Interview received: November 24 and December 4, 2016.
What is your name?
Roger Smith – CHEFKIRK – JUICE MACHINE.
Where are you located?
Eugene, Oregon, USA.
Do you save any materials – digital files, emails, physical materials – related to your netlabel? Are you interested in organizing or archiving them?
Each release is burned to cd-r after release. That is it. All of the material lives on the web. I once did a large run of Control Valve post cards for promo. I might do that again.
How and when did you first learn about netlabels?
2000-2001? I was first getting into researching how to release my own experimental noise musics and came across a whole network of netlabels offering free hi-quality musics.
What was the first netlabel you heard of?
That is tough, I cannot say for sure but I remember these Tibprod, Nishi, Slapart. I got a lot of early stuff from archive.org.
What are some netlabels that inspired or influenced you? Or that you admire?
I remember stumbling across fals.ch, oh man, there are so many from that early time that I cannot remember. I would download things and if I liked them, I would then burn the audio to cd-r, a practice I still do today. I do not own an mp3 player! Pretty funny for someone who runs a netlabel?!
What is the name of your netlabel?
When did you start it?
What made you decide to start your own netlabel?
I was in a technical two year collage for computers and I had to build a functioning webpage, so why just build some “this is my webpage, I like music” b.s. page for the class? I took the time and opportunity to build and launch Control Valve. It was fun, people didn’t get it. I did get a good grade, but the instructor didn’t really like the design that much.
What were the reasons you had to choose releasing music for free? And why did you choose to not release physical albums?
I had a dream of releasing music I really thought was special and that I really loved, but I could/cannot afford the price of proper physical releases, so free netlabel it is! $10 a month for the site and archive.org hosts most of my .zip files. Music for the people, kind of. I just really loved getting good quality sounds for free, so it’s what I do as well.
Why did you choose the name you chose?
I was out taking a break from the web design class and looked down to see a control valve box cover in the lawn.
What is the focus of you netlabel?
Hi-quality 320 kbps mp3 zip files of experimental noise improvisational glitch harsh drone electronics digitals etc. For free!
Are your albums released under creative commons, copyleft or copyright? Why did you choose the method you chose?
I’m kind of interested in the fact that you have such a non-interest in creative commons vs copyright. So far almost everyone that has responded has been super into creative commons and open culture. Is there a reason for your ambivalence? Or is it just a non-issue for you?
Yes, I’d say it is a non-issue for me. Control Valve is an old school mp3 net label. It’s based on those early 1st experiences I had with net labels. You can see that I don’t have any streaming or samples on the site. In the early days you read a description and downloaded the files and listened to the release. Copyright and creative commons are things I’m not really concerned with. If an artist feels strongly about it, and I have had some on the label who do, they can add the information in their artist text file that comes in the release zip file.
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 am a fan of the artists on Control Valve, I ask them to submit material because I love their work/sound. I usually maintain some level of contact with each of them. I do promote Control Valve on the web. Sometimes in the real world also. I have shared live bills with some of them, set up live shows, collaborated, but a fan of each of their works for sure.
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?
I approach them. I hear something, maybe on a tape or cd, maybe I see them play live, yeah, I ask them because I want them to be part of the netlabel. All audio files must be 320 kbps mp3. The artist also provides a .txt file of information/biography and one jpeg image without text. I curate for sure.
Why do you specify 320kbps mp3 files for release? That’s my standard release format also, I’m just curious.
Again, I’m going old school and only offering mp3 as audio file. I chose 320kbps because it’s “cd quality” or the highest quality mp3 available. Each step lower in mp3 quality you can hear loss in original sound. I don’t want that loss to occur.
How many albums have you released?
Who are some of your most notable artists?
Carl Kruger, PCRV, Andreas Brandal, Marlo Eggplant, AODL, Staplerfahrer, CHEFKIRK, Vasectomy Party.
Which are some of your most significant releases?
They are all significant for me. I love them all.
Do you release your own work on your netlabel? What do you think of that practice?
Yes, I have some solo CHEFKIRK, some collaborations, my duo JUICE MACHINE has a release. It’s fine. It’s good stuff. I want to share it. I have no problem with self-releases. Some of my favorite musics are from self-releases.
What do you enjoy about running your netlabel? What do you get out of it?
I enjoy putting out quality music I love from good people making good shit. It helps me stay connected to the diy undercurrent.
What are some difficult things about running the label? Or what are some challenges?
It’s all good. I got no complaints.
Has anything about it been disappointing or frustrating?
How much time do you put into running the label? Approximate hours per day, week or month?
4-6 hours per month.
Can you describe all the work that you do on a regular basis in order to run your label?
Ask people for submissions, give them the guidelines, get the material, properly title and code all audio and images, upload zip files, update the website to reflect new releases, post about releases in web forums, Facebook, etc. Pretty simple stuff.
Where do you share your releases? On your website? Free music archive? Internet archive? Et al? A combination of these things?
What do you do to promote your label?
Post about it on Facebook, some web forums for noise and experimental music and I used to do an e-mail list.
Why did you stop sending out emails to your email list?
It’s really user error. You can see I still have a hotmail, now outlook, e-mail account. I really should abandon this shitty e-mail, but for some reason I like the torture? It’s just become harder and harder to send mass e-mail list type messages after countless upgrades to this “service.” I figure with social media and message boards the bases are pretty well covered. Control Valve also has a blog page and interested parties can sign on the rss feature.
Do you send releases out for review? If yes, is it traditional media – review sites, magazines, blogs, etc. Or are there non-traditional methods?
Why do you choose to not send releases out for review?
It became harder and harder to find reliable sources to review releases, period. Not to mention trying to find someone to review a web-only release. So I gave up. I do, however, greatly appreciate when someone takes the time to publish any kind of review for Control Valve releases and some have popped up, also yearend, best off lists, etc.
How much success have you had in getting people to review your releases in magazines, blogs or websites? Any frustrations regarding this?
Have you had success in getting people in general to listen to your releases?
I hope so!
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. Physical objects are nice to collect, I have a lot of them, but that is not the point of a netlabel.
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?
I don’t think so. It’s free mp3 zip files. All the artists know this before submitting work and I think we all see it as an opportunity to reach more people, just like releasing a tape.
In addition to promotion, publicity and releasing albums do you organize live performances or festivals for your artists?
No festivals. Some live performances if they are on tour and travelling through Eugene.
How do you finance your netlabel, including the labor you put into it?
It’s $10 a month for http://www.controlvalve.net , and archive.org hosts my .zips for free, so it’s pretty cheap. I work a 40hr/week job.
What do you think about Bandcamp and any similar music hosting sites?
It’s cool. I have a Bandcamp for CHEFKIRK and one for JUICE MACHINE.
Do you think netlabels are sustainable? If yes, what do you think the future is for them? Should there be more?
I don’t know. I don’t think of music/art in terms of sustainability. I think there are plenty and the future, I don’t know.
Does your netlabel align with any political or philosophical positions or thoughts? Do you get involved with politics at all as a netlabel?
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?
You can list net releases on discogs? Right?
Are you aware of a chronological history of netlabels? If yes, what is it?
Is there anything else you would like to write about that wasn’t included here?
http://www.controlvalve.net – netlabel for experimental audio.
What questions would you ask other people who run netlabels?
How’s it going?