1 - Silber began in 1996. Please, tell us why did you decided to begin this adventure.
Brian – I started Silber because at the time I was a big fan of some bands who I thought should be able to make a living off their music & I wanted to help them to do this. Unfortunately I soon found out how good your music is & how talented you are does not have a direct link to sales. I guess I’ve been trying to figure out how to get to the point where I can make the artists enough money to live off of, but so far I haven’t been successful at that. But I’m pretty sure it’s going to happen in the next two or three years.
2 - I suppose that, when you began this project, you made it with a very adjusted budget. Do you believe that now, in the year 2003, would it be possible to begin another project as Silber with the same money or not? Is it difficult to create a label in USA now?
Well, actually when I started was a better time, but I didn’t have enough connections to realize it & so I sort of screwed myself. In 1996 it took more money to get a cd manufactured & not everyone with a computer was a graphic designer & phone calls were more expensive & the internet wasn’t quite up & running – you still paid for every minute of connection time. So it was pretty hard for a layman to figure out exactly what to do. But at the same time there were a lot more independent stores willing to pick up obscure product & it was easier to get in with distributors. I think if I’d locked myself in with good distribution then & not been afraid to pour in about $8000 & do four releases early on instead of cutting myself off at $2500 that I would’ve been much better off.
3 -Silber Records only is 7 years old, but I suppose that, personally, you will already have a lot of experience. What advice would give to people that decides to create a label now?
In general I would say don’t try to do it by yourself. Even at Silber’s size up keeping information & filling orders & trying to just stay in touch with all your artists can take 40 hours a week & more when a release is about to come out. So you need a lot of time on your hands. Also don’t invest any money you don’t have in your hand, because you’re going to be losing money for a while. If you can get bands who tour extensively & are more excited about their cd coming out on your label than you are, that’s probably the ideal situation. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ve followed any of my own advice.
4 -The first release on the label is the compilation Alleviation. This indicates that you already had groups or artists in Silber and, of course, some good friends that helped you to create that compilation.
Well, before I started Silber officially I was doing a zine called QRD. So basically all the bands I interviewed agreed to do tracks for the comp. I got the few connections I had at the time because of the zine & mainly thanks to Athan Maroulis of Spahn Ranch who really helped me more than he knows with getting things going. It has a lot of bands who were selling 5-10,000 units on it & I thought I would be able to unload it pretty quickly, but here it is eight years later & I still have 200 copies left. I think if the disc had been more successful, I would’ve released some discs by some of the artists on it, but I think in reality everyone is better off that didn’t happen at the time because I had no idea what I was doing.
5 - You say that you release people's music that you like. What are the conditions to have a group to become a Silber Recordsī group? Are you very demanding?
Oh, man. I get into this argument almost everyday. Because I look at the artists on Silber as personal ambassadors of me. It’s like wanting your kids to behave at school or something in a way. So people I think view me as a little draconian or fascist because I’ll say some thing like, “I really love your record & I love your band, but I can’t release your record because I know you cheat on your wife.” The morality issue is just as important as the music to me. People want it to be just about the music & I can’t work that way, because I don’t want people to be able to say, “Silber’s that label with that dirtbag on it.” So aside from the moral code, the music code is basically if I like it I send some copies of a demo out to some of the artists on the label asking what they think & if everybody thinks they belong with us, then they’re locked in. That being said, there are Silber bands on other labels. No matter what Lycia, Rivulets, Rollerball, & Aarktica will always be Silber bands because it’s about being a community as much as releasing records.
6 - Do you receive a lot of demos from new groups? I suppose that you will receive a lot of from USA but, do you also receive them from other parts of the world?
Actually I probably only get about 50% from the states & 50% from Europe. What’s interesting is I get a lot of stuff from the states that is traditional songwriting & from Europe I get this crazy noise stuff that I generally like, but I don’t think it’s really exactly what I want to pursue with the label. To be honest I’ve signed more bands because I’m a fan of them & I write them than because of a demo.
7 - Which the first groups/ artists were in signing for Silber? Why they were the first ones?
Well, I guess the first one was pretty much My Glass Beside Yours because I was in it. The earliest one that I wasn’t actually some how in the band was Peter Aldrich & I actually was trying to sign this band he was in that broke up & that’s pretty much how we became good friends. So that had to do with proximity. Then the signings when I revived the label were Clang Quartet & Aarktica. Jon DeRosa of Aarktica & myself kinda had a competition going between our records where we heavily influence & try to out do each other at times, so it seemed natural to put out his records because I feel like everyone of his successes & failures somehow links to me. Clang Quartet is an amazing local live act & somebody needed to put it out & I’m kind of scared that it would’ve been lost to obscurity if I hadn’t been around.
8 - I believe that Silber Records has to the label Dischord like an example to continue. Why ? Do you believe that it continues being now an example for you?
Well, the great thing about Dischord is they really care about their fans & have built a sense of community. People who like Dischord all are kind of like a big family & in a way buying their records almost makes you feel intimately involved with the label. & I want that to be the kind of thing that I can do with Silber. In that way they’ll always be something I try to obtain. But a lot of labels have done this over the years you have labels like Kill Rock Stars, 4AD, & Projekt who all have or at least had a great grassroots aesthetic. I think right now my favorite labels that are doing this are Bluesanct, Charikickers, & of course Young God Records.
9 - Besides releasing the music and to publicizing it, how does Silber Records help the artists and groups that are in the house?
Well, I guess that’s pretty much the main thing we do. I do try to help some people on the label get some shows on occasion & sometimes loan some cash so they can get cars fixed & stuff like that. I basically look at myself mainly as a fan & friend of the band who’s willing to put his time & money where his mouth is. But I think one of the most important things we do is build a sense of community. I think it’s really great when something happens like with the recent Rivulets record on Chairkickers where a lot of Silber people come up to play on the record. That everyone respects each other enough to do that. It is kind of validating that your peers are also your friends & fans.
10 - Do you believe that a Silber sound exists? Your groups / artists have very different styles but, do you believe that, in the bottom, is there something that unites them to all?
There’s something that unites them all. It’s emotional honesty & intensity. People are always asking me if Remora’s narrative songs are true stories & while none of them are factually true, I do like to think they’re emotionally true & accurate & that’s why people think they’re actually about my life. But you don’t need to have lyrics to have emotional accuracy. I don’t know, a lot of music sounds really sterile & I hate that. I don’t care about technique or sound quality that much. So you can take things as varied as Clang Quartet & If Thousands & Rivulets & in the end it actually does make sense for them to be together. At least it does to me.
11 - Now that they don't hear us, what group / artist are you prouder of having in Silber Records? What group / artist had you wanted or would you like to have in Silber Records?
It’s easy to be most proud of Aarktica because it’s the most successful & when you sell more units, you feel like you know what you’re doing. But at the same time I think doing records that don’t sell well that I really like is more important. Groups I want on Silber, well there’s Six by Seven who I think need a label (but I don’t know that I’m really big enough to handle them) & I think Lycia might have just fulfilled their label contract, so maybe I could actually get to try t o do one of their records. I eventually want to work with Marc Gartman who does a lot of stuff with Rivulets & Aarktica live. It’s really hard to say sometimes, because I don’t want to deal with anyone I can’t offer something back to.
12 - A very important thing for a label is the distribution. Have you solved this thing of the business?
No. I don’t think anyone is ever happy with their distribution situation. Mine’s better than some, but I would really like to be at a point where you could go into virtually any indie store & order it (I don’t expect them to actually keep the records on hand). We always seem to be on the verge of getting things a little better, so we’ll see what happens.
13 - What do you think on the phenomenon of the musical piracy, the homemade recordings, internet and all this? Does all this affect a label like Silber Records?
I think stealing music sucks. The smaller the artist, the more of a disservice you’re doing. I was at a Clang Quartet show a couple years ago & this girl was going to buy a cd & a friend of hers told her not to, that he would burn her a copy. I don’t think people fully grasp that not buying the disc & just copying it is like saying to me, “I don’t want you to be able to take your girlfriend out to dinner, I want you to make her a peanut butter & jelly sandwich.” I keep thinking about setting up something on the site where people can pay us money if they have the music & want to support us, but don’t care to own a physical copy of the disc.
14 - I suppose that you will know that a great difference exists on the "experimental" concept in USA and in Europe or Japan. Do you believe that the USA public its prepared to receive certain more radical proposals that are made in Europe or Japan, or do you believe that, in this aspect, USA continuous being a so much conservative? Do you believe that Silber Records will be a good place to give to know those proposals in USA?
I don’t know, there are a lot of reasons the Us seems more conservative. I think one of the problems that the US has is it’s so geographically large that it’s easier for their to be lots of small experimental scenes instead of one big one like is had in Japan or Norway. As far as how accepting the populace is, middle of the road americans still aren’t ready for their kids to listen to Brian Eno much less Merzbow. I think one of the problems is here in the US a lot of focus is put on not doing anything unless you make money at it. So as people become adults (for lack of a better term) a lot of people not only stop playing music, they altogether stop listening to new music as well. I think it ends up making more commercial music because musicians are driven by a success formula. In that aspect I think Silber does issue challenges & solutions, we do put out a lot of challenging music. But we’re not an extremely noisy label either. I respect people making albums using their dripping sink or a baby crying as the only original sound source, but with the exception of Kobi & Clang Quartet, no one on the label is really trying to push noise into an instrument. Unless you count feedback as noise…
15 - I suppose that you are also some good music consumers. Do you believe that it exists an excess of musical offer at the moment and this can make that the one publishes it is overwhelmed before so much proposal?
There are too many records around right now. I think everyone knows it. People are releasing albums that should only be demos or live performances just because the ability to do so has become so easy. It makes it hard to let people know you aren’t just another band at the bottom of the barrel. On the plus side it also makes me feel like I have more reason to challenge the bands on the label to do their best. Because the only thing that is going to make Silber better than any of the thousand other labels is if we consistently only release great records.
16 - How do you see, in your point of view, the most creative scene in your country, as in the artistic aspect as in the business aspect? The political situation in USA, does it affect in the musical creation in the country?
I think there is a lot of interesting stuff going on in this scene that is just starting to grow where post-rock is turning back into post punk & the people making it grew up on heavy metal guitar heroes. Because the people are really good musicians & they’ve learned to be song writers hacking in more sophisticated styles & when the strip all the frills away it’s quite good. I don’t know what you mean as far as creative in a business aspect, I guess maybe that’s supposed to be iTunes or something, but I think the most interesting thing going on is more & more living room shows in which people actually get paid. The politics of the US to me do reflect on the music, but not in a democrat versus republican type debate. I think that it’s reflected in that everyone is taught that the weak are always less right than the strong & so you should hide your problems & if anyone tries to do anything you should threaten them with violence. That’s been the USA international policy for quite a while & it’s gotten pretty seeped into people’s personal & family values & the only way to start to turn it around is by intelligent people choosing to have babies & raise them properly.
17 - How does the publicity work in a label like Silber? Do you believe that there are good diffusion channels for your works in your country?
Well, we actually get quite a bit of radio play & reviews. The joke is it’s because we have too much heart & not enough common sense – but that’s my business model. We handwrite personal letters to every radio station, dj, reviewer, & magazine we service. They all tell me, “I receive 200 cds a week, & the only handwritten notes I get are from you.” That’s kind of what we’re about though, building in a Silber community from the ground up that way. I don’t think it always works, but we get more attention than a lot of labels that sell ten times the units.
18 - What new works Silber Records prepares us during the year 2003?
I’m going a little crazy, because I have a lot of stuff going on. In September the new Rollerball record officially comes out. In November there will be the debuts by Small Life Form & Jamie Barnes. Then we’re going to be helping to put out a record by Heller Mason unless somebody bigger picks it up & I might do a new label sampler soon. It’s insane, because I don’t have the funds to really finance things, but I think the more new products that come out the more back catalog I can move.
19 - Do you have thought of enlarging the land of Silber in other aspects like the DVD, internet or other fields of contemporary artistic creation can be? Do you think that this, in the long run, is something to be forced inside the structure of a record label?
I would love to a DVD & we actually may do one within the next year. There’s a film being made by a friend of mine based on a screenplay we did together & Jon DeRosa of Aarktica is supposed to be in it. If it looks good enough in the end, we’ll probably release it. Also there’s a local filmmaker named Matt Hayhurst that has been doing some videos for Peter Aldrich who’s been talking about doing a Silber documentary. Occasionally Pete Aldrich talks about trying to do a weekly 30 minute Silber television show. I don’t know if that will ever happen. Eventually I think CD’s will become obsolete, but I don’t think the from that’s going to replace them has become clear yet. If the replacement is just owning mp3 versions of individual songs, I’d be kind of sad. Because I like the idea of owning physical objects & seeing the artwork & having an album instead of a single.
20 - To finish, which do you believe that will be the Silber Records future?
I think our future will either be in 20 years people will
be trying to track down some obscure & great records that we released
or we’ll still be putting out good records & people will wonder how
we have such a good track record for it. I can’t really say for sure,
we’ve already gotten farther than I thought we would.
back to QRD Home back to Archives
Official Remora Website
Remora on MySpace
Official Silber Records Website
Silber Records on MySpace
Other QRD interviews with Brian John Mitchell:
Interview with Brian John Mitchell (October 2013)
Christian musician interview with Brian John Mitchell (March 2011)
Indie comic creator interview with Brian John Mitchell (February 2011)
Label owner interview with Brian John Mitchell of Silber Records (November 2010)
Guitarist interview with Brian John Mitchell of Remora & Vlor (June 2010)
Father's Day Interview with Brian John Mitchell of Remora (June 2009)
Couples interview with Brian John Mitchell of My Glass Beside Yours (February 2007)
Remora interview (July 2002)