Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Interview with A389 Records

If there's one label at the moment, where I could buy blindly nearly every release, knowing that it will be good, it's A389 Records from Baltimore. The label's basically done by Dom, who's probably best known for his guitar playing in Pulling Teeth. I wanted to do an interview, and the first thing that came on my mind was A389, so I asked, and here it is. Enjoy. 

To start, could you please tell me a little bit about the beginnings of A389 Records? I came across the label shortly after the release of the first Pulling Teeth 10", was that the first release? What was your basic idea behind the label at the beginning?

The label started in 2004 as an avenue to put out records I liked by my friend's bands.  My band at the time Slumlords was playing a lot, and it was a good way to introduce people to a lot of bands from home that didn't get to make it out as much. Our first release was by a 7" by a baltimore band called Bring It On.  Kinda sounds like Sheer Terror/Breakdown type stuff.  I remember the artwork on that one being pretty cool.

Are you doing everything completely on your own or are there other persons involved in A389?

I handle the majority of everything label related while a revolving door of people pop in and out to help whenever they can with mailorder, assembly, PR work, whatever.  The longest standing other person involved with the label would be Dwid.  He's been involved on the design end of the records pretty much since the beginning and is still a huge help with every release.

Ok, jack-ass question: where does the name A389 come from? What does it mean?

Once again going back to the time I was playing in Slumlords, we all used to work for this eviction company which is how the idea for the band first came about.  When performing an eviction in Baltimore, if you are securing an abandoned property with a padlock, they keycode we had to use at the time was A389.  I always thought that sounded cool, and was a funny nod to all the people I worked with by day.

How hard is it to manage playing in an busy band like Pulling Teeth, doing a well running label and doing a "real" job besides that? (I assume you have to do so?) Do you even have any time left for anything else?

Days go by really quickly that's for sure. 2009 went by in the blink of an eye.  I pick up random p/t jobs when things are slow, but feel like I'm wasting time.  I could be doing so much more.  So right now I'm just doing the label and bands f/t.  It gives me time to spend with my girlfriend and my cats...aaaaaaand work on side projects.

So are there any side projects you want the world to know about or is it more like top secret?

Virgin Witch has a record out on Free Cake.  Hatewaves just recorded it's 'Taste The Beast' Demo, a few others with no names yet ...

Could there be an A389 Records without Pulling Teeth and reverse?

There was an A389 before PT was even a band, and there will probably be one after PT is done.  But PT is definitely the flagship band on A389.  I like to think they go hand in hand to an extent though.  I love the way all the first press PT records turned out.

Are there any labels that are role models for A389?

I always admired Back Ta Basics records growing up.  The records were nothing fancy but you got to check out a bunch of cool bands that Rick would come across on tour.  I loved that it was so barebones and all that mattered was the music, not the layout.  On the other side of the coin, I admire labels like Deathwish and Robotic Empire for stepping up and doing the exact opposite and presenting more of a complete package with artwork and music.  Throw in the mysterious nature of the Dark Empire Record Co. and you've got a recipe for awesome.

Would you say that music and artwork are equally important? Or what counts more in your opinion?

I'd say music more than artwork, obvious if you're in a situation where someone is playing you a song or you're listening to an MP3, you can focus on the song and nothing else.  But if you have a physical record in your hand and it looks bad, it kinda cheapens the experience.

What do you expect from a band you release? Is there a typical "A389 deal"?

It's always nice when a band takes initiative and plays shows and hustles records on their own. Touring or at least being an active band doesn't hurt either.  The two newest bands I've picked up Seraphim (from MS) and The Love Below (from CA) are both really enthusiastic new bands and I'm stoked to be working with them.  As far as a typical A389 deal there really isn't one, it varies on the project.

Besides releasing records by new(er) bands A389 also rereleases records that have been long out of print or never had a release on vinyl, I wonder how that happens? I mean for example the Gehenna or Ringworm 12"s, did the bands come to you and asked if it would be possible and so on or did you ask the bands? Have there ever been any problems with the labels that released those records in the first place?

I usually approach the bands in situations like that.  There hasn't been any licensing issues with any of that stuff.  I do my best to make sure no one is being left out.

So far A389 only released vinyl, do you think that there'll be CD releases in the future as well?

Probably not.  I think the Gut Instinct discog will be our only CD release.  Maybe the Day of Mourning discog if I ever get around to it.

You've released a lot of records by bands that are/were somehow linked to the Holy Terror/Clevo Hardcore thing, what's your connection to that scene and what makes that music so fascinating in your opinion? Do you see any chance to rerelease records by the more obscure bands of that era like Pale Creation, Asphalt or Mayday?

It's been my favorite style of hardcore for as long as I can remember.  Hearing Systems Overload for the first time in my life when I was just out of high school was a life changing experience for me.  I grew up listening and going to see those bands as often as possible and just became friends with a lot of them.  I would love to do a Mayday discography.  I've tried a few times but had a hard time getting it together.  PT was going to cover Staplegun at one point, but that never ended up happening.  That Asphalt CD was pretty neat from what I remember, it's been years.  And Pale Creation is so much more than a band.

What's exactly the problem with the Mayday discography, is it just hard to get the master tapes?

Pretty much yes.  Last time I tried it was just too hard to pull together, but you never know what can happen...

If you could choose whatever band you'd like to release on A389, which one would it be and why?

An unreleased Haymaker record would be the ultimate for me.  

Most bands on A389 are located between Hardcore and Metal, could you imagine to release records by, lets say a post-punk or indie band for example?

Sure.  I just put out whatever I think is cool.  I think there is somewhat of a typical A389 sound, but  there have been some random offshoots in the catalog that may not make sense against most of the releases (Supreme Commander, Pala etc).  I like those bands and those records so whatever.  We're doing a Roses Never Fade LP next year and they're like a neo-folk group.  Good music is good music.

Which A389 release makes you proud the most and why?

Well the PT 'Paranoid Delusions' 12" was definitely the coolest looking record I've ever been involved with.  Getting a 12x12 lenticular hologram cover made is as big of a pain as it sounds.  I love all every release for different reasons.  The Everyday Dollars pre-order 7" that came with a 3-D cover and glasses was pretty rad....The invisible ink on the Rot In Hell LP....I guess just getting to release records by my favorite bands of all time still blows my mind.  Integrity, Ringworm, Gehenna...Bottom line is I'm stoked.  Across the board.

What are the future plans for A389 Records?

Seraphim from MS.  They sound like Mastodon/Baroness and are awesome.  Love Below from California sound like Left For Dead/Haymaker.  That lost Millennial Reign recording will finally see the light of day.  Roses Never Fade.  New Integrity + Pulling Teeth jams.  Oh and more Gehenna.

Thank you!

A389 Records on

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