Interview received: March 22, 2018.
What is your name?
Ras Edward aka sOuL_sCientiSt.
Where are you located?
United States of America (DMV Area).
Do you save any materials – digital files, emails, physical materials – related to your netlabel? Are you interested in organizing or archiving them?
Yes. I have digital copies of every release the label has ever put out. They are already organized and archived on the Coma Recordz website. Our releases are also archived on the netlabel archive website and the Internet Archive. The label also plans out putting out our first physical CD release of the Coma Wrek 100 compilation. We will be releasing a limited edition of 100 hand numbered CDs sometime in the summer. From there we will also start doing more CD/Tape/Thumb Drives releases in the future. The ultimate goal is to eventually put out some vinyl releases.
How do you define what is and what is not a netlabel?
A netlabel to me is just an online version of the old school record labels. Netlabels for the most part release their music for free as digitial downloads that are protected by a Creative Commons license. The majority of netlabels operate on a non-profit basis and do it strictly for the love of the music and to help promote amazing underground artists from around the world that these big commercial record labels would otherwise ignore or take advantage of the artists.
How and when did you first learn about netlabels?
I first got into the netlabel scene in 2006 when I first started making music myself. I absolutely fell in love with labels like Pavillon36 Recordings (which was also the label I released my first EP on), Bludclot Recordings, Sociopath Recordings, NKS International, Scolex Recordings, Placenta Recordings, Trashfuck Records, Braincore Recordings, D-Trash Records, Unjustified Records, Legs Akimbo Records, Dramacore, Realicide Youth Records, Chase Records, Brainkracking Records, Viral Conspiracy Records, Splitterkor Rekords, Sirona Records, Splitterblast Records, ENDE Records, Paris Zombie Netabel, C.I.L. Recordings, Annoying Beatz Crew, etc. I gotta stop there or I’ll be naming my favorite netlabels forever. LOL. There are just so many fucking quality labels that I couldn’t possibly name them all here.
What was the first netlabel you heard of?
I can’t really remember the first label I ever heard of, but if I was to take a guess, I’d say it was probably D-Trash Records.
What are some netlabels that inspired or influenced you? Or that you admire?
Once again, LOL, Pavillon36 Recordings (which was also the label I released my first EP on), Bludclot Recordings, Sociopath Recordings, NKS International, Scolex Recordings, Placenta Recordings, Trashfuck Records, Braincore Recordings, D-Trash Records, Unjustified Records, Legs Akimbo Records, Dramacore, Realicide Youth Records, Chase Records, Brainkracking Records, Viral Conspiracy Records, Splitterkor Rekords, Sirona Records, Splitterblast Records, ENDE Records, Paris Zombie Netabel, C.I.L. Recordings, Annoying Beatz Crew.
What made you decide to start your own netlabel?
I originally started my label to promote my own music and to promote the music of my friends who are fellow artists and who make amazing music that I love. I strictly do this for the love of the music and for the most part, besides the artists who make the music I release, I’m a one man operation. I never went into this to make money off of it.
What were the reasons you had to choose releasing music for free? And why did you choose to not release physical albums?
The main reason I wanted to do free digital releases was to supply the world with the types of music that I love and to support underground artists and help promote them in any way I could.
What is the name of your netlabel?
Coma Recordz aka Coma Wrek.
Why did you choose the name you chose?
For a large portion of my life I actually wished I was in a coma. I didn’t have the easiest life growing up and I’m a product of a broken home. There were many dark nights of the soul in my life where I just wished I could close my eyes and drift away deep into darkness and be free from a lot of the emotional trauma that I was experiencing. I would imagine that was what being ina coma would be like. So, that’s why I decided on the name Coma Recordz.
When did you start your netlabel?
The label was officially started in 2010. That’s when I started releasing my music as torrent files on the now defunct torrent site Mininova. I used their content distribution service to get my releases out there. Mininova was a HUGE help in getting the Coma Recordz name and releases out there to a worldwide audience. Before the website finally shut down back in 2017, the Coma torrents had been downloaded over ten million times in countries from all over the globe. It was and still is a beautiful thing to think about and the label owes a great debt of gratitude to Mininova and torrents in general. Since the closure of Mininova other torrent sites have picked up and archived/indexed the Coma torrents and you can still download them to this day. The Internet Archive also has a torrent option as well and we still offer a torrent download for every release on the Coma website. The Coma Recordz website officially went online on February 10th, 2012.
What is the focus of you netlabel?
To bring quality music for free to a worldwide audience and to promote independent artists.
Are your albums released under creative commons, copyleft or copyright? Why did you choose the method you chose?
All our albums are released under a Creative Commons lisence. I chose that method because it gives the artists the rights to their music and protects them. I feel the whole Creative Commons idea is a revolutionary concept and a wonderful thing.
What is your relationship to the artists that you release? Do you maintain any contact once you’ve released their work? Do you help promote them outside of their release itself?
Yes. Very much so. I’ve become friends with each and every one of them and I help support them in any way I can. Many of them have also gone on to start their own netlabels which I love to help promote and do co-releases with. It’s definitely a family vibe to the netlabel scene and these awesome people I’ve had the chance to meet and become friends with is beyond special. It’s a crazy thing to say, but these people are more family to me than my actual blood family. That’s how deep these bonds run. TRUTH!
How do you decide what artists you want to release? Do you approach them? Do they approach you? Do you have any specific guidelines that you follow? Do you act as a curator or is it all luck of the draw?
It goes both ways. Sometimes I’ll approach an artist that I really dig and ask them if they’d like to work with the label and do a release or DJ mix (we also do a DJ mix series on the label called ComaWrek Presentz Tha Nodcast) or I’ll get submissions from artists and if I’m into their sound I’ll release their music. Also, just by me releasing all the music on the label that makes me a music curator. The label is like an art gallery of sounds. BTW, shameless self-promotion, if you’d like to submit yr music to the label to be considered for a release, you can message me at the following email address: email@example.com. You can also connect with me on Facebook. I’m under the name Ras Edward (soulscientist) and I’m also on Instagram under the name soul_scientist (Ras Edward).
What are your criteria for the music you curate and release?
The only criteria for releasing music on Coma is that it’s gotta be dope fucking music that I’m into and it has to be original and unique. Coma is a 100% garbage free music zone. I have no time for bullshit egos and arrogant bitches.
What genres have you never released before, that you would love to release on your label or on a future label of yours?
I’d really love to release an underground outlaw country album. Something in the style of a Hank Williams III. And I’d really like to release some deep blues music and jazz. When I say the label is “multi-genre”, that shit ain’t no joke. I think that’s also something that seperates us from a lot of other labels who are only known for releasing one style of music or very limited styes of music.
Are there any artists that you have yet to release that you would like to work with? Or that you always wished you had been able to work with?
Holy fuck. That would be another huge list. LOL. Most of my dream artists to release are more than likey way too big to release anything on my little, underground label that’s ran from the living room of my apartment, but, just to indulge yr question, I’d love to release stuff from artists like Enduser, Bong-Ra, FFF, Venetian Snares, Squarepusher, Congo Natty, Capleton, Salem, Tricky, Mazzy Star, etc. Once again, I’ll stop there or there will be no end in site. LOL. Those are the type of artists who inspired me and I’m a major fan of their work. And, of course, releasing anything by them is just one massive pipe dream.
How many albums have you released?
To date the label has released 165 albums/EPs. We’ve also released 81 DJ mixes under Tha Nodcast mix series.
Who are some of your most notable artists?
Doctor Mario (the KING of Coma Recordz!), redHat, Batard Tronique, Noistruct, Psykoxxx, J.A.H. Tolkien, SAFOH, DJ Kaos, MiNDSTR3AM, Futant, Beyond The Borders, Helaku, Ickymack, Bethas, The Sound of the Fox, Brain Influenza, Girlflesh, Frontcore, Production Unit Xero, Napolean Rigor Mortis, Nebulist, DJ Habett, Technicolor Yawn, Porion, DJ R3V3R3ND MURD3R, 666gangstaz, CRN:66116, Hanna Elson, Luxe Futura, Robotic Joe, Sean Derrick Cooper Marquardt, TalixZen, 00x, Sravana108/The Nothing, South American Beauty Culture.
Which are some of your most significant releases?
Doctor Mario We R Not 4 U 2 Have (Bonus Edition), South American Beauty Culture My Record Player Doesn’t Work, Sravana108/The Nothing I’m Ashamed To Be Human, sOuL_sCientiSt Part One” & “Part Two, sOuL_sCientiSt Babylon Destruction Mixtape, Doctor Mario High Speed Matrix Scrimshaw (For Beginners), J.A.H. Tolkien Attack of the Insect Leprechaun Zombies, DJ Kaos DJ Kaos, MiNDSTR3AM, Vendetta, Sean Derrick Cooper Marquardt “ear Beloved (I Have A Heart), W!DE Re:Ceiver and DJ Kaos Live At The Bowery Ballroom, Doctor Mario SF1966, Nebulist Psychedelic Dead Fox, Laf-O & TalixZen Dubientism, SAFOH Kalanmikitl, Hanna Elson Before: 2010-2012, 666gangstaz Diabolikal Archives (Part 1 & Part 2), CRN:66116 Process Revival, Porion & Friendz Blast Broken Black, Batard Tronique Gipsycore, Technicolor Yawn Sores Material, DJ Habett Hey You!, Maggots Promo Compilation, The Martyr (Slowed & Chopped by DJ Penguin), Floods Day of the Dead, Beyond The Borders Time Will Come, Nebulist Bootleg Romance, Noistruct The Circle of Hesitation, J.A.H. Tolkien Unicron vs. Soundwave (Inna N.S.A. Privacy Invasion Dubclash), Napoleon Rigor Mortis PEGI 18, Production Unit Xero Beacon, Frontcore Frontcore, Psykoxxx Come And Hear, Brain Influenza Autopsy: Searching For A Soul, (V/A) Electronic Jihad Compilation, (V/A) North American Breakcore Presents Strategies Against Breakcore Compilation, Helaku Indian, Indian What Did You Die For?, Girlflesh Almost Human, Beyond The Borders Ya Odin, Against The Machine, redHat Breakcore Trap Bootlegs Vol. 1, Brain Influenza Healing Hands, The Sound of the Fox My Secret Bangers, Bethas End of Days, Ickymack Duck Fucking Blunted EP, (V/A) Coma Wrek 100 Compilation, King Spooky Pickles Destruction of the Anti-Pickle.
Do you release your own work on your netlabel? What do you think of that practice?
Yes. I have in the past. I have no problem with it as long as the main focus of the netlabel isn’t on the owner’s music. I much prefer to release my music on other netlabels.
What do you enjoy about running your netlabel? What do you get out of it?
I enjoy releasing amazing music to the masses for free. I get a sense of pride knowing that I’m doing my small part in helping promote quality artists. It’s also something that occupies my time and keeps me out of trouble and away from the ways of my old life which weren’t always a good thing.
What are some difficult things about running the label? Or what are some challenges?
As far as difficult things or challenges, to me there are none. I love what I do and want to continue doing it for as long as it brings me joy. The day it starts feeling like a job to me is the day I call it quits and move on to other projects.
Has anything about it been disappointing or frustrating?
Nope. Not at all.
What keeps motivated to continue running the netlabel when you are or were feeling frustrated?
During those dark days from 2016 to 2017 when the label only released three albums during that period because of some very difficult personal issues I was dealing with at that time keeping the label alive was always in my mind and no matter how dark it got for me I never once thought about shutting it down. It was actually the opposite. Getting back to better days and running the label full time again is what kept me going and saved me from drowning in a emotional swamp.
How much time do you put into running the label? Approximate hours per day, week or month?
That all depends on how many releases I’m working on putting out at any given time. Sometime I’ll only put out one release a month and there was one month back in 2012 were I put out thirteen releases. It usually takes me a couple hours from start to finish to put out an album on the website, or sometimes less. It all depends on the size of the album.
Can you describe all the work that you do on a regular basis in order to run your label?
You have to work on doing the ID tags for each track and getting the tracklisting in order. Then comes working on the cover artwork. Sometimes the artists already have their own artwork for the release and sometimes I’ll create it for them. Then I’ll work on putting together the INFO file which contains all the information about the release and gives a description of what the release is all about and whatever other info the artists would like included about their release. I also add links to the artists websites. After all that is done I then upload the album to The Internet Archive and they create a direct download link and a torrent link for the release which I then add to the album’s release page on the Coma website. I also make sure all the download links and torrent links are up to date and working.
In what audio format and bitrate do you release your albums?
320kbps MP3 files.
Why did you choose that format?
To me that format sounds just as good as any other ones like FLAC files, Ogg Vorbis or WAV files. Plus, the MP3 file sizes are much smaller and they take less time to upload and download.
Do you zip your files into a package? Or are the albums uploaded as individual files?
I do both. You can either download a zip file which contains the complete release or you have the option to download individual files. The decision is all up to the person doing the downloading.
Aside from the audio files, do you include any other types of files or information with the album?
Yes. Certain releases contain music videos for tracks on the album and there is one release by Luxe Futura called How To Operate Your Mind that includes an e-book that he wrote about the psychological aspects of the psychedelic experience and its implications on human evolution. And just recently (January 17th, 2018) Futant released an album called Cyberpunk that included a documentary they (Luxe Futura & F. Tyler) created called Timothy Leary’s Cyberdelic Experience Documentary. It fits the whole cyberpunk culture that the album is about. Doctor Leary is a huge influence on both artists and their music.
What software programs do you use to run your netlabel? For converting and encoding audio, for metadata, for ftp, for making cover art, etc.
For converting and encoding audio I like to use a program called dBpoweramp. I also use it for ID tags/metadata. I can also use my DAW of choice, FL Studio, to convert/encode audio. For cover art I like to use a free Photoshop alternative called GIMP. As far as a FTP server/client is concerned, I use another free program called FileZilla.
Where do you share your releases? On your website? Free Music Archive? Internet Archive? Et al? A combination of these things?
I share the label’s releases on the Coma Recordz website, The Internet Archive, various torrent sites also archive/index our releases, Lolicore is another place that indexes/archives our stuff, and I run a Coma Recordz group page on Facebook. It’s not only a place for Coma Recordz material, all artists and fellow netlabels are allowed and encouraged to share their music and other projects. At last count we are currently 538 members strong and growing all the time.
Do you send releases out for review? If yes, is it traditional media – review sites, magazines, blogs, etc. Or are there non-traditional methods?
No. I’ve never done that myself, but other review sites, zines, blogs, etc. have reviewed our releases. I’ve come across reviews of our music by accident on several occasions and it’s a great feeling to know that there are people out there that are really into the music we put out. It’s a very rewarding feeling.
How much success have you had in getting people to review your releases in magazines, blogs or websites? Any frustrations regarding this?
Like I said in the above question, I don’t ever try to get people to review anything. A lot of what we do is strictly old school DIY, word of mouth. I feel like the label is the equivalent of the way the punk bands of the 80s used to do things. I consider us to be the new school version of that. We are electonic punks!
Have you had success in getting people in general to listen to your releases?
Well, like I said earlier, the label’s releases have been downloaded over ten million times and counting, so I think we’ve enjoyed great success in what we do and in spreading the music to a worldwide audience.
Do you keep track of your download numbers and, if yes, how have they changed over the years?
I used to keep track of the download numbers of the torrents using Mininova’s content distribution service. That was the absolute perfect way to keep track of torrent download numbers and it even showed you what percentage of the downloads came from what country. It was amazing. I still have old screenshots of our downloads. (See image below.) Now I keep track of the download numbers using The Internet Archive and the Coma Recordz website.
How important are download numbers and number of listeners to you?
Of course you take pride in big download numbers and how many listeners you have, but to me that isn’t everything. When I release something it’s because I believe in it and the artists and enjoy the music myself. The release could only have one listener or download, and that one person being me, and I’d still love it just the same as if it had a thousand downloads and listeners. To me it’s always been about quality over quantity and it always will be.
Do you feel that the lack of a physical object – vinyl, cassette, eight track, etc. – is a hindrance to building an audience? To getting any media to pay attention? If yes, why do you think that is the case?
No. I don’t think that’s the case at all. We’ve built a very strong worldwide audience over the years releasing nothing but free digitial downloads.
Has the lack of a physical object been a problem for any of the artists that you have worked with? If it has how have you responded?
Nope. That’s never been a problem at all.
In addition to promotion, publicity and releasing albums do you organize live performances or festivals for your artists?
Actually, that’s something I’m just getting into. I’ve teamed up with my best friend and owner of Something Original Productions and we’re starting to throw our own shows. We have a huge electronic music festival coming up next month (April 27th to the 29th, 2018) called “Bearthday Bash.” It’s being held in a abandoned turnpike tunnel in Pennsylvania called Sideling Hill Tunnel. The show is being promoted by Something Original Productions, Coma Recordz, Grime Sugar, and Whitehowls Productions. The lineup for the festival is as follows: Friday night – Satronica, Decide Today, redHat, Black Daddy, Bonebreakz, Childs Play, DJ Grenade, Dread Drop, DTL Contraversy, Flatline, K Dawg, Street Shaman, Twizm, Weapons of Mashed Percussion. Saturday night – Hybrid Minds, Hooded Leaders, Moonbeam Jones of Dubtribe, Nvrsoft Ft. Vegaa Genesis, Androponix, Ozone, Blotter, Cauist, DJ Projects, Dr. Bubbles FT. Mateo Monk, Frankie Bass, Front N Center, Infinitetrip, Jah Boogs, K~Rai, Lo~Ki FT. Ashley Jackson, Noistek, OFY, Rude Operator, Sindakyt, Viiolentmusic, Wicked Sway. The event will also be hosted by Emcees Vegaa Genesis, Mikey Peelmore & Mic EP. It will also include live firespinning by Brenna Becker. There will be a $50 entry fee and it’s an all ages show. Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. No drugs or alcohol will be tolerated! (See images below.)
How do you finance your netlabel, including the labor you put into it?
The only overhead I have for running the label is what I pay to keep the website up and running, and that’s not much at all. I use my free time to run the label. I have other jobs that actually pay the bills.
What do you think your label’s legacy might be?
I don’t know how to answer that at the current time. I just hope that twenty years from now the label, and myself, will be alive and kicking and still putting out dope albums. In all honesty I can’t ever envision anyone else taking control of the label or stepping in for me to run things if something happens to me and I can no longer do it. The Coma Wrek movement will die with me.
Do you feel that you are filling a niche that other labels were not?
Yes I do. I especially feel that way since we are so big on being a multi-genre label when so many others just release a certain type or types of music. With Coma there are no limits. And you can mos def see that by our diverse catalog of music that’s growing larger every year.
What do you think about Bandcamp and any similar music hosting sites?
I really have no thoughts on them. I don’t use Bandcamp or Spotify or any of those sites. I have no need for them.
Do you think netlabels are sustainable? If yes, what do you think the future is for them? Should there be more?
Yes. I definitely feel that they are sustainable. They have been for all these years and will continue to be. If anything, they will just continue to grow and get bigger by the year. I think the future is very bright for netlabels.
Are there too many netlabels?
No. I don’t think there can ever be too many netlabels as long as the ones that do exist continue to release quality music and don’t flood the net with subpar, shitty tracks.
Will netlabels be obsolete before 2025?
LOL. Fuck no. They will be going stronger than ever. Believe that.
Does your netlabel align with any political or philosophical positions or thoughts? Do you get involved with politics at all as a netlabel?
We don’t fall for the bullshit of the left/right paradigm. Politics are really politricks. We don’t buy into the current corrupt system. We stand strong against it. We are for equals right for all people, regardless of their race or sexuality. The only race that matters to me is the human race. Simple as that. I love the human family in all it’s good forms. I am truly colorblind.
How do you feel that netlabels as a phenomenon overlap with any other artist practices – cassette trading, mail art, etc? Is there any overlap with podcasts, podfiction/netfiction, or any other art that is distributed for free?
It’s all art in one form or the other. So, yes, there is an overlap and that’s a good thing.
Are you aware of a chronological history of netlabels? If yes, what is it?
No. Currently I am not, but it would be an awesome history project for someone who has that much time on their hands to compile. And I’d be very happy to have Coma Recordz as a part of that history.
Is there anything else you would like to write about that wasn’t included here?
No. Not really. You have mos def covered all the bases and this has been a very thorough interview. In fact, I’ve been thinking about and answering your questions for the last couple of hours now. I wasn’t coming into this to half-ass it and just bullshit around. I respect what you are doing and took the time to answer your questions as openly and honestly as I could.
What questions would you ask other people who run netlabels?
I really wouldn’t need to ask them anything. You definitely have all the questions covered and this has been a very thoughtful and insightful interview. I’m glad I could help you out with your research of sorts and would be open to helping you more in the future with any other projects you may have and I’m very appreciative of you helping promote the Coma Recordz netlabel and all our artists and their music. Thank you very much.