InterviewsLabel Interviews

Bad Sekta: an interview with Will Druett and Tom Whiston

“Bad Sekta is a collection of solid-state entities, currently operating together as a record label/semi-collective. We specialize in uncovering new & interesting electronic music and video from the more individual/extreme ends of the spectrum and we hope to continue creating and releasing until we re-integrate with the collective consciousness. Crimes Of Tha Future, our difgital distribution website was set up in 2009 to assist in distributiing our releases and also those of other labels and artists whose work we respect. We’re also planning a monthly show for London pirate radio station Uncut FM, as well as publishing occasional ‘zines relating to various data.”
— from the Bad Sekta website

Bad Sekta1 – How and why did you come about starting Bad Sekta?

Tom: I think its up to Will to answer these few questions as Bad Sekta is his child and I was only brought in later (I’m starting to think mainly because Wills trying to steal my girlfriend) to beat it into shape like a domineering stepmother

Will: I started the label in late 2005 (our “official” birthday is November 23rd), with a ¬£1000 inheritance I received from a family friend. Mainly I wanted to expose people to some of my friends who were (clich√© alert) producing some wicked and interesting tracks that were not really being heard by as many listeners as they deserved to be. This “core” of acts originally included various incarnations of myself (Phuq), Dave Stitch, DJ Ultimate Kevin, Fzv, Knaebot, Lastboss, Shortfacedbear, Zeropointenergy and others.

2 – When you started Bad Sekta, were there any labels that you could say were a reference/inspiration for your efforts?

Will: For reasons of both creative output and ‘political ethos’ – Adverse Camber, Alternative Tentacles, Ambush, Deathchant, Digital Hardcore, Headfuk, Hekate, Hymen, Industrial, Isolate, Kool Pop, Low Res, Mirex, Planet Mu, Praxis, Rephlex, Skam, Spymania, SST, Suburban Trash, Warp, Zod, etc. etc. – basically anyone who stuck to releasing interesting and innovative music for the love of it, without resorting to pandering to passing trends (although one or two of those mentioned above have since gone on to embarrass themselves in various ways) .

3 – Almost mandatory question, how did the name “Bad Sekta” come about?

Will: The name Bad Sekta came about as a hurried attempt to secure a domain and get our original website up and running! The general idea was that we’d be releasing strange electronic music, bubbling up from the ‘bad sector’ (a corrupted section of a hard drive). The spelling was just to make sure I could secure the domain.

4 – Since the inception of Bad Sekta, are there any events in the history of the label that you’d consider as particularly relevant, from difficulties and setbacks to successes?

Will: Realising that there are actually people who appreciate our efforts is always nice! Staying afloat despite very limited funding (I’ve spent too much time trapped in the benefits system), linking up with Tom and the other members of our ever-growing family and getting radio play on stations like Ill FM, Resonance and KSER have all been particularly satisfying for me, as has been playing at some cool nights like Tinnitus and Noise=Noise. The Fez!, Randomoidz and Lastboss have also won various “Laptop Battles” (both here and abroad), which was really good, as was John Peel’s son Tom Ravenscroft playing Dave Stitch and Usedtobecool on Channel 4’s short-lived radio station. It’s always nice to see our name printed on a flyer or a release reviewed too!

Tom: Obviously for me it would have to be Will asking me to join the family! It didn’t really take long from us meeting to realize that we could work together, and since then our mutually assured destruction has been proceeding at a pace. I think the best is yet to come though as we now have some ridiculous plans, and our soon to be established Bad Sekta HQ will give us the physical proximity to get much more done.

5 – So far what would you consider as special highlights (or successful) releases and artists in the history of Bad Sekta?

Will: Label highlights include reaching our twenty third release last year (with the excellent “Community” compilation), the wicked eps from Lastboss and Intonamori, glowing feedback received on the “We Are Legion” compilation, finally putting out a digital version of Dave Stitch’s godlike “Rave New World” album (after fluffing a planned CD release), plus too many others to mention (I’m trying to keep this vaguely brief)!

Personal highlights are having been privileged enough to meet everyone along the way and to release some long-time heroes of mine such as Dan Hekate, Dave Stitch, Hue Jah Fink?, Kovert, MDK, Ronin and Spitting Vitriol.

Tom: I agree with Will that compilations like the excellent “Community” have been great. It’s a real pleasure to do something with so many different talented people and in our small way create something good that showcases some really overlooked talent in the UK electronic scene. I could diverge into a rant here about how Last Boss is the great undiscovered breakcore Ubermensch or the genius of the Hekate sound etc. but to be honest listening to them will do more to convince you of that than my words.

6 – Are there any releases in particular that you would recommend as good ‘introductory material’ to the Bad Sekta label?

Will: Compilation-wise, our first release, “Various Autists 2” (2005), offers a nice taste of our original family (and stands up surprisingly well, I think, considering I burnt 400cdrs in my bedroom); “We Are Legion” (2008) showcases our expanded, more diverse roster (and was received positively).

Individually, Lastboss’ “Xin Who?” ep is a wicked introduction to our more hyper-kinetic, “breakcore”-influenced side, whilst Intonamori’s “Ear Weevils 1” ep is a lush slice of one of our more laidback artists. Dive in anywhere though innit! Tom: Agreed!

7 – Looking back, do you have any regrets with the label? If you could go back and change something, what would it be?

Will: Not being able to go online with our ill-fated digital downloads site “Crimes of tha Future” (abandoned due to software issues) was pretty disappointing. Fucking up planned releases generally leaves a bad taste in my mouth too (although recently we’ve started to get some of these out, like the afore-mentioned “Rave New World”).

My financial and personal situation over the last few years has meant that the label has not always been able to reach its full potential regarding productivity and attention to detail (which is part of the reason I brought Tom onboard in the first place). An example of this is that we would definitely have liked to have released some vinyl a lot sooner after our inception – however, we can always learn from our mistakes.

It’d also be nice to have enough time to reply to everyone that contacts us with demos and other proposals; sorry folks!

Tom: I think Will bringing me onboard to help productivity was the first mistake! Anyone can tell you that I have a glacial rate of speed for making music/doing things etc… And that I have a deep seated hate of promotion work but part of the fun of working with Will is that we have very complimentary attributes (apart from our propensity to witter on endlessly about things). The thing I would have changed is that I would some how found the means to have created a situation whereby Will could come and joined me in London a lot sooner than it has happened, we could have started getting on with stuff quicker. I agree that we should have done some vinyl already but that’s changing soon enough.

8 – An obvious question, but what is Bad Sekta’s ‘relationship’ with the Internet? From promotion tool and digital sales to file sharing and piracy, how has it affected you?

Will: As a very much ‘D.I.Y.’ label, without the use of the internet we probably wouldn’t have existed (or at least not for this long). It’s let us do a hell of a lot of promotion / networking for negligible cost, release music in non-physical formats and also we’ve met or found a lot of our acts via online means.

While we’ve occasionally found our stuff for sale illegally (generally on mp3.ru-style sites), we do post all our free releases on the better warez sites (e.g. gabber.od.ua) and the Internet Archive (archive.org), which we’ve also done previously for limited releases once the CD versions were sold out. We believe that being able to preview our catalogue for free has helped us to gain a lot more attention from a wider audience than we might otherwise have been exposed to. A lot of people (myself included) download music for free but do then buy the physical product, if we think it’s worth owning/supporting.

The internet is a godsend for finding others who might be into what you’re doing, potential collaborators, gaining distribution, sourcing the best deals for manufacture, “word-of-mouth” advertising, etc. It’s also allowed us to experiment with streaming video from our acts, via sites like YouTube.

Tom: I think if you try to say that mp3s are a bad thing or that you hate iPods (a la Steven Wilson) you end up looking like an idiot, the future is here and you move with it or get crushed underfoot. Obviously the internet is an amazing promotional tool and if I could get over my general dislike of promotional work I’m sure that would help! As Will says we do post stuff on some of the better file sharing sites anyway and honestly I think the more listeners the better. You can’t stop things getting out there and being pirated so you have to come up with other ways to support the label and accept that there’s so much music out there that people now want to sample something before they invest in it, and to echo Wills point downloading music has led to me spending money on a lot of things that I would maybe never have heard otherwise, and that can only be a good thing. At the end of the day if you like something you want the physical product, the artwork, the lyrics, etc which come with the packaging and you will invest in that artefact even if in fact you only ever listen to the mp3’s that you ripped/downloaded on your mp3 player.

9 – Slightly related to the previous question, how do you see the concept of ‘netlabels’ and, as a labelhead, what is your perspective as to the future and evolution of physical media (CDs, vinyl, etc)?

Will: I think that the netlabel concept has been very useful, providing an outlet for a variety of quality music, particularly that of the more ‘specialist’ (i.e. non-commercial) genres. It’s certainly enabled us to do a lot more releases than would otherwise have been possible (our “MPFree” series).

One thing I would like to see if we’re to continue the trend for digital releases is a higher standard of quality; why have low-rate MP3 when you can have the much better FLAC format, for example?

As to the question of physical media, the days of large-scale CD and vinyl releases being commercially-viable for a label of our size may be long gone (probably for good), but we feel that there’s definitely still a place for interestingly packaged, limited-run releases. To this end, we’ve recently been looking at releases using various formats, concepts and “extras” (e.g. a printed newspaper, zines and prints). An example from our upcoming schedule would be Ascetic – “To Wound the Autumnal City” (a cassette hand-screened and dubbed in runs of 50).

Tom: Having a netlabel is great, you have to embrace technology to move forward, and its fantastic to be able to do free releases to get peoples music out there but I agree with Will that the quality of the format needs to be improved. If everyone had FLAC/OGG portable players in their pockets I’d be much happier, but hopefully with internet connections getting faster it will mean less to download uncompressed or lossless audio formats.

Obviously I still think vinyl releases are great and would love to do as many as possible, but honestly I hope that the cd quickly fades to obscurity. As to the future of media, I’ve been thinking a lot about this and really I think the traditional record label model is fucked, with the availability and disposable nature of MP3’s and everyone having high speed broadband who isn’t going to download music? I think the way to go is to do quality releases and limited edition collectors editions of things. Something I want to push in the next year or so is a number of esoteric strange format (or concept) releases that get a limited physical run before mp3’s are available. When you’re a small label you have to encourage people to buy product over MP3’s but the payoff is that, hopefully, in a few years these weird artefacts might be worth something. Regardless of that though owning something physically is always better than owning bytes of data. As Will said our forthcoming Ascetic cassette release is the first of these and it’s a bit of a departure both musically and conceptually from our past stuff. It’s a limited run of 50 consecutively dubbed cassette tapes with hand made screenprinted and embossed covers, so buy it quick if you prefer to hear the sound of music to the sound of tape degradation. Obviously if you buy the product you can download the mp3s of the songs too, but they won’t be available as a general mp3 purchase on the site until a good time after the physical product has been around.

We have some other crazy ideas for releases coming up but keep checking the site for details of these because as with everything it takes a long time to see something through to the phase where we can announce that it’s coming soon. There are some really bonkers things coming though that people won’t want to miss.

10 – Perspectives for the future, what lies in the horizon for Bad Sekta? Can you share some long-term goals and where would you like to see the label heading to?

Will: We’ve been planning to start a label HQ for a while now and so in April we’ll be moving to a live and work unit in London, enabling us to focus as much of our efforts as we can into pushing the label forward, organising live events and generally getting involved with as much as possible. We really want to organise our long-promised European tour as soon as we can too.

We’ve so far lined up some wicked releases for 2010, with the first wave coming in the very near future and including vinyl from Ascetic and Usedtobecool, a limited tape from Ascetic, MP3 releases from The Fez!, Intonamori, Phuq and Shortfacedbear and also split CD compilations with the Bitcrusher and Love Love labels.

We’ve also been looking at using some of the popular download sites to sell digital releases, as well as rebuilding our website to include an automated shop facility.

There’s also supposed to be a DVD release or two at some point and my pet publishing imprint Twenty Third (twentythird.badsekta.com) is also planning several book projects, when funds and time allow.

Tom: As Will said the big thing is us moving to the same place so we can really push things on, there’s going to be a lot of stuff happening this year and were hoping to do things like establish a regular club night and put out a number of releases. I think Wills covered most of what’s coming up soon but as for long term goals I would like to say that my goal is to be able to release things that showcase some of the best lesser known people around and be able to make enough from those releases to put out more quality things. Its all about putting out music that you think is great and want to share with the world, I hope we carve out a niche as a strange but always interesting label that isn’t afraid to do something a bit off the wall and challenge perceptions.

11 – What other labels/artists would you recommend at the moment and why?

Will: All our artists and their related projects (for obvious reasons!) – especially Anathematica (run by Fzv), Binary Feedback (Hue Jah Fink’s imprint), Bitcrusher (Usedtobecool’s label), Ill FM (long-running net-radio involving a lot of our friends), Love Love (The Fez!’s label), No Fixed Abode (night involving some of our crew), Noise=Noise (Ryan Jordan’s regular noise / sonic arts event) and many others.

Artists that I’d love to blag for some tunes (either because they’re ploughing new ground or just plain PHAT) include Abelcain, Acid Wolf, Ani DiFranco, Autechre, Bass Clef, Bjork, The Black Dog, Bola, Bin Ray, Bochum Welt, Bovaflux, Broken Note, The Bug, Burial, Chris Clark, Cylob, Datach’i, Din-ST, Distance, DJ Scud, Ed Cox, Electromeca, Ely Muff, Excision, Freddy Frogs, Hellfish, Horchata, Igor, Iration Steppas, Jim Thirlwell, Lory D, MC Hawking, Nautilis, Necro, Ochre, Ovuca, Philip Glass, Phthalocyanine, P J Harvey, Plaid, Richard Devine, Quinoline Yellow, Scrambled Ed, Shackleton, Shizuo, Society Suckers, The Squire of Gothos, Stagga, The Threshold House Boys Choir, Tim Tetlow, The Tuss, Yann Hekate and Zan Lyons.

Off the top of my head, labels I respect that I’ve not already mentioned – Ai, Bedroom Research, The Centrifuge, Cock Rock Disco, Combat, Dead Pig, EX7, Frogs, Hyperdub, Moving Shadow, Peace Off, Rag and Bone, Spine Research, Skull Disco, Strictly Underground, Strike, Sub/Version and Threshold House, to name a few.

Tom: Well Will has pretty much listed every artist and label in existence and I’m pretty much in agreement with most of his recommendations but the artists that are currently (or continually) really doing it for me are, off the top of my head, Ancient Methods, Shackleton, The Book of Knots, Redshape, Flying Lotus, Starkey, Coil, Threshold House Boys Choir, GAS, Why?, The Gaslamp Killer, Ricardo Villalobos, Iacchus, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Demdike Stare, Ben Frost, Pre-“In Absentia” Porcupine Tree (when they used to be psychedelic), Tori Amos, Bruce Hornsby, Neil Young, Pearls before Swine, The Master Musicians of Joujouka, Bohren und der Club of Gore, Mc Frontalot, Immortal Technique, Chrome Hoof, Chroma Key, Dr. Northampton, Deaf Center, Mordant Music (artist and label). The list goes on really, the best way to hear what I like is to download the podcast I do for Connexion Bizarre (conspicuous in its absence of me ranting) where I always try to play a load of varied and hopefully interesting stuff that I like.

12 – Thank you for your time, do you have any final comments?

Will: Absolutely no worries! Thank you for having us – props to everyone who supports what we’re doing – please keep on listening and stay in touch…

Tom: Yeah thanks for having us and thanks to all the artists we know and love and everyone who’s downloaded our free stuff or even paid for something. Remember we have a website, Facebook, Twitter, etc so there’s plenty of ways to keep up to date with all the pies we have our fingers in. As a great man once said ‘keep it foolish’…

Relevant links

Bad Sekta
Bad Sekta @ MySpace
Twenty-Third Publising

— interview by Miguel de Sousa & Kate Turgoose (February 2010)

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