Since its beginnings, witch house has been a genre that has either been vehemently dismissed or met with enthusiastic praise. However, Bay Area record label Tundra Dubs, a boutique label that specializes in the subgenre founded by Ben Tundra, has been going strong since it’s inception exactly one year ago.
What was the inspiration behind starting Tundra Dubs?
The inspiration was the fact that I had a lot of talented friends making music who weren’t releasing anything. At this point last year, there was only a couple (maybe three or four) serious labels releasing witch house and it’s related niches. I saw an opportunity to get into something at the ground level and took the chance.
What has been the biggest challenge thus far?
The biggest challenge so far has been the financial aspect. I have a lot of projects I’d like to do but simply can’t because of the money that would be needed. However, considering I’ve only been around for a year, I think I’ve been pretty lucky with how Tundra’s been accepted and viewed. Some people are still scoffing or writing off the scene or sound, but I think that’s going to come to an end at some point.
How do you look for artists to put on the label?
When I was planning the label, I literally trolled SoundCloud all day for a few months and just downloaded demos. That’s how I found almost every early Tundra release. I’d download demos and, if I liked them, I contacted the producers and asked how they thought about doing a release. At this point, I’d say 90 percent of the music I release is people my friends refer to me. The other 10 percent is demos that are submitted to me.
What drew you to the witch house genre?
I think what initially drew me to it was the weird blend between goth aesthetics/imagery and the varied inspirations that most of the time did not have anything goth associated with it. I’d see SoundClouds of really unknown producers from all over Europe and the U.S. meshing house, UK garage/funky, trance, hip-hop and any other musical style they wanted into one (sometimes) cohesive tracks. The great thing at the time, too, was that all these different styles and producers were calling themselves “witch house,” so it was easy to see a mix or track tagged as “witch house” and just get into it. I also thought it was the first truly Internet genre where people in Denmark were getting into it at the same as someone in Mexico or the United States. Everyone was more or less on the same page.
I think, especially right this minute, its very easy to write off witch house as a fad. I certainly see where the angst is coming from. I think, just like any genre, there are insincere people making the music to ride the fad. It happened and is still happening with dubstep and has happened with every popular genre still in existence. I just hope people take the time to look at some of the serious artists in the scene, listen and look at what they have to offer and then form a decision. Mainly because for every insincere producer/band out there, there’s three to four completely serious producers/bands working really hard to make awesome music.
Why do you think the community is so closely knit?
Necessity. Which, again, I think is just like any other burgeoning scene or sound. Artists rely on labels to release their music. Club promoters rely on DJs and artists to play their parties. Bloggers rely on labels and artists to generate content. If you run a witch house blog, club night, label, zine, etc, then what choice do you have but to get in contact with like-minded individuals? It’s also a highly creative scene. Not a lot of people involved in it are really concerned with money.
You also release cassette tapes. Any comment on how cassette tape is not part of the Oxford Dictionary anymore?
That sucks! I saw a picture the other day that had a cassette tape and a pencil side-by-side and it said “Our Children Will Never Know the Connection,” which is probably 100 percent true! I’m not that old at all, but some of us need that tangible form of music. Even if it’s not in the dictionary, I think people will still be releasing tapes for some time to come.
What are your future aspirations for this label?
For 2012, I want to do strictly tapes, vinyl and digital. I’d obviously love to run my label full-time, so I’m currently trying to figure out the best way to do that. I’ve also decided to cut back the frequency of releases in order to better promote and manage the stable of releases I’ve got planned. Year two will be a lot of fun I think.
What will the scene of the one-year anniversary be like?
Lots and lots of fog, awesome visuals, and, more importantly, awesome vibes. We have people coming from all over the U.S. and we have a good friend from Australia coming in the party. It’ll be a really positive night with awesome music and great people. I hope to meet a ton of new people somehow involved with the scene and, if you see me, come say hi! It’s going to be a lot of fun.
The Tundra Dubs anniversary party, featuring Ceremonial Dagger, Aimon, Text Beak and DJs Caco and Bobby Pen, is October 15th at Sub-Mission Art Space (Balazo 18 Gallery). The party starts at 9pm and admission is $5 at the door.