the fact that the dude runs his own label and whatnot. You'd think there would be some professional integrity there among label operators. That's why I have no problem naming names. Fuck rip offs!!
My policy seems to be working well. I’ve only had to put it into action once and I was totally upfront with the individual I was trading with. He understood and it worked out just fine. Keep in mind, he asked me to do the trade, so I didn't feel too bad dictating the terms. If I request a trade from someone, I will gladly accept their terms if they were to have any. Most of the time, someone is requesting the trade from me and most of the time it’s someone I’ve already established a relationship with so it works out.

I’ve been familiar with Cum Sock for a few years. How much have you and he supported one another’s bands? How about the other contacts you mentioned above?
Cum Sock has been very supportive. We have co-released the split 7" together and his Black Metal project Ostie and another band I was in co-released a cassette together, not to mention the many trades we have done. All of the other contacts mentioned have been extremely supportive of my band and label. I couldn't do what I do without their support and the support of everyone I’ve never met that has bought something from the band. I’m glad there are people out there that dig what we do.

Do your full length releases or split releases generally receive more exposure from zines? Have you gotten to perform with any of the bands you released splits with?
My releases only have gotten exposure from reviews if I sent copies to them, which I don’t always do. Most of that exposure has come in the way of crappy reviews. HMCo seems to be hated by SF+L in particular. Which is perfectly fine by me, it just means our quest to be the world’s shittiest band is working. Like the old saying goes, there is no such thing as bad press. We haven’t played with hardly any of the bands we have done splits with, mostly because most of the bands have been from other countries. We did get to play with SETE STAR SEPT in Buffalo, N.Y. in March of 2015 while they were on tour from Japan. That was an insane show. One of the best I’ve ever played.

Quote some of the statements made about your releases in SF+L? In what ways will bad reviews help further the band’s career?
They went on about how they couldn't believe somebody actually spent money getting the record pressed and how we all must be full grown men living in our parents basements. It was pretty funny actually. They are closer to the truth than they realize. Just getting mentioned and having the bands name in print helps get us out there, regardless of what is said. If we piss people off and it gets them talking about us, so be it.

With the overseas correspondence you have been involved in, do you have opportunities to perform in those countries?
I believe there is a good chance that we could perform in various countries. I feel like I know enough people to make something happen. The problem is the expense in getting there [where ever there is]. Flights aren't exactly cheap and unless someone comes along with some sort of tour offer where we wouldn’t totally lose our asses, it’s probably something that will only remain a wish list item, unfortunately. Memo to Japan and Europe, book shows for us so we can come and wreck everyone’s good time in someone else’s country besides our own. Having said that, we are booked to play No London Noise Fest in London, Ontario, Canada in the fall. We will make sure Canada regrets that.

How soon do you expect the band to begin working on material for their next release? How soon do you arrange your next split release and with who?
We always have material in the pipeline so theres plenty of crap available for future releases. As far as how soon the next release will happen and who it will be with, depends completely on how soon someone contacts me wanting to do something.

-Dave Wolff

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