S. Reidy Discusses Until the Darkness Comes, Mental Health Concerns, and Putting in Work

by Dustin


Not long ago, we were approached by an artist with an album – a regular occurrence as a music blog. Something was different this time though…the music had a different feel to it. It was genuine, unique, and encapsulated the alternative hip-hop vibe without derivation. After a few weeks (or a month, sorry Shawn) of sitting on the album, it became apparent that a review simply would not be enough. When an up and coming musician drops something as fully realized as Until the Darkness Comes, the most important things that can be said will only come from the artist in question. That’s why we’re here today. To discuss a project, among other things, with an emcee following their own vibe and nobody else’s.

Ladies and gentlemen, S. Reidy:

EN: First and foremost, I’d like to invite you to introduce yourself a little bit. A bit of a self-bio for readers who might be unaware of you as a person. Who is S. Reidy?

S. Reidy: S. Reidy is a rapper from Norman, Oklahoma. He likes to blend hip hop, emo, and indie music, and has opened up for acts like The Palmer Squares, Milo, Open Mike Eagle, and even bands like Walter Etc. He’s also remarkably handsome and has held hands with females on many occasions.

EN: Before we jump into discussing your album, I did want to ask something about coming from Oklahoma. It’s not a state really known for its hip-hop scene. When you were growing up and being exposed to music, what sort of rap was it that you were hearing most predominantly?

S. Reidy: When I was in 7th grade that’s when Soulja Boy was popping off, and man I hated it. I was way more into My Chemical Romance and Senses Fail and stuff like that. But around 10th grade Lil Wayne dropped the song 6 foot 7, and that was the game changer [laughs]. That song was so full of jokes, and personality. Subconsciously I think when I started discovering that, I was destined to become a hip hop artist.

But you know, to answer the question, I was just exposed to all the really popular music. Some dumb study was made recently saying “Rap just took over Rock as the most popular music”, but I honestly feel like it’s been that way for almost 10 years. Especially when that’s what a 16 year old boy from Oklahoma was most exposed to.

EN: You were exposed to popular rap, but do you feel like the other genres you were into really helped shape your sound too? You mentioned My Chemical Romance and Senses Fail, and I know guys like Open Mike Eagle consider their outside influences (They Might Be Giants in his case) to be like, equally as important as the rap they grew up on.

S. Reidy: Oh yeah, absolutely. You can definitely hear a similar brand of white kid angst in my music as those bands [laughs]; however, my sound was really shaped by other genres I listened to once I graduated high school and started listening to more wordy and nerdy artists like Neutral Milk Hotel, Sufjan Stevens, Walter Etc., and stuff like that. Oh, and definitely Pedro the Lion too.

EN: With that in mind, do you feel like coming from somewhere without an established hip-hop sound gives you a bit more of a blank canvas when approaching your own music? Because to me it seems as if you’d be pretty removed from influences and pressures to sound a certain way to fit with the scene.

S. Reidy: It definitely was a strange advantage, but honestly I feel like I’d be making this music no matter where I came from. I’ve always been the kind of guy to do something different just for the sake of balancing out what the norm is.

EN: When I was listening to your album I noticed that – but it also felt very natural to you. Some people seem to really force trying to be “different” just for the sake of it. How important is being genuine in music to you?

S. Reidy: Its everything to me. It’s cliche, but when you take time to really mediate on who you are, and what makes you yourself, everything starts to fall in line, because at the end of it all it’s very clear that you’re the only person who can be you. I didn’t mean to turn the interview into an after school special there… but what are you gonna do [laughs]?

EN: So, when someone gets a chance to listen to Until the Darkness Comes, there’s no playing. It’s just an honest to goodness part of Shawn Reidy being put on display?

S. Reidy: Oh yes. It might not be exactly who I am as person at this very moment, but it’s all feelings, stories and emotions I’ve dealt with the past 2 years or so.

EN: Almost like reflecting on a diary?

S. Reidy: Man… I’ve never thought of it that way, but that is exactly what it is. Someone on YouTube reviewed my album and called it musical meandering, which I though was also super accurate [laughs].

EN: Did you set out with the intention of having the record be an open book about yourself, and experiences, or is that what comes naturally to you when writing lyrics?

S. Reidy: You’re nailing all of these questions right on the head [laughs]. I absolutely do, and that goes into what I was saying earlier about how if you can truly sit down and block out all the worlds expectations of you, and just be yourself, you’ll never have a problem trying to be unique.

EN: Is there a particular aspect of the album that you’re most proud of as an artist?

S. Reidy: Oh dude, by far what I’m most proud of is the distinct sound I was able to come up with on this record. All my other projects sound so scattered as far as a cohesive sound goes. This project is my first that really feels like an album.

EN: Do you feel that being hands on with all stages of the album allowed you to achieve that cohesion? Was that the reason you sought to be the driving force behind all stages of its development, from production to lyrics?

S. Reidy: Oh for sure. I recommend it to everyone. Don’t wait for other people and influences to come and change your sound up. Listen to everything, and engulf yourself in it. Find identity in the music you listen to, and don’t just listen to one or two genres. If you love music, then love music, you know? And then you don’t have to rely on a producer or another musician to help you craft a sound. At least that’s what’s worked for me [laughs].

Just also make sure you get hella opinions from your friends and family, because you don’t wanna get too inside yourself either. Find a happy medium. That’s what I’d recommend.

EN: I’m curious about what your construction process was like for this album. Did you approach creating beats with topical ideas already in mind, or did you produce first, and then figure out what would fit?

S. Reidy: Most of these songs I wrote the best first, and based it on a feeling. After the beat was done I wrote all the lyrics to the song in like 10 minutes or so just to get my rawest response I could from the track, and I would clean it up from there. I’ve been writing songs that way for awhile now.

Guess I kind of just gave away my secret recipe [laughs].

EN: Now, obviously we can’t tell people how to enjoy art – but would you encourage people to approach your album as a full listen rather than just picking and choosing songs to play?

S. Reidy: I don’t know if I would encourage people to, but if you like digging into albums there is more than enough here to really sink your teeth into. If you just wanna hear my popular songs you can do that too though [laughs]. But you’re not gonna get the most out of the album that way.

EN: Popular songs aside, what’s your top three songs off the album, and why?

S. Reidy: Woah, jeez that’s hard…I’m sure this answer would change in thirty minutes too [laughs]. For now though, I wanna say: “Galavanting” because of visceral production and the cool lyrics, “Blackout” just because I feel like it’s uplifting without being corny, and probably “Nobody Nose” because of the guitar and the sweet hook.

EN: Is there a particular lyric you’re most fond of on this record? One that maybe stands out to you as some of your best work.

S. Reidy: That’s also so remarkably hard…when I think about it long enough, I think maybe the line “bagged eyes screaming in your pillows till they drip/ Till you find one day you weren’t crazy to begin with.” I think if you had to describe the album in one line it would be that one.

EN: It’s lyrics like that which made it feel to me like you had a lot to say, particularly in the realm of mental health. We spoke about it a bit beforehand, but just how much does it mean to you to be able to speak freely and candidly about those issues?

S. Reidy: You know I was thinking the other day about how almost every song on the album is about mental health one way or another. Depression is something I had to deal with for two years a couple of years ago. As best as I can I like to open up discussions on mental health and try to help people work out whatever they’re going through, as artfully and carefully as I can.

EN: When including mental health as a topic artistically, do you feel it important to actively attempt to not sound as if you’re glamorizing the “tortured artist” mindset?

I ask because having gone through depression myself, some of the music this newer generation of artists produces can be scary. Like, depression has almost become a brand. But then I see artists like you who approach it more candidly (as mentioned), and I wonder if that’s a conscious effort.

S. Reidy: It’s not conscious as much as it is just a reflection of my reality that depression is really ugly. It’s dark, deep, and numbing, at least it was for me.

As far as acts on the other end tend to sway, I never want to be a person to tell someone how to live their life. This zeitgeist of Instagram depression, is worrisome in the sense that if I had seen more of this stuff when I was depressed, I would have felt very belittled. It’s also dangerous because when people who genuinely are depressed might find some hollow fulfillment in stepping into the more glamorous side of depression, and the lines start to blur between what’s real, and what’s the act you’re putting on.
Once again, I’m not trying to tell anyone how to deal with their depression, everyone does differently. But artist and fans need to start approaching these things with a different attitude, because we’re seeing the repercussions of not taking depression seriously right before our eyes.

EN: I think the Lil Peep death in general exposed that blurred line between reality and act, that you just mentioned. People close to him are saying he was “performing like people in the WWE,” and that it was a character. But at the same time, you would have to be suffering from something mentally to be abusing drugs and thinking it’s okay to put on a depression act. The glitz and glamour that a lot of people put behind it, I think, distracts from taking it seriously. Which is a shame because a lot of people are losing their battles with these issues. And even someone like Eyedea who was very blunt about his mental state and addiction issues ended up succumbing to it.

How do you think musicians as a collective can approach things different to help mental illness be taken more seriously?

S. Reidy: That’s a really really good question, and I don’t believe that there is one answer to it.

I think the best catch all solution you’ll find here, is to make music honest to yourself. Don’t compromise hard to digest topics for music that’s easy to listen to. And do what artists are put on this earth to do. Be vulnerable.

And as listeners we need to actively pay attention to the struggle of these artists and open up discussions on how we can put all of ourselves in a better situation.

EN: Do you think that the vulnerability could also inspire others to open up to their family and friends about issues they’re experiencing? Given that even underground musicians can be huge role models to their fan base. Especially to younger teens and kids.

S. Reidy: One can only hope man… I just do what I can to the best of my ability and hope that it’s enough. Hopefully our best really is good enough when it comes down to it.

EN: Sort of touching on something topical right now, what are your thoughts on the idea (presented by DJBooth originally) that underground hip-hop is dead due to the accessibility of artists online?

S. Reidy: [Laughs]. Oh that thing huh? You know I don’t have much of an opinion about it honestly. I think I understand what they think they were saying, but if you think there’s no difference between an artist like Drake and WIKI I think your opinions are a little misguided.

But I mean, I can’t change that writers definition of mainstream and underground. It is what it is.

EN: Do you ever worry about a music writer stumbling upon your music and misconstruing things you say? Media coverage can be big, but I imagine it could be frustrating if something was read into entirely incorrectly.

S. Reidy: That’s happened to me before in a super minor way. But honestly I’m not that worried about that kind of stuff, I know in my heart that I’m a good person and if anyone every tries to challenge that based on something I’ve said or did, I have no problem confronting that.

It’s a weird hobby folks have now, attempt to twist things any which way just to ruin someone. It’s pretty lame to be honest. It’s almost of a matter of when they’re gonna come for you rather than if. But I’m 100% prepared for that kind of thing, because once again, I know my intentions, and I never mean any form of harm on anyone or anything.

EN: So you try to be genuine not only in your music and candidness with difficult subjects (such as mental illness), but also in your approach to tour music career?

S. Reidy: I mean, I don’t see any better way of approaching it. I truly believe if you’re a good person, you have nothing to hide. And if people try to chastise you for the life you’re living, just continue being the best person you can be, and the universe always has a way of paying you back.

EN: Does it ever get intimidating opening for more established acts than yourself? I imagine it’s an amazing opportunity, but if I was in that position I would be terrified.

S. Reidy: [Laughs]. Honestly, performing is the easy part. The hard part is being backstage with these artists and acting like I don’t want to take a million pictures, ask them about all their albums, and see if they wanna do a mixtape together. I’m a music dork just as much as I am an artist, so the scary part when performing with these acts is attempting to not look like a dingus in front of my heroes…

EN: Do you ever get the opportunity to soak up any wisdom from them during the process though?

S. Reidy: I mean… I started writing this album after me and milo had an hour long conversation in my garage [laughs]. I wish I could record all the conversation I’ve had with these other artists, because when I talk to them I’m always thinking “these are the words of a person with the mindset it takes to get where they are.”

EN: Do you find that these established guys have a different outlook on things than your average indie emcee who hasn’t quite figured themselves out yet? As in, I guess I mean… Do they speak about things differently?

S. Reidy: I don’t think it’s a different outlook, I think it’s just knowledge.

What I’m learning more about the people I look up to the closer I get to them, is the fact that these are people who have made a thousands of mistakes. But mistakes don’t discourage them, and they’re super happy to make them, because all that means is that they know exactly how not to do what they’re wanting to do. The confidence in yourself to remember what it was that got you where you are. That’s the kind of wisdom I’m working towards.

EN: Say a young artist approached you tomorrow, and they were extremely frustrated with their own music due to making mistakes and not hitting the mark they’ve set for themselves – what sort of advice would you pass on to them?

S. Reidy: [Laughs]… Dude unfortunately I’m terrible at motivational speeches.

My whole thing is, do you love music? Can you not picture your life without creating? Then you don’t need motivation from me. I hate when people tell me they want to make music but they never feel inspired. Like, dude, you’re never inspired? Nothing inspires you? You need to either broaden your horizons, or just admit that music isn’t what you’re supposed to do. I know that sounds harsh [laughs], but being an artist is work, if you aren’t willing to clock in to your job, then quit. You know?

EN: Plus like…do you even think inspiration is necessary to get started in art? For me anyway, in my music production side project, there are times when I’m totally not inspired, but I can still sit any play around with things and try something new. Then when I’m feeling it emotionally, I can really sit down and apply those things. There’s something to be said for just messing around and learning too, don’t you agree?

S. Reidy: Or just listening to different guitar tones for an hour and seeing which one you like more, or trying ever single drum groove you can think of that might compliment the melody of the song. Studio time and creative space isn’t always fireworks and magic, and I think that’s a big misconception among new artists.

EN: Do you think they only see end results from their favorite artists and maybe assume that just happens, without considering all the foundations that are laid first?

S. Reidy: That’s absolutely the problem, or people are just to caught up in wanting to be rockstars that’s they don’t understand that 80% of it isn’t even fun. Not that work isn’t fun, but you have to love it.

EN: Word. I think that’s a valuable lesson that everyone making music needs to learn eventually. So, I do gotta ask, what’s next for you now that you’ve released this album? What steps do you take to keep advancing your music career?

S. Reidy: I’m gonna just keep recording music, videos, do tour, interviews, tweet Anthony Fantano 43 times a day to review my album, and do the DIY thing with it man.


An Open Letter to DJ Booth & DJ Z: Underground Hip-Hop is Not Dead

by Dustin


On November 27th, 2017, DJ Booth pronounced underground hip-hop dead. DJ Z regretfully informed us that due to the ease of accessing new artists – due in part to streaming services becoming dominant methods of music consumption – that “the underground is the new mainstream.” Of course, he supported this statement with many examples including (and entirely limited to) the fact that Xavier Wulf has a couple tens of thousands of followers on a few social and music media platforms. This article, for lack of a better description, misconstrued the entire of the underground. Below is an open letter that I have written to the publication and author. They may never read it, but these are things that need to be said.

To DJ Z and anyone from DJ Booth,

I’m going to start by explaining to you what “underground” actually is, since you seem to have a gross misunderstanding of the term. It is not a sub-genre label like “trap” or “conscious hip-hop” as you stated in your article. In fact, the artists that make up the underground span a wide variety of styles in the realm of hip-hop; I would be so bold as to say that every single corner of hip-hop has underground artists. You know why? Because an underground artist is simply an artist that exists outside of the mainstream consciousness in music. Claiming that somebody is now in the mainstream because they’ve got a hundred thousand followers on Twitter is absolutely ludicrous. They’re doing quite well in the context of underground music, but they’re nowhere near the mainstream in terms of popularity. No amount of accessibility to music changes that fact.

Let’s look at a bit of a hypothetical situation to make this point more clear. If you went out and took a survey of the general population, most will know of artists like Eminem, Jay-Z, Drake, Future, Lil Wayne, and Kendrick Lamar regardless of whether or not they actually listen to their music. These artists have firmly rooted themselves in the mainstream consciousness. Now, go out and ask the general population who Xavier Wulf is, and I think you’ll be shocked to find out that barely anybody has a clue. In fact, at the time of writing this article, Xavier Wulf does not even have a page on Wikipedia. Yet, you’re calling him mainstream and using him as proof that underground hip-hop is dead? How does one make that jump logically? That’s not a shot at him either, he’s got a large cult following, but he’s absolutely still an underground artist in the scope of hip-hop and music as a whole. You would have to be brain dead to claim otherwise.

Do you want to know why Xavier Wulf – and seemingly the entire hip-hop community – was upset at the claim that underground music doesn’t exist anymore? Because you are discrediting the insane amount of work he, and other musicians of similar stature, put into their careers in order to even have a career in the first place. It’s not easy to make it in music, and writing as if the internet has made it a cakewalk is of the utmost disrespect. Artists like him, Open Mike Eagle, Busdriver, Billy Woods, Uncommon Nasa, clipping., Fatt Father, Aesop Rock, and hundreds of others don’t have well established careers because the internet made them mainstream. They have impressive careers because they work their asses off in the underground to maintain their place; moreover, you’ve also spat in the faces of thousands of dedicated artists who haven’t even established their footing within the underground yet. But by all means, tell a rapper like MCrv, or label owner like Michael at FilthyBroke Recordings that the underground is the new mainstream. They will turn around and laugh directly at you, because it is very nearly the dumbest statement you could make.

The underground is alive, and it’s thriving. Publications like ourselves and many others being allowed to exist and work with so many beautiful artists globally is a testament to this. Stop disrespecting the genre that you eat off of for attention with sensationalized articles with zero supporting evidence. You are letting down hip-hop, and music journalism. The underground community will still be thriving in every single genre of music long after your publication, and mine, are nothing but a fading memory in the distance. You’re not an artist, DJ Z, maybe stop making claims about the world that they exist in, and start taking the time to listen to what they have to say about “the underground.” You might learn something if you open your ears and shut your mouth, just for a second.

Extraordinary Nobodies

Album Review: Jonwayne – Rap Album Two

by Dustin



For a handful of years Jonwayne was an incredibly prolific underground artist. As an instrumental genius he dropped wave after wave of beat tapes, video-game inspired soundtracks, and rare odds-and-ends that fans happily ate up. Once moving into the rap scene, his series of Cassette mixtapes sparked interest among the alternative rap community; Jon’s rich voice and subdued delivery paired excellently with his Dilla-inspired production. Stonesthrow, his label at the time, seemed like the perfect home for his style. This culminated in his 2013 debut studio rap album, accurately named Rap Album One. Though it seemed as if Jon was still finding his voice on that record, the potential was evident and it was met with generally positive reviews. It seemed as though Jonwayne was destined for big things.

However, not all career paths can be so beautifully lineal. Jon’s mental health and lifestyle choices, namely those involving alcohol, quickly caught up to him. Things soured at Stonesthrow, leading to his departure. After battling through these issues and bringing a semblance of order back to his life, Jon would reintroduce himself to the music scene in 2015 with Jonwayne is Retired and Here You Go. A rap extended play, and a two part beat tape series respectively. After a little more waiting and teasing Rap Album Two found its way to eager ears on February 17th 2017.

As it turns out, the delay for Rap Album Two was well worth it. This record is easily Jon’s most personal work, and the lyrics offer a deep insight into his emotions, feelings, and the struggle of someone recovering from addiction. Though these are topics that have been explored extensively in various genres, Jonwayne makes it special by offering a sense of solidarity to those dealing with the same issues as himself; the most impressive part of this is that Jon manages to present what he went through without seeming as if he was purely seeking sympathy. The lyrics on Rap Album Two are bluntly honest, and he puts his own faults and shortcomings on full display.

The writing style on this album is also quite unique. There are times where Jon abandons conventional rap structures and is more in line with written and spoken poetry. The rhyme structures aren’t always laid out in a simple couplets patter, and his focus is very rarely on multi-syllable schemes. This can take a bit to get used to, but ultimately it’s a refreshing journey away from the expected.

And on the way I know I gave away some friends,
And every day I wish that we could speak again,
But every time I wanna make it right I freeze up,
and the visions of the shadows of my demons who went out of sight,
They went out of sight,
Until now.
(Out of Sight)

Unsurprisingly, the instrumentation on Rap Album Two is superb. Jonwayne established himself long ago as one of the many talented producers to build on the influence of Dilla. The thriving west coast beat scene offered the perfect incubation environment for his style, and it has blossomed on this album. Jon’s production has always had experimental elements mixed in with more classic hip-hop sounds, but he’s finally achieved a sense of balance between the two. The beats are rustic glory updated for modern times. They fit his spoken poetic rap style wonderfully,

And that’s the thing about Rap Album Two. None of the tracks on this album jump out as better than the rest of the group. They all pay together perfectly, and the album is best experienced as a long play. Every song has its place, and they transition very well.

I just cancelled my tour,
I just woke up in bed,
I had last nights dinner on the sheets,
I had a burning in my throat I couldn’t swallow,
I had shuffled to the mirror and saw death over my head,
If i was sleeping on my back I would’ve died,
Jameson in my blood,
Jameson in my eyes,
Jameson on my mind,
I know I need to stop,
But if I’m flying, it’s Jameson on the ride,
This how I’m making money but a cost to my life.
(Blue Green)

There are some moments on Rap Album Two that feel slightly out of place. “LIVE From The Fuck You” and “The Single” in particular are uncharacteristically humorous in the midst of an incredibly serious album. That being said, they do serve a bit of necessary comic relief to cut the tension. Aside from that, Rap Album Two is a juggernaut of cohesion. Jonwayne’s all encompassing creative control shines through on this album, and a meticulous attention to detail is evident. Though none of the songs really jump out on their own, Rap Album Two is a powerful complete listen. It’s the kind of album that seemingly needs to be listened to in its entirety; moreover, it’s also the perfect length for this sort of release at 44 minutes.

Rap Album Two feels like a modern album that captured some of the magic of rap’s golden era. The emotional connection Jonwayne is able to establish with the listener far outweighs any of his technical flaws on the mic. If you’ve been through any kind of struggle in your life, which most have, this album will offer some degree of solace. And it is an absolutely gorgeous listen, if not one that is a little challenging. Welcome back, Jon, and thank you for the album.

FilthyBroke Recordings’ Michael J. Collins Speaks on Respect, Running a Label, and Life in the Indie Scene

by Dustin


When a seasoned veteran of the music scene is willing to open up about their experiences, it’s generally wise to open your ears. Those who have committed to the indie scene grind their whole life have a wealth of stories, knowledge, and warnings for those who wish to follow the same path. Michael J. Collins, the leader of FilthyBroke Recordings (and long-time indie musician) is one of these such people.

To keep it short and sweet (because this interview is long and wonderfully in-depth), he’s seen a lot. We were fortunate enough to get to have a long sit-down with Michael, and the end result is an unforgettable interview about clawing his way through the music scene, and establishing an independent music outlet. He’s also a super charismatic dude – the interview was an unforgettable process that we couldn’t be more pleased to have had.

This is necessary reading for anyone enticed by a similar trail, and recommended reading for those who just love music.

EN: So, I’ll start with the basics since I like to make sure there’s info for new readers. When and why did you decide to start up Filthy Broke Recordings?

MJC: FilthyBroke Recordings, often referred to as FBR, will be three years old in May of this new year. As for the “why”… Jeesh, there’s a multitude of factors, but I can distill things down:

I had quit music twice before, and realized I would never be satisfied unless I could have a safe outlet to put out whatever the fuck I wanted. Some of which is hip-hop, much of which is not. Having released on many imprints around the world for several years, I learned the hard way that I am much more comfortable being a lone-wolf. Even if that means making way less money.

EN: I can definitely relate to that – at least from the writing side of things. I like being in control of my own output, even though it feels limiting at times. Do you ever feel frustrated with the sacrifices you had to make to achieve that “lone-wolf” status?

MJC: Oh man, in the beginning? Heck yeah, often. Particularly getting used to not making money, even though I knew that would be the case going in. As an artist that had never tried the label thing before, I honestly almost quit music again as our first release was coming together. Basically, I had been used to putting out 12″s on other folks’ labels for some time. I would get my fee and my royalties quarterly, and not really consider what was going on over on the other side. At that time, as you said, I wanted some control over what I was creating rather than being told by a label, “make more stuff like that one [release] from 2008.” This desire for control, as well as my lack of knowing how hard it actually is to run a label are what manifested into FBR.

Dude, within three months of the label going from concept to [the first] 12″ order being placed, I was stolen from… A myriad other shady shit happened that nearly led to me walking away before it even started… At that point my money was all-in though, so I figured try to peddle a few records and then call it quits. Going through a divorce at that time certainly did not help my lack of enthusiasm. Somehow things just kept going despite myself and my tendency to self-sabotage.

I still plan to get my fucking $350 from that punk out in California. If you are reading this, “CM”, know this to be true. I may show up at 84 with an oxygen tank by my side, but I will get that money back. I know it seems petty, y’all, but stealing is wack as fuck, and there are principles at stake for me anyway.

In short, the beginning was a nightmare. Now I am so so happy I made those sacrifices and stuck it out. I still go crazy daily. Hourly.

EN: That’s pretty intense man – it sounds like you’re one hell of a stubborn dude (I mean that in the best way) when it comes to your label. Was there a particular point where you finally were able to say, “You know what? I can do this?”

MJC: Ha! I am stubborn to a fault, I am obsessed with people “doing the right thing” and realize all of that is based in my own unrealistic expectations of others… Like, for real, I in no way wanna come off as negative about things, how things started, just how it was for better or for worse. It was a learning experience of the highest order, in that it truly tested whether or not I felt I could work in music in some other capacity than simply being a recording artist. Though I felt like saying “Fuck it” so many times I learned that people (myself included) are flawed, some youngsters/older folk have never dealt with labels before, not worth throwing shade… Rather, learn from the “climate” of what’s happening in the moment, pick a solid circle of trustworthy people, and love them to death. Help each other to the end of the earth… So, yeah… It was probably like three months ago actually where I felt like, “I can do this. I may be good at this actually, I am growing a thicker skin and a wonderful network.” And the bottom line is that putting out a wide array of music that oddly caught on a bit, with no PR, is addictive. I wanna prove everyone wrong, like, “we don’t pay to play but are sustaining.” Maybe unrealistic, but now if ever is a time for idealism.

EN: With that in mind, I guess this goes back a bit to what we talked about before the interview too, that artists and labels need to respect each other. How important is that respect to you in your operations both as an artist and label head?

MJC: In my mind, Dustin, [it] is paramount to everything. Respect is huge, I think that also taking a step back from one’s own bubble to listen to [and] push the work of others is crucial. I am always preaching, “Support Independent Music.” It was not until starting the label that I really knew what that meant, for me. And for me that means actually SUPPORTING good art by good people, whether it is associated with FBR or not. I believe that at the end of the day, cooperation trumps competition (pun intended. Like, I feel happier (and feel the label does much better) when I am sharing music by other people.

Sharing my own stuff all day is not only boring, but feels stale and selfish when there is so much other amazing music out there. I get turned off by (what I consider to be) ego-driven people, artists and labels. Folks that claim they are “The Best.” Folks that scream for support of their work yet do not engage with others. Liars, cheats and thieves. I guess it’s selfishness that turns me off, as I see it as completely nonproductive in this day and age.

Yes, I prefer the “lone-wolf” aspect of control over the label’s output… However, I would have been dead in the water were it not for people like Fake Four Inc, Oliver Booking Company, Walter Gross, Ceschi, Fremdtunes outta the Netherlands, [and] so many others. These types of people contribute so much to our underground music scene; [they] do so with grace and a willingness to push the work of other unaffiliated artists and labels simply because it’s good stuff and worth sharing. The act of sharing someone else’s music may not seem like much, but when you do not pay to play nor have PR it is actually invaluable. I personally make a point to share non-FBR music all day, mixed in with some stuff about what we have going on. It feels so good to have someone say, “Yo, this is so dope. Thanks for sharing it, I have never heard this before.” And said person then has been turned onto something they can relate to or enjoy. I know that most of our music has been heard due to other people taking time to mention it.

That feeling of community is so necessary for me, as I have had some very bad experiences as mentioned earlier.

EN: Man, I definitely feel that – one if my biggest passions is putting people onto new stuff. Especially when it comes to independent art. Do you also feel like the music industry as a whole is pushing toward a more “grassroots” collective of small communities now that major labels have fallen out of favour (in part due to how they disrespect artists)?

MJC: Yeah man, I do see things moving towards a more “grassroots” perspective! And like you said, putting people on to other stuff seems to be a part of that. As far as what I was trying to explain before, regarding folks trying to band together, I am really happy to say I am observing it more and more. I know I often come off as crabby and negative, however the ideal I was mentioning earlier… As far as people big-upping each other rather than trying to push a singular agenda? It’s happening and I love it. Thus, I choose to surround myself with artists that see the benefit of exploring new music, sharing new music by friends or some 16-year old in Greenland.

Promoting myself and the label naturally comes with the territory. On the other hand, by actively participating in the scene as simply a fan? That has been not only the most fun, but the most rewarding because of the relationships that have manifested over time. I have been fortunate to work with people I have admired for 25 years, people I would obsess over as a kid… It’s such a trip. The only reason those things happened is because of friendships building over time. Friendships that organically started from a simple retweet in some cases. Let people know you dig what they are doing! Make a point of telling friends what you are into at the moment! It’s as grassroots as it gets, but it’s fun and the only way forward in my humble opinion. Little collectives banding together can make a big fucking noise.

EN: Related to this – I have to ask, how does it feel for you when you see someone repping a project you were involved in (either as an artist, or a label head)? I know for me, when I’ve received props for the site from someone I’ve admired it really brightens my day. Hell, even my whole week sometime

MJC: Oh dude, you have no idea! I still freak out like a little kid on his birthday! Call me a fanboy, but I am so full of self-doubt when it comes to my own music (which I have now been releasing for 20 fucking years). I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about that [laughs]. Not to mention I am so busy with the label and mastering for other labels I don’t often get to write these days. Thus, when someone I really admire takes a liking to a new piece it is refreshing and I feel elated. Like, “Okay, maybe I don’t suck as bad as I think and don’t need to quit.” I’ve become much better though, in that these days I am my own harshest critic. Back in the day when I was releasing a lot of music on other labels, I would smash my copy of the 12″ before it ever entered my home. Now I can listen to what I have done over the last couple years and not cry or throw up… Progress! I simply find reassurance when others reach out and say, “This isn’t bad, keep putting out music.” Otherwise I would just record for myself and never release it.

These days the biggest rush comes from the mastering stuff. I just finished mastering the new Walter Gross for Sole’s Black Box Tapes. Just being entrusted with something like that is so humbling and exciting.

EN: That’s so cool, I own some of Walter Gross’ music and he’s a beast. Dude’s got one of the most evil sounding styles out there, in my opinion. Did it take a long time to get to the point where artists regularly trusted you? I imagine building that rapport could be a lengthy process.

MJC: I have no idea how it ended up this way to be honest… It really should not have. I mean, Walter is literally my favourite contemporary recording artist. [He] is the most underrated person in underground music plain and simple, in my opinion.

I actually remember how it kinda started! I had recorded a remix for a label outta Canada. It was to be broadcast, pre-mastering, on some BBC radio show mix. The artist hit me up and said, “louden it for me so I can play it on the radio.” I had never messed around with post-production before, as I had been advised to leave it to the professionals. This was like 7 or 8 years ago. So, I started playing with a limiter and making really bad, really loud pre-release “masters” of stuff for promo purposes, [like] DJ mixes and such. I sucked so bad and knew it. As with everything else I knew I had to step up my game – learn some shit. I was totally secluded in the mountains of Arizona, and had no one to help me out. I just lived on engineering forums and started out with a few plug-ins. After playing around for a few years I felt like I was sorta getting a sense of what sounded proper and what sounded like trash. I bought some more gear and started doing it for FBR.

The turning point was when we released the Hoot cassette. It was archival material recorded between ’05-’09. It was all over the place, and I felt that I was ready for a challenge. For some reason the whole thing just flowed and turned out okay! Then I mastered the Walter Gross release for FBR, [which was] a while ago. From there I realized it was time to really go for it, but was still nervous as hell about ruining the work of others.

For some reason a few people trusted me as I continued to learn. I did the post-production on the joint release we did with Fake Four (which is awful now that I listen [laughs], but it taught me a lot). That trust enabled me to make a lot of mistakes and also learn a ton of stuff. I stepped up the studio and started trusting my ears. For the last six months I have felt really comfortable in the mastering lab, and somehow attained a client base. I just got a job tonight in fact, from someone I did an eight CD mastering project for a couple months back. I thought it was gonna take forever to find clients and build the rapport you spoke of; [however], I think since mastering is so fucking expensive (and I love doing it), trying to make it affordable has helped. I also think that my communication with the artist helps. I am so picky that I would never want to put out someone else’s project with my name attached if the masters were shit. I turn down jobs that I do not feel I can improve upon aside from loudness. It’s taking time, we’re still in the beginning stages really, but much love to the several repeat clients! I have over 100 songs mastered for all formats dropping on various labels in the next 6 months. I am so grateful, and still learning. However, the fact many folks have come back repeatedly really enthuses me. Like, “maybe I can do this!” So much self-doubt [laughs]… Our latest, the new V8 tape, was mastered by me. I think it is my best work to date in that department. Thanks all for the one day sell-out!

EN: It sounds like you have a very strong sense of pride in your work – Do you ever get frustrated when you see an artist or label being lazy/sloppy with what they’re releasing?

MJC: I think the word “sense” is the operative word here, man. I wanna take pride in everything, but always feel I can do better. I think this can be good though, always challenging one’s self to do more, better. Our latest release, the V8 cassette, was certainly an exercise in trying to do “the best we have ever done.” It was by far the most complex and involved project we have ever been involved with. There were a lot of key players that allowed this thing to even make it to the point of release. The 12″ and digital are forthcoming on TSLOS outta Chicago this spring… I ended up mastering the whole thing for all formats, and then subsequently was asked to release the tape. I gladly jumped on it, as it features some amazing talent: DJ Pain1, Kenny Segal, Vyle, and more. Lot’s of close producer friends too. It ended up with me mastering like 30 songs that spanned nearly 90 minutes. Then we pulled from that for the 25 song cassette edition with a bonus track. We were so grateful and lucky to sell it out, as it was pretty expensive, but so worth it. V8 and I handled the music stuff. His girl Vern Royale did the packaging, [and] she absolutely killed it. It’s the most intricate and in-depth packaging we have ever done. It took months to finalize everything, the custom cassette pouches, custom handkerchiefs, and such were all placed in take-out bags with receipts and all. Each one custom, numbered, and with lots of extra goodies. It was really hard at times, I didn’t think we would pull it off to be honest. Now, seeing all of the pics that folks are taking of their orders is the payoff. I really liked V8 and Vern’s concept of basically making a takeout meal of music and art. Thankfully my girl and label partner helped a ton with design layout and such, as I suck at it.

My point in telling you all of this is basically that I want people to know how important each release is for us. I always wanna keep pushing to do something different. This leads to my answer to your question [laughs]… Yes, I get pissed off when I see sub-par merch. I recently ordered a limited release, it was quite expensive. The record had no label to indicate Side A or Side B. I mean, if this were some obscure drone release I could get with it. It was not though, and the packaging was flimsy as well. To this day I have no idea which side is which. I’m not really trying to talk shit, it’s a good record; however, I think attention to detail is hella important, especially now with so many people releasing music.

EN: That V8 packaging was really something unique – had I been in a better financial position when it dropped I would have scooped that up. Seeing creative physical packaging is, honestly, one of my favourite things about the independent scene. Which leads me into asking: do you think artists should strive to be creative with their releases now that physical media is becoming more of an indie scene thing? It feels like physical media is shifting more towards being an art form, rather than a bare bones distribution method. And I’m curious about your thoughts on it.

MJC: That’s a cool question because I actually thought a lot about this over the last couple of weeks. Everything I spew about quality packaging, art-centric releases, and unique extras that create a “theme” of sorts with the physicals? These are all very true for me personally, and how I plan to move forward. We have some really weird shit in the works for FBR011 and FBR012 as far as design and concept. While all of these things are vital to our vision, it’s simply a matter of taste I think. At the end of the day, the music is the most important thing to me. Thus, I can’t really speak to how other artists should approach their releases.

I have some bare-bone 12″s and cassettes, as far as packaging, but it just works. A white label with an “A” stamped on it for example, nothing else. And the music speaks for itself, in some ways adding more flair may have taken away from what was trying to be conveyed musically (but this is different than just sending out un-labeled records that seem kinda sketchy, as I mentioned earlier). So really, I think it’s a matter of quality product no matter the aesthetic. As long the artist feels they have seen their vision through completely, that’s a successful release in my opinion. Having an idea and feeling that the physical or digital final product fully conveys. With FBR, things are very “artsy” right now [laughs], but if you see our Walter cassette it is bare-bones as fuck yet fits the music perfectly so we all thought.

Oh, and the reason I just used the word “digital” is that I think digital releases rule. I love them. And for someone with little to no overhead, packaging can be pricey and time consuming. Maybe trying things digitally first is a way for one to dip one’s toe into the waters of releasing music. We are beefing up our digital series big-time in 2017, coordinating a biggie right now. Digital is just as viable as physical is my take on it. Like you said though, people really like physical goods and cool art concepts that coincide with them. I suppose if one wants to go down the “limited art release” route, it is just a matter of developing said concept and deciding if it can be executed well. If so, go for it.

EN: I feel like you’re describing a very tasteful minimalist approach, and I think that has a lot of artistic merit for sure. Even going back a few decades, New Order’s first release after Joy Division ended was incredible that way. The cover was just the band name, album name, and catalogue number. It looked amazing.

You also just lead into the next thing on my notes! I wanted to ask, do you think there’s too much negativity toward “digital only” releases? I see a lot of people complain when there isn’t a physical, but digital ultimately seems like the easiest distribution method.

MJC: Bro, I have the Factory Records book (FAC451, they did it just like a record release) sitting on my coffee table! That’s funny you bring up New Order and Joy Division, the Factory Records aesthetic was so dope. Exactly, you nailed it with the “tasteful minimalism” for many of their releases. It was a huge influence to me. Cabaret Voltaire released on Factory I believe, one of my favourite bands ever. Somehow founding member Stephen Mallinder has become an internet “friend,” and he has done two guest mixes for us. All because of non-ego driven people just giving each other props years ago! I digress, but it’s just a cool coincidence.

Hell yes, I think people hate on digital-only releases sometimes and consider them less artistically valuable or some shit. No way, not in my opinion. Again, that’s why we are expanding our digital series over here at the label. Digital releases are awesome and just as viable as physicals for many reasons: One can still make awesome digital art for it, the music can be amazing, the overhead is basically nothing, and it can be downloaded immediately in all formats, even .wav! I hope we see more folks with larger labels start to do some digital-only stuff, if only to make it feel more approachable to someone starting out. I hope to see the digital platform utilized even further.

EN: Do you think iTunes gave digital releases a bit of a scummy aura back when they were the dominant platform? I remember buying tracks and having the quality being all over the place (even though it’s listed at equivalent to a 256kbs mp3). To me this has always stood out as a reason why digital is looked upon so negatively. Fortunately we’ve got outlets like BandCamp now.

Hell, iTunes in the early-mid 2000s was half the reason I relied on scummy shit like WinMX and Limewire, unfortunately.

MJC: I was the same. After about a year of novelty, iTunes disinterested me and I stopped using it. Yes, 256kbs threw me [too]. $9.99 for a DRM album of sub-par audio quality ain’t my thing [laughs]. I think people like us may be in a very small minority though, to be honest. Like, do you think the average listener knows the difference between downloading something from iTunes as opposed to Bandcamp? I seriously have no idea! From the fact that the artist gets paid more to the fact that the music is better quality, even CD quality if one chooses? Seriously, I have no idea. And every time I go to get digital distribution set up, I sorta just let it slack and forget for another six months [laughs].

I’m not hating on streaming, but at my level I prefer to have shit available via BandCamp only these days. As far as I know, it’s the best platform as far as paying out to the artist or label. Were I Faith Hill or MC Hammer though, I would likely be all up in Spotify’s guts. I still get shit from music friends about this. Maybe it will change soon, maybe I am just lazy… I think part of it is that I only want the music available on platforms that provide a minimum of 320kbs MP3s, but especially .FLAC and .WAV. Since firing our distributor two years ago it’s been just me until quite recently, and that was rough. Hence, my laziness in certain areas.

EN: Do you see potential in streaming as an option for small labels though? I’ll argue until I’m blue in the face about how flawed streaming can be, but it definitely seems to have intriguing capabilities.

MJC: I am probably the last person to ask about that [laughs]. I have never even explored it due to all the horror stories I have heard about how it is useless. However, I am open to learning more as I agree with you, there must be potential there. High-res streaming would be cool. Maybe exists, but I missed it. I was just talking with my girl and we will likely explore it in the future, but maybe only if things get to a large enough scale where it would be advantageous.

EN: [Laughs], I appreciate the honesty. It’s just an interesting subject. Streaming is definitely heading toward higher res, but the big issue is ultimately still royalty payouts. They’re incredibly low.

I’m going to go somewhere a little cheesy, but we’ve got a lot of aspiring indie label owners who check out the site regularly. What advice would you give to someone just starting out, like you were with FBR a handful of years ago?

MJC: There are more labels than people in the world [laughs]. I honestly was gonna say, “just don’t do it.” But that’s a dumb thing to say.

Look, running a record label is really hard work and there is not a big payoff if one is looking to get rich. It was not until 2016 that we were finally able to say we were in the black and able to fund future releases with sales. It took a couple of years and money was spent as we do a lot of physical releases. Things feel good now, thankfully, but I guess I would ask myself a few questions before making the decision to start a label:

1) Am I willing to struggle and work thanklessly for 10-16 hours a day, and even be working when I am not actually “working?”
2) Am I willing to put my own art aside in order to have the time to start things out properly?
3) Am I OK with rejection?
4) Am I OK if someone decides to fuck me over, will I maintain?
5) If things pick up, do I mind living at the post office and dealing with all the angry people behind me in line as well as irate postal workers?
6) Am I good dealing with a variety of personalities?
7) Am I cool with doing nine things at once all the time?
8) Will I reply in a timely manner to emails, texts and phone calls that come in all day?
9) Am I willing to take risks?
10) Am I willing to support other artists and labels?

I think if one answers “yes” to these ten questions, this could be for you. Or just do what I did, make a bad decision because music is life, and we are all gonna die so fuck it.

EN: Could you ever see yourself doing anything else, is is music where your heart is forever? As far as your main passion and focus in life, I mean.

MJC: Nah, I could never do anything else at this point. Seriously, I mean… I am gonna be 40 in a couple weeks. I never intended this, even though music has been a dominant force in my life as far back as I can remember. I went to university. I actually worked as a psychotherapist and administrator for both the public and private mental health systems for years. At the end I was seeing so many people die, and not improve due to bad policy and greed, so I quit. At that time it was to attempt getting back into writing and releasing on other labels. The experience was frustrating because I was being asked to make the same type of music I was making 10 years ago, so I went off on my own. Hence, FilthyBroke Recordings.

EN: Now onto something a little more current. You’ve got a compilation album coming out soon to benefit an anti-bullying organization. When and why did you decide to put this project together?

MJC: I will be totally honest: First off, I feel like we are currently dealing with the biggest bully in the world tearing people apart, dividing people. It is disgusting and sickening and even as a straight white man I am unable to process or accept what is happening. Secondly, I was relentlessly bullied as a kid. I moved when I was nine and was “the new kid.” Being beaten and laughed at without any intervention from those that were supposed to protect me has never left me, and it never will. I am not happy much of he time, often hate myself, and feel like no one actually cares about me sometimes. I know this not to be true in my head, but occasionally my gut says otherwise. I do not like seeing people hurting. I do not like the vulnerable being taken advantage of. I do not approve of bullying in any way, it ruins people. Donald Trump is a fucking bully. There are 70-year old women being detained in airports, as we speak, in 2017. Just no.

I’m not very good at many things, but this is a very serious and personal issue to me. The response to the compilation has been overwhelming, I am shocked. I feel like this may be an issue important to other people as well, thus we just want to donate all proceeds to Ditch the Label.

EN: As someone who also went through a lot of hellish bullying as a kid, I really respect and think it’s wonderful that you’ve taken the initiative. Seeing the response even from the outside has been touching to say the least. Do you see a lot of merit in music being used as a fundraiser? It seems like a really cool way to raise awareness and funds.

MJC: I do see a lot of merit in it, especially in that using art to raise money also raises awareness in and of itself… Like, the “product” that facilitates an ability to donate is music; music on its own is very powerful and certainly can deliver a message singularly. Just seemed so easy to try to do the compilation. Like you said though? About the response? People came out of the woodwork, no ego all positivity. People that I never would have thought of approaching… They seemed “out of my league” and I woke up to an inbox of songs donated from these amazing people. Mostly unsolicited aside from my tweet about wanting to do it. Some people give a fuck I guess, and that’s just amazing to me.

EN: I’m happy that it took off – I suggest to all of our readers to check this thing out when it drops, and support it if you can. We’re at about length. Is there anything else you’d like to say as we wrap this bad-boy up?

MJC: Just thank you for the best interview I have ever been a part of, for real. I needed that, thank you Dustin.

EN: Cheers, man. We’ll do another one for sure. You’ve got so much experience and insight into the music world that it’d be criminal for me to not have you on again.

MJC: Anytime.