Interview received October 12 and 23, 2018.
What is your name?
Where are you located?
Do you save any materials – digital files, emails, physical materials – related to your netlabel? Are you interested in organizing or archiving them?
Sure. Whatever’s clever.
How do you define what is and what is not a netlabel?
If it’s a label operating and releasing music mostly online (save for a few physical releases here and there), then it’s essentially a netlabel, in my opinion. The definition of a netlabel could even be broader than anyone has yet to realize.
How and when did you first learn about netlabels?
Someone working at radio station KXLU in Los Angeles informed me of the idea, sometime in 1995.
What was the first netlabel you heard of?
I can’t remember, since I didn’t own a computer back in 1995, and the idea of a netlabel back then was so unknown and rare that I was out of touch with the scene. Any info that came my way went in one ear and out the other.
I’m intrigued that you heard of netlabels in the mid 90’s. I know you say you can’t remember what the one you heard mentioned on the radio was, but what are the earliest netlabels you remember hearing about?
The earliest netlabels that I can actually still remember the names of are: Treetrunk (US); Vuzh Music (US); Absence Of Wax (US); Non-Quality Audio (US); Microbit-Records (Russia); Love Torture Records (US); Smell The Stench (Australia); Dadaist Audio (Netherlands); Takkeherrie Recordings (Netherlands).
What are some netlabels that inspired or influenced you? Or that you admire?
Other than the labels listed above, I’d say: God Hates God Records (Belgium); Fuck Labels // Fuck Mastering (Belgium); Acousmatique Recordings (San Francisco); Hortus Conclusus Records (Italy); Eighth Tower Records (Italy); Tape-Safe (Belgium).
What made you decide to start your own netlabel?
Like basically everyone, I needed an “official” outlet to publish my own shit. With sites like Internet Archive, I could publish anything I ever wanted to. Since there was no need for a physical format, it became super easy to invite other kindred spirits from across the globe to release music, just like a traditional record company would normally do.
What were the reasons you had to choose releasing music for free? And why did you choose to not release physical albums?
It was the only option available at the time.
What is the name of your netlabel?
Completely Gone Recordings
Why did you choose the name you chose?
I needed a name on the double. Basically, the pressure was on to release a crazy Dutch harsh noise album as quickly as possible, and I picked the name from one of my own songs. It fit.
When did you start your netlabel?
It was a cassette label from 1988-2003 and (briefly) a CDr label from 2004-2005. We went online summer of 2006.
What is the focus of your netlabel?
To open a chasm in the wall of generalized reality, so we may safely enter, in order to eat spiritual oatmeal, in our own time and space.
Are your albums released under creative commons, copyleft or copyright? Why did you choose the method you chose?
Yes. All of the above. Depending on the artist’s needs, ideas like “Creative Commons Vs. Copyright Control” shift in importance. Personally, I prefer copyright control on my own material. But, there are also some artists I like to work with who don’t give things like copyright control any mind, and they’d really prefer to have their stuff be available for free, within the public domain. That’s cool. Whatever works, works.
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?
I maintain a good relationship with most of the artists on the label, and rarely is there a problem with anyone, although there have been some instances. I do also like to enjoy promoting their music through my label, too. Even if it’s totally out of my sphere of influence, or has absolutely nothing to do with me.
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?
Usually, they approach me. But, I’ve approached many too. They send me a link to their music. I listen. If I like what I hear, and if they are friendly, I’ll respond with an invite to release something on CGR. Talk of promotion and other specifics are worked out with the artist before publishing anything. When all is agreed upon, we release their music.
I’m the lead curator for Completely Gone. But, there were times when I essentially gave certain CGRtist’s the keys to the label, if you will. And they’ve actually curated some really fucking incredible releases, in their own right.
What was the process for having other people curate CGR? Was it just a matter of them choosing artists and releases? Or were they also in charge of any of the logistics?
I invited them to curate pet projects of their own at different points during 2007-2012. They had nearly full reign over the projects they chose. As long as their idea’s were workable, they got accepted. The logistics were handled democratically, with everyone involved participating in each release that they curated. It was good.
What are or were your criteria for the music you curate and release?
No dis tracks from one CGRtist to another CGRtist. No covers of Sweet Home Alabama. That’s about it.
What genres have you never released before, that you would love to release on your label or on a future label of yours?
Jazz and classical 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?
Yes, tons. Unfortunately, they are mostly completely gone now. They were of a different time.
How many albums have you released?
As of right now, 341.
Who are some of your most notable artists?
Army Of 2600 (US); Ars Sonor (Sweden); Bryand Dass (Trinidad); Bloody Blue (Belgium); Buben (Belarus); Derek PS (US); Devin Sarno (US); experiMENTALien (Slovakia); Kosmik Leprechaun (US); Lien Vøid (Austria); Mesa Lanes (US); nordBeck (Sweden); Quint Baker (New Zealand); Rusty-Like (Guatemala); Sean Derrick Cooper Marquardt (Germany); Super Thirty-One (US); Sylphides (Belgium); Tambourine Halo (US); Thomas Jackson Park (US); Totalitny Rezim (Slovakia); Ullapul (France); V (Belgium).
Which are some of your most significant releases?
Experimentalien Meets AIN23 | Chaos Trilogy DVD
Kosmik Leprechaun | Destroyed Dimensions
Mesa Lanes | High Crimes & Misdemeanors
Ars Sonor | Themes for Bloody Shadows
Tambourine Halo | She Loves The Birds
Various Artists | CGR Presents : Vol. V
N.Strahl.N & nordBeck | Großes Blau
Super Thirty-One | Me In Time
mutanT.R.I. | Wolf’s Hole
Ullapul | ジャスミン
Quint Baker | Licks
nordBeck | 78 rpm
Do you release your own work on your netlabel? What do you think of that practice?
Yes. It helps gain exposure. After all, why not?
What do you enjoy about running your netlabel? What do you get out of it?
What are some difficult things about running the label? Or what are some challenges?
Psychotic stalkers, envious frenemies, vampish groupies. That sort of thing.
Has anything about it been disappointing or frustrating?
Almost anything is par for the course when running a record label, including setbacks and drama. If you learn how to identify the bullshit that comes along with the territory, you should hopefully understand how to avoid it.
What keeps or kept you motivated to continue running the netlabel when you are, or were feeling frustrated?
It’s just something I enjoy doing.
How much time do you put into running the label? Approximate hours per day, week or month?
If I am say, producing a record for a particular CGRtist, that process could take months, or even years. If I am mastering an album before it’s release, that could take a week. If I am creating the cover artwork for a CGRelease, that takes 3 hours. If I curate a compilation, that takes about a month. The total amount of time I spend on CGR depends on my schedule and the availability of those I work with.
Can you describe all the work that you do on a regular basis in order to run your label?
Communicate with artist’s, curate releases, create artwork, master recordings, archive details, update websites, etc…
In what audio format and bitrate do you release your albums?
Why did you choose that format?
Do you zip your files into a package? Or are the albums uploaded as individual files?
Aside from the audio files, do you include any other types of files or information with the album?
Yeah. Session notes and any visual or bonus content.
What software programs do you use to run your netlabel? For converting and encoding audio, for metadata, for ftp, for making cover art, etc.
No disrespect. Though, I’d prefer not to talk about specifics regarding technology that I use.
Where do you share your releases? On your website? Free Music Archive? Internet Archive? Et al? A combination of these things?
Completely Gone Recordings is currently located at Bandcamp.
What do you do to promote your label?
Rarely, do I ever mention it on the Completely Gone Recordings Facebook page. Instead, I prefer to stand at the tallest peak in the valley, and yodel the details towards the vacanity of the tribespeople downwind, who then take a considerable amount of time translating my words into universally acceptable symbols and pictographs, for those who don’t understand the meaning of Completely Gone Recordings yet.
Do you send releases out for review? If yes, is it traditional media – review sites, magazines, blogs, etc. Or are there non-traditional methods?
Occasionally. But, journalists usually just take it upon themselves to review CGReleases. For example, our favourite one is probably the “Yeah I Know It Sucks” absurdist review website. They are absolutely hilarious when they review ANYTHING. I pee my pants reading the crazy reviews they have. You’ve got to check it out.
How much success have you had in getting people to review your releases in magazines, blogs or websites? Any frustrations regarding this?
We’ve generally had good press, from all areas of the scene. No frustrations at all, really.
Have you had success in getting people in general to listen to your releases?
Yes. But, it wavers, depending on what we’re releasing at the time. Like, I could release something that is immensely popular, like a compilation, for example. I’ll barely have to promote those at all, and people flock to these kinds of releases. But, then maybe I’ll release an album or EP by an artist that I absolutely love listening to and I’ll sometimes go out of my way to promote them, yet the album still ends up being a total flop that no one is interested in listening to at all. It’s pretty funny, actually.
Do you keep track of your download numbers and, if yes, how have they changed over the years?
Yes. It’s a must, if you want to know what your company is capable of. Download numbers at CGR go up and down like a rapid cycling borderline. It all depends on the weather.
How important are download numbers and number of listeners to you?
If a CGRtist has the desire to gain a larger audience, then the numbers are more important. If a CGRtist doesn’t care about popularity, then the numbers are less important. Sometimes, the numbers are focused on more. Other times, there is less focus on numbers, and more on the art itself, regardless of popularity.
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?
Yes and no. The lack of a physical release does not determine the quality of the music presented within. However, releasing physical products can also be beneficial, in that there is the whole “limited edition” collector’s side to it all, even if the music isn’t as good. Also, a physical release just feels weighty, and more like a “real” album, than a digital download.
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?
It’s really never been an issue with the main artist’s on the label. We’ve had a few physical releases with some of them, and more are being planned for the near future. There have been some people who want me to release their music on a physical format up front. But, I don’t do that right off the bat. They’ve got to earn it first. So, some of them simply lose interest and split, which is fine with me.
In addition to promotion, publicity and releasing albums do you organize live performances or festivals for your artists?
We’ve done that a lot in the past, especially in the 90’s and early 2000’s, when the label was more of a noise-rock excursion.
How do you finance your netlabel, including the labor you put into it?
I run CGR entirely on the cheap. And, I’m committed to it, regardless of budget constraints.
What do you think your legacy might be?
I don’t know. It’s not something I want to think about too much, really. Almost every artist dreams of being revered as something special, when they’re gone.
Do you feel that you are or were filling a niche that other labels were not?
Perhaps, back in the mid 2000’s. The kind of music we represented back then has gotten more popular since then. So, it isn’t really as much of a niche element as it used to be. There’s now perhaps a thousand labels out there that could possibly be the exact same experience as Completely Gone Recordings. I don’t know for sure.
What do you think about Bandcamp and any similar music hosting sites?
Bandcamp is great. The other sites are good too. It all depends on what you want to do in regards to making money and protecting your copyrights.
How do you decide which releases are available for free and which are for purchase?
Each price is set based on certain values. The popularity of certain releases, as well as the artist’s wishes, always come into play when considering the price of our releases. If an individual, artist, or group prefers their CGReleases remain a non-profit affair, I’ll honour that.
Do you think netlabels are sustainable? If yes, what do you think the future is for them? Should there be more?
They can be sustainable, yes. But it takes extreme determination and painstaking work to achieve that sometimes. The future will see a mass proliferation of netlabels that are so numerous and varied in classification, that the market is already becoming flooded with new music, every second. That’s not a bad thing, really.
Are there too many netlabels?
Will netlabels be obsolete before 2025?
Nope. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Does your netlabel align with any political or philosophical positions or thoughts? Do you get involved with politics at all as a netlabel?
Ultimately, CGR leaves those kinds of things for our artist’s to choose upon.
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?
Netlabels are an overlapping evolutionary mutation of the older underground cassette tape trading and mail art cultures.
Are you aware of a chronological history of netlabels? If yes, what is it?
It’s on Google somewhere. I’m sorry, I don’t know where exactly.
Is there anything else you would like to write about that wasn’t included here?
Nothing that I can think of at the moment.
What questions would you ask other people who run netlabels?
You’ve basically covered everything. Thank you, Keith. Much, much respect, man!