The Peppermill: conquest through music
This here is a disclaimer for the change-sensitive.
Cool new idea we’re going for: this Sounds section will now have a series featuring music labels. Yes! We’ve decided to reach out to independent record labels that (a) are doing interesting things, and (b) are awesome. Why? Because with a tiny bit of research we’ve stumbled upon some of the most exciting, innovative creative people congregating around these independents. So, to the point, shall we?
The Peppermill Records is a fun little netlabel based in the mountains of British Columbia! These folks are fond of treeplanting (we kid you not) and attract artists from around the globe. They specialize in collaborative projects that are available for download once they’re completed. We can’t resist a musical reverse-lumberjack – just you ask around – and we were driven to interview them. Once again we invite you, Gopher friend, to take a peek at their work. Not only are they incredible at getting musical talent together, but they have a lovely approach to album art. If you like what you see/hear/feel, go ahead and dive into their sea of fantastic musical art; their website is so full of gems it might make you miss dinner.
Power und Beauty – Lavender
How and when did you get your start as a record label?
It all started back in, oh when was it… oh yes of course it was 1899 and some of my buddies had just returned from the Battle of Mafeking and we were throwing one of the first real outdoor “raves” out at Stonehenge (I swear we had nothing to do at all with the Incident, I believe that rock was still standing after the party) as sort of a homecoming, and also to ring in the new millennium, it seemed the stars were aligning and new styles were emerging and it just felt like the right time to start our own netlabel. Of course both Creative Commons and the Internet were quite primitive back then. But riding that high we got together and created an album in just 30 Days and the rest is history. Some of this is true.
What musical genre or style do you particularly/most often work with?
Here at The Peppermill, we purposefully incorporate as many styles as possible. The upcoming Ace of Base tribute called ‘It’s Not A Day For Work’ is an exercise in variation… there’s folk and metal and bluegrass and hip-hop and any others styles but not barbershop or bhangra as intended but hey I tried. Sometimes though I like a more focused approach, such as 2999 which is attempting to reign in futuristic dub music. However, within those parameters there is plenty of room for innovation. Often the best genre is that which can’t be described quite yet.
Looking into the future, what are your goals as an independent record label?
World domination. Throngs of mindless musical slaves succumbing to the hidden control frequencies buried deep within these innocent “free” tracks, triggered at the moment of our choosing. That moment is soon.
What sets you apart from other independent record labels?
We’re Canadian. That’s one thing. Another is that we mostly do themed collaborative projects, so while we don’t have a stable of artists releasing all their work under our protective gaze, we instead have the opportunity to invite anybody we like, to painlessly contribute a song here or there whenever a window of opportunity opens up.
The third and most important but less obvious thing is that we’ve managed to subvert RIAA and FDA regulations altogether and lace every one of our releases with physically addictive chemical agents. Which goes in conjunction with answer #3.
Power und Beauty – Peaches
What is a defining aspect of the artists you represent?
They’re mostly all adventurous types who have a love of melody and harmonics and creative production techniques and also enjoy the actual texture of the sound. There’s some lyrically brilliant stuff we’ve put out but I’d have to say that overall Peppermill treats the human voice more as another instrument than a storytelling device.
If you could steal any artist/band from another record label, who would it be and why?
I would steal Parliament away from Casablanca circa 1975, and reintroduce the world to P(eppermill)-Funk. Or if this question doesn’t involve time-travel, I may settle for releasing Chad Vangaalen‘s next album, although my friends at Flemish Eye do a much better job at promoting him than I ever could. But as previously discussed, a positive aspect about this label is that we only usually require one short contribution at a time from the artist, and can therefore invite almost anybody to take part with a fair shot of them accepting, that is if the project’s concept appeals to them.
Montag – No Aloha (The Breeders Cover)
What upcoming Peppermill releases and projects should we watch out for?
2999 is the big new project, a futurist dance album where producers of sub-bass-happy electronic music soundtrack the distant future… and then have their visions interpreted by illustrators. Taking part are many many amazing artists from all over the planet but also a few from Caracas… Pacheko, Pocz, Delarge and Cardopusher. We will start releasing one song/image a day for fifty days, starting in early July I hope.
Another dubby release shortly after will be from a Los Angeles fellow who goes by the name Fancy Mike, an EP plus remix I’m looking forward to.
Besides the Ace of Base album mentioned previously, shortly afterwards we’ll begin on more tributes… to either Massive Attack’s ‘Protection’, or Stereolab’s ‘Margarine Eclipse’, or both.
Something I’m very excited about, that we’ve only recently started and will be ongoing for a couple of years, is The Wolverine and the Bee. Sort of an audiofilm, where various artists create ten-minute segments of dialogue, sound fx and music that continue from where the previous narrative left off. I think it could go in some very interesting and bizarre directions.
And lastly is ‘If You’re A Pretender, Come Sit By My Fire‘, our big project from last winter where we interpreted Shel Silverstein’s amazing children’s poems, it’s another artistic exercise, this time in taking literature and turning it into melody. The result was fantastic, and we had around 40 submissions before the late-great-Shel’s family made us stop using their team of lawyers, claiming their dad/uncle wouldn’t approve of this, however the family then went and mimicked this idea and did their own version that was recently reviewed positively on Pitchfork. However ours is much, much better. I believe in the rap community this is called “biting”.
But ours will come out in some form later this year, if the Man In The Sky wills it.
How do you view the music industry today? In your opinion, what is the role of independent labels?
A good label is a home that will send you around the world, pay your bills, and make you hopelessly cool. They have a network of artists and fans that band together in an international clique. A good netlabel on the other hand is a poor-man’s version of this, we try to achieve as much of the above as we can but we all have real jobs, so this is more of a (serious and time-sucking) fun hobby.
What are your methods to discover new bands or artists?
In the past it was mostly Myspace and word of mouth, however in the near future it’ll be done mostly through our vehicle Peppermill Idol, which will be a joint venture in conjunction with Okcupid and Simon Cowell’s twin brother Darrell. It will combine the all the fun of television and dating and indie music, as well we’ll feature a giant Gong, that is as long as we can land Chuck Barris as host… otherwise it would all seem a tad tasteless.
What kind of things do you look for in bands or artists you’re interested in working with?
They are boundary-pushing musicians with a strong sense of melody. With illustrators who compliment them. Hopefully more and more animators as well, I’d love to set these songs in motion although there’s already some of that on the way (google “ZUMBAKAMERA“).
Le Rok – Le Rokford Files
Power und Beauty particularly caught our attention. What can you tell us about their distinct duo character and charming childish musicality?
I discovered this EP while doing a special on Spokane for my radio show, as I focused on a different community every week last winter. Their city is a bit south of the border from here so I was curious what I’d dig up and Karli almost immediately caught my attention, as she spearheads a lot of the cool local events. And of course when I heard this supergroup with Anna, Sarah and Caroline I was instantly in love. They’re spread out now but I really hope that they’ll have a chance to do another EP some day soon.
Rafter – Long Ago, A Rodent As Big As A Bull Lurked In South America
We were also quite interested in one of your newest releases, ‘Greatest It’, that you produced in conjunction with other independent record labels. Do you want to share with us some impressions about the production process of this album?
I had wanted to work with some of my favorite netlabels for a while now, but hadn’t thought of anything too typical yet… and then Upitup proposed that we introduce us all to each other’s fans, bring out some of our favorite old tracks and I thought that was perfect. I just listed ten timeless Peppermill classics and let them choose 3. As well I helped choose some of theirs, and then Proot introduced us to Amandine and we had our cover artist, we wanted something dense, and she delivered it’s incredible. I have many more labels I’d like to collaborate with in the future, and have some ideas but am open to suggestions. As well, at least some of us from Greatest It may soon go through with a music/arts blog where together we could further pursue our CC agendas. Look out for that.
‘Faces and Hands’ sounds like a really innovative idea. What is it all about?
Well Mille approached me about this documentary style series of episodes she had created, about life in her old treeplanting camp, at first just so she could use some of the music from Hi and Ho, We Plant Trees, but then we agreed that Peppermill might be a nice place to host the series. Hi and Ho was initially put together for a very niche market, namely, other treeplanters… but it’s proven to be the most downloaded release ever in the history of the Peppermill. It became apparent that there were others who are fascinated with this culture, and so I was happy to help show the world what it is that some of us do every summer here in the Canadian forests. It’s quite a rite of passage for many of our disenfranchised youth.
Bakers At Dawn – Might
Please complete this sentence. “If we weren’t answering this interview, right now we’d be…”
…carbonating the dark roasted-barley cranberry ale we made for the festival.
In your opinion, what is the best age to be?
…whatever age you’ll be in 2012, when all you Peppermill listeners become willing captives to our secret mind-control bass frequencies. The revolution will be televised.