Dais Records is a boutique vinyl label run out of Los Angeles and New York by Gibby Miller and Ryan Martin.
Since founding the imprint in 2007, the duo have built up, from opposite coasts, a formidable catalogue of releases drawn from genres possessed of what we might call a dark energy: industrial, hardcore punk, neofolk, black metal, gothic pop and synth wave. They’ve compiled and reissued recordings from people like Maurizio Bianchi, Robert Turman, Ghedalia Tazartes and Deviation Social, and developed a close relationship with Genesis P.Orridge, releasing a number of archival works rom his pre- and post-TG projects COUM Transmissions and Psychic TV, as well as a new collaboration with Tony Conrad.
When it comes to newer, younger artists, Dais have also proven to be consistently ahead of the curve, signing early releases from Cold Cave (The Trees Grew Emotions And Died EP), much-hyped Danish punks Iceage (the first US edition of New Brigade) and Sasha Grey’s aTelecine (…And Six Dark Hours Pass). Throw in significant releases from Prurient, dark ambient magus Tor Lundvall, folk iconoclasts Andrew King and Cult Of Youth, and black metal legends Lord Foul, and you’re looking at one of the most lively, discerning and searching rosters in contemporary music. Dais really is about as good as it gets.
Tellingly, both Martin and Miller’s roots are in hardcore – indeed, Miller was a member of respected Boston punk bands like Panic, The Trouble and Harmony Set. But while much of their “cultural attitude”, as Martin calls it, is drawn from that world, their interests aren’t bound by its conventions or limitations – which shows in the stylistic breadth of the label, and in their own pursuits as individuals (Miller, for example, collaborated with Troy Pierce as Louderbach for M-nus).
Inspired not just by the music on Dais, but by the presentation of the records, and the ineffable aura the whole enterprise gives off, FACT’s Trilby Foxx exchanged emails with Ryan and Gibby to find out the whos, hows, whats, whys and whens.
Who’s behind Dais and what are your backgrounds?
Ryan Martin (pictured above right): “Myself – Ryan Martin – and Gibby Miller. My background? I grew up in the New York State area, got involved heavily in the NY/East Coast hardcore and punk scene as a teenager, then got involved in various more diverse, underground and leftfield music and art movements.
I met Gibby briefly in Boston in the late 90s, then touched base again through mutual friends in New York City in the winter of 2002. During 2003-2004 Gibby and myself spent a lot of time trading records, DJing together, discussing ideas and formulating the groundwork for what would become Dais years later.”
“By the time I was in my 20s I was obsessively collecting records and turning over every stone I could find, trying to discover every new sound.”
Gibby Miller (pictured above left): “I got New Order’s Substance double cassette when I was 11 from a cool neighbour. That, combined with seeing the Clash on TV as a kid best describe how I came into music: the anger and youthful rebellion of punk and hardcore paralleled with my interest in synth, new wave, “goth” and industrial. By the time I was in my 20s I was obsessively collecting records and turning over every stone I could find, trying to discover every new sound…or old sound, for that matter.”
How would you describe to the division of labour between the two of you? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
RM: “The division of labour changes with every release, because each release requires different needs and details. Typically Gibby does all the graphic design work and web-email-clerical, I tend to be more involved in the manufacturing, distribution and release. We both are equally involved in the aesthetic and curatorial direction of the label, both of us being in constant contact about our roster and various projects.”
“We release records by artists who we feel see eye to eye with Dais on aesthetics, sound and cultural attitude.”
RM: “We started Dais about four years ago, it started with a simple phone call from Gibby one morning in which he just called up and bluntly stated: ‘We have all this material at our disposal, we have this network of music, we have the passion and drive, we should start a label.’ I couldn’t have agreed more and by the end of the day, we had the label set up and the ball rolling from there.
The aim of the label has always been twofold. In one regard, we strive to release obscure, lost or forgotten recordings from the past and release them in a formal manner that allows them to have a second life to a new generation of listeners. Secondly we release records by current artists who we feel see eye to eye with Dais on aesthetics, sound and cultural attitude.”
“Our purpose was always to release things we liked, to create objects that we ourselves wanted to own.”
GM: “There were three artists in particular that we discussed during that phonecall that I wished desperately had material that was within reach. These artists really were the catalyst and spark for kicking off Dais, along with our desire to just contribute and do something! I’m proud to say that now, nearing our fifth year, we’ve released two works by those artists (Coum, Deviation Social) with another to be released this year (Annabelle’s Garden). In reaching out, and in some cases hunting down, these artists, we listened to everything along the way, everything that was sent to us, everything that seemed to share that invisible connecting thread of sound and aesthetics…and the result is now a catalogue of 28 and growing that click together seamlessly.”
RM: “I think we had an strong idea of how we wanted things to go, but of course as time progresses you sharpen your skills when it comes to how things get released and the manner of systems you put in place to make things more accessible to your audience.”
GM: “We are always learning and growing along with the label, turning one another onto new stuff and being exposed to new things almost daily – so that really takes it in new directions that I couldn’t have predicted. We certainly had an aesthetic and level of quality that we wanted to maintain – but our purpose was always to release things we liked, to create objects that we ourselves wanted to own.”
“Anyone who tells you that one event solely changed their course is truly misled and has a lot to learn about the human condition.”
Tell us more about how your tastes have developed of the years. What have been your most significant musical awakenings?
RM: “Things have been pretty consistent over the years. I still listen to punk, hardcore, noise, experimental music and anything else that comes off as subversive musically. I get something unique out of watching any musical act or varied performance, so I can’t pin down one specific show or event that led me on any path. I just don’t think that happens. Behaviour and preference is culled from many different experiences, not just one defining moment. Anyone who tells you that one event solely changed their course is truly misled and has a lot to learn about the human condition.”
GM: “As I mentioned earlier, my musical growth was really rooted in several genres from the start – so I was interested in a wide array of sounds from a young age. I still go back occasionally and listen to those foundation albums sometimes, but certainly my tastes have changed – what I seek out and listen to daily has shifted. I think the biggest thing that’s changed for me is just getting older and being able to draw inspiration from all of these past influences – and to be able to sit and listen to something and understand better how it may have been inspired, where it may have been drawn from. Whereas when I was a kid – being exposed to new bands and new genres back to back, wide-eyed – it was like being a pinball in a machine.”
Gibby – tell us about your time in Panic, The Trouble and Harmony Set. What are your salient memories of those days? What did you learn?
GM: “Great times. All quite different in terms of sound but they were all life rafts for me in their own way. I had great friends, and we were fortunate enough to create some music that people could relate to. It was a great way to grow up, to have that outlet. In terms of learning, I learned quite a bit about working closely with other people on something personal and artistic. Those were often difficult lessons, but important ones.”
“It’s great to have one foot on each coast, to have eyes and ears in two important cities.”
RM: “We don’t have a centre of operations nor do we have an office. Our phone and email inbox is our traveling epicenter.”
How does the dual-city nature of Dais Records help or hinder what you do?
RM: “It helps with distribution and an alternate perspective. It hinders when it comes to logistics, but we just get creative with how we do things to overcome those obstacles. Every solid working relationship succeeds in its system; the process is what makes it work.”
GM: “It’s great to have one foot on each coast, to have eyes and ears in two important cities where a ton of artists and musicians come through. It certainly exposes us to a lot.”
GM: “I love it here. It took me some time but I love Los Angeles. I was born in NYC, and then lived in St. Louis and Boston before moving back to NYC in 2002 – but friends and work led me to LA in 2005, where I’ve been ever since. I live in the canyons, with a back terrace that looks into nothing but forest and hills. Coyotes, deer, raccoons, hummingbirds…It’s a huge contrast to my life in Manhattan, and it certainly affects my outlook, moods, and Dais – in the same way that Brooklyn and its experiences, atmosphere, and offerings affect Ryan and his contributions to the label. I had some catching up to do when I moved here to get a hold on the art and music scene, and the history – and I do feel committed and obligated to represent LA with Dais. We’ve released LA and California-based artists in the past (Frank Alpine, Deviation Social, Bestial Mouths) and have more lined up. So my being here has certainly had a hand in shaping the label.”
Are there labels in history that have particularly inspired you?
RM: “I think a few label models were influential subconsciously with the curatorial path of Dais. Well-known and established labels like Industrial Records, Folkways, Limelight, and Siltbreeze I really look up to in the method of making drastically diverse releases all fit together for one group of people – which is not easy! I pay a lot of respect and attention to contemporary labels who operate alongside us in the world, such as Wierd, Dark Entries, Sacred Bones and Captured Tracks, to name but a few.”
GM: “Factory, 4AD, Teenbeat, Rough Trade, Cherry Red, Midnight Music, Creation…”
“Every solid working relationship succeeds in its system. The process is what makes it work.”
Who’s responsible for the records’ artwork?
RM: “The artist typically has creative control over the sleeve artwork, unless they ask us to help with the design. I can’t recall any arguments over any sleeve design, everything with the artists we’ve released has gone pretty smoothly and has always been a very pleasant experience.”
GM: “We have some great designers that we work with that help out sometimes on specific releases, but for the most part I’m sent the artwork and I lay it out or design something that the artist will approve of – but it absolutely has to meet our standards. I wouldn’t release anything that didn’t compliment the music it represented. In the past we’ve occasionally suggested changes or different approaches, and it’s all gone smoothly!”