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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Siginifer Label Interview

Signifier is a brand new US label specializing in Industrial, Power Noise, IDM, and more. Earlier this year they released their debut, Ex_tension - "Freedom" and are gearing up to release several more things before the year is up, including a huge 2xCD compilation featuring acts like Oil 10, Zero Degree, Lingouf, Millipede, WASTE, LAN Formatique, Greyhound, Tzolk'in, and tons more. There are never enough labels pushing these styles, and after speaking to the passionate founder of signifier, Shannon, I am very confident that this will quickly evolve into something great. This is definitely a label to keep an out for, as it will hopefully help bolster interest in this type of highly underappreciated music in the states.

What was the impetus for starting Signifer?

I suppose it was part fate and part accident.  I have always loved music and became actively involved with it at a young age as a radio DJ in high school.  Since then, it has only managed to become a bigger and bigger part of my life.  Over the last few years, this was primarily due to my role as promotional director at Tympanik Audio and a regular DJ gig as rosierivets on the long running Chicago industrial radio show Hidden Forms (Every Saturday via wnur.org). 
My experience with Tympanik gave me the confidence to believe that anything is possible.  It also gave me the insatiable taste for helping work to promote sounds that I love, and seeing the satisfaction of having an artist’s vision realized.  After departing from that post, I briefly considered abandoning my work in this field. But the farther I got from music emotionally, the smaller my world seemed. And I hated it.  I felt like I had lost a part of myself that I’d only just begun to understand and I came to the quick realization that I was not ready to be finished with working in this capacity.   Ultimately, it was not an option for me to stop; continuing with a new label of my own creation became a necessity.

What is the philosophy behind, and what are your goals with Signifier?

I do not have some genius master plan to re-create the wheel; I simply aim to give a platform to the artists that I enjoy.  These are mostly underrepresented folks who deserve the opportunity to release their music to a community that can appreciate it.
Upon its formation, I had a very clear idea in my mind that this should be a rhythmic and power noise label.  Much of that was driven by the fact that I’ve always been drawn to the grittier sounds which almost force a physical response.  But the fact of the matter is that I love it all.  Or, almost all of it, I suppose.  If Signifier were a pizza, half of it would feature the noisier stuff, one quarter would feature dark electro and edgy ambient, and perhaps that little tiny corner piece would be some pretty lilting thing I just couldn’t pass up.  I suppose that’s pretty analogous to the current roster of signed artists. 
Let it suffice to say that there is no hard and fast formula, and I wish to refrain from narrowly defining our style.  These days, I tend to take an open minded approach, which I believe is better for the electronica community as a whole.  There is no reason why a label cannot try to bridge supposedly disparate styles.  I suppose that ideology helped formed the genesis for the concept behind “These Sounds Will Have to Meet Somewhere in Between”, which is our first compilation due out on August 30th.  Within that release you’ll find that we attempt to break down some barriers by crafting a listening experience that increases in intensity from start to finish.  And I think it works.  There is no reason why various sub genres can’t play nicely together.  Diversity strengthens our community as a whole; it’s a gateway to other sounds.

There are lots of labels out there, what sets you apart from the other labels releasing industrial/noise/ambient?

You are right; there are a ton of exceptional labels out there.  And we are fortunate enough to have had an incredible network of support from the word go.  We’ve had some early comparisons to Ant-Zen and Hymen which, frankly, scare the shit out of me.  The comparisons are unbelievably flattering, but I realize that Signifier has a lot of work to do since we are new on the scene and just beginning to carve out our place.  I just ask for the patience of our supporters; we will prove ourselves as deserving of your loyalty and trust.  I feel so damn grateful for the fact that none of you make us feel like we have something to prove.  All of these amazing people- fans, musicians, DJs, press contacts, etc. - prove to me on a daily basis how vast and kind the universe is.  The end target is a bit amorphous, but this is the energy that keeps this label pointed forward.
One eccentricity that might set us apart is how the concept of collectivism intrigues me.  The idea of harnessing the mutual passion of all of our allied labels is something I think about quite a bit.  In my wildest dreams, we’d hammer out a way to work together as one uber-collective. But until that day, they serve as inspiration, and I am lucky enough to call many of them colleagues and friends.  However, there is no shortage of great music out there that never gets to see the light of day.  Labels in these genres are only able to scratch the surface; none of us are made of money, so deciding which music to invest in can be both joyous and frustrating.
At this stage, I think a lot of what differentiates Signifier has to do with the energy and enthusiasm which we bring to the table.  I can be ridiculously excitable and sometimes I find that it seeps into my promo efforts and correspondence with artists and fans.  I hope it is infectious rather than aggravating! And I can’t help but hope that folks have the impression that we are the label that will be known for putting out serious music without taking ourselves too seriously.
That being said I’ll let you in on a little secret: running a label is not rocket science and it is not this mystical operation that can only be conducted by some.  It takes an unfettered amount of dedication and passion to keep up with scheduling and managing personalities, resources, and promotions.  For that reason, I am sure that things like reliability, strong relationships, staying on schedule, and consistent quality will put us on common ground with the best of our peers.  Oh, and I suppose that a little bit of camaraderie can’t hurt, either. 

This type of music is rather underground, and perhaps not as easy to market as straight forward dance music. What do you think the key to promoting this type of music is?

Excellent working relationships with allied professionals such as DJs, music reviewers, and the musicians themselves, as well as participatory communication with fans is essential.  I think that those of us that have been working together for the common goal of promoting music in this “scene” for lack of a better term have a real understanding of the do-it-yourself ethos.  In my earliest press releases, I mentioned that this label is a grass roots labor of love.  It is this philosophy that will get the job done between the individuals within our tight knit underground community.  All that being said, we do have to be willing to take a chance from time to time by searching out slightly more mainstream promotional opportunities.  There are DJs and review sources that may be more ready for quality dark electronics than they are given credit for. 
Promoters of underground music need to keep in mind that committing to release an album means a hell of a lot more than simply being responsible for getting it pressed and out the door.  Properly promoting an artist’s work means having a game plan for how to get the word out leading up to the release date as well as coordinating a nice push on the date of the release.  It also is critical to do maintenance promotion which continues to promote an album and make the public aware of it even as the label is busy getting other releases out.  I believe that the definition of a new release in small underground music cultures ends up being somewhat skewed.  Think about the duration of time pop artists can hover around on the charts.  In this genre, we are tiny outfits.  We have little to no staffing support and there are so many good albums that get lost in the shuffle, buried in overly aggressive release schedules.  I want to make sure that this never happens to Signifier’s artists.  A musician puts trust into their label and I feel as though I must guard that trust by advocating for the art that they’ve put in my hands far beyond the initial release date. 

What attracts you to industrial/noise/ambient? How did you get into this style of music?

There has always been some instinctual pull; there is something so very primal about the way these genres speak to me.  And if it incites the urge to dance, watch out!  No other style of music is as expressive in my opinion.  And certainly few other genres are as broad these days, either.  Where else can such a wide range of sounds be found under the same general umbrella? 
I will date myself here, but in 1994, I was a melancholy high school DJ and radio station music director.  I had something special cross my inbox and things have never been the same since.  That something was a compilation titled “Mysterious Encounters” put out by burgeoning Cleopatra Records.  I gave it a fair listen and was blown out of the water by this guy named Claus Larsen performing work under the moniker LeƦther Strip.  I had never heard anything like it.  My fifteen year old self immediately became a Zoth Ommog mailorder customer (mailorder!) and dark music has been my preference ever since.  

What do we have to look forward to from Signifier in the near future?

So much it breaks my brain!  Look for two releases from Signifier on August 30th.  First is the highly anticipated double disc compilation, “These Sounds Will Have to Meet Somewhere in Between” which features brand new material, special collaborations, and remixes from 31 artists on 27 tracks - which I can refer to as nothing less than glorious.  Artists include the likes of Lingouf, Vuxnut, Tonikom, Oil 10, OTX, Greyhound, Endif, and so much more.  Also on August 30th comes “How’s Annie?” from Cruise [Ctrl], the second album by this infectious Belgian electro industrial pair.  This release will feature exclusive tracks unique to the North American album and I am proud to be able to bring their sound to a wider audience. 
We anticipate that the debut album by NXV entitled “Bridging Divisions” will soon follow.  NXV is the ubiquitous Nick Viola’s (Fractured Transmission, Tea & Grief, HexRx) grinding breakcore project.  This Los Angeles area act is a bit unlike anything we’ve been hearing from US labels these days and I can’t wait to see how it is received both here in the states as well as abroad by those that have been pioneering the sound.
Soon to follow will be Volume 2 in the “A Mere Invention of the Idle Mind” series which we will be co-releasing alongside our good friends at Los Angeles based noise label Mechanismz.  This double disc set has been painstakingly curated by Shane Talada (Marching Dynamics/The Operative) and mastered by Jeff Swearengin (Sleep Clinic) and features the incredible sounds of Embodi, Zeller, Asche, Synapscape, Libido Formandi, Cervello Elettronico, 100blumen, and a ton more. 
Looking a little farther ahead, we’ve got the debut release of Yura Yura, an outstanding French rhythmic noise/tribal artist featuring gorgeous dance choreography by the lovely Macha Melanie.  We’ve also got the debut from To Travel Without Any Certain Destination (Libido Formandi/Last Days of S.E.X. side project) and the finally-to-be-realized full length debut by LAN Formatique, “The Sadness of Distances.”  This heartbreakingly beautiful album is a bit of an anomaly for Signifier and seems to represent the little corner piece of pizza mentioned above. Its brilliant mix of shoegazey electro IDM will finally be made available in physical form in unique packaging designed by none other than Eye.Lyft. 
In 2012, we have plans to release the third full length studio albums from both LAN Formatique and Cruise [Ctrl] and we are currently in negotiations with several other artists.  We are also working on a label sampler entitled “Pollinate” that will feature material from our 2011-2012 release roster, which will be available in a very limited CDr and free download. 
We’ve also got a couple of very exciting projects in the works with one of our allied labels.  The details are still forming but we hope to make some announcements soon.  Finally, on a personal note, there are some exciting changes ahead in my own life, and as a result, I believe that the next 12-24 months will bring about even more good things for Signifier.

Any final words? We wish you all the best for the rest of your first year, and really hope to be hearing about Signifier for many more to come.

Thank you so very much for this opportunity!  We couldn’t have survived this far into our first year without the support of everyone out there that is purchasing albums, sharing our status updates, promoting events, spinning our music, and reviewing our releases.  We count on you guys and you haven’t let us down! 
I believe in what we are doing and I believe that we are positioned to do it well despite any learning curve.  Every bump and bruise along the way has pointed to this path; I feel a great deal of gratitude toward those that have had a part in bringing this project into being.  I initiated Signifier in order to continue doing what I love.   And I truly hope that others continue to find value in doing it with me.

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