Releasing The Plague – Winter Light Interview

Winter Light is a record label and online store based in Haarlem, The Netherlands, specialising in ambient, experimental and drone soundscapes.
I only found about this label a few years ago cause I was looking for more Dark Ambient music. Found a lot of good music here. Word after word, a few messages traded between me and Mark O’Shea the mastermind behind the label and I decided to ask a few questions to him. Enjoy it.

Thanks for agreeing to this interview for Blessed Altar Zine. Tell us a little bit about the story of the label. How did it start and how far do you think you’ve come since that time?

You are most welcome – thanks for asking us!

The Winter-Light story….where did that all begin I wonder……

Before we were a label, we started up as an online store (and still are), selling vinyl, CD’s and cassettes from dark ambient, industrial and experimental artists. We set the Winter-Light store up in 2011, not long after I moved to The Netherlands. A number of people kept asking us if we were going to release music under the Winter-Light name, so in 2014 we decided to move forward with that and released our first album from the Dutch dark ambient artist, FoetusDreams. So, that is how the label started.

I’ve always loved sharing music, bands, albums, thoughts and discussions with people. Back in the early 90’s, I used to sell records, CD’s and merchandise at clubs and gigs back in London. I sold music from the likes of Coil, Death In June, Current 93, a lot of World Serpent material actually, industrial, EBM but also dark ambient and death industrial. I was importing a lot of hard to find or unknown music, t-shirts etc from the US at the time; DJ-ing quite a bit too, so that was a great way to feed the scene with new music.

So, I guess in some form or another I have been involved with this scene for a long time. Always with a deep passion for the music, the artwork, the live gigs etc. That passion has carried itself over into what we are now doing with our own label. Creating our own atmosphere with the artists that we work with, our releases and our artwork.

As for how far do I think we’ve come since then, I guess that all depends really on your unit of measurement. Personally, we are extremely happy with where we are at the moment. We are working with a lot of great artists and have really enjoyed every project that we have worked on. So if we use that as a unit for measurement, a long way I think.

How do you choose which bands to release? How much are your own tastes, or what you expect your audiences tastes a part of the decision making process? Do you have some set boundaries of the kind of music you will or won’t release?

First golden rule of thumb – we have to like it! If we don’t like the music, we can’t possibly put 100% in to the project and if we cannot do that then we are letting down the artist, listeners and ourselves also. There are no half-measures. Heart and soul, or not at all.

In regards to how much are our own tastes, I think pretty much all that we release would or could be classed as our own tastes. I think in a way that is logical for us. How is it possible to gauge your audiences tastes completely. Not very likely I would think. For me it would seem more logical to create something in your own style and taste and see who is drawn to that also. Which also makes it very interesting to do that way.

We do have some boundaries as to what we will or will not release. We have a feel and vision for the label and it’s aesthetics, which we like to adhere to. I love a lot of different music, I mean a really broad taste, but I wouldn’t release every thing that I personally like on Winter-Light. It’s a deep ambient, drone and experimental sound scape label and whilst that still gives a lot of room to play around with musically, we’re not likely to release harsh noise or mostly beat driven music, for example.

What does your label have to offer bands that will make them want to release their music with you, rather than with another label? What are your preferences when it comes to deciding on vinyl, CD, cassette or digital formats and what factors are part of your choice?

I’m not sure that we offer anything more than other labels, in all honesty. I like to think that if an artist approaches with us with an album, they are doing so because they like what we are building here at Winter-Light. Our artist roster, with our releases, the aesthetics and so on. So, in that respect I see it more as a co-operative effort. Working closely with artists to create something unique, which fits their music and our label is important for us.

I think our visuals are a huge part of Winter-Light. We meticulously design, create and develop all of our own artwork, as well as a short promotional video for every release we bring out. So visually, we really love to work within this genre and with our current roster of artists. It’s the music that sparks the ideas and the creativity for our design, which goes back to my earlier point of having to be completely behind the releases. We’ve also created live visuals for gigs, which is adding yet another dimension to the music too.

I think there are a lot of factors involved in the decision making process, for vinyl, CD etc. First and foremost, we are a label that primarily focuses on physical releases, mostly CD and also available as digital download. At the end of last year we released our first vinyl – a double gatefold – from ‘Atomine Elektrine’ and we could not have been happier with the end result. But for us that was always going to be a vinyl release, just because we felt the music demanded that really. I think a lot of music within this genre is best suited to CD, just by the very nature of some of the long form pieces. Breaking up an ambient sound scape in two, by having to get up and turn the record over will not do it any justice of course.

We are having plans to release more vinyl in the not too distant future. It’s also great to have so much design space to work with as well.

Do you think of yourselves as being an ‘underground’ label? Would you want the music you release to one day have more of a mainstream appeal, or do you think that would dilute what you do?

Yes, we do consider ourselves to be an underground label. Absolutely. Would we want more main stream appeal? No, to be honest. I love doing what we are doing but I have always enjoyed smaller niche scenes. You probably hit the nail on the head in your question. Too mainstream would probably dilute things too much. It’’s a fine line between the two I think but you also have to have some code of ethics and a framework to work within. And besides, this sort of music is probably more for the musical explorer who wants to take a step away from the ‘mainstream’ and dive into something different.

Can you compare your experiences dealing with other labels from Europe, North America, South America or Asia? Have you found some factors that make one or other more easy or difficult to work with?

We mostly deal with labels in Europe and North America, although we have dealings with a few outside of those places too. I think on the whole, that most labels are really good to deal with. We are for the most part, all in it together, especially in a niche genre such as this one. If I had to say if there were factors which made it more easy or difficult to work with labels, it’s generally the more experienced one’s or those with a good code of ethics, who are the most professional and a pleasure to deal with – without naming any names. But you know who you are anyway!

Do you have anything in the pipeline that you’re excited to mention and do you have any ” dream bands” that you’d love to release something by?

Hmm, I hate spoilers …. but yes …. we have lots of exciting things planned for this year. But do I want to mention them all? No. We have had some great experienced artists join our roster recently who will be releasing with Winter-Light for the first time but who have also released on a host of other labels too. Ashtoreth and Stratosphere will be releasing a great collaborative album through Winter-Light very soon indeed, which is just a great piece of work. So we’re pretty stoked about that. And Gydja will be gracing our label with a pretty fine album towards the end of this year.

I mentioned earlier that we are having plans for more vinyl, which is very cool and we are currently busy working on a limited edition release item too. So, yes, a lot happening – stay tuned!

Finally, any info for fans or bands to get in touch or follow what’s happening with the label?

You can always get in touch with us via our webshop at www.winter-light.nl, or through the usual social media channels via Winter-Light on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and youtube. We post regular updates across all platforms, upload videos, occasional mixes and also send out regular newsletters, which you can subscribe to by dropping us an e-mail at info (@) winter-light.nl.

Many thanks for your time!

Mark O’Shea
info@winter-light.nl

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By The Key Keeper 666

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