Featherspines began as
Daniel Brigman's one-man labor of love in June 2007, and while the
personnel numbers have grown over time, the label remains a project of
passion. Respected for its artfully designed releases and free approach
to music, Featherspines has quietly amassed an impressive discography
over the past two years. I chatted with Brigman over email a few months
ago, discussing the goings-on at Featherspines HQ, which at this point
has become something of a musical cooperative. Read on...
Centipede's self-titled cassette
What attracts you to unconventional music?
My attraction to unconventional music was
born from a strong sense of discouragement I felt towards the stagnant
nature of many punk/hardcore communities I was encountering through out
the United States. Although, I held a great deal of respect and
thankfulness for the fact that these communities existed, I felt that
they had begun following a formula musically and socially that left very
little to be challenged and often seemed to serve as a focused source of
alienation. I desired to hear more regional influence and perspective
within the songs people were deciding to share - I was desperate to find
something that further redefined the constructs I was familiar with.
When and how did Featherspines come
The first Featherspines release (Father of
the Flood - S/T Cassette) came out in June 2007. At the time, the label
was strictly a personal endeavor that I wanted eventually to operate as
a Co-Op. I wanted to organize a way to document things that my friends
were creating and take the financial burden/concern away from them so
that they would have a more organic process. Today, the label has been
fueled with the help of my close friends, Bryce Hample (Hedia) and Joe
Annabi (Yoda's House).
What is the experimental music scene
like in Albuquerque?
Albuquerque has a fucking incredible music
scene. As with many cities, venues are always eroding, but someone is
always there to build something new for everyone to share. It is an
inspiring place to live - so many individuals dedicating themselves to
the endurance of various community projects: Local radio shows, art
galleries, music venues, Food Not Bombs, there are at least five local
labels, a few houses hosting monthly shows/benefits, etc. I am very
thankful to live within such a proactive community - especially due to
the fact that there is very little competitive nature surrounding it
Are there any communities around
Albuquerque for which this is also the case? Are there any other
cities/areas that you admire?
I think Santa Fe, NM has set a wonderfully
practical example of how an art-centered community can effectively
exist, by creating city-funded performance spaces that cater to a
variety of events (shows, exhibitions, lectures, bike co-ops, farmers
markets, etc). I have a deep admiration for the activist and underground
music communities of Reno, Oakland, and Seattle/Olympia. I feel this way
because of just how many houses there are operating to host shows,
workshops, and other community service campaigns within those areas.
Name each person behind Featherspines
and something interesting about them.
Daniel Brigman - (Father of the Flood/Streights)
Animal liberation struggles. Bryce Hample - (Hedia) Recently returned
from studying Sitar in India. Joe Annabi - (Yoda's House) swears that
the public water & GMOs are the cause of his gastrointestinal distress.
he likes muppets & rainbows.
As is the case with so many home-run
experimental labels, the artwork and visual aesthetic play a large role
in making each release what it is. Who handles the design and what
Whoever is actually assembling the release
is usually in charge of generating the artwork for it. The majority of
designs are made from raw source material - no photoshop brushes,
effects, etc. I think we collectively share a similar aesthetic that is
represented within any given design. I encourage the artist to have as
much control over this aspect and I have not been disappointed in any
final product so far. It is also helpful that each layout has seemed to
encompass the mood of the music it is representing so perfectly.
Atmospheric Diver's Crater of the Soil
How are copies divided between the label
and the artist? Ergo, what is the "agreement" between Featherspines and
It seems to be different each time, but
somewhere along the lines of, if 100 copies are made the artist gets 50
for free, the label gets 50 for mailorder/review. Lately, we have been
doing smaller "pressings" and will usually hold on to less than half of
the total copies so that the artist can have a sufficient supply.
50/50 seems to be a standard set-up for
DIY labels. Are there any aspirations to put out any larger scale
releases in the future?
Yes, a few of the releases on the horizon
which will be much larger-scale in terms of pressings include: a split
12" with Hedia/Streights, and a new CD from Coma Recovery (both to be
released in the Fall).
What can we
expect from each one?
Hedia & Streights will be a split 12". I
expect we will press 100-300 copies, most likely screened sleeves. Hedia
has been working on a lot of new material that seems to focus on the use
of viola da gamba and horns. Streights is a project that uses field
recordings/found sound exclusively and constructs tonal arrangements
from the raw source material.
Coma Recovery just finished recording their
latest 5 song full-length at Panda Studios in Fremont, CA under the
engineering work of Sam Pura. From witnessing the recording process, I
can say that they are beginning to drift away from their more
traditional wall of sound anthems and have focused on stronger keyboard
accompaniments - the feeling I got is more akin to Depeche Mode's
"Violator" and less similar to your given Isis album.
Featherspines is run collectively. How
does this affect the way the label is run? Do you all democratically
decide what to put out? Do you design/assemble your releases en masse?
We individually work through whatever
release we have chosen to take on, pulling logistical information from
each other, sharing ideas that could help make the process more
efficient. Helping each other with the more task oriented levels of
production: cutting, folding, assembling - but leaving the individual
with enough space and head room to realize the release as they see fit.
Within the collective, what connects the
individual members to one another? To an extent, your musical tastes
must differ, but how are you all related?
I think we all share a longing to create
actively and solidify a relationship within our communities art scene -
we value the momentum we can add to eachother's lives. Aside from
numerous collaborative music efforts (probably the most prevalent being
Yoda's House), we have all lived with eachother in some form or another
over the past years - essentially becoming the family unit for one
another, cooking dinners for everyone, assisting in random projects or
doing skill-shares, going on hikes, etc.
utopian! On the subject of cooking dinners,
and particularly because I'm hungry, what does
your ultimate home-cooked dinner consist of?
As of late, my curiosity in raw foods
preparation has peaked, so I am trying to be more ambitious in the
kitchen with that. The stand by is vegan and gluten free dishes: stuffed
mushrooms, gazpachos, stir-fry, smoothies, home-made almond "milks",
home-brewed kombuchas, etc.
Streights' I See My West CDR
What other labels do you particularly
admire, and why?
Any of the labels I admire have shown me
that the hard work of a few people in a small bedroom can help create
more momentum within their respective community. Some that come to mind
are: Spacement Records (Reno, NV), SickSickSick (Albuquerque, NM),
Omiimii (Seattle, WA) Anarchymoon (New York/Oregon), eh?/Public Eye
Sore, The Lotus Sound (Albuquerque, NM) Swamp of Pus (Denver, CO) Not
Not Fun (California)
The first few releases were done on
cassette, but since then Featherspines has branched out into CDR and
vinyl. How do you compare the different formats? What are their relative
assets and deficiencies?
We still prefer the analog formats of
cassette (and vinyl though we've only done one) for their warm aural
qualities. There is a certain aspect of tangible nostalgia with the
older formats as well. The releases we've done on CDR were either by
artist request, or financial practicality. With more limited releases it
can be much faster, and less costly to go that route, as well as being a
more convenient and widely accepted listening format. Expect to see more
cassette and vinyl releases from us in the future.
How in touch are you with your
customers? How have you gotten the word out to people, and what sort of
audience is attracted to your releases?
What customers? Everything has pretty much
been given away. No, there have been quite a few vocal fans that have
been very supportive. The releases by touring artists usually sell much
better, such as Fell Voices, Pillars & Tongues, and Yoda's House. The
audiences are largely fellow artists and musicians. It's all about
community building, which is why we do so many trades and give aways.
Having been involved in zine creating in
the past, I agree that these endeavours are more about reaching
like-minded (and potentially like-minded) individuals than making money,
or even earning back the lion's share of what you've invested. I wonder
if some of the rapidly decaying, more profit-oriented music scenes
(especially anything related to the RIAA) might learn something from
these smaller communities. On a tangentially related note, what are you
doing when you're not "doing" music?
When I am not "doing" music or label
related stuff I am doing things similiar to what most of my peers are
doing: I work a day job as a grocery clerk at a local Food Co-Op, draw,
hang out with my girlfriend, ride my bike, i love to cook, help out my
roomies with the garden, volunteer with a few animal defense groups,
reading, smoking too much grass, lots of stretching.
What inspired the name "Featherspines"?
It was a name I gave to an old tape
recorder I had. It gave everything all the recordings an extremely eery
tape hiss, as if it were an accompaning instrument - usually causing me
to have goose-bumps or the feeling that someone was tracing my spine
with a feather.
It seems as if
some of the greatest sounds come from the nuances of malfunctioning
equipment. Digressing somewhat, are there any
music projects that you particularly admire? What
do you listen to when you're on your own?
I try to keep my tastes varied, I am
fascinated by small labels and anything received through trade. A few
albums that have been sent to my mailbox recently are: A Death Cinematic
(Simple-Box Construction), Land What Land (Omiimii), Kilt (Peyote
Tapes). I try to keep up with a lot of anarcho-hardcore bands like, Fall
of Efrafa, Zann, Marrow. Aside from those, some of my favorite include
SWANS, Romain Kronenberg, Joy Division, Rachel's, Arvo Part.
What is your favourite colour? Justify
Brown...eh, I am uncertain of any
justification. Maybe because that is the primary color of the landscape
What do the upcoming months hold in
store for Featherspines? How about the upcoming years? Decades..?
Have you ever heard about trash islands?
Litterally, islands built from collected debris in the middle of the
ocean. I often try to imagine millions of CDR's/Cassettes/Vinyl/Zines
all our universal "underground" bullshit converging somewhere in the
ocean. I try not to think about the possibility of years and decades -
it seems each quarter, I want to turn my heels and run away from all
this, I hate debating with myself over it (the total loss of money, the
lack of interest, more often than not encountering the reality of so few
people donating at a house show to assure the touring band can even get
to the next town). I just don't know and will probably never feel
content with everything this can encompass. I just like the people who
are creating this music.
Pillars and Tongues' My Joys are Greater Than
They Have Ever Been cassette
conducted by Michael Tau
published October 2009
photo credit Featherspines website
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