WAX VESSEL doesn't really need an introduction at this point, and the questions answered by Nik and Ryan fill in the or8gin story as well as future plans. I can add that they have been an absolute pleasure to work with and the two are beyond hilarious, passionate and understanding. Love to ya both. Hugs. Dave Cullen get in here.
Without further ado, here is the winner of the SAWTOOTH GRIN 'Cuddlemonster' test press!!!
The next release will be the TOWER OF ROME 'Discography', available on December 29th, 2019 at 11am PST.
Question #01Hi, Nikolas and Ryan. How are you?
NIK: Gentlemen! Hello! I’m doing great now that we’ve started on this interview finally! Thanks for having me!
RYAN: Hello ladies! Besides being sick, working myself to the bone and being mentally drained for personal reasons, I don’t think I could feel any better!
Question #02To start things off, could you tell us a bit about the idea of starting Wax Vessel, what your ambitions are with the label and how things finally materialized?
NIK: It’s actually a story in a couple of parts: the name (which is not interesting), the year before (mildly interesting) and then the actual launch!
Maybe two years ago I really wanted to get in to the whole Instagram vinyl collection showcase scene. Made a second account called Wax Casket (because it sounded cool) and did a couple hundred posts. No big deal. But at that time, it kind of put the inkling of an idea in my head.
Fast forward a year or so, and Simon from WFAHM and I were taking about how literally every influential album from 2000-2010 was never pressed on vinyl. We thought about teaming up to do Ion Dissonance on vinyl (which is still a huge goal). It never materialized, so the label pages (renamed to Wax Vessel) kind of got shelved. Speaking of the name Wax Vessel (rant incoming) I landed on that name because I’m so fed up with the start of digital. MySpace deleting song libraries. Hard drives crashing. CDs getting bit rot. The only try archival format is vinyl. You could pull a WV release off a shelf in 2219 and it would still play. It’s a “time capsule” or “Vessel” for preserving history. Anyway.
Fast forward to like 5 months ago - I had just stumbled upon PRR and they told me they were doing Destroyer Destroyer. I asked if I could just press the records to accompany that release, and viola! Here we are!
RYAN: Well as Nik explained so elegantly, this is his baby girl, and the origin of the story has been explained by him. But around the time PRR announced the Destroyer Destroyer tape/LP ordeal, Nikolas shot me a message and told me about the label and his plans and asked me to come sail the ship of nostalgia with him! And as you can imagine I said yes without hesitation. He knew I had my foot in a lot of MySpace era bands doors so to speak! Over the years I’ve chatted with just about every band you can think of, some casual, some much more frequently. Nik figured with the two of us we could take over the world!
Question #03You've mentioned in prior Facebook updates about the high focus of quality for all of the various Wax Vessel releases. Could you detail the ethos of the label somewhat further?
The label is definitely built around a few key tenants. My guiding motto is ‘why bring these [albums] back on vinyl after all this time, and not go all out?”
First and foremost I am a collector, so it’s really important to me to make releases that would appeal to other collectors (the only people who care about records in 2019). For so long companies and labels have preyed on the collector (endless reissues to stick it to the VC crowd) so it was important to make a collector-focused label. No represses, no black vinyl, no gimmicks. Just the nicest records that I can possibly make at a given unit count and a given pricepoint. It’s important to me to keep these $25, so a big part for the WV mindset is to make as nice a release as I can for $25. Which kind of brings me back to tenant #3: it’s all for the bands.
Record labels are great. They serve an important purpose. But too often, labels are more about self-enrichment, rather than helping these bands make it. Every band we’ve worked with has a “label ripped us off story” so it was important to me to make the WV process different. $0 out of pocket by the band, at any point of the process. I front everything, and they get 100% of the profits. So I guess “do good” is another one, haha.
RYAN: So Nik and I are on the same boat as to what we want with this label. He had most of the foundation laid out before I came aboard, but once I joined we both realized we’re on the same page for just about everything! Why cut corners and half ass a release that’s 12 years old? Doesn’t make sense. Go big or go home! This isn’t about the money it’s the passion we have for these bands/era of music that came out. Also if we do it full blown amazing then no one can copy cat us cause they’ll just be a shitty version since they can’t outdo us hahaha. We try to give the fans a good bang for their buck and that’s what we really stick to, and it seems to be getting great praise so we’re doing something right!
Question #04The artwork for each Wax Vessel release thus far has been very impressive. You've also mentioned briefly about a theme concerning the various genre styles focused on by the label. Could you discuss the thought process behind this?
NIK: Thank you for finally bringing up the art aspect! It’s something I love to talk about but hardly ever get to outside of “yo that’s cool” haha.
The whole “redoing art” thing was actually born out of necessity. Literally 0% of the bands that sign up have their old art files (except Dance Club Massacre, Mitch is the best type of hoarder). So I already knew that every album art would have to be remade to fit the larger format. And expanded upon to fit the larger inserts and back panels. So then it became a question of “do I try to just trace/recreate the old art?” and that seemed cheesy to me. I figured the best bet would be just to start fresh on every album, and re-imagine everything. Selfishly, I also want everything to look nice and flow as a label – to really create a WV aesthetic. I feel like if I can take EVERYTHING off the plate of the band “hey! We’ll do the whole thing, don’t even worry about the art” then bands who are on the fence about doing a release might agree when they see how easy the process is! I also think that it gives people something to talk about, and something that brings these albums in to the current year. All these old artworks are iconic, but I think having them refreshed lets people visually see that I give a shit about the process and want everything to be perfect, haha.
RYAN: Oh man! The art is probably the second most exciting thing to me on this whole venture. First would be getting the bands on board cause when they say yes I have a mild stroke and then message Nik and we get giddy like a couple of high school girls.
The artwork is insane and Ben is literally a genius. Nik and Ben hammer out ideas while Nik sends me drafts and we talk about what to change/edit and then we hit Ben back up for the changes. It’s really a ménage e trois.
We realized most of the bands don’t have the artwork at all or if they do it’s a pixelated Google image hhaha.
So the best thing we thought of without losing the opportunity to release a bands record cause of lost art was to rework the OG artwork. And so far I’ve been blown away every damn release!
As some may have noticed we keep it OG but add little flares here and there and some things we carry of with each release. For example the eyes in the artwork have been on each release, don’t believe me? GO LOOK!
Nik makes a good point too saying it makes people talk, one of my favorite things is seeing old stuff reworked. Whether it be art, music, movies, I enjoy seeing a fresh new take on something that’s dated, and I think seeing such iconic album art from our teens redone in a more modern way but still keeps the OG razzle dazzle is something magical to be honest.
Question #05Another aspect that must be a lot of fun is looking into the variant options for each vinyl release. How do you approach this?
NIK: You are really hitting all my favorite talking points! The variants are my favorite part of WV for sure. I think it’s a main differentiator between WV and other labels. It’s a part of the whole “ultra-premium” aesthetic. But really, again, it was born from necessity. How can I in good conscience tell a band that there are no represses, and then put out boring records? It doubles the price, but I think its absolutely worth it. Again, why put these out on vinyl after 15 years only to phone it in to try and save a buck? As far as the actual process, I really am a fussy nerd and try to make sure that each variant fits the album art’s color scheme, or tone of the record. Vinyl as a format has so much flexibility, so I think doing single colors and whatnot are an insult to the format. I always try and have our pressing plant experiment on a variant, and do something they haven’t done before. The units are so low and all hand made, so they love messing around with WV stuff.
RYAN: Nik is the mastermind behind this! I add my two cents here and there, like for Tower of Rome I suggested one of the variants and they all loved it so we went with it. For the most part Nik has a vision and passion for the insane variants and I usually let him take full charge on that cause so far he hasn’t disappointed.
Question #06How do you make the decision about what bands/releases are worth contacting? And how do you go about finding the right contacts?
NIK: Honestly, I had a list of about 10 bands that if they could be gotten, WV would be a go. Destroyer Destroyer was one, and after that was locked in, Ryan showed by with verbal commitments from Sawtooth and Robinson. After that it just went full force! So in the beginning it was very much “lets shotgun messages to everyone and see who agrees” but now that the process is sorted, I can be a bit more selective and really go after some bigger names!
As far as finding contacts, that’s definitely a Ryan question, haha. I have 0 scene cred. But the bands that I did find, it’s literally all through facebook/social media. I go find the CD on my shelf, get the member names, and just start sending FB messages! Sometimes I absolutely don’t get the right contact!
But as far as current and future pipeline, I’m lucky that there is a fixed decade of music that I’m working with. I could eventually run out of bands, which is the goal! I want to get the platform as big as possible so WV can start releasing more niche releases, and really get deep in to the underground Myspace scene, haha.
RYAN: As I mentioned before I had a lot of “in” with members of lots of bands, so the first 5 releases were bands that not only were in our top 10 to press, but were already in my social pipeline so I shot Rich from Sawtooth and Greg from Robinson a message to see what they thought about giving their music the vinyl treatment! Obviously they were both beyond pumped about it and they reached out to other members and got them on board as well.
Also Destroyer Destroyer - “Dead Walk” was already in the books thanks to PRR, but I had gone to Oklahoma in the summer and met up with Dallas of Destroyer Destroyer and we worked out details for their/our next release “Littered With Arrows” which was a fun thing to do in person with a band that shaped my musical tastes as a young teenie.
But for the most part we want to hit bands up that we love as well as others, and if we don’t know anyone in the band, a good ol’ CD booklet check or Google can help with band members names! As for releases and how we choose them, usually these bands have 1-2 releases so we pick one of the 2, if they have a bunch (like TOR) then we just made it a discography and got it all out at once! Most of these bands were too broke to do vinyl so most, if not all of their catalogue is up for grab.
Question #07How has the experience been when working with the bands on the releases thus far? Have they had a lot of input from their side?
NIK: It is literally a dream come true every time. Every single band has been cool. But! It is split about 50/50 on some things. I would say half just have zero interest at all, and the other half are WAY in to it. I respect everyone who is over the old material of their past and just wants to let it die (I keep bugging Ethan to let me do CTTTOAFF) but it really gets me fired up when bands are all-in, right away. It’s so fun to work with everyone on these. I’m making a lot of new friends!
As far as input from their side, I actually don’t really want a ton of it. I am happy to incorporate any of their ideas in to every release, but ask any bands WV has worked with, and they’ll probably say I’m a fussy slave driver. I definitely have a vision for all of these, and at a certain point it is a little bit “Nik’s way or the highway” haha. Thankfully it’s never come to that, but ask Mitch from DCM about the album art process!
But as a rule, whatever the band wants, they get. They only pushback I ever really get is on the “one time pressing, on only vinyl, forever” clause. 50/50 bands get it right away, but sometimes that is a long conversation. I think if you can go a decade without ever releasing anything, it’s a good tradeoff. I like these to be endnote, swansong, final, retrospective releases.
RYAN: Most of the bands have been super easy! Some a little too easy! Hha like for example Robison was super easy. They basically said “make the art work black and white and shitty” haha and as much as we didn’t want to do a black and white cover that’s what they wanted and it came out really badass to our surprise!
On the other side of the spectrum some bands are way more involved and have a vision, and we all try and meet in the middle so we’re all happy, which always works out just may take extra time to get there.
Question #08How did you end up partnering with Zegema Beach Records?
NIK: Believe it or not, it was something that was talked about from the beginning! ZBR is absolutely THE name in scene music, so it was a no-brainer on my end. It’s crazy that they agreed, haha. You should ask them that question!
Really though, it was born out of necessity. I ran a “label” before this one, and after how poorly it went and how hostile everyone got over shipping timelines/preorders/issues I swore to never do a label again. Seriously, some music fans are just so nasty and toxic and entitled. It really ruins passion projects with shoestring budgets (except WV peeps, every single one of you are cool). Anyway! I knew that if I was going to do another label, I absolutely wanted no part in shipping or fulfillment. I don’t care about monogrammed mailers, or stickers in orders, or cute “coming soon” mailers or anything. I wanted to be able to run this entire label from my phone, and do no shipping. ZBR has allowed me to do that!
ZBR was one of the few plays that really “saw” what I was trying to do here. I think it’s just as much of a passion project for them, as they almost do it for free. So for me, they’re local, they’re scene-kings, they’re fun, great communicators, fast shippers, devilishly handsome, and just all around great guys! Hope to have them do fulfillment for as long as they want to!
RYAN: lots and lots of nudes, and at one point a French kiss.
Kidding, they just fit the bill for what we needed (or didn’t want to do haha)and they were up for it and are one of the best labels/stores around and understood us as a label and they’re the sweetest men you’ll ever lay your eyes on (among other things).
Question #09We saw some storenvy issues online during the Destroyer Destroyer 'Littered With Arrows'; and Dr. Acula releases, what happened with that? Did you fix the issues?
NIK: Storeny literally just couldn’t handle the traffic. Releases were selling out in 10 minutes, and variants sold out in less than 10 seconds. They are just not set up for timed drops!
As far as fixing it, I think we did! www.waxvessel.com is live, and should be able to handle the traffic more gracefully!
RYAN: Storenevy sucks dong. We have a site now that Nik just name dropped above ^^. Be there or be square.
Question #10You are both avid music collectors, could you tell us about some of your prized items in your collection?
NIK: Literally every single item is prized! I do it more so to “support every band I like” and that just kind of turned it in to a collection, you know? But over the past few years I have been really doing the vinyl thing, and that’s lead to a lot of VC and band discog hunting. I’d say most prized items are my Villains cassette (Spat On Supply), WFAHM Falling Upstairs (first press) cassette (yehonal tapes) – actually, Yehonala is one of my favorite labels, and I have everything they ever put out except two tapes. So my Yehonala collection as a whole I’m really happy with.
As far as vinyl, I’m a big Rolo Tomassi fan, and I have a complete VC for them. Also everything from The Artisan Era! But I don’t have any $1,000 records or anything, haha. Maybe that first Angelmaker LP? I think that goes for like $300-$400. I guess that Meshuggah box set is the “rarest” thing just based on value.
RYAN: How long do you have? Haha
I’m pretty open about my collection and love sharing pictures of stuff I have or acquire in the wild, I know people either haven’t seen a lot of these CDs in years or at all depending on their rarity. There are some CDs I have that are prized possessions because of their rareness, then there’s some that are very common that I’m extremely happy to own and mean a lot to me.
At the top of my head I’ll list you a top 5 or something of rare prized possession and sentimental prized possession. This is hard to do since I have lots of shit and will probably change tomorrow haha.
1.Tower Of Rome- tour demo
2.25 Dollar Massacre CD’s
4.multiple Emmure demos(6 and counting)
5.meandhimcallitus- C: Drive of Love Stories both black & white art and coloured artwork(first 10 made)
7.The Sawtooth Grin- Cuddlemonster & Pervavor
8.Suicide Silence demo with OG vocalist
1.Dr.Acula- Below Me
2.Emmure- Goodbye To The Gallows
3.Destroyer Destroyer- Littered With Arrows
4.Suicide Silence-The Cleansing
5.See You Next Tuesday- Parasite
6.The Number Twelve Looks Like You-Rosy Classes
Question #11Are there any white whale finds that you have been scouting for and would like to add to your collections?
NIK: Now THIS is a good collection question, haha. That list is so long I don’t even know where to start. I have one true white whale – seducedwomandead. If anyone has that cassette, I’ll literally give you $500 for it. That’s my biggest grail.
In addition to that, mostly just old deathcore band demos. Old Saetia stuff. I have a really bad habit of just overspending on records and other rare stuff, so there isn’t much I need. I always just usually buy it first chance it pops up at any price, haha.
RYAN: Surprisingly yes haha though the last 2 years I’ve scored a shit ton of stuff. But there’s probably a good hand full I’m trying to track down!
One would be 2 0’ Clock Girlfriend! Probably my top one I want.
I’ve hard their was an Elysia demo so that’s another haha the ABACABB bloody hand demo. There’s a few more but I just can’t remember at the moment.
Question #12What advice would you give to anyone who is looking to start a label?
NIK: Biggest advice would be to plan your first 5 releases in advance. Get all your art and images sorted. But above all – as a new label – don’t have your releases be preorders. People will 100% be upset. It will get delayed. You will have shipping problems. It’s a bad foot to start on.
If you can’t afford to not do preorders, then you can’t afford to start a label. Down the line preorders are super important, but I’ve seen so many vinyl labels fail on their first release, get left with unsold stock, and then fold. It’s better to leave [some] money on the table than to have unsold stock. Ask any label owner – I think they’ll agree. Start small, then grow in to your audience.
Also, people who are buying physical formats of music aren’t just consumers, they’re collectors. So put some fucking effort in to it! Like stop making slim-jewel releases. Stop making CDs without full tray artwork. Stop pressing black records!
Be prepared, have cash on hand, don’t drag your first release out for 6 months on a super long hype cycle, interact with people, pay the bands. That’s it!
RYAN: Just have fun, don’t sweat the small stuff. Also don’t take what people say personally, you can’t please the world and there’s always going to be turds out their to rain on your parade.
Question #13Wax Vessel is very much embedded within the realm of Myspace related artists. Who are some current bands you feel are carrying the torch for the modern era?
NIK: When I listen to modern music, it’s honestly not a ton of revival stuff. I’m a big emoviolence/crust/metalcore guy when it comes to that stuff. But if we’re talking 20-9-Scene, it’s impossible to ignore .Gif From God and wristmeetrazor. They slap so fucking hard, and are definitely doing it better than anyone else right now in terms of straight mallcore sound. Prosthetic knows what they’re doing for sure.
RYAN: Oh there’s a few! I find the mathcore revival is more spot on to the OG bands then the deathcore revival. 2000’s deathcore had that raw sound, Bree’s, movie samples.
Now I find each band has to out heavy the next,and though there are some that are really good, on average I find most are bland these days.
As for bands that are bringing it back and carrying the torch I’d say:
-The Stygian Complex
Question #14The Myspace period provided some absolute belters from bands. What is your favourite Myspace related breakdown?
NIK: Let me paint you a picture. It’s 2007. You just finished your last high school class for the day. Your shithead friends drop you off at home, and you fire up your plastic macbook and go to YouTube. You type in “brutal breakdowns new” and a blue screen pops up. There’s an intro song. The whole thing was made in Windows Movie Maker. The bass has been boosted. You open another tab and head over to MySpace and see that Oceano has updated their layout. It slaps.
But wait – something catches your ear. It’s a chant. The music is gone. All you hears is: BOOM SNAP CLAP B-BOOM SNAP CLAP SNAP
It’s not the best band, or the best song by any means, but hot damn does The Irish Front sum up my MySpace experience. Either that or “Taste The Rainbow” by These Final Hours. There’s just so many, haha.
RYAN: Wow that’s just too hard! I feel like half the bands from that era were a band and wrote music just for the breakdowns haha.
Like there’s just so many, you know?
Meandhimcallitus-innocent bystanders is one that to this day gives me goosebumps.
What about the “WHAT THE FUCK” before that insane breakdown in “Lie To My Face” by Carnifex? That’s basically been featured in every “heaviest deathcore breakdown” YouTube video ever hha
Or what about Tower of Rome! For a grind band they had some nasty breakdowns, What about From The Shallows whole EP? I mean damn, the list would never end!
Question #15Are there any current plans for the future you would like to mention?
NIK: My only immediate plans are to keep pumping these out! Maybe one day I’ll start a Djent revival vinyl label and put out Entities and Substructure (anyone?) or a “early nu-beatdown” one to put out that first Traitors EP and Memoria Brooded. I just love records, and want to keep putting them out without diluting the WV brand. Maybe one day even do a modern release! Who knows!
RYAN: More records with cool colours from bands that have been dead for 15 years. No represses, no cds, no problem!
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