Wednesday 27 May 2015

Label Intensive: An Examination of Poisoned Mind Records

Poisoned Mind is a specialist DIY label based out of New Jersey and Connecticut, born and bred by self confessed analog addicts and VHS aficionados; Tom and Mike set forth with a mission to turn their obsession for music and trashy 80’s horror VHS, into a limited pressing vinyl only entrepreneurial venture. In many ways the combination of horror and the stoner rock scene go hand in hand, with imagery of psychedelia, tales of black magic, and the occult featuring prominently in numerous low budget movies, but also in the imagery and lyrics of well known stoner bands too, with sound bites of movie featuring heavily in music by Electric Wizard, and inspiring lyrics to numerous others. 

Having two vinyl releases behind them, a debut 7inch pressing for the soundtrack to Chester N. Turner’s BLACK DEVIL DOLL FROM HELL, a revered 1980’s horror movie in which a kindly woman is raped by a ventriloquist’s dummy. Poisoned Mind, followed that up with a debut 12inch limited vinyl pressing from Crypt Trip, a band hailing from Dallas Texas, who play an addictive blend of psychedelic fuzz rock.  With the label on the brink of issuing their latest releases, I took the opportunity to fire some questions at them, in order to get low down on this unique and high class vinyl only label

(SL) Guys, thanks for doing this, for those people who are not familiar with your label, could you tell us a little about yourself, your label and why you decided to start Poisoned Mind Records?

Tom:  Thanks Aaron! For a while I’ve wanted to start a label. Records have always been my first love and it’s the format I grew up with and still buy and collect to this day. Mike and I met each other through the vhs and record groups on facebook and finally got to hang out a couple years ago. We realized we shared a lot of the same interests and threw around the idea of starting a label.  We started Poisoned Mind together and had the idea not to limit ourselves as far as the music we put out.  We wanted to create a label that was different, not just strictly a soundtrack or doom label.

(SL) Looking on your store page, you seem to have a number of releases in the pipeline, What can fans look forward to from your label in 2015? How is your schedule shaping up? Any exclusives you can tell us about?

Tom: Going from 2 releases last year we have about 5 albums on tap for release this year so far. A little something for everyone and that’s the vision we had when we started. We have the Fistula 7” coming out in the next couple of days and the Crypt Trip repress, Merlin’s Christ Killer LP which is like a cinematic doom psychedelic trip, The new Wolfmen of Mars LP titled Gamisu, if you dig horror films and soundtracks then Wolfmen is right up your alley, We also have a couple soundtracks that we can’t announce just yet, but sit tight!

(SL) Admittedly, I had an ulterior motive for featuring you guys, having purchased the Crypt Trip die hard, I am also a massive fan of Fistula.  You’re set to release ‘Never Trust a Cop’ on 7inch by those guys, what can you tell us about that, when can we expect that to hit your store and how did you get involved with those guy?  

Tom: Its looks like the Fistula 7’ will hit our site on May 30th.  Mike was talking with Dan at Patac records and the singer of Fistula and he asked us if we would be interested in releasing it for them. Of course we said yes!

(SL) Given that music and movies can be streamed now on our computers, on TVs, there seems to be less of need to go to a store, to a cinema or to invest time buying the physical product, do you place more importance on offering a great package to your customers, given the emergence of digital age.  What is the ethos behind what you’re trying to do with the label? 

Tom: Of course it’s a different day and age but I love seeing new generations get into
records, cassettes and VHS. I think more and more people are discovering and enjoying these formats.  It was only a matter of time before this happened.  A lot of times I won’t even listen to digital tracks, ill order an album and wait to get it in the mail before I listen to it.  We are just trying to create a nice package for the music and give the fans something special and the bands something that represents them the best we can.

(SL) What, if any bands or labels may have inspired you to start the label or was there a specific reason you felt you wanted to support the art you have?  For example what motivated you to put out Black Devil Doll From Hell as your first release?

Tom: At the time when I was thinking about starting a label there weren’t any soundtrack labels yet. I have been collecting soundtracks since the 90s and I knew it was just a matter of time until they started to tap into that market again. Then Mondo re-released the Maniac soundtrack and then Death Waltz came out and everyone went nuts ha-ha,

A few years later I was talking with Steve at STB Records, him and I go way back as friends and we are from the same area in NJ. We were throwing around the idea of doing a label together but in the end he went out on his own and created such an amazing label, from the bands to the layouts and packages he offers. He was definitely a huge inspiration for us and we continue to help and inspire one another.  Early on I always looked up to labels like hydrahead, hyperrealist and robotic empire. Then it shifted towards, southern lord, tank crimes, rise above, A389, Teepee. Nowadays Hevisike, bilocation, Ripple, Patac. So many great labels out there.

Mainly I think for mike and myself a lot of our friends inspired us to do something, like Louis at Massacre Video, Matt at horrorboobs  Josh at lunchmeat magazine, Uneasy Archive, King Of The Witches. These are all DIY movie labels and it’s great to see all of them growing into something special.

As for why we started with Black Devil Doll From Hell, mike and I both knew Louis at Massacre Video and are fans of this underground classic. It was right around the time Louis actually found the director Chester Turner after trying to track him down for years. Mike and I were outside at a horror convention and mike said to me “hey wouldn’t it be cool if we were able to do a Black Devil Doll From Hell 7” or  something”? I knew right then and there we had to do it and we had to get started on the label together. Up until that point there really wasn’t a soundtrack out there on record for a film Like BDDFH and that was the appeal for us as well. 

(SL) I used to be big a movie fan when I was younger and used to get a kick out of watching trashy horror movies, latterly in my early 20s stuff from Japan such Takeshi Mike movies etc, because I was kinda obsessed with how extreme the boundaries of cinema could be pushed.  Where did your fascination with movies start and why the fascination with VHS? 

Tom: I guess the fascination came from having an older brother who would take me to the movies.  Him and his friends used to rent movies all time and when he went out id sneak into his room and watch the ones I wasn’t supposed to. I remember sneaking into his room one day and watching Make Them Die Slowly/ Cannibal Ferox. Up until that point I never saw anything so brutal, it all looked so real to me and it scared the shit out of me. Kind of like the same feeling I got listening to the song Black Sabbath when I was kid.

Growing up, my Mother worked right next to a video store, so I would spend countless hours in there looking at the covers of all these movies. I was always drawn to the scary and gory covers and even back then I knew that they weren’t just films but these covers were works of art. When DVD hit I switched off like a lot of people did. About 6 years ago I was watching videos on YouTube and discovered that a whole new generation had found love for this format and appreciated these wild covers and movies just like I did growing up and it amazed me. I got bit by the collector bug and started buying them again. It’s a combination of nostalgia and seeing films in their original state or maybe that rare film that doesn’t have a DVD release. Maybe I can download it or watch it on YouTube but for me I want to own it, it’s just a different feeling for me.

(SL) In your experience, how easy/difficult was it to sell the idea of your label and what you hoped to achieve, in the sense of releasing something like Black Devil Doll on vinyl, which many would deem as obscure? Was the first release any more of a gamble than say, releasing Crypt Trip, given there is such a thriving stoner rock scene. 

Tom: We had an idea BDDFH would do well given the cult following it has and the whole mystique of the film. Did we expect it to sell out in a day? No we really didn’t, I think that release surprised a lot of people and just showed what is possible when it comes to releasing soundtracks.

With the Crypt Trip album it was somewhat of the same feeling. I guess expect the worst and hope for the best right?  These days everything is a risk when it comes to releasing music. You just never know. You just try to build a following with your label and hope people dig it. What we hoped to achieve with these releases, we just wanted to do something we both were into and have fun. Sure we had the idea of more releases after BDDFH but I don’t think either of us actually knew if it was gonna go beyond that but we were gonna try to!

(SL) What do you look for in order for you to get involved in releasing something on vinyl?

Tom: If we like something and feel good about it and there isn’t an LP release then we will look into releasing one. We aren’t really concerned with repressing stuff other labels have done before. When it comes to soundtracks and bands our goal has always been to release things that aren’t on record and the same goes for bands we enjoy.

(SL) There is much talk about the ongoing backlog at the pressing plants, which has caused a bottle neck in production and big delays in releases, what are your thoughts about the emerging scene and what are some of the difficulties/frustrations of running a label, because there are many other commitments such as family, work etc that perhaps restrict the amount of time you can dedicate to your label?  Not to mention the financial pressure? 

Tom: The frustration all comes from the wait time for pressing 100% ha-ha. It’s like man I wish we had these records in our hands right now to get em out there! It’s just not how it works though and you just have to be patient and remain positive. 

With the wait times and everything mike and I decided screw it lets just put even more of our money up and send everything we have lined up right now to press instead of spreading it out and this will be the way we operate from here on out.  We both have day jobs, mike busts his ass all day long at his job but I have a job where I can actually work on label stuff in my downtime.  It’s a tough balance and we are both learning what works best for us as time goes on.

(SL) How valuable are blogs and social media? What are your thoughts on changes in the music/movie industry over recent years?

Tom:  Blogs and social media are a huge part today; no way would we have been able to do what we did with our first 2 releases if it wasn’t for it.  It used to be just magazines and music videos but now there are so many more outlets and people who are passionate about things they are into be it music, movies or whatever. Both of our releases were just through word of mouth, social media and Crypt Trip of course playing shows and touring. Bands and social media help us get our name out there just like we help them out. It all comes together in the end.

I do see a huge shift in people wanting to own physical copies now. I think it’s safe to say that all formats are back and here to stay. I mean there are bands that I own the record, cd and cassette. Not only once but 3 times over ha-ha. The same goes for films as well.

(SL) Given that you have a number of releases (2 at present) under your belt, how do you measure the success of each release, are you reliant on selling units in order to release the next one? 

Tom: Whatever money we do make goes right back into releasing more albums and we just put more of our own money up again to try and get ahead of the game and get more releases out there this year. The way we measure success is we are happy just breaking even. We were fortunate enough to have our first 2 releases sell out and hopefully with each release we can keep it going. 

(SL) Some labels place a significant importance on the releases having a sense of being a collectable, with Standard and Die Hard Editions.   What do you feel is the significance of releasing such a package (s)?

Tom: From a record collector and fan standpoint, I feel the significance of doing these
releases is offering something for everyone. You have someone who just wants the die hard version and if they don’t get it they may not even buy anything else and would rather pay more on the secondary market because that’s what they want. Then you have the people who just want it on color vinyl and don’t care about a box set with extras. Oh its only left on black vinyl I want color im not buying it!  Then of course the one who just wants to own the album and doesn’t care what color its on etc. Then the collector who must own every version under the sun and wants them all. 

(SL) If you could have released any movie soundtrack or record past or present, what would it be and why?

Tom: It would definitely be Phantasm and I think I can speak for Mike on this question also since it’s both our favourite series of all time. Mondo actually just released it for the first time in 35 years. That soundtrack sets the tone to the film as well as any out there.  We both just love it.  As for a present soundtrack release we just got the rights to one but you’ll have to wait and see!

(SL) Finally, do you have any final comments/word of wisdom you’d like to bestow upon us?

Tom: Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview Aaron and all the work you do there at Sludgelord. A lot of time and effort goes into what you and your contributors do and it shows and is much appreciated. As far as our releases coming up you can expect a different mix of bands, soundtracks and surprises. Thanks to everyone who made our first year a success and bought something from us and everyone who helped us out along the way. We are just getting started!

The Fistula ‘Never Trust A Cop’ 7inch and repress of Crypt Trip Debut full will be available here from Saturday 30th May 2015

Words and Interview courtesy of: Aaron Pickord and Tom @ Poisoned Mind Records

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