Read The Label #6: Dais Records “I simply wrote: ‘Is this Derek from Annabelle’s Garden?’ The response was: ‘Yes, I haven’t heard those words in years.’”

It was predicted record labels would become a thing of the past, but they’ve arguably become more important than ever to the dissemination of audio. Read The Label aims to uncover and document the circumstances of these prime movers, big and small.

I’m not sure how I first caught wind of Dais Records, but it’s the kind of label that, once you get a whiff, you realize they’re behind a lot of albums you’ve been listening to unawares. Finding a common thread between releases by such diverse artists as Genesis P-Orridge, Leila Abdul-Rauf, Maurizio Bianchi, Sightings, and King Dude (among many others) is a nearly impossible challenge, and that’s part of the intrigue of following Dais through its many projects. Also prevalent is the label’s tendency to reissue long-lost art, including a wonderful cut/paste record of William Burroughs spoken word earlier this year.

I spoke with Ryan Martin and Gibby Miller, the duo behind Dais, about their label’s uncanny rise in underground circles.

First off, everyone’s talking (or was talking) about the recent, ‘last’ Sightings record, how strong it is, and what a shame it is to lose yet another great experimental band. Can you tell me a little bit about how Dais’ relationship with this artist came about?

Martin: The legacy of Sightings, especially on a local NYC level, cannot be emphasized enough. Their level of consistency, determination and unfiltered energy was the foundation of the NYC experimental / underground world during the early 2000s, which was a time and place that really is impossible to explain if you weren’t here for it, but Sightings personified that time in New York.

I had been friends with Mark Morgan for a number of years through mutual friends and from playing shows on the same bills. A couple years back Mark had approached me about putting out an album for Sightings, which was entitled Terribly Well. We put out the record and Sightings embarked on a successful European tour the month of its release. Given that Sightings were the band that everyone took for granted in New York, we all assumed we would catch the new material live when they returned home from Europe. Sadly, they split within weeks of their return. Mark and Richard both told me during that time that the session for Terribly Well yielded two albums worth of material, the plan being we’d do a follow up album on Dais (not expecting the band to split so soon) the following year. Instead of shelving the album, I talked to Mark about doing a posthumous “final” record which became the recent “Amusers & Puzzlers” LP, released earlier this year.

Financially, it’s a challenge. It’s hard work. It takes time, research, and a lot of love. If you find yourself releasing music that other people love as much as you, you get into a rhythm and find your footing. You will realize fairly early on whether or not you want to keep going. That road, however, is not paved with gold.

While I’m bringing up Dais artists I like, how about Drab Majesty? I haven’t heard the full-length yet but the cassingle is amazing. Do they have roots in other bands or are they one of those groups that emerged with little warning?

Miller: Andrew Clinco (AKA Deb Demure) of Drab Majesty plays drums in the band Marriages, and had been developing the Deb alter-ego and Drab project for some time prior to joining the Dais family. The project is extremely visual, and he had a ton of video content already done and a cassette “Unarian Dances” out that was fantastic. Additionally, there were a handful of well-received live performances and local TV cable access show appearances, YouTube videos, and lots of hype and excitement. The LP tracks submitted to us that were complete were fantastic — imagine the Cure, Felt, Depeche, along with a finished video for “The Foyer.”… but seeing him live really sealed the deal for us. A true visual solo performer with an already established and large local following, unusual for someone with only a tape out. A very, very exciting artist.

Releasing the cassingle Unknown to the I really gave us an indication of the demand for his sound, as it nearly completely sold out within days. The LP sold out at a comparable pace, and is being released in a special edition for tours this October with TAUT and King Dude.

Looking at the early Dais years, Psychic TV and Genesis P-Orridge seem to have factored in heavily, which must have been a great development for such a young (at the time) label, to be able to work with such a revered and established artist. I’ve interviewed P-Orridge myself and found her to be extremely inspiring. Did you learn anything about her that surprised you during the course of your projects together?

Martin: The label definitely had roots in our relationship with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge from the beginning. Before me and Gibby came up with Dais Records, I was working with Genesis cataloging her archive for an acquisition by the Tate Museum in London. After spending a couple years doing the archival work with Gen, I had come across hours of tape reels of unreleased material and had mentioned to Genesis that someone should release some of it. I got the typical Gen, motivational response of, “Why don’t YOU do it!?” Myself and Gibby had loose conversations over the years prior about doing some sort of music-related project together, and when I mentioned the tapes, I got an early morning phone call from Gibby saying, “We should start a label, and our first release should be this rare acetate copy of Genesis’ first recordings from 1968 called “Early Worm.” That day we started the label. Around that same time, I had started managing Genesis (still do), thus we have always had he/r in arm’s reach of the label.

Miller: The surprise for Ryan and I was the willingness and collaborative attitude Genesis had towards Dais since the beginning. Thee Early Worm was our first release (a pre-Coum transmissions recording dating back to 1968, the single acetate of which was discovered in her basement by Ryan, a musical relic of storied proportions). When asked if we could release it, I think our approach was measured caution and our expectation was a “maybe.”… what we got was a resounding “Yes! DO IT,” and that really blew us away… That first record together became the first of many: through Thee Majesty, Coum, and PTV — and it’s been extraordinarily fun and exciting to work with someone I grew up admiring and listening to.

Trying not to name-drop too much but it’s a little overwhelming looking back at your catalog because there are so many recognizable names but little tying them together, like Prurient, Twin Stumps, Bestial Mouths, Robert Turman, King Dude; was the diverse approach always a goal of Dais, or did that just come about as you released the music you like personally?

Martin and Miller: There was never any goal other than to release music we love. The defining, uniting trait of all of our artists is that they were our friends first, and every release has been a result of those friendships. Musically, we feel that there is a similar thread that ties them together, be it a long-lost industrial tape reissue or an up-and-coming industrial or post-punk or noise artist, Dais has always been acutely focused on the underground. Ultimately, we release records we ourselves want to own.

Reissues can be a bit of a treasure hunt — like solving a mystery, with a lot of hard work and research involved.

I remember you mentioned that you couldn’t release a digital version of that William Burroughs LP you put out earlier in 2015, can you tell me a little bit about how rights can be exclusive across different formats and how that can affect a label like yours?

Martin: The issue with the digital distribution for the William S. Burroughs record was very unique and rare situation. Almost our entire catalog is available digitally with the exception of a few older titles. The reason why the Burroughs record we did earlier this year wasn’t able to be distributed digitally was because the digital and CD rights are licensed exclusively to a major label from when the recordings were tied in with a Giorno Poetry Systems box set of Burroughs’ complete recorded works, released 15 years ago. We decided with the Burroughs Estate that it was best to just do the vinyl and not pursue the digital distribution of the release, which works fine for us… I mean, the record originally came out only as vinyl so it was nice to stick with that tradition.

Along these lines, can you tell me a little bit about the curatorial aspects of Dais, as in, the reissues that have become part of your stock in trade? I know sometimes securing such releases can lead to a lot of back-and-forth, not to mention occasionally dealing with people who don’t want to release rights for one reason or another.

Miller: Reissues can be a bit of a treasure hunt — like solving a mystery, with a lot of hard work and research involved. Finding Deviation Social (one of the first acts we wanted to work with), involved a trail of dead ends and lucky connections: We noticed Monte Cazazza was thanked in the liner notes of the rare original 7-inch, so Genesis provided us with Monte’s contact information. We spoke with Monte for a few months, who connected us with Art (aka: Deviation Social) and the rest is history… Likewise, finding Annabelle’s Garden was simply pure luck: I lurked one of the founding members online because at the time there was literally NO information available other than a photocopied scanned zine PDF of a German interview from the late 80s on some blog… I simply wrote: “Is this Derek from Annabelle’s Garden?” The response was: “Yes, I haven’t heard those words in years.” It took us four years to gather the material, artwork, liner notes, and permission to move forward on that one. It’s a labor of love, but critical to the label. We consider Dais to be very much influenced by the past contributions of the artists we work with in this respect, and that these reissues can parallel the new records we put out as well.

Are there archival releases you’ve wanted to press that you couldn’t secure the rights to? Is it heart-breaking or do you just move onto the next thing?

Martin and Miller: Only one artist declined — simply because they were already engaged in a full CD re-release of the catalog. It can be disappointing when a project doesn’t fall into place, but if it’s getting a proper release elsewhere, we’re usually happy to see it happen and order it from them!

What about running a record label has surprised you the most thus far?

Martin and Miller: That it’s possible to run a label together AND remain friends… for almost a decade. That the vinyl market is incredibly volatile and unpredictable, and that there’s just a ton of work involved — maybe more than we ever imagined. But it’s so rewarding we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Do you run Dais full-time, or if not is Dais a project you’d like to work on 9-5 in the future?

Martin and Miller: As much as we’d love for it not to be, it’s a full-time job. We both catch ourselves answering emails at 3am, putting together releases on the weekends, etc. It’s more along the lines of 24/7 rather than 9-5.

From an artistic point of view, would you recommend getting in the ‘biz’ to others? How about from a financial point of view?

Martin and Miller: Absolutely. There’s nothing else like it. Creating objects that you love and want to keep forever is an amazing feeling. Financially, it’s a challenge. It’s hard work. It takes time, research, and a lot of love. If you find yourself releasing music that other people love as much as you, you get into a rhythm and find your footing. You will realize fairly early on whether or not you want to keep going. That road, however, is not paved with gold.

After spending a couple years doing the archival work with [Genesis Breyer P-Orridge], I had come across hours of tape reels of unreleased material and had mentioned to Genesis that someone should release some of it. I got the typical Gen, motivational response of, ‘Why don’t YOU do it!?’

Completely separate from the label, what do you listen to in your spare time?

Miller: Everything really… Ryan and I exchange music suggestions daily, so while at work I tend to listen to demos we are sent, or suggestions from friends… All over the map. At home, my background music is typically ambient or jazz. In mornings while driving around I tend to listen to a few local radio stations to hear new bands I may have missed (Whats up KXLU!)… I feel like I have access to more music I can ever hope to catch up on, so I tend to let my mood drive it. Through the label we hear so much, and our friends are all maniacally productive as well — so there’s no end to it! This week specifically I’ve been listening to the new Heathered Pearls LP Body Complex on Ghostly a lot.

Martin: I go through really drastic “kicks” of music. Thankfully I’m surrounded by a lot of friends who have a non-stop output of incredible music I listen to daily. I listen to a lot of stuff on Pan, Alga Margen, LIES, Chondritic Sound, Hanson, iDeal, Kye… Right now next to my turntable (that’s not Dais-related), I’ve been jamming records by Rectal Hygienics, Arv & Miljö, and Vladislav Delay a lot this past week. Been revisiting a lot of the older Jacob Kirkegaard albums as well.

What inspires you other than music?

Martin: I get extremely inspired by select visual artists and their work. To me, that is the pinnacle of accomplishment and nothing fills me with energy more than seeing visual art that I connect with. It’s hard to explain the feeling.

Miller: Technology in all its glorious forms and advances.

Do you see Dais keeping up its current pace for years to come? Does the thought of this exhaust or excite you?

Martin and Miller: That idea excites us. I think we’ve reached the point where we have a solid understanding of how important schedule is with regard to vinyl, and how critical it is to let releases breathe and to give yourself room to pivot and adjust throughout production, as anything can go wrong: jackets damaged in the mail, rejected test presses, etc. If anything we will be proceeding in a calculated way, focusing more on quality and sensible timing than quantity. We are currently booked with fantastic releases through the end of 2016, and are very excited for what’s to come.

Can you tell me about some Dais releases coming up that you’re excited about?

Martin and Miller: We have the debut solo record by former Coil/Psychic TV member Drew McDowall and the new follow-up album by Drekka coming out in late September. After that we are releasing a vinyl edition of a limited collaboration between Cold Cave, Black Rain, and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. [We’re] following that with a new single & album by Youth Code, Aaron Dilloway, and a few other (big) surprises.

What’s the one thing you know for sure?

Martin and Miller: Certainly not the answer to this question.

Most Read