X Died Enroute Y is one of today's most increasingly prolific
noise/experimental/lo-fi labels. Each release they put out is
wonderfully packaged, dirt cheap, and - most importantly - filled with
unconventional and often brilliant music. I conducted this interview
over email with Steev Thompson, the main man behind the label and a
frequent musical contributor (under various names) to the XDEY
discography. For the sake of posterity, I've left the replies more
or less unchanged as far as formatting and capitalization goes. Dig
X Died Enroute Y started in 2003 with Disfigured House Wife's
"The Boy With Nails in His Eyes" EP. What was the goal of the
label at this point? What did you envisage it becoming? Who is Disfigured
when i first started xdey, it was mainly a place for my friends and i
to release some of our own things and make it seem half ass legit, since
none of us could really find anyone else to release our stuff for us, hehe.
it originally involved my friends chris and rob. chris also happens to be
disfigured house wife and he was also in athenian mercury with me. dhw has
since changed to "eat your makeup" and athenian mercury is kind
of on hiatus, i guess. the label eventually became just me, because i was
doing most the workload and the other dudes didn't seem as interested as i
did. they all kinda went and did their own thing. living in different
states didn't help any.
as for what i envisioned it becoming... i really didn't see it going
beyond just a hobby with some friends, but it eventually started to pick
up and become more serious, i suppose.
What other labels on the scene do you consider yourself most aligned
with in terms of musical beliefs? Who do you idolize? Where do you feel
XDEY fits in?
right now, i'm really into audiobot. carlo could easily do release
after release of bigger name guys, but lately he's been doing sooo much
stuff by lesser known dudes and making the releases look just as great as
he would a bigger name guy. i really admire labels willing to take chances
on the more unknown and younger artists. it shows that they're truly into
it for the music and not the cash.
some other labels i enjoy quite a lot are, in no particular order:
russolo's brain: adam doesn't have a lot of time to throw down, but he
somehow manages to make everything look beautiful and every release he's
done has been quality. he does everything he can for the artist including
express mailing shit to guys on tour and not a lot of labels will do that.
chondritic sound: most everything greh releases is quality. a lot is
put into each release and they look beautiful.
there are so many others too. basically any label putting time into
each release and willing to help out the little guy.
XDEY's first compilation came out relatively early on in the label's
lifespan. What is the process for putting together a comp? How do you go
about getting contributions?
the first comp we did was kind of an online promotional thing...we
pretty much badgered countless bands to see who would be interested. once
we got everything put together, i uploaded it and each song had a txt file
zipped with it with info on each band. it was totally free and thought to
help expose some bands. us being not too well known at the time, it didn't
work out as well as hoped, hehe.
the second comp was a digigrind 7" that was brainstormed by my
friend rob. i thought it was a rad idea, so we both split the money to get
it done. he pretty much put the whole thing together as far as contacting
bands goes. i did all the art and packaged the records, then we split em.
i think that one went over pretty well.
third comp was the double disc cd-r that was released a few months ago.
my friend adam and i put that one together. the idea with that was to get
some more well known acts together on a comp with some not so well known
acts to possibly get some smaller guys heard by more people. that comp
seemed to take forever to put together, but it was worth it. i think it
turned out really great.
What is the vinyl experience like? Do you prefer vinyl or CDR - what
aspects are most important?
the vinyl experience can be a big hassle sometimes, but there is no
better feeling than listening to the test pressings when they arrive!
i mainly do cd-rs because they're cheap and quick to do, but if i had
the money, i would try and do a lot more vinyl or pro done discs.
Are there any cassette releases?
i've done a couple tapes before and the only downside is dubbing the
tapes when you don't have a duper. other than that, tapes are really easy
to have a lot of fun with the packaging.
About the pro done discs, what is the appeal of them? I've spoken to
a few CDR labels who think CDRs are better, since they're cheaper and not
really any better-functioning.
i think pro cds are a lot more durable. i've had many cd-rs become non
functioning when they get the same treatment as my normal cds, which still
play fine. i guess it also shows that someone must have a lot of faith in
a certain band or artist's work when they do a pressed cd, because of the
money it takes to put it out, so more people may be willing to take a
blind leap of faith and buy it without hearing it, where anything and
everything can get tossed onto a cd-r.
Do you prefer putting out comps or solo releases?
i'd say solo releases for sure. comps are fun to do now and again, but
solo releases are generally a lot easier to get done and get out there.
you're only working with one artist or band rather than several.
How does the solo release system work? Are you working on a
non-profit plane, or do you give money to the artists as you sell copies?
How many copies do you send off to the band itself? As a label, you're
mostly involved in packaging, production, and distribution - do you sell
sell at shows or just online?
for artists/bands, the general rule of thumb for me is 20% of the
records i make for them to sell or do whatever with. the normal sales are
online, but i do get some records in stores/distros and i also sell them
at shows i play. basically wherever i can get the record to, i try.
Am I correct in assuming, with comps, each artist gets a free copy?
oh yea, all artists get atleast a copy of it, depending on how many
artists are on a comp.
What are your shows like? How do people respond? What type of people
turn out? Any interesting/notable/scary live experiences?
the show thing is hard to say. depends on what i play and who i play it
for. i've had shows where people will dance around like crazy and other
shows with the same style, people will stand there and just watch with
their arms crossed.
some notable experiences..
my main one would be playing the basement of a crackhouse in detroit
one night. it was a last second thing my friend mike set up. my friend
will and i did a collab set and there were some crackhead dudes all
dancing and shaking around and then coming up to us afterwards thinking we
were famous, haha. totally different vibe playing a show where the dude
upstairs is baking cocaine in his oven and his customers are down stairs
watching the bands. that house has since been abandoned after a few knife
and gun point robberies and a shooting or two, haha.
How much do you get involved with distros? Do you ever carry other
i've sold quite a few things to various distros. anyone willing to
carry something and not dick around with consignment. i've been fucked too
many times with that.
i usually don't carry other items, but i may sometime soon. i might be
carrying the new goslings disc that they self releases real soon. the
goslings are fucking great and i think everyone needs to check em out.
Yes, i've reviewed one Goslings disc and have Spaceheater coming.
What do you think of the poppier end of the DIY scene? I've heard some of
the more traditional material on XDEY (Veer Right Young Pastor,
Zyzzybalubah) and found it really impressive. What do you think of labels
like Asaurus and We're Twins?
spaceheater is a great album. i think you'll dig it a lot.
i love the bizzare sounding poppy stuff. some of my favorite music.
there are some dudes i really love right now doing that sorta thing. horse
head has gotten pretty poppy sounding and i'm doing a collab with a dude
that goes by pictureplan. wierded out fuzzy electro rockish stuff.
Speaking of splits, how do those happen? Does one of the
contributors just suggest it, then once it's done is it submitted to
labels? Or is it usually a label-suggested thing? Any interesting
experiences in that vein?
usually a band approaches another about a split. sometimes a label will
suggest it, but most everytime it's two bands interested in working
together. usually shopped around to labels afterwards.
hmm, interesting experiences.. yes.. sort of.. i sent material to a
dude i was doing a split with back in march and haven't heard from him and
have no idea what's going on with it. not sure what the deal is, but i'm
getting a bit impatient. so sometimes splits can go bad..
How much of your own music do you contribute to other labels? How is
that experience, as an artist?
shit... way too much haha. i'm so backed up on recording stuff for
other labels right now.
the experience can be great and it can suck. the great thing is having
someone else do all the work and get copies out there. the part that can
suck is when a label puts it off forever and you really have no control of
Very true... which labels do you have a special bond to? Which were
the first ones to take note of your music and release it?
apop records is the first label that took a chance on me, so i love
them a lot. dustin and tiffany are great people and i'm doing another
record for them soon. i think a pressed 3"... so they'll also be the
first people to do a "pro" release by me too. great folks.
Looking over some of your compilations' track listings, there seem
to be a lot of obscure, one-off acts contributing tracks. Are these just
silly side projects of other contributors? For example, who are
Abdominable Twitch, !jjuthnib!, and Promyvion Aquadox? Do you think the
obscurity of these names adds to the appeal?
haha, actually all those are real bands. there were a few side projects
on the last comp, but for the most part, it was all different people doing
their own thing.
abominable twitch was a semi known underground breakcore electronic
guy. i thought his stuff was great. haven't heard anything about him in a
while, but hopefully he's still kicking it.
!jjuthnib! was a local guy i knows noise project. he was mainly a
grindcore guy and i don't know if he does this project anymore. think he
mainly sticks to his other bands, letters in binary, and quebec. people
should check those bands out. pretty ace if you're into that kinda thing,
promyvion aquadox is this dude i met on a message board's band. i
thought they sounded pretty good and had a lot of potential, so i put em
on it. kind of an isis type with a lot more ambience going on. think
they're still plugging away working on new stuff, but i haven't heard
anything in a while.
As an aside, what do you think is the funniest/weirdest/most
interesting band/artist name you've come across in your travels? There are
some good ones on the XDEY site...
hmmm, that's a tough one dude. what one's on the site are amusing to
Oh man, there are too many... Veer Right Young Pastor, DJ Rotting
Corpse, It's OK, We're Chainsaws... tons and tons, I'd just love to
go through and find out the stories (or lack thereof) behind each one.
Sometimes with noise and grind acts, it seems like people are just trying
to be dark and depressing for show, though... I don't see that as much
yea, the faux depressed stuff is so boring. fuck it and have fun.
Random question - who or what is Dracula Does Calculus? It's on the
track listing to the 'just because your music wears thin doesn't mean
you're in good shape' comp...
dracula does calculus is awesome! it's a side band with adam cooley
(scissor shock/ruinhorse) and brandon seeley (ruinhorse). kinda sounds
like ruinhorse, but a bit noisier... and i guess slightly poppier? if that
As is often the case with noise and experimental labels, there seems
to be a large anti-aesthetic going on with XDEY. Who handles the packaging
end of things? Where do your ideas come from? What is your favourite
i usually handle all packaging and 90% of art on the label, but
occasionally dudes will want to do all that on their own, which is cool
with me. taliban did their own packaging for it and just had me do the
discs and distribute it basically. doing a release by a guy that goes by
"am" and he wants to do his own packaging as well. that's what's
great about the "diy" whatever scene. most bands handle every
disc/record/tape with complete loving care and trying to make the
packaging on each this complete art object. eventually though as runs get
bigger on things, it's hard to keep doing that.
as for my ideas, i usually sit and listen to the record and see what
the music makes me think of regarding art and packaging.
favorite packaging would probably be the athenian mercury full length
record. hand painted sheet metal with bubble wrap, painted discs, handmade
booklets, wrapped in fabric, and tied up with cassette tape. that shit
took forever haha.
Wow, that's dedication. What especially fantastic packaging have you
seen on non-XDEY releases? American Tapes have a history for particularly
extravagant pcakaging; are there any labels (or bands/artists) you admire
for the artistic angle of their work?
yea, american tapes used to have crazy packaging back when they did
extremely small runs. stuff became more standard looking as things start
getting bigger run numbers, which is understandable.
the band taliban always does pretty wierd shit. one release was
packaged in broken tape decks. that was only limited to 4 or 5 though,
haha... so yea, back to the wierdo packaging and small release numbers.
not a whole lot comes to mind right now. my friend mike's label,
pedophobic, usually does wierd stuff. carpet, ripped and glued
construction paper, etc.
It's interesting how there's a sort of trend of destruction in these
releases. Either things are made to look as mechanical or machine-made as
possible (some MSBR and Xome stuff comes to mind) or as smashed, warped,
bent, and twisted as possible. Is this a representation of the music
itself or has it become a way of cornering the genre into self-imposed
i think some guys do it to fit the music and i think a lot of other
people do it to look obscure and different. i don't really care for
anyone's reasoning behind it, as long as the package looks nice. i guess
it is kind of a diy novelty though, not that it's bad in the least.
Have you ever considered doing a bigger run of something?
yea, definitely. money is always an issue though, unfortunately. moving
and the college thing is killing me right now.
Are you just entering college? At what point in your life did you
start XDEY? High school?
i'm 21 now... kinda dicked around with community college for a couple
years... stopped for a year, now i'm picking up and going to columbia in
chicago, which is some arty school.. going to be totally wierd. my friend
and i are probably going to have too much fun at other people's expense
and get arrested. i'm best isolated away from people.
xdey.. i think i started it a bit after i graduated high school.. like
6 months or something.
Were there any like-minded music people in high school when you were
just getting into the scene? How did/do your friends respond to your
seemed like most kids i knew in high school were metal kids or indie
rock nerds. think most my friends back then that got into it, caught it
most my friends right now seem into what i'm doing or at
supportive, which is all i really ask. don't care if they like it much,
but it makes me happy when they do. :)
As times goes on, XDEY's discography just seems to get longer and
longer. How long do you see it getting? Do you have piles of releases
sitting in a room somewhere, or are they made on request?
i see the discog growing and growing until i get bored with it or don't
have time anymore. i don't see that happening anytime soon though. the
label and my music is basically all i do anymore and i enjoy every second
a lot of releases are smaller limited runs, but some i keep in print
until i feel the record has had a good run. some some will sell out and
i'll be done with it and others i'll make to order if i run out. it's hard
to keep everything in print when your catalogue keeps growing, so some
stuff has to have a smaller lifespan. it's easier to do really detailed
packaging when something has a number to it as well.
Do you have an archive with at least one physical copy of each
release? How many copies of releases do you have hanging around the XDEY
"stockroom" at any one point in time?
oh yea, i always have to keep the first copy made, hehe. that's like an
unspoken rule of running a label.
as for how much stuff i have hanging around... not a lot right now. ran
out of a lot of stuff on tour, haven't release too much in the past month,
but gearing up for more in the next couple weeks. if there's too much
laying around, it means i'm not whoring it enough.
So are the next few weeks going to be an intense releasing period
for the label? What do we have to look forward to?
yea, next few weeks should be pretty nuts, because i want a lot done
before the move. we have...
our brother the native cd-r
sick llama 3" cd-r
am 3" cd-r
and probably some other stuff that slips my mind at the moment.
Can you tell me anything tantalizing about any of these releases?
What to expect? How you know the people behind them?
our brother the native: kind of noisey folk with some poppier moments
and some tracks made entirely of field recordings. some young kids that
live my town that got ahold of me a while ago. didn't know of them before
that, but was totally impressed with what they were doing, so i had to
release something by em.
sick llama: found out about heath when i saw death comm back in
decemember. eventually learned the dude did a label called fag tapes and
was releasing a lot of cool shit from michigan dudes, so i ordered some
stuff from him. he sent me one of his tapes as well and i was really into
it, so i asked him if he was interested in doing a release and he was into
it. i'd tell you about it, but i've yet to hear the master, so i'm not
sure the direction it's going. i know he does a lot of harsher and
creepier stuff with tapes as a main sound source.
am: really creepy yet really pretty drone/ambient stuff. just found out
about him a month or two ago. he sent me a couple cds to trade and i
really really liked it. had the opportunity to play with him on a show a
couple weeks ago in ann arbor and he's just as great live as on cd. dude
is going to go places for sure.
wapstan: mr. sasseville from montreal. dark ambient stuff with some
lighter moments. excellent stuff to lay back and wig out to. doing a split
with him later on down the line that i'm excited about.
How much of an investment (timewise and moneywise) is each release?
moneywise.. if i kept track i would probably be depressed haha. all i
know is i have gas and cigarette money for a few more days, then i'm
fucked. so buy some records! haha.
timewise, i usually treat it like a full time job, whether it's
recording, packaging, website work, etc. some weeks are slower though.
occasionally the mood comes along where you don't feel like doing shit. :)
Of course. But label operations basically take up all of your time?
Where does the funding come from?
the funding used to come from working, but i've been jobless for a bit
now, so it's coming from the label or selling shit on ebay haha. lack of
money makes things more interesting. you really have to scrap around with
what you have and be creative packaging wise.
That's true. Fortunately CDRs are really cheap nowadays. I imagine
shipping has to be the biggest drain on the wallet now for you? Getting
artists' copies out to them and such...
haha yea... i have 6 packages to mail tomorrow.. 3 being out of the
country and i have very little money. should be awesome!
Egads. How much of the price of each release goes to postage? How
many packages do you send out a week? The postal service must be making
bags of money off of you.
umm.. i'd say between paypal fees and postage, probably a buck, maybe
more from each release shipped in the u.s... overseas considerably more.
canada's not bad when you lie on customs forms, hehe.
What has been the most successful release on XDEY yet?
it's hard to say. salewise, probably the digigrind comp. other releases
get downloaded a lot and people will rave about them and i'll hardly sell
anything, but such is the way of the internet. i'm a pirate too.
Ah, yes. I've perused your databases
of music at archive.org - that's a nice service for fans of the label.
When did you put that together, and what has the response been like?
man, that thing hasn't been updated in forever. everytime i try to
upload a new album, i get a database error, so that's basically dead right
now. used to have everything shared on slsk, but that's also not working
too well for me at the moment. the response on slsk was always good, the
archive.org didn't go very far... probably because people aren't too
interested in the old shit?
Weird. I think looking at old material is essential to see where a
label or band is coming from... Perhaps it's more of a reviewer's thing
possibly. i think most people just want the new stuff now that people
know who xdey is, so they think those releases will be better and don't
have much interest in the obscure past.. that's one theory.
Which XDEY acts are you a part of?
roxanne jean polise is my main solo thing. i'm also in athenian
mercury, my game of loving, and a number of collabs under my real name (steev
When did you start getting into this music at first? How did you
develop your style - what were you influenced by?
i first got a guitar when i was around 12 and was never too interested
in playing songs. i always had more fun making the guitar make sounds that
it probably shouldn't.. i guess that's when it started.
i first discovered noise 4 years ago when my friend sent me a masonna
album online.. thought it was really interesting and started to explore
more stuff like that. used to go to ann arbor all the time and look
through the stuff at encore records, because they had a nice selection of
local and non local wierdo music. first checked out some wolf eyes records
and some other local acts and got an idea of what was going on in michigan
as far as that style goes.
year or so later i started recording some stuff and my friend chris and
i ended up doing the athenian mercury thing by sending eachother recorded
pieces back and forth online and mixing them. he lived in NH so it was
kind of hopeless to get together and play foreal, but i ended up going up
there and we got to play a show and record in person. that all ended up on
the recycled tape on rrr. probably some of my favorite stuff i've done.
as for the solo stuff... it's hard to say really what i'm influenced
by. no particular artist really.. a thought or an idea.. an image or event
in my head that i'd like to score music for. that type of stuff. the style
and sound naturally progresses as i get more familiar with whatever
equipment i'm playing with at the time.
Interesting... so safe to say, tracking down all your music would
take weeks of effort and yards of shelf space. What do you think is your
strongest material (other than the recycled tape) - what do you like in
your music? What do you think are the strongest elements?
yea, there's a lot out there. i don't even have a copy of everything
right now.. working on it though.
umm, i can't really say. if i didn't love something i probably wouldn't
release it. i try and make everything different from release to release,
so it's hard to pick a strong point. i'd say right now the "leave
your wet brain in the hot sun" album on audiobot is the wierdest and
more flowing album i've done. a lot of styles mixed in.
Where do the names Roxanne Jean Polise, Athenian Mercury, and My
Game of Loving come from?
athenian mercury was the name of an old old news paper back in the
witch trial days in salem. thought the name fit the idea of the music we
were going for.
my game of loving...my friend dan and i couldn't think of a name for
our collab project, so we just used the name of a white noise song we
really liked. doesn't really have any particular meaning.
roxanne jean polise..hah, it's really stupid and kind of cheesy, so i'm
not going to get into it. only a few select people know. sorry guy.
What part of the music you release appeals to you the most?
originality. people doing something totally different. there are a lot
of "experimental" artists jacking others dude's styles and not
really doing anything fresh, so i try and stick with people that have
their own thing going and don't really care if it's widely appealing.
That makes sense. Would you agree that lots of the noise scene
consists of variations upon a theme? I think a lot of it has become
novelty more than anything else...
i definitely agree with the novelty comment. there are a lot of guys
out there that do have a vision and passion for what they're doing, but i
also think there are some people getting into it, because it's the
"hip" underground thing right now. basically just like any
trend, once it passes, we'll see who was into it for the music and who was
into it to be fashionable or whatever.
Do you ever think noise music could be the next big thing? I think
that would be hilarious.
i think it could definitely be what grindcore and screamo and all that
jazz was 4-5 years ago. it could probably hit that peak, but i don't see
it being big big. you never know though! wolf eyes on subpop.. that
issue's been harped on too much already, so i won't say anymore and leave
it at that.
What is your favourite colour?
shit dude...simple questions are always the toughest ones. i'll pass..
i really have no clue, hehe.
Aw, really? But you can't go wrong with yellow, can you?
on cars, yes. i'm wearing a yellow shirt right now, so hey, yellow is
The X Died Enroute Y website is www.xdiedenroutey.net.