Interview with Mike Cadoo
Hey Mike. n5MD is one of my favorite contemporary electronic labels. Please tell us a little about your label and expand on the “emotional experiments in music” tagline.
Thanks for the opportunity for the interview. We’ve really appreciated the support and kind words you’ve given n5MD releases on your site. I’m flattered that you think of n5 as one of your favs, it is so nice to hear when people enjoy our artists’ music. I’m sure our roster will be flattered too as they are really the ones that make n5MD what it is. As for the tagline I do think most folks tend to think of it as experimental music with emotional content…And while this is sort of applicable and is more of a segue from our previous tagline of “emotional experimental electronica” its meaning has been somewhat misconstrued. I consider our artists to be very much in touch with their emotions and very good at their craft of capturing such emotions in their music. I have always seen our tagline to mean that our artist are experimenting with the emotional content and connection to, and of, their music.
Your very first two releases, MD1 and MD2, kicked off the birth of n5MD as a MiniDisc-only label, as an acronym for “No Fives, Minidiscs!” Tell us a bit about the idea behind the label and how it all got started.
I really felt MiniDisc and the type of electronic music I was releasing were (and still are) a good marriage . I actually started the label with a portion of my share of a Gridlock royalty check. I contacted a few artists that I had found via mp3.com and a few others I had met via my activity in Gridlock, found where to manufacture the MDs and I was off running with no knowledge of really how to run a record label. I did work as Pendragon Record’s graphic designer and webmaster for the last 3 years they were around as a non Metropolis owned entity but for the most part I had no idea how to run a label. MiniDiscs were a rough format to sell but I stood behind it because I believed in it and its connection with the music. I also saw the format to be a bit more personal because for the most part people were using portable players to listen to our music. So the MDs and our music became soundtracks to their travels in a way.
And what happened when Sony stopped manufacturing pre-recorded MiniDiscs?
AH..This is where things really started to take shape but it was a very hard time for the label. I had a tough choice to make, go forward with CDs/vinyl or call it a day. The timing of Sony could not have been worse as around the same time as Sony stopped making Mds our distributor at that time was in deep, deep water and shut it’s doors… We chugged ahead in making CDs…I think the First 2 were MD8 and the Proem live disc . Those 2 were actually sent to Sony for MD replication then they called and said ..uh…”Sorry, Mike, no more”…
Where can we get your back catalog?
Some is still available via n5mailorder in physical format as well as on our site digitally or from itunes/emusic. Some titles like the aforementioned MD1 and MD2 due to their age we no longer have the rights for most of those tracks so we have removed them from our download shop. So eBay may be the only place for those, unfortunately.
Tell us about the sister label, En:peg Digital.
Enpeg started 2 years after n5MD. It started as a way to release artists faster and more economically by doing digital only releases. We started the sublabel with a “every release is $2” policy. I really wanted to provide exposure for new artists in a sort of piggyback fashion to n5MD artists. As n5MD has changed over the years so has Enpeg. We have since removed the $2.00 each cap and are now selling to itunes and other music retailers as well as selling Flac releases for $8.99 a pop. There are some releases still up for $2.00 each but going forward we’ll be doing Flac for the people that want lossless and the people who don’t mind mp3 can get them at their favorite online retailer.
What was the initial focus of the label’s sound, and how has it evolved in the last nine years?
Ah well. This is a subject of some pretty wild debate. My musical focus has always been the same for n5MD…If I connect with the music emotionally I am interested in releasing that artist’s music. We did start out as a strictly electronic label with a focus on more personal listening and melancholic sorts of electronics. More than a few people out there feel as if n5MD has changed or is focusing more on post-shoegaze and post-rock rather than electronic artists. I feel that the label has just expanded into other musical avenues that compliment one another. We still are releasing music from Proem and Funckarma/Quench and they have really been around since the MD2 comp and we’ll continue to sign electronic artists as well as other artists if I connect with their music on a somewhat personal level.
In my latest review of Another Electronic Musician’s “Five”, I have said that the “album puts the D in IDM”. What do you think of this state of this genre, and will we see more output in this style from n5MD?
IDM is never really a term I liked using to describe n5MD’s output or artists. The artists we sign for the most part don’t write dance music and yes, the D stands for “Dance”. I think the meaning has really seemed to shift and, as any genre tag, bastardized in some ways. Jase (Another Electronic Musician) handed in an album that was a bit more dance floor friendly than anything we had released before. So it was fitting for us to talk of IDM, for one of the first times ever in our write-up, for the album.
Congratulations on signing Port-Royal! They totally belong on your label! Any artists that you would absolutely love to sign to n5MD?
Ah thanks. They are very special band for me personally so it will be so nice to release and help them get their music to the people that need to hear it. As for an artist I would love to sign. There are some out there that I think would fit and there are some that would be “pie in the sky” almost selfishly ideological. I actually get asked this question a lot in interviews or in pub conversations. It changes from week to week.
At one point, Merck and n5MD were going head to head in terms of amazing releases (not competition). But Merck has closed its doors in January 2007, and n5MD goes on. To what would you attribute this resilience?
Oh, I don’t know. I think Gabe took M3rck exactly where he wanted it to go, had done what he wanted and found it was time to move on to other things. I really enjoyed M3rck’s output and talking with Gabe when we had time. As for n5MD still being around now…Music is kinda in my chemistry. I need to make it, listen to it, help others make it, and help people get it to the people that need and want to hear it. Just part of who I am, I guess.
What were some of the hardest lessons learned throughout the life cycle of running a label?
Hard lessons usually come with mistakes. Either yours or by fault of someone else. I have made a lot of stupid decisions as well as dealt with a few people that in the end were not that good for our business and the creativity needed to make the music we all do. If you have an instinct or feeling about something that may have a negative outcome it is best to be cautious.
What is the current state of electronic music economics?
The hard fact is that money is made differently now. The digital sales really have to pay for the CD manufacturing as CD sales are on the decline. We are in a time where press and radio for the most part still want physical products to review or play but the public is starting to feel more comfortable with digital consumption. I try to follow the market and be careful when pressing CDs. Our Electronic artists for the most part sell well digitally where our more guitar oriented artists are a bit better on physical sales. Things will always be changing and I try and bend and weave with the industry and the listeners’ needs.
Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in starting their own label?
Read first. Not just about starting a record company but running a business…yes, that means accounting, sales, marketing…everything. Be true to what YOU want for YOUR label. Don’t care what any other label is doing, selling or marketing. And be patient, your label will not blow up over night.
At which point did you open up n5MD mail order shop?
I think it was the Christmas vacation of 2006 where I modified an existing cart to look and act like we needed. I think U-cover was the first label to come on with their full available catalog right away and we’ve been plugging away ever since.
How do you go about selecting the labels and releases that you carry in the store?
I will approach them or they might approach me. For instance; Miguel at Consouling Sounds contacted me about selling his first release (Exxasens – solarus). After hearing it even though it was not IDM/experimental/Post-whatever/shoegaze we both (Paul and I) liked it and decided to carry all of their catalog. Consouling runs the gamut from post-rock like MT. to metalgaze like Fragment and may not be 100% applicable to what we release as a label but it is good so we sell it in our mailorder. Another example would be labels like Raster-Noton, 12k, Hymen and Sending Orbs . I just stock as many of their releases that I think that our customers will want.
Besides running a label, isn’t it a lot of work doing this kind of distribution and shipping as well? How do you find time for everything, including producing your own music?
Yes, it is hard to balance and Yes, it is a lot of work but I have help with the mailorder. The Bitcrush and Dryft albums have become second and third burner projects while the label takes the front burner. It is about balance and sometimes I may not balance things so well. But I do my best.
Are you the only one running the label or do you have some help?
I am the only one running n5MD and Enpeg but I do have some copy editing and writing help from Matt Campbell and Jase Rex (AEM). Clay and Ian (loess) spearhead Nonresponse and I only act as their 3rd partner. n5Mailorder Paul Stephan does everything but the ordering and financial stuff. He packs your orders makes all the samples for EVERYTHING and generally makes my life 1000% less stressful.
What can we hear on n5radio?
Everything we’ve ever released plus some previews of upcoming stuff months before they hit the street. Things usually go up there right after they’ve been mastered.
What advice would you give to artists looking to get signed to a label?
Depends on the label really. But you should focus. I always assume that artists that mass send demos probably make music in the same manner they sent their demo. They lack focus and intent.
What can we expect from n5MD in the future?
Plastik Joy’s debut album “3:03” is due on May 12. The port-royal album “dying in time” is in mastering as we speak. Aerosol, Near the Parenthesis and Slidecamp are all actively recording and working on albums. I also will say that the next Bitcrush “Of Embers” is starting to take shape and may see a early 2010 release. On the Nonrepsonse end of things there will be Loess’ Burrows as well as a dark ambient discs from Proem on May 12th as well. Enpeg will have new releases from Ruxpin, Fell and Phylum Sinter available in mid June.
Thank you for your time. Any last words for the readers of Headphone Commute?
Thank you for the opportunity to do the interview and thanks to all our artists, alumni, fans and friends who have made n5MD what it is!