If you have been following this blog then you would have noticed n5MD’s releases popping up on a semi regular basis this year. Their releases for 2018 have included the likes of Winterlight, Porya Hatami & Arovane, Stray Theories, Ocoeur, Suumhow, Dreissk and Okada, with forthcoming releases coming from Tangent, Fall Therapy and Axel Rigaud. For a label that has been around for as long as they have, they are consistent at putting out music that is engaging, immersive and a joy to listen to. Not to forget that the packaging and sound quality is extremely high. One thing you notice is their attention to detail and passion for the music. In this day and age, cultivating and developing a ‘roster’ or ‘family’ of artists seems to be an old-fashioned approach to some, but this is what draws listeners in and creates something more than just a revolving door of artists. It also shows a dedication to the artists and becoming part of a relationship which helps grow both the artists themselves and the label that they represent. Label boss Mike Cadoo kindly answered the questions I sent his way.
n5MD has been around since 2000, getting close to being active for two decades. When you started did you have a list/plan or goals you set out to achieve? At which point did you think ‘We’re onto something here’?
It might be odd that I have never thought “we’re onto something…” I feel that thinking breeds complacency and you can lose sight of your ethos that way. Originally the idea was for us to release music on pre-recorded MiniDisc. Those are of course long gone, and we still are doing the best we can to forge ahead. The level of success we’ve had is, of course, relative to the rest of industry contemporaries but n5MD is and always has been wholly indy and I really try not to give a second thought to what our contemporaries are doing. Overthinking n5MD I feel would be dis-genuine. We have been lucky enough to be able to provide a couple decent pro-bono services that can be costly to the release of an album. This was actually something that was on my original list/plan for n5MD that exists to this day. It was important to me for n5MD to be a stable, and/or safe haven, for artists that were not on the beaten path that are adept at conveying their emotions in their music. That has been a constant from day one and is still the standard.
The catchphrase of the label is ‘releasing emotive styles of contemporary music’ Are there releases that you could point out as best representing the feel of the label or is it a case of many different styles and shades that make up the label?
That is a more generic description of the label that ends up on our bios and social media pages. For quite a while now we’ve used “emotional experiments in music” as our true statement of intent. The label in its simplest form is just, as I alluded to before, a home for artists that effortlessly interject their emotions in the music they create. There’s really no release that sums up the label. However, I often hear from fans of the label that there is that certain thread through all the releases that are unquantifiable that link them. An “n5 sound” if you will.
With changes in technology you had to change from the original format from minidisc to vinyl and CD. Over the years other changes such as the way music is being consumed, the rise of social media and piracy have changed how music has been treated. How important is it to react to these changes or do you just do your thing?
I have often used the “bending and weaving” boxing analogy working within any industry. Flexing within the music industry, its pitfalls, format changes, and most importantly your listener’s preference is important. We did start with MiniDisc and vinyl. But if you look back, we were not strictly MD as our 4th, and 5th releases were vinyl, and one was part of a series of seven clear 7” records called 7ransparen7. This made the more recent transition to vinyl, luckily, fluid as I was familiar with the manufacturing of it. In regard to piracy it is just another thing you are up against when you release creative assets onto the internet at this point. It is effortless to share now, and there is a lot less importance and awareness regarding the idea of copyright as far as the general public is concerned. It is just a given at this point and part of that “bending and weaving.”
I think the social media discussion is circular. We all use it because we have something to say, see, display, or sell but it can be inherently toxic. I’m not terribly sure that Facebook’s numbers for followers, engagement, and likes are accurate. I’m sure there is a decent percentage of fake accounts that like pages as there is the number of magazines that get “recycled” in a circulation that never get read.
With the changes in vinyl production, such as manufacturing cost and increased postage costs, do you think there will be a time when it’s no longer viable to put out vinyl?
Vinyl manufacturing cost, while a lot higher than that of CD, is relative to the process. It’s a “press,” and while that will be changing with more automated presses, it is still an old process. CDs are made from the glass master and spit through a replicator on the quick.
The shipping costs of vinyl to our customers is indeed a complicated issue and often a very valid sour point with fans of our output abroad. We have partners abroad who can ship vinyl in their respective hemispheres, but it doesn’t always end up the cheaper option as distribution abroad has added cargo fees just as our direct customers do.
I do personally think of vinyl more as a luxury item due to the expense and actual space required to store it. Your CD collection, hard drive with files, or on-demand services like Spotify use up a lot less physical space. Such space is at a premium. So if you have a vinyl collection, you will eventually need to be more choosy due to the cost of the physical space such a collection requires.
Who knows of vinyl though, the format may last. I feel the people that buy it, much as I do, are invested in the experience of music. Maybe it is just a nostalgic bump in our time; however, n5MD fans do ask that we press as many new things on vinyl as we can. While it is an “imperfect” format and an even more imperfect manufacturing process music itself often is justifiably and rightfully “imperfect.” This is why certain music just “needs” to be pressed to vinyl I guess.
What qualities do you look for in an artist? Is it important to build a roster rather than do one-off releases? With so many releases/ labels/artists coming out all the time, do you find it harder to be heard with all the noise, or because you have a good reputation you still can get heard?
It may be old-fashioned, but I do like to have long-term relationships with our artists. Maybe because I “commiserate” with their innate need to make the music they do or that it is more important to make music that is 100% sincere. We have had a few, and those have been fine, but I do prefer that n5MD aide and invest in its artists. We have this outpost for people that have figured out how to get musical ideas by any means of creativity from their head to their hands.
That said, it is indeed difficult to be heard now. This falls within the “bending and weaving” ideal We try and find new avenues and new ideas to get the music heard.
What is the best environment to listen to n5MD releases?
Oh wow. That is selective.
Stand anywhere and pause. Be very quiet, still. Simply look around you. You should be listening to Stray Theories “All That Was Lost”, any Last days album or Inner from Ocoeur.
Late Friday? Can’t sleep? Alone. “Heartless” by bvdub or Floating Away From The World” by OKADA.
Wednesday afternoon, troubleshooting a node.js or SDK issue? Suumhow “Crash_Reports,” Loess “Pocosin,” (ghost) “Everything We Touch Turns to Dust or Anything from Proem.
In-between time? In need of solace? Anything from Winterlight. Near the Parenthesis, To Destroy a City, Tangent… That list could go on and on.
Each has its own time and place.
What does the future hold for the label?
Moving ahead slow and steady with releases from Tangent, new signings Fall therapy and Axel Rigaud. Collaborative album from Boy is Fiction and Chris Schafer from Light Out Asia (as Boy is Fiction + Ghosts of Tyto Alba). 2019 starts with a deep murky stunner from bvdub. Then a beat-centric no apologies IDM full length from Proem (and yes I do think that people with more intelligence can maybe dance to it). We also have a release from a new signing from South Africa that we will be announcing a bit later this year which I am excited about. I also can say for sure that there will be a release from me in 2019. I have yet to decide if it is Bitcrush, Dryft or something else entirely… so maybe not moving as slowly as I thought. Hopefully, we are doing the “steady” part well enough though. 🙂
You can find more about the label here.