OLD SCHOOL METAL LABEL FROM USA
(Matt War) Dystopian Dogs - The premier headquarters for On the Level Headbangers since The Rager came to town.
(Michael Tuff) We're Dystopian Dogs Records and Distribution based out of Michigan. We're 3 close friends with a mutual love for good music, bad movies, and obscure heavy metal.
(Victor "Lore Lord") Dystopian Dogs We are three ltimate jerks with a commitment to jerkery and listening to every hard rock and heavy metal album ever created before we die.
2. What led you to start a label? Were you influenced by other labels around you, or did it slowly evolve from another underground activity, such as a distro, perhaps a fanzine or something?
(Matt War)Victor has been tape trading forever. I came into the picture to help release the Atomic Roar/Alcoholic Force split 7Ē and stuck around for the prestige and fame.
(Michael Tuff)The three of us initially bought in to fund the release of the Atomic Roar/Alcoholic Force split 7-inch. Personally, I'm a boneheaded idea man who likes to make music with friends, so having a means to release and distribute music is very appealing to me. It gives us a way to push not only our creative endeavors, but also push other musicians we like and respect, and maybe even shed some new light on forgotten and obscure releases buried by time and dust.
(Victor "Lore Lord")We all really love local heavy metal music from all eras of hard rock and heavy metal so we decided to join forces and combine knowledge and desire to not only expand our knowledge of worldwide metal but also bring Michigans metal to places where maybe it has not been heard yet. Recently I sent a package to Seychells Africa. Crazy and awesome!!
(Matt War)It fits the rusted, post-industrial landscape of Michigan and the surrounding region and all outsiders of the end times. Packs of wild dogs are rumored to roam some parts of Detroit and like those dogs we stick together, crazed and vicious, even as everything collapses around us.
(Michael Tuff)Michigan metal is a pack of savage beasts. Watch out or you might get mauled or have your leg humped.
(Victor "Lore Lord")Alliteration aside it sounded really great like most of things Matt thinks of, plus parts of Detroit really do have packs of Dystopian Dogs roving around the area, there is an estimated 30,000 stay dogs in the Metro Detroit area last time I checked.
4. Which releases from your catalog are you the most satisfied with? Some releases don't happen how you imagined it to, and some finally look better than expected... Some bands aren't too exciting to work/ communicate with while some have a lot of things to say... Finally satisfaction can appear at various levels !)
(Matt War)Aside from the 53 copies of White Magicianís Antipathy, where each tape was hand painted like a different playing card, I think the Nuke and Sekkusu tapes turned out the best.
(Michael Tuff)I'm satisfied with everything we put out. It's all great. If we didn't believe that or believe IN it, then why waste your time putting it out and slapping your label on it? Sometimes it isn't about putting out something you know will sell. Sometimes it's giving a physical release to something you think is interesting or has unique merit or integrity.
Lord")We make sure to only work with either bands who are already
our friends ( for example Freddy from Alcoholic Force) and are local
(All other bands on the labee) or bands that come recommended from
trusted sources (Mortal Whisper came highly recommended from my
buddy Chafe). This helps us stay on schedule but also limits stress
and increases enjoyment levels while crafting releases. As for my
favorite release....either the White Magician hand painted deck
of playing cards cassette, or the Demon Bitch "Hellfriends"
cassette that had the artwork as intended by the band.
5. Do you generally do everything yourself, or you cooperate with other metallers for the layout, some promotion or other activities?
(Michael Tuff)We try to keep as much as we can in-house. The more you learn to do yourself, the less you have to rely on others to get things done. DIY or die. Of course you build good rapport with other labels you enjoy and respect (Austenitized Records and Sangreal Records for example) and it begins to become a community network the way the underground should be.
(Victor "Lore Lord")Part of what this label has helped us do learn how to do things we did not know how to do, like create layouts, use recording programs, etc. However we also have a lot of local friends who are amazing artists who have contributed like Logon from Demon Bitch, and our very own Mike Tuff who have given our releases their attention. For me working with friends and family (My brother helps from time to time as well) is the best thing in life and I would not want to do things any other way, regardless of how effcient it may be. If we could print vinyl, and cds our selves we would, and we are looking into getting our own t-shirt printing capability. Who knows maybe one day we will have enough money to get a cd replication device and vinyl press!! haha As for promotion, this may not be our strong suite but we are trying to be better at advertising, its hard though, its not somthing we have every really done.
6. The fact of starting a label can initially come from dreams, something great you have in mind and you'd like to finally materialize... Even if it's quite private, and I know some labels don't like to talk about it too much, you can perhaps tell us about the craziest dreams you would have in mind for a label... For a couple of minutes we can forget about the material/ financial problems and imagine we are in 2005, everything can be possible and you can talk about it now! AhAh
(Matt War)Release the 4 VHS Thor signature edition of the Deathstalker series.
(Michael Tuff)I literally want the means to release and distribute every stupid, jackass, hair-brained musical idea we have and bootleg Rabies in Town shirts.
(Victor "Lore Lord")The 9 album box set of Silver Chrome (WA) featuring mandatory essay from each prospective order, "Why is it that you want this and how did you hear about it?".
7. What's the best way to distribute a release in your opinion? Is it about online sales, trades, sales during gigs, or do you use the services or an official distributor perhaps?
(Matt War)I donít know if itís the best way, but I think itís important to require an investment of real interest. Everything now is faceless and convenient and you can easily buy into any scene or trend. People have to go slightly out of their way to contact us directly or go to a show and buy something. You canít just mindlessly load up a cart and check out. Plus it weeds out the posers. False donít entry and all that.
(Michael Tuff)There is a degree of underground obscurity with the label that I think we all like. It's adapted to the times, but still harkens back to the age of trading tapes and an era of intimate correspondence between fans and bands. We try to trade as much as possible because everything we send out gives us a chance to bring something cool and obscure back into the distro so others can have a chance to enjoy something they may not have ever discovered or been able to obtain easily.
Lord")I don't really know what would be the best way but I
know that for me the preferred way is working with people who are
interested to hear new music and trade new music, undergroud eliteism
and profit mongering is not something we identify with and generally
if someone offers a trade we are happy to work with them. In addition
if there any issues that arise we are reasonable and willing to
work on a solution.
8. Are you releases generally limited to a small amount of copies, or you try to push things a bit further? Sometimes it can take quite some time to distribute more than 200 copies of a tape... But if you limit a release to 50-100 copies it's very few and we can wonder about the use and efficiency of "100 copies only" (Some copies sleep eternally in some distros, some copies are never listened to... So how many copies from the 100 are really listened to?)
(Matt War)I think we just try to go with the most cost effective option. One time someone asked us how many different colors the Wastelander Hibernation Sickness EP came in, and I had no idea. I just told the guy who did them to use all his leftover colored tapes to get it done faster/cheaper.
(Michael Tuff)So far everything is released with a limited run, and we occasionally press more if there's still a strong demand. It's not about making things too cult and difficult to attain. If there's a strong desire for something, we do our best to keep the supply going. After a while though, some stuff has just gotta go out of print to make room in the budget for new stuff. If you still missed your opportunity by that point, it's kind of on you.
(Victor "Lore Lord")We don't deliberatly limit things unless it is a show promotion or a special event (White Magician "Antipathy" cassette single). All of the money from release and distro goes to pay for other releases and in the interest of releasing more releases we typically do not do represses, we just don't have enough money for that.
9. Do you believe it's important to support and release bands from your area/ and or country?
(Matt War)Definitely. The geographical isolation and dark winters of Michigan create some unique but short lived bands. Only a real maniac would live here and only maniacs are real. We just want to make the madness available for the rest of the world.
(Michael Tuff)Absolutely. Only Michigan is real. We have a fantastic legacy and currently one of the best metal scenes, and it's our duty to showcase it as best as we can.
(Victor "Lore Lord")YES, in fact it is the most important function of the lable, it may seem like cronyism but frankly I would rather support my brothers and fail then be a profitable cool hunter.
10. Do you only run a label, or are you also involved in other underground activities? Sometimes I realize my distro/ label is only a part of "something bigger" and I would rather see it as a medium of communication/ promotion for underground bands: A small label, a distro, plus a webzine, a youtube channel, a couple of facebook pages, lots of music posts on forums, facebook and other social medias, and other stuffs... In 2017, at the end I rather feel like doing communication than doing a label, and this said label even sometimes seems to become "A reason to communicate" lol
(Matt War)I know what you mean. Sometimes I think the real goal of the label is to have an excuse to hang out and be coolguys. Also to have enough distro money to buy beer.
(Michael Tuff)We are all musicians who play in bands and have released our own music via the label at some point or another. I said before the label and the networking done builds strong ties in the underground community between bands, fans, and fellow labels. Metal is a hot commodity these days, and this is the stuff that keeps the true ethos of the genre alive amongst all the trendy marketing and commercialization that people are bombarded with via social media and metal "news" pages.
(Victor "Lore Lord")We all write and record music, go to shows, etc. Alot of our releases are infact music we have played on, and that will continue. As for using the lable as a way to communicate.....I can see how that may be the case for some but to be honest the amount of work it takes to manage, release, fund and distribute stuff is not something a casual communicator would even undertake. That being said I am not the best communicator and appreciate making exchanges for materials that may teach me somthing new about music ie the promotion piece of the pu\zzle you mentioned, for me seeking something out and taking a chance is part of what makes being a collector and running a lable/distro is all about. This one reason why I have always maintained my communication with you Gabe, you always have strange materials that fascinate me!
11. I know some peoples are making a living from selling underground metal CDs... sometimes it's even small underground labels ran by only one guy. In the current situation where it's harder than ever to sell CDs, considering all the compromises one would have to deal with to make a living from running a small label, do you think we can honestly say these guys are still underground? Isn't there too much of compromises and need-for-cash to use the word "UNDERGROUND" anymore? (Underground in the initial meaning of the word, not the modern Nuclear blast/ Century media version...)
(Matt War)At a certain point, youíre not underground anything, youíre just running a business. I donít want to run a business. I already have a job I hate.
(Michael Tuff)You obviously need to make some sort of profit to maintain the ability to continue releasing and distributing music. That's just simple economics. However, I think the question of underground credibility comes into play when you decide whether your label releases things that you think will sell or you release things you think are good. A true underground label should not be primarily motivated by profit.
(Victor "Lore Lord")It all depends on what your into, if you really are into very polished easily presentable "attractive" stuff then more power to you, if you are into to using social media to make a name for yourself and maintain a constant online presence than great, if making music available via streaming/downloadable services is your thing awesome you should do it and keep doing it. What makes something underground can be hard to pin point nowadays so I have to stick with what I believe in, for me underground means local scenes, and more personal interactions, its physical releases and doing things your own way with the resources you have, it is not necessarily the most efficient way but its how we like do things. We make enough to continually release more music but we don't make any profit because all of the money is used to make more music, we all have day jobs to pay for our bills and don't need to compromise much or focus on finding marketable bands, as long as our friends in Michigan keep making music we will keep releasing it, this what underground means to me.
12. To dig deeper in the underground, do you believe "Do it yourself" releases still have a future? Once again I'm using a word in its initial meaning, and I see fewer labels release and produce tapes all by themselves (Dubbing tapes, printing and cutting covers), as almost everyone seems to choose the pro tape format (Sometimes it's not better than carefully made DIY tapes), and the old CDr release seems to be bashed by many, while it's not that bad sometimes...
(Matt War)I think arts & crafts level DIY really only works for tape inserts and maybe tape dubbing if youíve got a bunch of spare time. Something about CDr seems too disposable though. Pro pressed CDs are not only better technically and aesthetically, theyíre also insanely cheap to produce because everyone wants vinyl.
(Michael Tuff)There will always be a market for DIY releases. I recently made a DIY cassette release for one of my bands where I dubbed every one and spattered paint on all the cassettes with a toothbrush. It was a lot of fun, and I know I enjoy the personal touch that adds to the release when I buy something like that myself. However, from a consumer standpoint, a lot of people want consistency when they purchase something. For releases of larger quantities I thing getting something professionally produced is the way to go, but releases that are limited should always have that DIY touch.
(Victor "Lore Lord")I am not so much into CDR but if presented properly it can be ok. For me CD's are the most economical for mass quantities the next choice next is cassettes because can be made pro style in small batches at not too much of cost. Though depending on where you are, what you have time for and what your skills are, what you choose to do is your own business, and because it is yours you had better do what ever want to do if it is art that you are creating.
14. Vynil, vynil, but is it so good to release vynil? Personally I prefer to stick to tapes and pro CDs, because vynil is more expensive to ship (I even don't want to imagine the postage for trades lol) and this would create too much stress around the monetary problem, so the state of mind would be less relaxed and not too underground anymore... (You know, money, money, money...)
(Matt War)Vinyl is great to own and listen to, but itís a pain in the ass in every other regard. It used to be something special, but now it seems a bit like an overblown status symbol.
(Michael Tuff)Vinyl of course is the ideal format, but we are still in a time where it is very expensive to press. When a release gets the vinyl treatment, it's something special. In regards to cds; just because something is on a cd doesn't deter me personally from buying it. I'm on the run a lot, so most of my music listening is done in the car. Plus Dystopian Dogs really strives to trade with underground labels from outside of the United States, and Sometimes it's much easier to deal with international shipping with CDs and cassettes.
(Victor "Lore Lord")Vinyl is very expensive to ship this is true, and Matt has a point its almost becoming some sort of status symbol. Lets face it some people that own many vinyl are not always the best company!! But aside from that there is nothing quite as nice a finely presented gatefold vinyl on 180 gram, is there!? It is beauty to behold and the sound can be magnificent. We have plans to one day make some 12" vinyl but are working our way up the dimensions, first we did 7 " next we may try 10" and see how that turns out, haha.
15. Do you send promos for reviews? Due to smaller incomes, labels rarely do physical promos anymore, and there are more and more digital mp3 promos... But most of the time digital promos aren't reviewed (When it's about small labels that release unknown bands... Most of peoples will naturally choose what they know, or what seems quite "in"...). So what should we do?
(Matt War)That sounds like work. Information is practically worthless these days, thereís too much of it and most of it is fake garbage. No matter what you do, thereís an expectation that you have to beg and compete for attention, which I resent. People who need to be told what to listen to are people I could care less about.
(Michael Tuff)Since everything we press is relatively limited, there's not much available for promotional purposes. There's enough resources online to find this stuff if you really want to hear it. Everything is so easily accessible online these days. I think a bit of exclusivity and required digging makes people appreciate the music a bit more.
(Victor "Lore Lord")We never started this lable to break any barriers for us or bands frankly I enjoy communicating with my friends making new friends and exchanging information or in this case music. Word of mouth means more to me than google searches and youtube lyric videos. Lets make a deal Gabe, I will promise to complete our trades faster as long as you continue to provide me with cool new music from all over the world? Outside of that I don't care to think much on the subject of what people I don't know prefer or can be manipulated by.
16. Which bands/ albums/ demos did you listen to the most the last months? Are you only into metal, or also dig other genres of music?
(Matt War)Iíve been listening to a terrible quality rip of the 1989 self titled album by Outrage from Battle Creek, MI on youtube. Especially the cool song Lazerblade. Some day Iíll buy the LP on ebay instead of paying my uncool bills.
(Michael Tuff)Most of my new music listening comes from checking out things that come into the distro through trades. We're also always trying to find forgotten Michigan metal bands. We all have eclectic musical tastes. I personally listen to a lot of heavy rock, fusion and prog from the 60s and 70s. Some stuff I really enjoyed lately that the distro got was the Lucifers Hammer album Beyond the Omens, and I'm looking forward to getting copies of the Freeways "cold front" demo from Heavy Chains.
(Victor "Lore Lord")I have listening to the new 7 inch of Angel Sword quite a bit, as well as "Tied to the Trax" by Purgotory, White Magician "Antipathy" studio mix, and the demos of Marty Friedman's Vixen.
17. What are the next plans for your label? Do you make a lot of plans, or do things "as they come" with not too many expectations on more than 6 months?
(Matt War)Well, weíre going to live, and live.
(Michael Tuff)We don't keep too rigid of a schedule. Things have a way of falling into place when prioritizing releases.
(Victor "Lore Lord")What Matt said! Also whenever we get enough money we make another release!
18. This is the last question, feel free to add what you want, and conclude with underground power!
(Matt War)THERE IS A PLACE WE KNOW WHERE THERE IS A ROCK & ROLLING SHOW. IT IS THE ONLY PLACE WE KNOW.
Lord") Listen to Stalker, Angel Sword and Helvetets Port or
Web page: https://www.facebook.com/dystopiandogs