What is TIME AS A COLOR, you may be asking. It's a record label, and it's fucking beautiful. Daniel Becker contacted me less than a year ago in regards to trading records through our distros. I hadn't heard of any, ANY, of the bands. When I finally checked them out I was pretty blown away by more than 70% of the releases on the label. He has since gotten me obsessed with the following bands; Captain, Your Ship Is Sinking (who were interviewed yesterday, linked here), The Rabbit Theory (reviewed and linked here), Grand Detour, Eucalypt, We Fade To Grey and of course, his band, DUCT HEARTS.
I interviewed Daniel about both TIME AS A COLOR the label and DUCT HEARTS the band. Linked below are a few choice cuts from his label as well as the interview link. Check out the label's bandcamp here. If you are in North America please feel free to peruse the ZBR store in the Records section here to grab some TIME AS A COLOR records before they are all gone! If you are in Germany he might still have some ZBR releases available. Click here for the TIME AS A COLOR store.
A million thanks goes out to Daniel for giving such personal and detailed answers, as well as being in a great band and heading up one of the best independent labels in the world! You sir, are amazing.
TIME AS A COLOR
Considering the point of this blog is to introduce people to new bands, which bands would you recommend checking out?
Usually I am one of the latest who finds out about ‘new bands’ :-D, but I definitely have some recommendations of bands I think deserve more attention. Most people already know about Human Hands, which I have released an LP of 2 months ago, the record went through the roof and actually that is nothing to wonder about, but on the other hand, I often released stuff of bands I was convinced of, but it never happened as much as I hoped for, so if you haven’t checked them out, do it, they are the best friendliest and humblest people I ever met, and an awesome band, so they deserve every attention they can get.
Furthermore I released a record by K.C. Milian 2 years ago, which is brilliant instrumental postrock the way it would’ve been done in the 90s, without delay-loaded walls of sound, but in a twinkly way. The band is long disbanded, and I am no big marketing machine, so this record definitely deserves a lot more attention.
Also you all should check out Rosa Parks, a rad postrock band from Hungary, which are recording a new album at the moment. I Not Dance is also a band that has been around for a long time, makes brilliant heavy hardcore-postrock stuff, has put out a bunch of records but still should be bigger by now. To drop some more bands I will put out records this year of I can highly recommend: Bail (rough mid 90s stuff), LD Kharst (instrumental postrock from France), Short Stories About Their Distance (sort of emo-screamo with people of Gas Up Yr Hearse) and Coate (90s emo from Australia).
How do you find out about new music?
Honestly I hated it for a long time, and still do on a private level, but Facebook is a good way to keep people updated about the label and stay updated about what other people are doing and recommending. Also sometimes other labels hit me up asking for a co-release, or I get to know new music through trading with other labels, which is still the way I distribute most of my releases, sometimes I read stuff on the Borderline Fuckup blog, which I can highly recommend.
Why did you call your record label Time As A Color?
The name is taken from the book ‘Generation X’ by Douglas Coupland. The phrase itself is hard to understand, it roughly describes how people can change who they are or who they seem to be, or what mood they’re in by choosing the way they dress. So sort of what color you wear can symbolize what mood you’re in, whether you’re going through good or bad times... sort of. I was reading 2 or 3 of Coupland’s books at that time, and all of them sort of feature protagonists who work at MC jobs, dreaming and striving for “more”. At that time I had the impression (which may still be true, I just don’t want to put people in drawers) that people who run tiny DIY labels do it in order to give their life something meaningful, so they work at meaningless jobs to make a little money, and spend (lose) all that money on releasing records. It felt like a good phrase to describe what starting a label meant to me.
What led to the creation of Time As A Color?
I had done the label job for my own band Wishes On A Plane for years, taking care of artwork, pressings etc, I just never put a name on it. Through the years we sort of slowly entered the DIY/emo realm, which I felt at home in, I never could’ve imagined people would lose money putting out records or putting on tiny shows in basements, being vegan, being as politically correct as possible. All this inspired me, and sort of gave the whole thing (being a band, being a musician, and being a human in general) a wider meaning. At that time I was doing my apprenticeship, and the final 2 years were a terrible load of work. Work-eat-sleep during the week and weekend, it pretty much tore me down. During that time the wish for something bigger grew within me, also the wish to give something back to the “scene” that had given me so much and opened my mind on multiple things in life.
Do you try to focus on a few specific genres of music?
I definitely don‘t “try” for it. I think it just happens, because it mostly focuses on music and/or people I like, and my personal taste of music isn’t really spread wide. I would like to release more sludgy, post-metal stuff in the future (but it needs to have that melodic or postrock-melodic parts), and also widen the distro a little more into that direction. But basically it will stay within the emo-screamo-postrock-sludge-emotional hardcore borders.
What release did you have to say no to that ate you up inside afterwards? (Basically, which one was your biggest regret NOT to release.)
I once was in touch with Marathonmann (Munich based band I had played several shows with the band members' former bands, who are now on Century Media Records) about releasing their demo on 7”, they were into it but couldn't help finance it and I was really low on money at that time so we didn't do it. But I'm super happy for them, grab for the stars, guys!
What is the hardest part about running label?
I can think of 3 things. The first one being handstamping 500 records with 5 stamps each, folding them, gluing them, assembling them... I love making up artwork, but the repetition part can wear you thin. The second one being records shipped in their outer sleeves or bubble wrap only that arrive with bent corners or other wear of different kind, staple wear of zines etc. I don't blame people because usually they don't know it better and not everyone is a control freak like me, but it's just frustrating paying money into wholesale or postage on trades and receiving things you don't feel okay selling at the price you need to be able to go on putting out records. The third one would be bands totally unaware of how much things cost, for example unknown bands wanting to do 200 one-sided 12”s with screened b-side, black inners and inside out covers. Especially in a DIY world it is a frustrating fight to keep an eye on finances, and I understand bands want the perfect record more than anyone else. But things have to stay at a reasonable ratio. If you're a young band no one knows yet, do a small record like a 7” with handmade covers or something like that, and FINANCE IT YOURSELF! (or at least a share of it). Trade with labels, tour, make yourself known. If people know you and want to buy your stuff, release something bigger. DIY labels who help to put out records are your friends, and I see a lot of small labels stop after 4 or 5 releases because it is frustrating losing money. On average I have to add 100% to the cost price of a record to make a reasonable turnout (and that means breaking even, not making money), because I take my responsibility in distributing a record and helping a band spreading their words seriously, trades are expensive and if I pay $6.50 for a record, trade a few to the U.S. and sell the LPs I get for EUR 10 I lose money even if I sell all of them. Again, I don't want to put someone down, and I don't regret anything I released, but I want bands to be aware of these kinds of things. I am a small label, but too big now to be losing money with a release. There are multiple ways of saving money on a record, like doing things yourself, or comparing prices...
What is the most rewarding thing?
The people you meet. I think the best part in being a band and/or doing a label is traveling to different places, trading records, sharing ideas, getting your eyes open for new things, veganism, politics, different ways of living, seeing how people find their places of freedom in doing zines, records, shows or cooking for touring bands.
How did you get involved with The Rabbit Theory, Eucalypt, Human Hands and Captain, Your Ship Is Sinking?
I think I initially wrote The Rabbit Theory asking them to be part of my first compilation, or maybe putting a show for them in Munich, don't remember what came first... I was stunned how they immediately agreed to give me an unreleased song, it was one of these things that impressed me most about Nino, how open minded he was. It seems weird but I miss him, he was and still is a role model how to handle all these things like art, music, label, a view on environment and ethics etc.
During Myspace times there was a nice network of bands and labels, so I got to know Lawrence, who put out records in his label I can't remember the name of at the moment, so we traded and stayed in touch more or less for some years. I even tried to make them tour the EU shortly after the called it quits, they were tempted, but wanted a clean cut.
I met Human Hands on their tour with Kids Return I came along as a friend in June of 2011. I needed a timeout that time and Kids Return asked me to join their final tour. It was a brilliant view of the British punk scene and I took a lot of DIY spirit home from tour, like the show at Albany road with 30 people and a band in a 20 square meter room with 1.80 m height in mid-summer. Water was dripping from the ceiling... literally...
In 2009 Urje of Captain put on a show in his living room for Wishes On A Plane and Bail, and Captain played, too. It was a nice tiny show with I guess 7 paying guests (with the other bands and people helping it was a quite full living room) and if I remember correctly we sold 10 copies of our 10”. Pretty nice ratio! :-D
Tell us about your upcoming releases.
My Heart In Your Hand 10” and Human Hands/Carson Wells 7” came out like mid/late May. After that there will be the Bail LP, which is almost ready to go to press, and my share of the Gas Up Yr Hearse/Pretty Mouth split 7” and LD Kharst LP this summer. And a repress of the Human Hands LP in time for their EU tour this summer. Also planned for late this year are a Duct Hearts 7” and a split 7" with my dad who does folkish singer/songwriter acoustic stuff with German/Bavarian vocals. He's a brilliant guitarist and songwriter and I am looking forward to this split a lot! I'm also planning a compilation, but these things take forever, so no details at this point.
What has been the most defining moment with the label thus far?What do you do to pay the bills? Do you have one job or a few part-time jobs?
I have sort of a 3/4 time job being a freelancing sound engineer for live events, usually business events, like conferences and galas, trade shows and the like. During 2013 and 2014 so far the label has broken even, which is a good thing on the bill part, but definitely is more time consuming, especially things like setting up the webstore, painting the covers for the My Heart In Your Hand 10"s or filling in releases in the readily programmed new website. I hate writing html, so putting up the full back catalog will take some more time. By the way the website and store were programmed/set up by Alex who also runs the sweet blog/label/fest (we built the world and) miss the starts, so I owe him a huge lot of gratitude.
How was the band chronologically assembled? Under what circumstances?
I started Duct Hearts in the spring 2009 after the end of my former band, Wishes On A Plane. Basically I had a bunch of ideas for songs I had collected over half a year, and also I was frequently chatting with Moritz, who played guitar in Mio. He told me they had 1 song recorded, but didn’t know where to release it, so I suggested a split 7” with me, which they agreed on. That pressure (the other band waiting for me to record) was what I needed to finish writing the song and recording it. I think in the song and especially the intro you can hear that I had a huge mist of ideas that went into different guitar bits throughout the intro, and it kind of symbolizes the mist I went through musically not knowing what to do with my ideas on songs and then the mist clears and the more twinkly part of the song starts.
Why the name, DUCT HEARTS?
It doesn‘t mean anything in particular. A lot of different influences during that time formed these two words, I had a few things I wanted it to be like, short, but not only one word, it shouldn‘t start with “the” or “a”, because I hate that distros list bands like “The Appleseed Cast” under “Appleseed Cast, The” – that’s not the band’s name! However I wanted something unique and also I liked the idea of a short, harsh sounding name for long, soft music. Then someday I came up with the wish to include the word “heart” in it, because it I find heart at the bottom of most things I do, be it the label, the music, or personal life. In order to avoid something cheesy the other word had to be something solid, something no one has deeper meanings linked to and something scientific. So I chose the word “duct”. It first occurred to me in the phrase duct tape, which I worked with every day, but it is also a term in anatomy for connections between different organs, and in German (don‘t know if that works for the English word, though) it is also the distinctive characteristic way how an artist works, or a person speaks and behaves. I think in combination with the word “hearts” this leaves a wide open space for different interpretations and various meanings, which is something I like about it.
What bands most directly influenced DUCT HEARTS’ songs over the years?
First I have to mention that I haven‘t done much between the release of the split 7” with Mio and my recording last year for the song that will come out in late April on a split 10” with Manku Kapak, Human Hands, Asthenia and Nebraska. I gathered up a lot of ideas on guitar parts and whole songs, though, but these ideas grew over time and got picked up again months later, so it is hard for me to sort of see some progression or change in influence during the years, however of course it was still there. I think the main reason why nothing really happened was because I struggled finding musicians to form this project into a band with, but I also struggled with influences, because no new bands jumped out at me during these years I found fresh and that would inspire me - I was missing inspiration. To be honest, I was almost bored with music. I wouldn‘t really listen to records for years. The song “Schlafen” that was on the Mio split basically has all the leftover inspiration I had when we were doing Wishes On A Plane, it started out with all these classic emo bands like Jimmy Eat World as the most important one, Christie Front Drive, Mineral and The Appleseed Cast, which were my initial step into post-rock. I loved Red Sparrows and This Will Destroy You then I also began to listen to Pelican and Isis, although at that time only rarely, the metal-influenced spark just hadn‘t started... I think this came only 1 or 2 years ago. I don‘t know where it started, but as usual, because I was still doing the label and trading with people, I traded something that hit me like a hammer... also my girlfriend, who is into hardcore (actually the slightly big balled basketball shirt wearing / foot on the monitor kind of hardcore) helped open my mind to harder music. So bit by bit I heard about bands that combined the melodies I knew from back then with hardcore or even metal influenced hardness. I think it started with The Tidal Sleep and Arktika, which are sort of the most important bands in getting me back on my feet musically, Arktika‘s unique style in combining post-rock with sludge also got me into metal-influenced music. I picked up Isis and Pelican again, and also got into other smaller bands like Amber, which are my favorite band at the moment. The songs I am writing for Duct Hearts at the moment actually have sludge influences, though I can‘t growl or shout like Julian does or Anna did.
How would you describe DUCT HEARTS’ music?
That is a super tough question. I could come up with an elaborate answer again, but because everyone sees music differently, it might steal a lot of time. However, I think the influences above form me as a songwriter. It still has twinkly bits, but through recent sludge influence these sound a little more depressing, somewhat. It also has sort of riffy structures, something I had never done before! Of course you get rocking outros with spherical delay-laden guitars and dropped heavy guitar sounds, and the silent-loud-silent game typical for post-rock, but I think not as excessive as most post-rock bands do it. As mentioned I am no shouter, maybe I will learn that, but when I come up with ideas for vocals, it always has melodies. Usually on my mind is some sort of singing super close to screaming, which is very hard, especially if trying it for a longer time but not as consistently to sort of actually train it, so I will have to see how that evolves. My way of song writing has always been a “planned” one, I knew where I wanted the song to go. Songs don’t just happen when I’m writing, but maybe this is mainly due to me writing alone. You have to have a plan, and you can‘t just go like, “let’s try this”.
Can you explain the significance or meaning behind some of DUCT HEARTS’ artwork?
All DH’s artwork has been sort of pre-set by the record the song was meant for. I sort of had the idea how the artwork for the Mio split should roughly look like, and I printed it myself at home. However, the cover picture was painted by a friend of Mio’s. The cover for the 7” that came out as part of the 7” series I released on Time As A Color played a role in the overall topic of the series. On this record the topic for the art was “Nature Being Taken Over By Mankind”, I had a long-time friend draw the cover just by telling him the topic, and he drew an awesome picture I had a stamp made of. The things I adored the most growing up collecting 7”s were handmade artwork, so I chose these handstamped art stuff throughout the whole 7” series. I think handmade records are always better than something glossy pro printed, as I can’t stand them. It is just some kind of thing I feel attached to, and if you hold these records in your hand, knowing I stamped 5 times on them, photocopied, cut and stapled the zines by hand, I think it means something different. I don’t do the label to make profit or just to help out bands I like (which is a reason as well), but I want to take part in that. I want to leave something of myself. I also chose the cover picture of the footprints 7” for shirts I had printed by Blakk Meadow, which I have to mention here because they are doing incredible work in a super DIY and ethical environmental way, which is something that needs an incredible amount of work ethic. Perfect! However because the initial artwork that was stamped a lot of details (and the drawing had a million of details) got lost, so I wanted this to be used again in a way everyone could see its entire beauty. The 5-way split 10” cover will feature some rather simple design at first glance, but reveal some beauty and depth at a closer look. The record is titled “My Heart In Your Hand”, sort of revealing what a record really is, you (as a band or label guy or artist or printing person) put all your heart into this, and then you sort of pass it to people around, you reveal your deepest thoughts in forming this piece of art, for people to either like it, or hate it, it’s in their hands. That’s where the title came from. For the artwork a lot of ideas came together that I had had before and they formed something. I had the idea of doing a cover that features a die cut or punched symbol on front, and if you open it you reveal something else behind it. In this case, a small heart is holepunched into the front, and if you look at it at first, it looks like a red heart. But if you open the cover you see that the red color of the heart actually is a red hand printed behind it. So sort of what makes the heart red is the hand that holds it. It sounds terrible if I explain that. :-D The rest of the cover features a simple screenprint of the title and band names in Nico’s handwriting (Manku Kapak) on handpainted brushstrokes. I actually paint these strokes. It takes forever to dry and takes a shitload of ink, but in the end every copy is unique.
Generally I like to have a concept when doing artwork. I also want to do something special, but nothing too expensive, because I’m super thrifty. Or actually I am super efficient. If it’s not necessary, I’ll leave it. For example, I would have loved to have black inner sleeves for the 10”s, but they were like 35 cents a copy, so I dropped that idea, because it’s just not worth it. Sometimes I overload myself, but I made the decision to only do elaborate stuff with my own band’s releases, so it is at least limited. I hope to release a Duct Hearts 7” this year with silver and black printing on black paper. Sort of revealing parts of the story only at 2nd glance. I love these things. It widens the art, it can also give the music a 2nd meaning, or reveal irony. I think it is wasted energy to just use, “this nice picture I have taken on holiday” on a front cover. You have unlimited options to make an entire piece of art, why use a cover just as a dust sleeve with a band name on it?
Where do the lyrical inspirations generally come from?
To put it short they are definitely personal things. Basically it is what things I am coping with at the time I write. It used to be love, life and friendships throughout my former band Wishes In A Plane as well as some songs about an insight into myself. It is the same with what I wrote for Duct Hearts so far, but tends to take a bigger picture into the background. I'd say I am growing up and also am more interested in politics and social aspects like veganism and the general downward spiral I feel humanity is taking by disrespecting other people and animals’ unalienable rights for freedom, dignity, integrity and personality. Our global world more and more puts the heavy top of a pyramid onto the shoulders of everyone else, and although this is happening under everyone's radar, it is well hidden behind acts like TAFTA. I more and more feel like Orwell's novels are becoming reality, only 40-50 years later than expected, and I fear what this world will be like for our children and grandchildren. Things like these I have on my mind and they influence how I write. I always try to keep it from a personal perspective, because I think to write super political lyrics you have to be very well and widely informed, which I find hard to be.
What vocalist(s) do you feel you take after the most?
It is very hard to take after a singer, because I am not very well trained in singing, but I definitely have people I wished I could sing as good as. Dustin Kensrue (of Thrice) and Chris Higdon (of Elliot) would be examples, I like how both can sing clearly as well as scream. I also like if people don't give a shit about singing perfectly but carry emotions like no one else, Mark (of Arktika) would be an example for that. His voice polarizes, but I think imperfection sort of makes personality and distinctiveness. I think you can say a lot more by doing something you can't do perfectly than by being a perfect vocalist.
What’s your favourite song and why?
That's really a tough question because I'm usually more attached to full records or bands than single songs. But I’ll try to name a few:
*“Broken Lungs” by Thrice. The sound is brilliant. Dustin finds the perfect balance between singing and screaming, and the lyrics are an incredible "fuck you, we don't believe the lies we're being fed"-statement. I wish more (post-) hardcore bands would come up with political statements, but a lot of lyrics are just shallow these days.
*“Broken Flowers” by Arktika. The buildup is just breathtaking, and the words are deep and poetic.
*“Just Watch the Fireworks” by Jimmy Eat World. I could generally quote every song on ‘Clarity’ here, but I think this song stands as a good example for what the record is - perfectly arranged, poppy yet trying not to be, has amazing lyrics everyone can feel touched by and long songs. Brilliant.
Why did you choose to do an acoustic version of “Been There” for the Leave Nothing But Footprints, Take Nothing But Photographs 7”?
The song was written on the theme of the series, however the recording was done for a compilation I was asked to take part in which sadly never happened. When I wrote it I was hoping to have a full backing band until it was time to deliver a song for the 7". Sadly, this was not the case. Also, I didn't have any room to record loud guitars and vocals in. In retrospect I should've just paid into a studio to record these sources, but at that time I didn't want to delay the record for all other bands and the subscribers with a new recording, so I used the acoustic version. I know it is a misleading song for people to listen to their first duct hearts song, but so would the full band version be, because I had only 3,5 minutes of space on the record. but yeah, from today's view I should've put an electric version of it on the 7".
What band would like to do a split with the most that you don’t have lined up? What about a band from the past?
Of course there are big bands I would be honored to do a split with, but it would feel childish to say. Usually if I feel like doing a split that seems possible I simply ask that band. If I could pick a band from the past it would be Arktika, I'm still so sad they called it quits.
Because I’m opinionated about music I’ve often been called a snob, even though I state that music is subjective…for the most part. Frankly, there's nothing more lame about a blog or zine than liking everything they write about. on the other hand I wouldn't want to waste my time and write about stuff I don't like, but me personally I usually know quite quickly if I like or dislike things, and also am quite direct in that, so I can understand you. But as long as you don't try to insult people I think it would be just wrong to lie and pretend you like something when in fact you don't. If you're a band there's always going to be people who don't understand what you do or do understand but don't like it. I don't give a shit about receiving negative opinions, they're just as important and unlike some positive 100% honest. So go ahead!
Name one band you despise and why?
Generally I think everyone should make the music they want, so I can't hate someone for doing their music. but there's definitely overrated bands who are writing the same songs over and over again, especially on corporate radio, I wished would just surrender and give way for new bands. Bon Jovi would be a perfect example for that. Or Nickelback. Or The Offspring. And I hate everything that contains dub step. It's this thing that suddenly popped up that was fresh and new and now every TV spot features dub step. And I absolutely despise guitar solos. No one should ever do that. Even if you are Prince or Lenny Kravitz. BTW I definitely hate Lenny Kravitz! :-D
If you had to name a favourite band, which one would it be?
Of all time? Jimmy Eat World. Although I didn't really go with most stuff after ‘Clarity’.
You seem to have a lot more aggressive acts on your label than your own, personal band. Does it feel strange or perhaps perfect that there is this disparity between your band and the bands on your label? (obviously there are exceptions, but most of the stuff you seem to put out is harder/screamier)
I am definitely aware that Duct Hearts sounds different to most stuff I release, however I guess this is due to me writing music that spans over 3 or 4 genres, whereas most bands I work with either fit the post-rock, post-hardcore, hc-emo OR twinkle emo categories, or 2 of the above, but not all of them. Also it would work perfectly to play a show or tour with all bands I released stuff of, so I don't think that it is "off" of all other bands. To be honest very few bands I know play music that spreads that widely across these genres, and if they do, they place their focus differently, or do it more poppy. Also we might be talking about different things here, for example the full band version of "Been There" is a rather straightforward rock song, and 2 newer songs feature at least half of each with distorted guitars, so what's coming up next isn't going to be as quiet as "Schlafen" or the acoustic version of "Been There", and at least as rock as "This Has Taken Way Too Long".
What lies in the future for DUCT HEARTS?
Well, since the 2nd part of our interview I found 2 nice guys called David and Franz, who joined Duct Hearts on drums and bass respectively. We've been rehearsing like crazy and have a decent set already, so we'll be playing our first 2 shows in mid-June. Also, we are going on a European tour along with my friends Human Hands in August, which is clearly a big thing! Around summer we will start to record for a debut 7" and one or two splits to be released late this year and hopefully another tour around the same time or early 2015. After that, vague plans only. Touring, writing, recording. I would love to do crazy tours like Japan, Australia or North America. The financial aspect of tours like this is crazy, though, so I don't see that happening very soon. Hopoing to go to the UK next year, that would be sweet! As far as records go we talked about doing a bigger release (in terms of inches), so I think that is what we'll be aiming from a songwriting/recording aspect.