We don’t tend to do news alerts here on DP, mainly because we’re not on any mailing lists that differ from those of a thousand other blogs, and those blogs seem endlessly staffed by people wanting to turn press releases about dull bands into endless articles in order to generate more hits and more ad revenue and hang on, why don’t we do this again? Oh yeah, we can’t be fadged.
Anyway, every now and again a press release comes around worth mentioning, and tonight I got one from Hydra Head Records, purveyors of half my record collection, saying they are closing their doors. From the press release from Aaron Turner:
Hydra Head Records has never been a smooth-running operation. We’ve spent the majority of our existence excitedly scrambling from one thing to the next, taking on more than we could ever possibly hope to achieve, and never quite finding solid footing in the midst of our self-induced whirlwind of chaos. Though not every second of doing this label has been enjoyable, it has been a very rewarding and meaningful project for me, and I hope for many of the other lives to which it has been directly connected. The fact that it has lasted close to two decades at this point is astonishing, and much has changed during that time – the lives of those directly involved with running the label, the bands and artists we’ve worked with, and the nature of the music industry itself. Though many of these changes have been positive, or at least illuminating, the impact of our history and current industry circumstances are culminating into a slow and somewhat painful death for the label. It certainly isn’t an entirely unforeseen event, but we didn’t think it would come quite so abruptly, or (perhaps naively) ever.
The decision to pull the plug has not been an easy one, and in some ways is a not a choice at all. The simple fact of the matter is we’ve been running on empty for a while now and cannot afford to keep our doors open for much longer. Years of imbalance between creative ideals and financial realities, personal problems amongst the label operators, an unwillingness to compromise our aesthetic standards, a tendency towards releasing challenging (i.e. unmarketable) artists, and the steady decline of the music industry in general, are amongst the chief reasons for our inability to continue. It is a harsh but undeniable reality, and one which we are attempting to confront with as much integrity and grace as is afforded by the circumstances.
For the short term we will continue to operate as we have been, effecting our first step into shutdown this December, at which point we are cutting off new releases from the label. Thereafter, we will be remain operational only in the interest of maintaining our back catalog, with the ultimate aim of repaying our rather sizable debts. Grim though this prospect is, in the midst of it all I still feel an extreme gratitude for everything that has happened and for all the wonderful people with which we’ve been involved over the years. We’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the most unique and provocative artists of the last two decades, many of which have made indelible impressions in the underground, and by extension the larger world of music in general. We’ve also been fortunate to have had the support of a small but loyal following, who’ve constituted the very essence of our life force. We would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude and love to each and every person who contributed to making this label what it is – all the artists who entrusted us as the custodians of their work, all the people that bought or listened to our releases, and all the people who performed the various label duties at various offices (and houses) across the continent.
…and this brings us to the present moment, where in all honesty we are in need of financial assistance from anyone and everyone who’s willing to throw us a rope. Though it is highly unlikely we’ll be able to resuscitate the label, we do wish to follow through on the final round of releases to which we’re committed and pay off our debts to our artists and manufacturers. In order to do this we are initiating a massive sell-off of everything we can dig up and produce for the next 6-12 months. This will include discounted bundles of CDs/LPs/posters/etc, represses of certain titles for which we still have parts, test pressings, and whatever worthwhile items we can pull together. For anyone that is able and willing to fund our funereal arrangements please visit our direct mailorder or webstore and pick up whatever you can. Any and all support is greatly appreciated by our remaining team, and will be put to the best use possible.
There is no way to sum up nearly 20 years of incredibly important music, experiences, and evolution other than to say a big heart felt “thank you”, and that we hope this closing will provide an opening into other even more positive and rewarding experiences for all of us and all of you who have been a part of our shared experience. For now we bid you all a very fond farewell….
I think it’s fair to say that Hydra Head represent much of what it is I like about the music scene we all subscribe to. They put out records by bands they genuinely like, provide them with all the support they can muster, but then refuse to make those bands beholden to them. I can’t even begin to list the number of bands that I have gotten into purely on the basis of that little flame logo on the back of the CD, and rarely have those bands been a dud.
A few months back I watched a documentary called ‘Blood, Sweat and Vinyl’, which looked at Hydra Head and two other labels, and it struck me that in these times of dwindling album sales that here was a label that had the right approach. They saw every release they put out as a work of art (and most of the time those covers had artwork to match that ideal) no matter the commercial viability of it. Now, unfortunately, it seems that way has failed.
If I had any money in the world (save for the pennies I throw at DP every now and again to keep the lights on at Pigeon Towers) I’d head over to their webstore right now and throw copious banknotes at it, both to say thank you to Hydra Head for all the great albums over the years, and to get my hands on some of the amazing treasures hidden within. I suggest you go do that now.
Bravo and farewell you magnificent bastards.