- Q & A with Dan Nemer & Steve Cuff from Ongakubaka Records
Please give us a brief bio of the label. How did it start, til today….
“Ongakubaka” (Japanese for “Music Fool/Idiot”) started as a music sharing blog back in 2007. We (Dan Nemer of Richmond, VA and Steve Cuff of Milwaukee, WI) originally started off by sharing records that we really loved, and eventually transitioned to posting primarily direct submissions we received. We built a very strong following over the years, but as the music blogosphere began to slow down, we weren’t sure what the best avenue would be to continue to provide the music that we love to our followers. With the number of amazing submissions we were receiving, becoming a label just seemed like the next logical step. For years, there were multiple labels that were looking to us for new bands, so we started feeling like the middle man and decided we should start putting out records ourselves.
Which labels inspired you most to make your own?
There are far too many to list, but Cardinal Fuzz, Fuzz Club Records, Trouble In Mind, Sacred Bones Records, In The Red Recordings, HoZac Records, and Beyond Beyond Is Beyond Records are some of the few that immediately come to mind, but unlike a few of those labels, It’s been our goal to NOT limit ourselves to a very particular niche within the psychedelic music genre. We want each release to be distinctive and sound nothing like the release before it. Regardless of the genre, if we love it, we’ll release it.
Which is the motto for Ongakubaka Records?
Hmm, we’ve never come up with a motto, but it would probably be something along the lines of “Taking Drugs to Release Records to Take Drugs To”.
Which are the advantages and disadvantages of running a music label today?
It certainly has proved to not be particularly profitable for us haha. We’re typically lucky to break even on a release, which is all we’re really looking for. It’s also a little like having a full-time job in addition to having our full-time jobs. It can be difficult to dedicate the amount of time to the label that is needed to be successful. The most obvious advantage would be having great bands and artists coming to us. You never know what could be waiting in your inbox.
Which are your future plans for the label?
Not sure! We’ll likely slow things down in 2018 to give ourselves some time to build up funds for more releases. In the more distant future, we would love to become more hands on with our releases. More collaborative in the creation of the art, star screen-printing, more pressing variants, etc. We’ll forever want to keep it small though.
- Three distinctive Ongakubaka Records releases
Hollow Hand – ‘Ancestral Lands‘
Hollow Hand make some of the most gorgeous British folk tunes we’ve ever heard. Obviously, we love all of the bands we’ve released, but Hollow Hand was the first band that we released that felt too good to be on our tiny label (in fact, their newest 7” was recently played by Elton John on his “Rocket Hour Radio Show“!!??). The clear cassette turned out beautiful too (sorry, sold out!).
Kill West – ‘Smoke Beach‘
Kill West has had the most staying power out of all the bands we’ve released. Even though the cassettes sold out long ago, we still receive emails asking about a repress, and the record has gotten steady plays on our Bandcamp since its release in June of 2015. Drone-y, riff-y, psych/blues/shoegaze that you won’t be able to turn up loud enough.
Baby Jesus – ‘Baby Jesus‘
Baby Jesus debuted with a self-titled cassette beck in April of 2015. It was our third release (on metallic gold cassettes), and was the first to sell out completely. It’s one of the best garage/psych records from the last few years, and we were incredibly lucky to release it. Hot ‘n heavy tunes that’ll do some damage to your speakers if you’re not careful.
Curated by: Christos Doukakis