steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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with featherspines' daniel brigman

Featherspines began as Daniel Brigman's one-man labor of love in June 2007, and while the personnel numbers have grown over time, the label remains a project of passion. Respected for its artfully designed releases and free approach to music, Featherspines has quietly amassed an impressive discography over the past two years. I chatted with Brigman over email a few months ago, discussing the goings-on at Featherspines HQ, which at this point has become something of a musical cooperative. Read on...

Centipede's self-titled cassette


What attracts you to unconventional music?

My attraction to unconventional music was born from a strong sense of discouragement I felt towards the stagnant nature of many punk/hardcore communities I was encountering through out the United States. Although, I held a great deal of respect and thankfulness for the fact that these communities existed, I felt that they had begun following a formula musically and socially that left very little to be challenged and often seemed to serve as a focused source of alienation. I desired to hear more regional influence and perspective within the songs people were deciding to share - I was desperate to find something that further redefined the constructs I was familiar with.

When and how did Featherspines come together?

The first Featherspines release (Father of the Flood - S/T Cassette) came out in June 2007. At the time, the label was strictly a personal endeavor that I wanted eventually to operate as a Co-Op. I wanted to organize a way to document things that my friends were creating and take the financial burden/concern away from them so that they would have a more organic process. Today, the label has been fueled with the help of my close friends, Bryce Hample (Hedia) and Joe Annabi (Yoda's House).

What is the experimental music scene like in Albuquerque?

Albuquerque has a fucking incredible music scene. As with many cities, venues are always eroding, but someone is always there to build something new for everyone to share. It is an inspiring place to live - so many individuals dedicating themselves to the endurance of various community projects: Local radio shows, art galleries, music venues, Food Not Bombs, there are at least five local labels, a few houses hosting monthly shows/benefits, etc. I am very thankful to live within such a proactive community - especially due to the fact that there is very little competitive nature surrounding it all.

Are there any communities around Albuquerque for which this is also the case? Are there any other cities/areas that you admire?

I think Santa Fe, NM has set a wonderfully practical example of how an art-centered community can effectively exist, by creating city-funded performance spaces that cater to a variety of events (shows, exhibitions, lectures, bike co-ops, farmers markets, etc). I have a deep admiration for the activist and underground music communities of Reno, Oakland, and Seattle/Olympia. I feel this way because of just how many houses there are operating to host shows, workshops, and other community service campaigns within those areas.

Name each person behind Featherspines and something interesting about them.

Daniel Brigman - (Father of the Flood/Streights) Animal liberation struggles. Bryce Hample - (Hedia) Recently returned from studying Sitar in India. Joe Annabi - (Yoda's House) swears that the public water & GMOs are the cause of his gastrointestinal distress. he likes muppets & rainbows.

As is the case with so many home-run experimental labels, the artwork and visual aesthetic play a large role in making each release what it is. Who handles the design and what influences it?

Whoever is actually assembling the release is usually in charge of generating the artwork for it. The majority of designs are made from raw source material - no photoshop brushes, effects, etc. I think we collectively share a similar aesthetic that is represented within any given design. I encourage the artist to have as much control over this aspect and I have not been disappointed in any final product so far. It is also helpful that each layout has seemed to encompass the mood of the music it is representing so perfectly.

Atmospheric Diver's Crater of the Soil cassette

How are copies divided between the label and the artist? Ergo, what is the "agreement" between Featherspines and each artist?

It seems to be different each time, but somewhere along the lines of, if 100 copies are made the artist gets 50 for free, the label gets 50 for mailorder/review. Lately, we have been doing smaller "pressings" and will usually hold on to less than half of the total copies so that the artist can have a sufficient supply.

50/50 seems to be a standard set-up for DIY labels. Are there any aspirations to put out any larger scale releases in the future?

Yes, a few of the releases on the horizon which will be much larger-scale in terms of pressings include: a split 12" with Hedia/Streights, and a new CD from Coma Recovery (both to be released in the Fall).

What can we expect from each one?

Hedia & Streights will be a split 12". I expect we will press 100-300 copies, most likely screened sleeves. Hedia has been working on a lot of new material that seems to focus on the use of viola da gamba and horns. Streights is a project that uses field recordings/found sound exclusively and constructs tonal arrangements from the raw source material.

Coma Recovery just finished recording their latest 5 song full-length at Panda Studios in Fremont, CA under the engineering work of Sam Pura. From witnessing the recording process, I can say that they are beginning to drift away from their more traditional wall of sound anthems and have focused on stronger keyboard accompaniments - the feeling I got is more akin to Depeche Mode's "Violator" and less similar to your given Isis album.

Featherspines is run collectively. How does this affect the way the label is run? Do you all democratically decide what to put out? Do you design/assemble your releases en masse?

We individually work through whatever release we have chosen to take on, pulling logistical information from each other, sharing ideas that could help make the process more efficient. Helping each other with the more task oriented levels of production: cutting, folding, assembling - but leaving the individual with enough space and head room to realize the release as they see fit.

Within the collective, what connects the individual members to one another? To an extent, your musical tastes must differ, but how are you all related?

I think we all share a longing to create actively and solidify a relationship within our communities art scene - we value the momentum we can add to eachother's lives. Aside from numerous collaborative music efforts (probably the most prevalent being Yoda's House), we have all lived with eachother in some form or another over the past years - essentially becoming the family unit for one another, cooking dinners for everyone, assisting in random projects or doing skill-shares, going on hikes, etc.

Sounds utopian! On the subject of cooking dinners, and particularly because I'm hungry, what does your ultimate home-cooked dinner consist of?

As of late, my curiosity in raw foods preparation has peaked, so I am trying to be more ambitious in the kitchen with that. The stand by is vegan and gluten free dishes: stuffed mushrooms, gazpachos, stir-fry, smoothies, home-made almond "milks", home-brewed kombuchas, etc.

Streights' I See My West CDR

What other labels do you particularly admire, and why?

Any of the labels I admire have shown me that the hard work of a few people in a small bedroom can help create more momentum within their respective community. Some that come to mind are: Spacement Records (Reno, NV), SickSickSick (Albuquerque, NM), Omiimii (Seattle, WA) Anarchymoon (New York/Oregon), eh?/Public Eye Sore, The Lotus Sound (Albuquerque, NM) Swamp of Pus (Denver, CO) Not Not Fun (California)

The first few releases were done on cassette, but since then Featherspines has branched out into CDR and vinyl. How do you compare the different formats? What are their relative assets and deficiencies?

We still prefer the analog formats of cassette (and vinyl though we've only done one) for their warm aural qualities. There is a certain aspect of tangible nostalgia with the older formats as well. The releases we've done on CDR were either by artist request, or financial practicality. With more limited releases it can be much faster, and less costly to go that route, as well as being a more convenient and widely accepted listening format. Expect to see more cassette and vinyl releases from us in the future.

How in touch are you with your customers? How have you gotten the word out to people, and what sort of audience is attracted to your releases?

What customers? Everything has pretty much been given away. No, there have been quite a few vocal fans that have been very supportive. The releases by touring artists usually sell much better, such as Fell Voices, Pillars & Tongues, and Yoda's House. The audiences are largely fellow artists and musicians. It's all about community building, which is why we do so many trades and give aways.

Having been involved in zine creating in the past, I agree that these endeavours are more about reaching like-minded (and potentially like-minded) individuals than making money, or even earning back the lion's share of what you've invested. I wonder if some of the rapidly decaying, more profit-oriented music scenes (especially anything related to the RIAA) might learn something from these smaller communities. On a tangentially related note, what are you doing when you're not "doing" music?

When I am not "doing" music or label related stuff I am doing things similiar to what most of my peers are doing: I work a day job as a grocery clerk at a local Food Co-Op, draw, hang out with my girlfriend, ride my bike, i love to cook, help out my roomies with the garden, volunteer with a few animal defense groups, reading, smoking too much grass, lots of stretching.

What inspired the name "Featherspines"?

It was a name I gave to an old tape recorder I had. It gave everything all the recordings an extremely eery tape hiss, as if it were an accompaning instrument - usually causing me to have goose-bumps or the feeling that someone was tracing my spine with a feather.

It seems as if some of the greatest sounds come from the nuances of malfunctioning equipment. Digressing somewhat, are there any music projects that you particularly admire? What do you listen to when you're on your own?

I try to keep my tastes varied, I am fascinated by small labels and anything received through trade. A few albums that have been sent to my mailbox recently are: A Death Cinematic (Simple-Box Construction), Land What Land (Omiimii), Kilt (Peyote Tapes). I try to keep up with a lot of anarcho-hardcore bands like, Fall of Efrafa, Zann, Marrow. Aside from those, some of my favorite include SWANS, Romain Kronenberg, Joy Division, Rachel's, Arvo Part.

What is your favourite colour? Justify your answer., I am uncertain of any justification. Maybe because that is the primary color of the landscape here.

What do the upcoming months hold in store for Featherspines? How about the upcoming years? Decades..?

Have you ever heard about trash islands? Litterally, islands built from collected debris in the middle of the ocean. I often try to imagine millions of CDR's/Cassettes/Vinyl/Zines all our universal "underground" bullshit converging somewhere in the ocean. I try not to think about the possibility of years and decades - it seems each quarter, I want to turn my heels and run away from all this, I hate debating with myself over it (the total loss of money, the lack of interest, more often than not encountering the reality of so few people donating at a house show to assure the touring band can even get to the next town). I just don't know and will probably never feel content with everything this can encompass. I just like the people who are creating this music.

Pillars and Tongues' My Joys are Greater Than
They Have Ever Been cassette


interview conducted by Michael Tau
published October 2009
photo credit Featherspines website



all content copyright 2009