Transmissions from the Secret Station: An Interview with Secret Station Records / Lunar Testing Lab’s Eric Watson

First off, a huge thanks to Eric for taking part in this.  If you’re eager to check SSR out or LTL, I posted links down at the end.  Enjoy!

———-

1)      What made you decide to start your own label?

There were a few reasons. At the time (April ’09) I was coming up with some LTL projects that the label I was with wasn’t interested in releasing, so I figured that if I was going to release them myself I may as well come up with my own label. I was also noticing that there were some other quality artists out there who were self releasing their music too, so I thought I may be able to give them a home as well. Finally, I have always been interested in the “behind the scenes” people in music just as much or more than the musicians themselves. Owners, producers, engineers… for whatever reason, I’m really fascinated by those guys so I wanted to try my hand at it too.

2)      What’s the overall goal of the label?

The goals of the label have changed over the years. You try things, see what works and what doesn’t, and alter the goals accordingly. For example, one of the initial goals was to do cd releases, but over the years the demand for them has almost disappeared, so I had to finally decide to give up physical products altogether. I never had any delusions of being the next Warp or something, I just wanted to put out some good music, affordably, give other musicians some help in getting their music out there, and get some experience in things I hadn’t done before.

3)      If things go according to plan, where do you see yourself in the next few years with SSR?

Things are kind of up in the air right now. I had plans for a total relaunch of the label in early 2012 and had 2 releases lined up for it. Unfortunately, they both backed out. So, I have been trying to figure out what to do now, and if the world really needs another electronic net label. If I do keep Secret Station going, it will probably look a lot more like it did in the beginning, with it being mostly my own personal thing with maybe an occasional release by someone else. I’d also like to start sharing more of my other musical interests too, especially mixes from my record collection (5000+ Lp’s now) and my interest in funk/soul/jazz music, but then that takes SS away from the electronic side of things and it may start to seem a little all over the place, so I’m not yet sure how to mix everything together cohesively.

4)      What is your preferred format(s) for releasing material?

That’s easy- digital, since I don’t have to drive to the post office to mail a cd!

5)      Describe some of the challenges and difficulties that come with running a label.

Everything has been a challenge because I did it all myself and I was figuring it all out as I went. The difficulties are never ending, from technical difficulties, trying to work with different kinds of people with different personalities, trying to keep things running smoothly when there may be a crisis going on elsewhere in life, etc. Plus all the challenges that every label now faces- how to get people to notice you, take the time to listen, and show support.

6)       What advice can you give to folks hoping to start their own label?

Don’t do it! Seriously though, if you want the label to go anywhere, I’d recommend not doing it yourself. Get other people involved. Accept that even though you are running a “music label”, most of the work you do will have nothing to do with music at all. Also, be prepared to fail, most labels do. Ask yourself before you start “would I be doing this if I was the only person on earth?”, because the response you get might be…. no response. If that’s ok with you, and you’re doing it for the fun or for the experience, then go for it!

7)      What was the inspiration behind Lunar Testing Lab?

When I first started recording music on a PC it was pretty different than what I ultimately ended up doing with LTL. I was using the same process I basically use now, finding samples from my record collection and layering them altogether, but the source material was different. I was sampling funk break beats from my records, lots of bass guitar lines and adding things like horns and wah-wah guitar overtop. I think one day I decided to sample some synth sounds instead, kept the funk drums, and that is basically how it came together.

8)      As an artist, what have been your personal inspirations?

It comes from being a fanatical music fan for my entire life, and being such a huge fan made me want to participate somehow. I’ve never felt like someone who has to “express myself through music” or who has “music inside me I need to get out”. I just love music so much and it’s been such an important thing in my life that I wanted to have a small part in it. I joined my first band 25 years ago and have been going ever since.

9)      Describe the creative process you use to make your songs.

It all starts with finding drum beats to sample. I have a drum machine and I used to make my own beats (still do from time to time) but it was never something I really liked or was comfortable doing. I don’t think I was that good at it either. So I decided to just sample beats instead. It turned out to be a great way to combine my love of record collecting with the music making thing, and since then I’ve always enjoyed the fun and challenge of finding records with usable beats. Once I have the beat, it’s just a matter of finding sounds to add to it. Most of what I do is more like a collage artist than a musician- I’m not actually creating the music, just reusing it and putting it all together in a different way.

10)   What plans do you have in store for LTL?

I don’t think I’m going to be doing much else with LTL, if anything. I feel like I’ve gone as far as I can with that project and it’s probably time to do something else. I’ve been playing bass guitar for a very long time (25 years now!) and I’ve been thinking of trying to do something with that and incorporate it into some music, but I haven’t figured out a way to do it without sounding like a bad Squarepusher impersonation. I’m always working on things and coming up with ideas, so when those ideas gel and a clear picture of what I want to do comes together I’ll get back at it.

11)   Aside from Lunar Testing Lab, are there any other musical projects that you’re involved in?

Only 1 right now, and that is Elektromodule. I started that project as an outlet for some of the music I wanted to make that I didn’t think would work on an LTL release.

12)   What’s your opinion on the state of independent electronic music currently?

Like most things in life, there are good things and bad things going on with it. I think there is some amazing electronic music being made, and has been for years, but with the ease of making music on software these days there has been a tidal wave of mediocre electronic music being made which I think dilutes the quality of the genre as a whole.

13)   Any final thoughts?

Thank you very much for your continued support, and to everyone else who has supported LTL and Secret Station over the years. It has at times been a ray of bright light in an otherwise dark world.

Links!

Secret Station Records

SSR Facebook

SSR Soundcloud

LTL Soundcloud

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About Nick H.

I'm a geek for music whether it be on vinyl, CD, 78 or whatever. My goal is to sniff out the greated music on Earth, specializing in the obscure. I make music myself as well, mostly ambient and sound collage (1 album out and a few remixes so far). I work full time as a professional mascot (it pays the pills) but will soon retire, i hope.
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