Andrew: TLAL has some great releases coming up; can you tell us about a few that you are particularly excited about?
Will: Super excited about all of them, but the biggest one I’m working on is the XBRAINIAX – Deprogrammed LP because I decided to do it as a gatefold. The artwork and insert look amazing amplified up from a CD. Hope people don’t mind to pay the extra $$ since it is quite a bit more expensive due to the packaging. Luckily I’m not having a problem with people checking out the new Archagathus LP despite its cost. I guess I’m trying out the DIY but nicer package release idea. It is scary to pony up that much money, especially considering all my other releases rely on me having money.
I’m excited about the Capitalist Casualties/NoComply split, old Cap Cas material so it is like a time capsule of awesome powerviolence from ’94 and the NoComply material is another old session they were originally going to do a split record with Charles Bronson. Vocals on their side were split between Justin, the original member of the band, and Travis from Assholeparade who sings on all but one song. Also I worked closely with Justin and Shawn from their respective bands on the layout.
Very excited to hear the Mind As Prison EP, I haven’t heard it yet because another label is the main one involve. The Kill/White Eyes split 5” will be insane, can’t believe I’m releasing something for either band. ACxDC’s new EP is going to be huge, it sounds amazing… you can hear the whole album on their Bandcamp. Lapse/Eddie Brock is going to be a supremely good pv/hardcore split, the two bands blend well and I feel like I’m supporting bands from close to my area. I’m doing my second official tape on TLAL for Sidetracked…been working hard putting art together for it… twelve songs in three and a half minutes. Mega excited to put out the Curmudgeon EP… love this band, can’t wait for people to hear their amazing music (check em out online, they have a tape for sale/download). Also have a book release which I’m excited about but really scared how much work it will take to lay it out… most likely by myself. So keep an eye out for a new Brian Walsby book. Super super excited to do a record for the Texan band Mindless too. Newly devised records.. I’m doing an Osk collection CD. Osk is members of Mass Grave playing a little grindier. I’m doing a new Backslider EP. Finally doing a small run of TLAL 2011 sampler tapes before the year is over, and piggybacking on top of that I’m doing a run of 500 business cards with downloads for those songs for free with orders.
A: When did you start TLAL? And can you give us a little bit of history on the label?
W: The label started in 2005. I was friends with two guys who soon went into the band Shitstorm/later one went to play in Torche. They asked me to co-release the Magrudergrind/Godstomper split with both their newly founded label and a label from California called Nuclear BBQ Party. I ran a record distro for three years until that point under the moniker ‘Stronghold Distro’ and they quickly convinced me to do the record. Dub and Ricky ended up not being able to go in it so I split it with Nuclear BBQ and that was the first release as a label. We did a second press because it did so well. Just kind of started rolling from there… second record I did all myself for Rhino Charge, an edge powerviolence band from outside of LA, and that record took off too. Ebullition took seventy-five copies of the press right off the bat, and reordered more later. I started out doing everything right, I don’t know where I went so wrong. Haha.
A: What was your motivation behind starting TLAL?
W: I’ve said time and time again that I’m not a musician, so this is the closest I come to music. I don’t want to downplay my musical exploits, but most of my own musical projects are much more thanks to the other people in the bands. The label is a hobby, not a job, and I do it for the love of music. I’m really lucky to be able to do something with DIY music I love, sell to like-minded punks and small Mom and Pop owned record stores. There is a lot of love in DIY and if it weren’t for everyone out there throwing support in, I’d be stuck as well as unmotivated. Everyone I know involved in this music is worth all the effort. I think the whole thing makes me a well-rounded person too, I’d never heard learned to do layouts for records or audio recording/editing without the need.
A: TLAL is becoming increasingly more and more prolific, how do manage to release so many records?
W: By going broke. Not really though, but I don’t separate label money and personal money so I’m surprised I’m not totally broke by now. My distro luckily fuels my label… I do lots of trading and lots of trades overseas. Of course split/co-releasing records makes production cheaper. I work in the IT field and don’t have mouths to feed or any other vices (other than releasing record) so I make decent money and a lot of that funnels into my label after bills are paid off of course. And when it comes down to it, I get a good amount of orders a week. Everything I can push out there then helps clear up space and fund the next jams.
A: Do you run TLAL completely by yourself or do you have other people help you out?
W: I’ve been lucky to have had some help from my friends here and there. My old roommate Jace helped me immensely by going to the post office for me and doing some artwork when I either needed a break or couldn’t do it. I do have a dedicated art guy, or as I call him…the official TLAL drawist. He is on call when I need him. That would be sir Matt Gauck. He has done an array of covers for me and other odds and ends, but he is the artistic face to TLAL. I can do basic layouts but I cannot illustrate, especially not at his level. I rope him into the work because he is a good friend. But on a day to day basis for orders, it is all me. Big emotional help from my friends around here and big guidance to some of my label/band friends.. Will from BSP, Pat from Blastcat/Backslider, Ralph from Haunted Hotel/Iron Butter, and Grzesiek from Infernal Stronghold. At the heart TLAL is just me but if I didn’t have help and good advice sent my way, I wouldn’t have made it very far. It is like a grindcore/hardcore family, woop woop.
A: Do you contact most bands asking if they would be interested in releasing something on TLAL or do they usually contact you?
W: It is a mixture of both. Most of the time I deal with friends bands and I approach them, but sometimes an amazing band hits me up that is off my radar that blows me away. This happened with Sex Prisoner, Sick/Tired, and Magnum Force… and now members of each band I just mentioned are actual friends since doing their records. Of course I can’t say yes to every record I like… too many amazing records and not enough money.
A: What is the process like for putting out a release?
W: If music is recorded and the way the band likes it, we then have to figure out artwork. Whether it is something I can slap together, for example Sidetracked’s Uniform EP, or something that needs to get drawn, or something the band wants to put together themselves. Then it is all logistics and small decisions… sending the masters to get mastered/plated, sending the order to the plant, getting coverart laid out and printed up. After that I have to run a little bit of hype online and then ship some puppies out after the bands get their copies.
A: What is it like working with bands from all over the world? Is it a bit of a challenge?
W: Oh yes it is definitely challenging. The Mesrine/Sakatat split was two foreign bands and two foreign labels (although one label was Sakatat). Sending records to Canada was easy, just one big pack, but sending to Turkey involved packs of fifteen records at a time so their customs didn’t charge or confiscate them. This was a similar story for the label from Brazil. Music is universal; I love bands from everywhere and the toils of dealing with shipping and customs and all that is very much worth the outcome. It was a weird ego trip the first time I saw a picture of someone in Indonesia wearing a shirt of my label… I assume people in the US hardly care, so to think someone in Southeast Asia cares that much is astounding. Also, I’ll go on record to say that anyone who wants to bootleg TLAL stuff can go ahead. I’m not in the game to make money or merch so I’d love there to be more out there…as long as it is tasteful.
A: I know this is a hard question, but what are some of your favorite releases that you have put out?
W: I love everything I’ve put out, and I can’t offend any band I’ve worked with so I’ll mention a handful. There is a part of me that loves heavy hardcore/powerviolence… so I love the Get Destroyed, Final Draft, Deathrats, Sex Prisoner, and Terminal Youth records I’ve done. Then there is a part of me that loves grind, so I love the Magrudergrind, Magnum Force, and P.L.F. jams I’ve done. Some records I’ve poured sweat into, like in the way I’ve became the art guy for the Sidetracked stuff I’ve released, so there is much love that I’ve touched every piece of that record and the soon to be released tape.
A: Aside from releasing music, you also make music in Iron Crow and Don Garnelli, tell us about that.
W: Iron Crow is a newer project. Powerviolence stuff but it has a little of a disorted/metalish edge to it. Not sure what the future holds for that since our drummer moved an hour away. Don Garnelli is a recording project I’ve done for awhile now. Started out in 2002 with a crappy Dan Electroc practice amp ghetto-rigged into my computer with just me playing multiple tracks of guitar, heavily distorted vocals, noise any way I could make it, and electronic drums the best I could program. 2011 I’ve expanded to have Andres Wade playing drums, a cluster of friends doing vocals… mainly Matt White, and me playing guitar, bass, noise, and composing it. I’m doing a tape of two recording sessions and fourteen minutes of music that will appeal to people who like their grind a little weird. I grew up on both punk and industrial music so I can dig some noise and strangeness infused in something that might be a little more average.
A: How did you get into music?
W: I started out by not understanding it. I mean I’m not an idiot, I understood the gist of it when I was real young but I didn’t understand a lot about it. Why bands were different, etc. After I had that spark of curiosity I taped songs I liked off the radio (precursor to downloading stuff… ya know, the 90’s). I started buying music which happened to be as soon as CDs started to get mainstream. First two CDs I got were Green Day’s Dookie and Offspring’s Smash. Not the coolest bands around but pretty groundbreaking to me at the time. That pretty much started me into punk. Only a few of my friends really listened to punk back then, and most of the skateboarders I hung around listened to rap. Once I started to be in the know, as I thought I was, I spread the word of the awesome punk bands I found: Minor Threat, Conflict, and then the more unformatted punk of the street punk variety. I remember being into records way back then, I had found about three The Specials records around my town for around $2 each and was stoked. With my group of friends in middle school we started a band called The Dead Body Men. The whole DBM discography is on Archive.org and I uploaded one old show I had on VHS onto the Internet. As much as I want to laugh at old me, I think those times were pretty killer and the music isn’t something I hate at all. With the band I started booking shows in my hometown, and the whole networking/getting involved in music thing exploded in my brain. Those were some of the best times of my life back then. I went from awkward to coming into my own in just a few years.
A: What attracts you to underground music?
W: I guess paying $50 to go see a band on a huge stage from far away appeals to some people but I just don’t get it, I’d rather stay at home. It just isn’t fun to me. Throw me into a basement or maybe even a small venue where a band would rather play on the floor, or a fest like Chaos in Tejas and I feel at home. Like minds, fun times, good music (depending on who you ask). DIY underground culture keeps me alive. If I were throwing barcodes on records and sending them all to a major distributor or my bands were signing major deals here and there, I’d be out of the game. Being that this is a interview on paper, you can’t really tell my mentality. I’m a quiet and nice guy. I want to look out for the quiet nice guy/girl bands. This isn’t for the money grubbing major label grindcore bands, who cares? Their sound itself doesn’t even speak to me…plus my goals and their goals don’t sync up. Underground music is about community and friendship, hell even that can be a little to the wayside, it is about good music with positive messages.
A: I always have to ask this, if you were stuck on a desert island and you could only bring three records, what would you bring?
W: I’ve been thinking a few days on this one. The one definite one is Minor Threat’s Complete Discography. That pretty much sums up punk, fast hardcore, DIY, straight-edge, and forward thinking in one record. I’m tempted to say a Youth of Today record, but I think Minor Threat fills that void, if I only have three albums I wouldn’t want them similar. I’m also tempted to say a Torche album, but I think Floor’s Self Titled album might be more timeless than those…plus I wore Meanderthal out. Here is the throwing you for a loop part of this, actually I considered Skinny Puppy’s Cleanse, Fold, and Manipulate, Ministry’s Psalm 69, and even a Three Six Mafia album for fun… but I think my last album would probably be a set of audio discs… been really getting into David Attenborough’s Life Stories. Spoken word would make me less lonely if I’m stuck on the island by myself.
A: What are some other labels/distros that have inspired you?
W: There are good labels all over the place. Like I said, Haunted Hotel, BSP, Give Praise, and Blastcat are tight homies. So are Blastasfuk, RSR, Tankcrimes, Crucificados, Ebullition, Bad People, Bovine, Punks Before Profits, Grave Mistake, Headcount, and a huge handful of others. I’m not directly tight with them but I dig Iron Lung Records, Painkiller Records, and some other of those fine folks fighting the good fight.
A: You have ventured into the world of zines with Fastcore Photos and Distort Raleigh, do you feel that there is something special about a zine as opposed to a blog?
W: I’ve done DIY zines as long as I can remember. Nothing notable about my old ones… had one about skateboarding, and did some animal rights pamphlets that were not too well thought out. A physical magazine is a great medium. It is a huge undertaking too. Plus it is so easy to throw it into a PDF and get it out on the web for free, as I have done with my zines so far. The plan of my next zine, Don’t Be Swindle, is to make blog posts and when enough content gets posted I’m going to lay that out into a physical copy. It is actually almost complete. I also feel like I blog enough with my To Live A Lie Records website so I love the output of something that can be passed around. Distort Raleigh was just to put some knowledge about old house shows to sort of show my town where we were and in the sad case that house shows stop happening…to glorify them to the next generation to keep the tradition going on. Fastcore Photos is my output of trying to be a camera geek. I thought it was a silly idea at first and the first one was fun and the second one is pretty incredible. I haven’t been taking many pictures since I got a handheld HD camera so I’ve been slacking on a third edition. I also contribute most of the time to Short, Fast, and Loud, occasionally to Noise Reduction, and infrequently to MRR.
A: Do you think services like bandcamp/soundcloud/spotify/etc. are good or bad for the scene?
W: Good for the scene for sure. I don’t use my Bandcamp to sell anyone anything. I think music is great when it is set free. I put download cards with as many releases as I can. With my label I imagine that I’m my own label’s superfan, and then consider what would I want? I want TLAL releases on my MP3 player to jam. Why not? Someone is going to rip them and put crappy ones up on a Blogspot/Mediafire. Some labels do fancy downloads that require money and hosting and the record is therefore a buck more than it should be. I do what I call DIY download cards. Someone could take the link and send it to all their friends but when you get fancy downloads you can just turn around and upload it and do the same thing… I trust that people are at least a little respectful. DIY and punk rock is about respect, and I think the utmost of people. My label would bottom out if I don’t sell at least a percent of jams, so hopefully what I consider forward thinking with digital music doesn’t trash my label. And if it does, maybe the world is better without TLAL.
A: Thanks a lot for doing this interview, anything else you would like to add?
W: I’d like to add a huge thank you to you Andrew for finding me somehow interesting enough to interview and for all of you reading this! Like-minded folks feel free to write me, I can’t say I always have much time to respond and to those I’ve not responded very well to I apologize. Bands, definitely send your demos my way, preferably via the Internet so I don’t feel bad taking your stuff. I also run a netlabel for anyone trying to get their stuff hosted that doesn’t sound like Yanni or MxPx Jr. You can find my contact info on my website, tolivealie.com. Much respect. Get outside, ride a bike, eat something healthy, start a band, and write about something!