I don’t usually post metal news considering there are plenty of websites already posting anything and everything news worthy and doing a much better job than I, (being pretty much the only writer who scribes about metal on this site) but this news is too heartbreaking and important not to get out to everyone who could possibly help.
Aaron Turner, legendary frontman of sludge legends ISIS and Old Man Gloom, and founder of one of the greatest and most unique underground record labels in existence, Hydra Head Records, has announced that the prominent label will be closing its doors come the end of the year.
Turner released a statement Monday regarding the decision and suffice it to say, it sucks. Turner’s always been a very up front and optimistic guy and his statement belies none of that in the slightest. He cites not only the drastic shift in the industry, but the label’s unwavering devotion to challenging and (unfortunately) unmarketable music and bands as the chief reasons for the label’s demise. It’s quite saddening to know that because of the label’s commitment to releasing interesting and genre-unspecific music, one of the main reasons why I’ve always admired them, they simply have been barely treading water financially and are forced to call it quits. It’s the ever present and unfortunate catch-22 of being an artist who thinks outside the box.
Here’s the full statement:
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….
As I said, Turner seems very humble and grateful for all of the good times, even if they’ve become overshadowed by the bad, and remains optimistic and transparent about the situation. I wish him and everyone else involved with the label–personnel and bands alike–the best of luck in the future and look forward to what’s next.
On the plus side, and the reason I am posting this in the first place, is that Hydra Head will be offering up discounted merchandise bundles as well as rare and unique pressings of records old and new. If there was ever a time to support the artists and labels you love this is it. I implore you, if you have even an extra $5 to spend, check out their webstore or direct mail-order and help alleviate at least a bit of the financial hardships the label is facing in its final days. It probably won’t be enough to save them, but you can at least make their death a little less painful and get some really cool merch to boot.