No Place Like Chrome
We all love celebrating our favourite artists and records, but sometimes we seem to forget about the labels behind them. The people that work a bit more out of the limelight bringing us our favourite tunes. I had An Accident Records is one of those labels, and I had the good fortune to ask one of the owners, Julia, about the life of running a small time label.
Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself? Who is/are I had An Accident Records?
Hi world, I introduce myself, Julia LaDense... a passionate Leo from the south side of Cincinnati. Rolling across the United States one minute at a time. Somehow settled in the once capital of the country Annapolis, MD. Along with my life-partner Justin Bieler (not Bieber, hasn’t brought sexy back, and don’t say Buehler... Beuhler... Beuhler...) we are I had An Accident Records. As a label we started in Portland Oregon in 2006. At that time it was two dicks, Justin and Seamus... since then Seamus left his role and I joined in 2009 and around that time we made a switch from CD-r's to cassette tapes.
What started the whole thing? What´s the story behind the label?
As the story goes... Justin moved from Massachusetts to Oregon and broke up some weird circle of friends. The idea of the label was really a way for a group of friends to remain close in some way... and if you look at our first few releases what you are really looking at is this special group of individuals working together across the country collaborating on artwork and sounds. In the beginning the major ambition was to release our own stuff in small enough numbers to make ourselves feel important and to keep a relationship going. This whole concept really exploded when we met Walter Gross in 2009 and released his amazing LA Pink Filth CD (soon to be released on tape). Somehow soon after this we were able to expand in a direction we always hoped to venture into - and connect with artists and involve ourselves in their lives enough to branch this small circle of friends into a large collective of amazing people. We kept the same values - working together and creating collaborative art stylings but our circle expanded.
Your main choice of format, cassette tapes, is quite rare to find these days. What was the reason to release music that way?
This seems like the most typical question to ask a cassette label - mostly because everyone has a fascinating response to it... I think that in many respects cassettes and CDs are at equal grounds these days, dead formats. The cassette tape purveys the physical object more than the CD though. It provides multi-layers to the over all package. We utilize a wide array of cassette colors and are able to find extremely rare cassettes to release our sounds with - we can personalize the whole experience by doing this - much more so than a CD can. I think the critical piece for us is allowing the fan to experience the music in different ways. Each tape comes with an mp3 download. The download is the mp3 version of the master - so the quality is legit... the cassette, of course, is also a replica of the master but takes on a different feel. I vision our listeners to experience each release both on tape and on their iPod. A CD release does not have the same effect. Also - you’ve seen our tapes, they are beautiful to look at. I find myself standing in front of our stock of tapes and just marveling them... I mean really, just opening up the cases and looking at the tapes and moving on to the next one, it's fun. So even if you don’t have a tape deck - you can enjoy the mp3s on your iPod and your eyes can enjoy the beauty of our product. There is also a craft to the cassette tape. Making a CDr means popping a CD into the Macbook and pressing record and that's it. It is pretty simple. Making a great sounding cassette is a work of art. We make our own masters- we do our own dubbing - so the whole process has a much more personal effect to it and if you ask anyone deeply involved in cassettes you will understand that its more than just popping a CD in the CD player and pressing “record”. We adjust the levels and outputs to create a quality sound. We take the quality of the tape seriously. I know some people have this thought that “fuck it, its a tape, its suppose to sound like shit” - we don’t buy into that philosophy. We buy the most expensive tape (chrome) and work hard at making it sound the best it can.
A part of me wishes we could release albums on vinyl but the overhead expense is just too high. We do extremely short run albums, we cannot justify it.
Is there any specific genre that you generally focus on in your choice of publishing or what do you look for when you meet new talents?
The label has evolved since our beginning days. We tend to focus on what our friends are doing and that ranges from that noise/beat driven experimental sounds of Walter Gross or FRKSE to more ambient sounds similar to Clearing. We thought long and hard about developing the label into a genre specific label but we have such a large taste in different sounds we could never figure out what genre that would be.
How does the whole process go? What happens between start to finished product?
It feels like each experience is different. I have to explain this anecdotely just because this is a great story. We noticed that this amazing artist Son of A Bricklayer was purchasing a few of our tapes now and again... and we made a decision to go ahead and e-mail him to let him know that if he was ever interested in doing a tape release, we would be that label... oddly enough minutes after we e-mailed him, he e-mailed us, having not read our e-mail yet, asking if we would be interested in doing a release of his stuff. We seem to have that same connection with most of the people we work with. We create a special bond because we are already a fan of the artist and they are a fan of us. We work through the rest of the process together. We decide who will do the artwork, what color tape will be used, and the length we will work with. We really let the artist make the important decisions and we back them up and provide the necessary materials. With Son of A Bricklayer we sent the master tape to him a few times until everyone was satisfied with the levels and sound quality before making his tape. We have our own special tape supplier and our own professional tape duplicator so we take care of the loading of the tapes and the duplication process in house. We also print the j-cards and fold them ourselves or at a printing place in Poland. We recently invested in a paper-cutter... so our edges are nicer. We offer the artists half the stock we make and encourage them to do what they will with their copies in hopes that the whole process is successful for them as it is for us. It's a feel-good do it together process with a lot of creative freedom to the artist.
How do you market yourself? Where can we find you?
We attempt to get on people’s radar through some online blogs... most of the time unsuccessfully. We had at one time a few blogs that wrote about all our releases... somehow that stopped... so we are finding new connections and have some strong support from a few people. We have an amazing group of returning customers that are amazing to talk to and great to be friends with at the same time... and then we also try promoting the label through the artists fans. Access Music out of San Diego carries someo of our items. Tomentosa out of Asheville, NC carries many of our tapes too. Social media is a nightmare, but we are on there too.
Since the label’s start in 2006 you have put out numerous releases. It seems like there’s a couple of new ones a month almost. Is this a conscious decision or what are your thoughts behind this?
At this point we have become addicted to what we do. Our May schedule is small and we were finished working on all the releases on May 2nd... and we sat around bored not sure what to do. The label became an obsession that we have drained every free moment into working on. We have connected with so many artists and more we love come to us asking to do something, we haven’t figured out how to say no. As long as the quality of the product doesn’t suffer we will do a few batches... this year has been uniquely special in that we are working towards getting to release 100 by our 6th year anniversary. As a result this year has been very heavy. Second half of the year we won’t be doing as many releases and 2013 we are really hoping to slow down our production to allow more focus on other things in our lives. As some sort of weird producer I literally stopped making any sound because I never had the time to work on anything. So we want to free up some time for ourselves and our family. 2013 will be a different year for us. With that being said, we haven’t really thought about how we would do this really. We just go with the flow.
Our 100th release is coming up and we wanted it to coincide with our 6th year anniversary so we have stepped up our release schedule from last year to get to that number... and we got a few great deals on tapes so we have a ton of tapes sitting around the house. I think I have over 1,000 tapes right now, which is a lot considering most of our releases are between 30-100 only!
You seem to be putting a lot of effort in presenting the releases with great designs. How important is that contra the music itself?
We strongly believe in providing a person with the best we possibly can. We only use chrome tape now because it is better quality. We don’t spray paint on our tapes like others because we want the finished product to look great and work properly. We pay a lot of attention to aesthetics and the artwork is real important to us. We want it to look good, to be to the artists liking, and to get the attention of the customer... I would like to say we keep it unique in that way. You can ask some of our artists, we are pretty strict on the quality that we receive. We strive for an overall amazing experience. The latest Coyote Clean Up tape we did on lilac cassettes was just beautiful. When Chrissy received his copies he sent us a message saying “I didn’t know what you meant by ‘these tapes are pretty’ until I got them.” That was awesome.
What are your dreams, hopes and ambitions with your label?
The dream was to just have the label. At this point everything is a great gift. We want to continue to meet new people and have an outlet for our artistic expressions. I think we want to continue to grow, although we always worry about getting larger and how we would be able to balance that.
What upcoming releases can we look forward to?
It's hard to contain myself here... Babelfishh on rust color tapes... how perfect is that! Summer is gonna kill us, DMN SLYR, Son of a Bricklayer/Andrew Felix split, Evak’s project WORK... Infinity Gauntlet, Psychopop, FRKSE, ’89 Palms, and Blvck Ceiling. Some of our favorite artists in one long summer. Our 100th release is going to feature a mash up/remix album by Denmark’s Choplifta as he goes through our catalogue and provides his own interpretation of some of our finest acts. Along with this tape will be a DVD featuring some of our favorite videos, a t-shirt(!), and a poem by one of our favorite fans. Its an amazing way that we are bringing our fans together with our team to create a very special, heart felt release.
What do you guys do when you’re not working with the label?
Justin works for the county government trying to help solve the local issues of homelessness and I'm a visual manager. We both enjoy our amazing child, Owen. Owen is what we do when we are not working with the label. He is asleep right now.
Walter Gross. An amazing inspiration and one of the most underrated artists I know. His talent is remarkable and we are so fortunate to get to know him personally. Much love to our favorite labels including Cooler Than Cucumbers, decorative stamp, Mism, Luana’s Messed Up Records, Felt Cat, Divergent Series, and that up and coming group at TimeLapse. We continue to be inspired by all their creations. We thank our fans and all that have supported ihaa and those that have been a part of the label. Larry the tape guy! Rob Heppell for creating crazy videos for us. Shout out to you Michael, and a blog that is fun to read! Your passion is recognized.