An interview with Lachlan Dale, founder of Art As Catharsis Records

It's all about the tunes...

Lachlan Dale is a busy man; the founder of Art As Catharsis Records , he plays in several bands and promotes many more. This eloquent gentleman explains the idea behind the label and why we should all be feeling pretty damned positive about the Australian music scene.

So Lachlan, tell our readers what the label is all about. He obliges thus: “Art As Catharsis is basically just myself; I use it to promote music I find interesting and would like other people to listen to - it’s a bit of a personal hobby; I’m pretty obsessive and pretty positive about the Australian underground music scene - it’s basically something I created to help people discover more music and help promote bands I think deserve it.”

So when did you ‘give birth’ to Art As Catharsis? “I used to work for another Sydney label called Grindhead Records. It was really, really fun and taught me a lot of stuff especially about promoting shows and putting together gigs and how to release albums and all that kind of stuff.”

One of the ideas behind the label is that you offer a shed load of free and name your price tracks and albums so how do you afford your caviar and fine cognac with a not for profit label? He laughs as he explains that “It hasn’t been a problem because it’s not my source of income - it’s something I love doing with a passion, it’s not really a money making enterprise...I’ve got a full time job.”

And yet he still manages to pump out albums and albums of the juiciest Australian underground tunes; how the hell do you convince bands to get on board? His answer reveals a not entirely altruistic motive: “I kind of cheat because Battle Pope, Serious Beak and Adrift For Days; I play in all three of those so it’s also a place to promote the things I’m involved in. [AHA! Busted!] I’ve been putting on shows for five or six years and I’ve been playing on the music scene for maybe eight.There are a lot of bands who might do a recording but are not into the whole promotions side of things, or they’re not interested in that and just want to play music, write music and record music, which is fine. A lot of people find that [promotions] quite boring and quite a chore whereas I quite enjoy it so I guess if I like someone’s music I’ll just ask them. Recently one of my favourite Australian bands Space Bong asked if I could release their next album, which is really cool, so I’ll be working on that shortly. With them, I don’t think it’s going to be a free album – not everything is going to be free on the label.”

I ask, with the website offering so many free downloads and name your price albums/tracks, if he has a lot of faith in music fans to do the right thing and pay decent cash prizes for the stuff they download? He’s quite philosophical about the whole thing; “I don’t think you’re going to stop pirating anyway, if you try and control and force people to pay $15 for a digital album - I think it’s a bit of a rip-off - and I think you’ve got to be realistic about what impact it has and instead of trying to fight piracy, I figure I might as well just embrace it and get people together for free.” He works on the principle that the more people that hear an artists work, the more likely they are to actually give something back to the band; whether that’s in album sales or other merchandise such as t-shirts or the like. He doesn’t claim to have all the answers. “It’s just my take on it, I guess. When I did the latest Drones From the Underside of the Earth compilation (another free download), I‘ve actually been pretty bowled over by the amount of people who are sending me money and providing donations. It’s pretty awesome – it’s a bit of an experiment – but I’ve been really, really pleased with it. I know when we released the Adrift For Days The Lunar Maria, again released for free on-line, that got us in countries that were otherwise never gonna hear our music so I think it can be really valuable for promotion.”

Originally set up to launch the unpronouncable Huxwhukw from Serious Beak (I reviewed it some months ago – it’s awesome – go check it out), Art As Catharsis has been going since October 2011. Fortunately Lachlan has diverse musical tastes so it’s not all drone, grind, stoner and doom. Fruity electro madness courtesy of the penis-faced Anklepants can also be downloaded at the Catharsis website. I’d strongly advise that you check out Anklepants – he’s a genius of the highest order. There’s a rumour he might do some collaborative work with Serious Beak can we expect more of this ‘fruity’ stuff?  “I think I’m going to have a lot more weird stuff going on – I don’t just listen to heavy music – there’s a local band called Killsong who are filled with these incredible musicians from jazz and quiet, educated musical backgrounds. They’ve created this insane Mr Bungle type genre hopping crazy band. It looks like I might be putting them out later in the year so that’ll be really cool.”

So what’s the rationale behind the diversity of acts; is there method to your madness or is it just a case of whatever makes your ears prick up? “Anything is I’m interested in is fair game. Just because it’s noise or because it’s rap, I’m not going to necessarily ignore it. If I like it and I think they’re doing something interesting – and they have to be semi-interested in working with me as well – we’re not all going to make tons of money but if someone is interested in what I do and I’m interested in what they do then yeah...” I heartily embrace the principle behind what Lachlan’s doing. Everyone get involved. I insist.

So have you found that there’s cooperation from others in the industry or are they all total bastards towards you? His answer almost restores my faith in humanity: “I think it’s always been collaborative. We’re not in an industry where we’re making millions of dollars – it doesn’t happen – there are people who are starting to make a bit of an impact on the scene like The Bird’s Robe Collective, Monolith Records and Black Wire Records, everyone has been very helpful and willing to share advice and experiences. They’ve helped me out with press contacts and I’ve spoken to a lot of labels and just thrown questions back and forth. People are more than happy to help you out I think. I don’t see it as rivalry at all. Maybe between a couple of deluded bands but the labels and the people that are really interested in it and are doing it for the love and are happy to help people out.”

He is particularly keen to give a huge nod of appreciation to The Bird’s Robe Collective, who according to Lachlan have “They’ve been around for five plus years and have done some really cool stuff that’s inspired me a lot. I’ve had a lot of support from them. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy. Good guys. They’ve got sleepmakeswaves on there; Solkyri, dumbsaint, Squat Club; some pretty cool and I guess progressive heavy acts.”

He’s got no expectations as to where he wants the label to be in a year but he appreciates the fact that a lot of the ‘zines, blogs and magazines have got behind Art As Catharsis, including other musicians. What was your reaction to the remixes of the Serious Beak album? “They’re crazy! I think as a band, we were really humbled by having such incredible musicians do these really cool takes on our songs. We haven’t really had anything done like that before. The reception’s been pretty cool; I think for people who don’t know the Serious Beak album it's probably less interesting and they may be less inclined to check it out but again, a lot of people have checked it out and downloaded it. I’m just really, really happy with those songs – they’re freakin’ awesome!” We get into a bit of a discussion about the Morbid Angel remixes that were not exactly welcomed by the metal community. I say ‘Fuck it.’ We love ‘em.

Getting back to the underground scene, what are your views? “I think it’s really healthy, man. I think it’s really good. The biggest thing that needs to happen is more people being better at promoting stuff, getting their music out there or getting the word out about their shows but I’m really, really positive about it. Black Wire Records in Sydney has been amazing for the Australian music scene; they pump out incredible shows week after week; they’re really fair and really great guys and organisations like Monolith and Bird’s Robe Collective; I just see more and more positive stuff coming out. It’s not resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars for bands but Art As Catharsis exists because I’ve been inspired by bands and labels and everything else that’s going on in the Australian music scene.” My cockles are well and truly warmed.

We have a quick bitch about the closure of live music venues but both agree that musicians will always play, regardless of the surroundings, as Lachlan puts it “They’ll play in fucking car-parks, parties and warehouses – I don’t think it really matters that much.”

So as we wrap up the interview, who is blowing your mind? “I saw a live set by Fat Guy With Mystic Wolf Shirt at Black Wire Records; I’ve always been a fan of them but their last set with their new songs really blew me away, they were really cool to see. I’d love to do something with them...”

You thoughts on the music business in general? “I think at the moment all the big labels are panicking and trying to work out how they can keep all their power and popularity and money – they seem to be losing the battle – I’d be pretty happy if a lot of them went away to be honest, they’ve just got too much power and they’re not doing anything innovative...but all the little bands and little labels, I think they’re all healthier due to the fact of what’s happening on-line and in the digital world. I’m really happy with Bandcamp, I think that’s a step in the right direction, they’re not gouging you for fees, you can put it up for free, you can make your album a $1000, you can sell physical stuff, you can do whatever you want, you can stream stuff. I think that’s the main problem; bands need to catch up to that."

And what can we expect next from Art As Catharsis? “We’ve got some cool stuff coming up: Adrift For Days new album is coming up pretty soon, Space Bong later in the year, sounds like something with Killsong is going ahead later in the year so we’ll keep busy.”
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