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Lens Records Interview; This Side of Zero
Monday, June 15 2009 @ 03:00 AM PDT
Contributed by: Sage

Lens Records Interview

Heathen Harvest:  Cheers Rob!  Thank you for agreeing to take part in this interview.  Firstly, can you give us an extensive background explanation on Lens Records?  When and why the idea was birthed, what the initial ideas for the label were and how they evolved over the years, etc.  What's the idea behind the name?

Robert Hyman: Thanks for having me Sage!  It’s a pleasure.  The first release for Lens Records was in 1999.  For a year or two prior to that I had thought of starting a record label.  I was in the band UsherHouse (we did 2 CD’s for Cleopatra in the mid-90’s) and we had talked about doing everything ourselves – studio, label, promotion, etc.  So that is where the idea first started to be discussed.  I suppose as a musician, the more you get involved in the business side of things you start to learn more and education yourself about how it all works.  I think the idea of running a label appealed to me as I got more exposed to it.  I can remember back to the late 80’s when I got exposed to the 4AD label.  I think that was the first label I noticed as having its own identity – there was a really strong sense of musical and visual cohesion to their releases.  Ivo oversaw all of the releases and 23 Envelope seemed to do all of the artwork.  There was a strong sense of style and a level of quality that came with all of it.  I know there were plenty of other labels doing this but 4AD was the first I was aware of.  And so that probably planted a very early seed in my subconscious.

I also studied the music business and recording in college and so all of that exposure and knowledge became more fuel for the label fire.  I’m intrigued by how things work and have a natural ability to understand things like that.  For instance, in my college recording classes, I spent a lot of time explaining equalization, compression and signal flow stuff to fellow students because I understood it well.  It doesn’t mean I was a good engineer per se – that is a whole nother conversation – but I understood how all the components of a recording studio worked together.

Back in 1999 when I started Lens, I was still naïve enough to think that if you just made a record people would naturally buy it – just because it existed.  That simply is not the case – never was and never will be!  But I started doing it simply because I wanted to – I just wanted to help get great music out into the world.  That was my main motivation and it still is.  But you can only do that for so long before you build up a substantial amount of debt making records  that don’t sell.  So you learn and refine your process as you go along – learn to cut costs, learn what is a smarter musical investment and what isn’t.  And I learned to let the bands help pay there own way when necessary,

The name for Lens came from an old band name.  Ivan Hart from UsherHouse and I had an idea for starting a side band with two other fellow musicians in Atlanta that we were friends with.  The one common denominator between all of us was that we all wore glasses.  The band never happened but we sat around one night discussing band names.  Geeks With Glasses was one of them.  And from that I came up with the word ‘lens’.  It never was used but it stuck with me for some reason.  It just seemed to have a lot of interpretations and some good imagery attached to it.  So I called the label Lens Records and my studio at the time Cracked Lens Sound.

HH:  Tell us about your experience with Cleopatra Records.  What made you want to get away from that to start your own?

RH:  I was in the band UsherHouse and we did two CD's with Cleopatra.  They put us on several compilations as well.  We had a good experience with Cleopatra.  We were very fortunate to get in contact with them very early in the labels career - 1992 - when they were actively signing new bands and promoting them.  I didn't start Lens so much as a way to get away from Cleopatra.  I spent a handful of years with UsherHouse, in the later nineties, where we were still writing and rehearsing but not gigging much and not doing much.  I think it was just a transitional period for all of us.  Old ideas were dying and new ideas were starting.  During that time we had the idea of doing our own label thing I guess so that we could have more control of what we were doing.  But we just never really go around to doing it.  I can't say we were totally happy with Cleopatra.  This was all pre-internet times so staying in touch wasn't as easy.  Involved phone calls pretty much and I guess we just lost touch.  We were always very self-contained as a band so we didn't get a lot of input about things and therefore also didn't have a lot of people involved in our success or failure.  We just guided ourselves.

HH:  Do you feel that 4AD is still releasing the same quality material that you mentioned from your youth?

RH:  Honestly I wouldn't know.  I don't follow the label anymore.  I know the Breeders are still there but I don't know much about the other artists on the label.  So I can't say I know enough to comment on that. 

HH:  Do you feel that your college education in the music business helped you understand how to run a successful label?  Do you feel that Lens Records is reaching its potential currently?

RH:  Yeah college helped to an extent.  I took classes in economics, marketing, radio promotion and a few others.  They all sort of tell you about different aspects of the business but nothing specifically focused on "how to run a label".  So you have to take pieces of information and apply them to your situation.  I don't know that you can go to college now and learn how to run a label.  I suppose somewhere someone might do that but the biggest thing is to get involved in 'the business' and begin to put the pieces together for yourself.  Even though I had started Lens prior to working for Invisible Records, I really figured a lot of stuff out when I worked at Invisible.  Working with Martin was a huge learning experience and that was really great for me.  It helped me figure out how to focus my energies on what I really wanted to do with Lens and how I wanted to do it.  With running a label, you can spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on things and never sell any records and never make any money!  And there is always more you could do promotion wise and work wise.  It never stops and never will - simple as that.  So within that you have to figure out what your boundaries are and when to say 'no'.  You simply can't do everything so just focus on what you can, do your best with it and at the end of the day be proud of it.

HH:  When you say you learned to let the band pay their own way when necessary, what did you used to pay for yourself that you're not allowing artists to pay for?

RH:  Mainly the recording (which most do themselves anyhow), mastering, artwork, CD manufacturing and promotions of the record.  It adds up fast.  The reality is that if you are an unknown artist that doesn't tour, their is very little incentive for someone to buy your record.  If you don't have a following its expensive to create one.  And if I only sell 100 copies of something - and you made 1000 - you aren't going to recoup the costs you put into it.  So I can't afford to do that anymore.  I used to do that and that was part of building the label and 'paying my dues' - and I'm still paying off those credit card bills!  But in order to continue doing the label I have to run things smarter financially so I can continue to do this. 

HH:  Tell us more about this idea you had about the word Lens in particular.  What kind of implications and imagery did it bring into your mind?

RH:  Well, lens can be 'something you look through' so its a way of 'seeing' things.  You have a certain perspective and the lens can distort that perspective - "you can look at the world through my lens - Lens Records".  Lens Records is a way of looking at the world as all art is!  You can also use a lens to focus in on something - so it can enhance your perspective in a technical way and provide you with a sharper view on something.  I guess it is all sort of abstract in a way but if you sit and think about the word for a while, things can come to mind.  My studio use to be Cracked Lens Sound and I thought that was a funny take on it - it's cracked in that its a bit disfunctional and broken.  Which is appealing to me.

HH:  You've mentioned that the idea was conceived in the early 90's but didn't manifest until your first release, Reptilica's "Chrome Feather Future", was offered.  Why was this release chosen for your first and how do you know Ed Creagan?

RH:  Ed was in friend of Ivan (from UsherHouse) and was in a band called Cheerleader.  I recorded Cheerleader in my studio and got along with all of them.  Ed and I kept in touch and when he mentioned he had done a solo record, I asked him if I could help him.  I told him if he would let me put my Lens name on it I would help him promote the record.  He paid to have the CD’s made and I helped promote it and sell it by sending copies out to magazines, radio stations and stores.  This was 1999 and the web was still relatively new and evolving.  I put up a website and started networking that way as well.

HH:  Did the little story about him getting punched in the neck at a bar-b-que really happen or is there another reason for the band's hiatus following the upcoming release of Stung Treng?

RH:  I honestly don’t know anything about the bar-b-que story – Ed enjoys his creative writing and can spin some good stories so I suspect it might just be a creative twist on a real event.  We did the first two Reptilica records and I think when Ed realized that he was still sitting on hundred’s of CD’s in his closet, he didn’t want to incur  the cost of making 1000 more CD’s of his new records.  So he started doing  them as homemade CDR’s.  He did Stung Treng and Total Tiger in 2003/2004 I think.  Ed had an 8-track reel-to-reel recorder and used to just write and record all the time.  So he was constantly putting music together.  I stopped doing Lens in 2001 because I went to work for Martin Atkins at Invisible Records.  So Ed sort of just continued doing his own thing without Lens involvement.

HH:  When can we expect the release of the next album?

RH:  Of Reptilica?  I have no idea actually.  Ed moved to Cambodia in 2004 after he heard Bush had been elected to a second term.  I just got an email from him a few weeks ago but I haven’t seen him in 4 years.  I think he’s only been back to the US once since moving over there.  He also got married and I think is pretty settled over there.  But I would love to hear what sort of music he would create now with the Eastern influence of 4 years in Cambodia!  That is something I’ll talk to him about.

HH:  Why did you follow your first release up by another release (Nurse) from the same project?  What brought about the LP version?

RH:  Both “Chrome Feather Future” and “Nurse” we only released on CD.  There were no vinyl releases that I’m aware of.  I released “Nurse” because I loved working with him and I loved his music and it helped me develop Lens. 

HH:  I got the information from the Discogs Reptilica - Nurse Entry  -- Just out of curiosity, since this information is wrong, what is the catalogue # LENS0005?

RH:  LENS0005 : Press - The Fine Art of A White Label

HH:  Lens Records seems to primarily be an Ambient and Experimental Electronics label, so why have you decided to include rockers Ahab Rex in your release schedule?

RH:  Ivan Russia (aka Ahab Rex) is my best friend.  He’s been a dear friend for 7 or 8 years now and when I found out he was putting together his own record I wanted to get involved.  In 2001 I went to work for Martin Atkins at Invisible Records.  I was his label manager for about 2 ½ years.  During that period I had no time or energy to do Lens so it slowly faded into the dust.  After I left Invisible, I began to think about doing Lens again.  This was 2004.  Around the same time, I had a few other friends who were also all working on records and so in a relatively short period of time Ahab Rex, Emulsion and Press all put records together and we did them on Lens.  I agreed to help promote them very much in the same way I had with Ed/Reptilica.

My vision for Lens does steer more towards the Ambient/Dark Ambient and Electronic genres and all its permutations.  The few rock records I’ve put out have been simply because I like the records and I like the artists as people.  Lens is very much a ‘family’ thing to me.  I work with artists I like as people and I like their music.  None of us make any money at this so if you don’t do it because you love it then its hard to justify doing it.  I have no idea why I would work with an asshole at this point!  Thinking about this, this probably goes back to my reflection on 4AD from earlier.  Although my early exposure to the label was Dead Can Dance, The Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil – they also released the Throwing Muses, Pixies and others that were very musically different from the other bands.  So the musical diversity of it is important as well.  And in my own way – all my bands and releases help to define Lens music.  It all makes sense to me but perhaps not to everyone who visits the labels releases.

HH:  There appears to have been a long hiatus for the label between 2001 and 2006.  What occurred to make the label take a break and what has made you bring it back and keep it going since 2006?

RH:  I touched on this the previous question – sorry for the overlap, but it helps to explain some of the background to things and sometimes that spills over from question to question.  But basically when I went to work for Invisible I simply did not have the time, energy or money to do Lens anymore.  I wanted to but it just didn’t work out.  Through that experience, I also went through a divorce and so it took a while for me to get back on my feet and to sort out what I wanted to do.  I always loved doing Lens and so I wanted to get back to doing it again – with a smarter and far more wiser approach with all the knowledge I learned from working with Martin at Invisible. 

Actually one thing that changed my perspective on the feasibility of running a label was when I was browsing through iTunes.  They had Reptilica up there!  This had come about through The Orchard who I had signed up with years ago.  Well they were now distributing my few releases digitally as well and so there I was on iTunes.  I believe a lot of success in the music business is ‘the company you keep’.  So when I saw that my releases could be on the same sites as all the other big, medium and small size bands I realized that I could make a go of Lens again and make it work.  I could get my releases out to the world in the same way that all the other majors and indies could.  So that was a huge light bulb moment for me!

HH:  Speaking of your time in Invisible Records, can you tell us about your time there?  What was it like working with someone who had the brilliance to not only found a label like Invisible Records but a fantastic band like Pigface?

RH:  Working with Martin was fantastic!  Since I am a drummer, I found Martin's playing to be highly influencial on me.  I love his playing and the energy he brings to the drums - he's incredible and very unique.  He can write a song around a drumbeat alone and that is very empowering for a drummer.  So it started there.  Then moving to Chicago in '91 I got exposed to Invisible a lot more.  And I listened to his words and really like his approach to 'the family' vibe of a label.  I got exposed to a lot of great music through Invisible.  So having  the opportunity to work alongside him meant a lot to me.  I worked really, really, really hard at Invisible and working with him was a life changing experience.  It was the best of times and the worst of times.  And when you get involved with creative people and businesses like that you begin to learn how you fit in to the big picture.  I'm a very organized, system-driven sort of person.  When you tell me about an idea I immediately begin to think about 'how am I going to execute this idea and what affect does that have on the rest of the things I need to do'.  Martin is a brilliant ideas guy and he has a great idea at least 5 times a day!  That is what has driven him.  But for me it was hard to back that up.  I wasn't able to do things the way he wanted them done and so it came time for me to depart.  I was also in a tough place personally and I just wasn't able to make it all work.  I needed a break and a chance to refocus (there is the lens analogy again!).

HH:  Its strange to me that you've been a part of some REALLY well known labels -- Invisible Records and Cleopatra (albeit as an artist) and yet somehow Lens Records seems to have been able to stay under the radar.  How does it feel to be able to remain underground even in the face of having such large tags with your name?

RH:  One big difference is that both of those labels are 'bread winner' labels.  Brian and Martin make their livings from those labels.  I don't.  I have a day job that pays my bills and I spend my free time and money on the label.  Perhaps that will change some day but we'll have to see.  I also work with more obscure musics and artists and so that is different too.  Not a lot of my artists tour or even perform so its a different beast.  My main motivation is getting great music out into the world that I enjoy - and if the money and attention and whatever else comes then great.  So its harder to raise my profile with my restraints of time and money.

HH:  Do yourself and Martin still share correspondences today?  Why did you leave your position with the label?

RH:  Our paths don't cross very often but we are still in touch.  We are both extremely busy - he's got a family with 4 boys and I have my family as well.  He spends a lot of time travelling out of the country now as well.  I left Invisible because I needed too.  I loved working with Martin and being a part of all he had created but it was too much for me and I couldn't handle it anymore.  That was personally a very tough time for me and so I needed to get away and regroup.  The longer I did it the more I realized it wasn't for me and wasn't what I wanted to do with my life anymore.  All I did was work with him - 12 hour days and 6 days a week.  I wanted my own life back.  It was tough for both of us but it was the right decision for me.  Sometimes the right decision is a tough one.

HH:  Delicate Noise's "Diversion" was a pretty big deal because it was mastered by Collin Jordan, a man well-known for his work in the experimental and industrial world with bands like Gravity Kills, Pigface, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, and others.  He also mastered albums from your artists Emulsion and the aforementioned Ahab Rex, leading me to believe he's a personal friend of yours.  How do you know him and what has working with him been like?

RH:  Yeah Collin is a good, personal friend of mine.  I began working with Collin when I worked for Invisible.  Collin worked for Alien Sound who did pretty much all of the mastering work for Invisible for many years.  My main gig with Invisible was being in charge of production – the release schedule – so I spoke to Collin literally everyday, as we had CD’s in process all the time.  I did about 100 CD’s with Collin during my time with Invisible.  Through Invisible, that is how Collin got the mastering gigs with Thrill Kill Kult and Gravity Kills.  Martin produced the last Gravity Kills record and did a lot of the production and mixing work at the label when I was there – although Gravity Kills was not on Invisible.  Martins studio – the Mattress Factory – was in the same building as the label.  But Collin is a great guy and yeah he has mastered at least half a dozen Lens releases.  He does great work and that is why I continue to use him.  Collin has been running his own mastering house – The Boiler Room - for several years now here in Chicago.

HH:  Has Lens Records sponsored or organized any live events?

RH:  A few local Chicago shows.  I’d like to get involved with bigger events to help raise awareness of the label and to just get involved with cool events I support.

HH:  Give us a few details!  What concerts did you support?  Who was involved?  Have you ever considered working together with Invisible Records to put something big together in Chicago?  A Festival perhaps?

RH:  Just some of the Chicago-based artist I work with.  We did a CD release show for Delicate Noise a few years back.  I did a CD release show with Avagami and Mr Russia a while back.  Organizing shows and certainly festivals takes a tremendous amount of time and money.  At this point I don't think I could take on anything like that and still run the label.  Again, when you run a label you have to pick your battles.  The more you do it the more you learn what your strengths and weaknesses are.  So I realize I only have so much time and I'm not very well connected with local venues and promoters - because a lot of my artists don't perform very often.  I would much rather get involved with someting already going on.  Like the Brainwaves Fest.  I'm looking into getting involved as a sponsor with that.  I can't see Invisible and Lens working together on a show or festival though.  I don't think either one of us are in that business.  Again, they are a lot of work and Martin is doing different things now like teaching and opening his own school.

HH:  You're in a number of projects yourself.  What has been your most memorable live experience, and what release are you most proud of that you yourself are involved in?

RH:  UsherHouse was my early attempt and wanting to be a rockstar!  We accomplished a lot and I’m very proud of all we did.  I’ve been doing my own solo thing Melter for years now but I’ve never been able to focus on it for very long in the past – but hopefully that will change in the future.  Mr Russia is a band I started with Ivan Russia in 2005.  We did that for 3 years before I retired from it about a year ago.  I have a few memorable live experiences.  The UsherHouse show at The Roxy in LA supporting Dave Vanian (from The Damned) in 1993.  Mr Russia did a last minute show opening for The Reverend Horton Heat in front of a sold out audience.  That was probably the largest audience I had ever played to.  And my last show with Mr Russia at the Empty Bottle.  I’m proud of all the releases I’ve been a part of but the two UsherHouse records are very dear to me – those were my babies – and Mr Russia ‘Teething’ is special to me too.

HH:  Mr Russia contributed a track to a 2xCD compilation I own, ".2 Contamination -- A Tribute to David Bowie" where you covered "Boys Keep Swinging".  What led to you, and ironically Ahab Rex, being on this release?  Why did you choose this track in particular?  Or was Ivan the only one in the project at this point?

RH:  Recording that track is what started the band Mr Russia.  Ivan is a good friend of Michael Brya (owner of FTC Records).  They used to be in a band together.  So Ivan has always had the inside track on the FTC comps and he gets involved with putting them together as well.  The two of them are busy with a Radiohead tribute as we speak.  So through that connection a lot of Lens artists were involved with the first few FTC compilations.  There were a few Bowie tracks we were considering but "Boys Keep Swinging" seemed to be the one that would best convert over to a bass/drum sound.  Ivan had been in touch with Michael about this comp and he wanted to do a track with me for it.  So that was a big motivation for us to start Mr Russia.  We started working on that song and from there decided to make it a band.  It was only Ivan and I back then and that was our agenda.  We wanted Mr Russia to be just a bass and drum band.

HH:  Nearly a year ago you retired from Mr. Russia.  Can you go over the reasons why for us?

RH:  There were several reasons but the biggest reason being that I simply didn’t have enough time doing both the band and Lens to do either as well as I wanted to.  I always felt like I was half there in the band – Ivan did so much of the work, I just showed up for practice and shows really and that wasn’t fair.  We worked hard for 3 years and built a good name for the band and Ivan wanted to take it further than I was willing to go with it.  He wants to tour, play out of town more and just gig more in general.  I just didn’t have that time to give.  More and more great things were happening with Lens and I really wanted to have the  time and energy to follow up on them and develop them.  I  takes a lot of time and a commitment to make something successful.  It was a hard decision but it was the right one for me.

HH:  Do you regret not just taking the chance and giving it a go?  Has Mr. Russia gone further after you've stepped down?

RH:  No I don't regret it at all.  I miss it and I miss working with Ivan but it was the right thing for me.  Mr Russia has continued to grow and they are still successful.  Actually, Ivan just called me a week ago asking me to rejoin the band.  He parted ways with his current drummer and wanted me to fill in.  So I will be playing with them again for a few months but only until he finds a new permanent drummer.  I won't be rejoining the band full time but it will be fun to play with Ivan and the band again for a while.  We are taping a children's show on the 20th called Chic-a-Go-Go so that will be fun.

HH:  Chicago, Illinois is a hot spot for strange music of all types.  How has living there helped Lens Records along?  What bands / musicians are you close to that are outside the Lens Records bubble?

RH:  Yeah there has always been some amazing music that has made Chicago its home.  I think that has helped a lot for many reasons.  To be based here gives you a visibility and an accessability to a lot of music business things that are happening.  There is just a lot of cultural activity that happens in a city like Chicago.  There is always a lot going on so you meet a lot of people and networking is certainly a part of the business.  I can’t say that I’m close with a lot of bands outside of Lens.  I don’t go to shows a lot and I’m not a great networker.  I spend so much time just doing Lens and living the rest of my life that I don’t go out much.  I’m also 40 now – I’m getting married soon, I’m a step dad and I have a mortgage so I have a lot of other things on my plate that keep me busy.  I’m learning to be very efficient with my time and energy.

HH:  So far Lens Records has only had one vinyl release (that I'm aware of...).  Do you plan on doing more vinyl in the future, or even limited tapes or CD-R runs?

RH:  There aren’t any truly technical vinyl releases on Lens.  A few of the bands have done vinyl and I sell them as Lens releases just because the bands didn’t work with another label at the time.  I would love to do more vinyl.  I’m not sure how well it would sell though – I don’t know how much it differs from selling CD’s.  I’m not a vinyl person myself so I’m not plugged into that culture much.  Its certainly more expensive to mail out vinyl for reviews and such.   There probably will be some Lens vinyl in the future – I know some of the bands want to do it – but no concrete plans at this point.

I’m working on a few pro-CDR releases right now – Sky Burial, Simon Whetham and a project from Mark Spybey.  The fact that you can do a high quality, short run release on CDR is great.  I’m big into quality so I don’t like to put my name on something that isn’t well made.  It’s nice to be able to release something limited that wouldn’t make sense to do as 1000 CD’s.

HH:  Tell us more about this Sky Burial release you have coming up.  I'm a big fan of Mike Page's other project Fire in the Head as well as this project so it seems fairly interesting.  Is there a projected release date?

RH:  Sky Burial - Excarnate - will be coming out on August 25th.  It features one long track by Mike and a remix/rework track by Mark Spybey.  Mike got in touch with me probably 3 years ago about a label outlet for Sky Burial.  We lost touch for a while but in the last year or so we've been working on getting a Sky Burial release out on Lens.  It is probably the longest I have ever spent on putting a release together but I'm glad it is finally happening.  I love Mike's work with Sky Burial and I'm excited to have new material from him.  We are going to work on getting all of his catalog out in digital form later this year as well and then hopefully some other new material in 2010 on CD.  I'm not as familiar with his Fire In The Head material but I know the two projects are beginning to merge sonically which is interesting so we'll see where that goes.

HH:  Do you plan to continue strictly into the ambient / experimental field, or could you see yourself branching out into other territories in the future?

RH:  My focus will be ambient / experimental but there will always be stuff that comes along that wasn’t really my plan or agenda.  I get solicted all the time now and people who are friends with other Lens artists get in touch all the time too.  Some of those make sense to do or they interest me so we will do them.  Some won’t – that’s just how it works.  I personally enjoy the diversity of styles on the label but it can also be hard to sell a rock record if the label is ‘seen’ as an ambient label.  Those are things you have to think about when trying to sell CD’s.

HH:  Tell us about Emulsion's Blue Sky Remixes.  Why was the decision made to release it in digital format?

RH:  That was mainly a monetary decision.  Nathan spent a lot of time and money putting  that release together with all the remixers but then to spend a few thousand more making CD’s and mailing them out just wasn’t in the budget.  That wasn’t the plan but it just worked out that way.  The landscape of the business is changing constantly and my perspective on it changes almost weekly.  I’m constantly having  to re-evaluate things and adjust my plans.  There are releases  that have been postponed for many of these reasons.  Once thing that I always keep in mind is the ‘cost of doing business’.  To record a CD, make 1000+ copies of it, pay for graphics, pay for mastering, possibly pay for studio time – then to promote the CD by mailing out copies, do radio promotion, do publicity mailouts and any advertising.  You are talking thousands of dollars - $5000 is a common/general amount that I use a lot.  So you have to ask yourself – if I/we (meaning the band and Lens) are going to spend that much money, how much of it are we going to make back?  I don’t think most people think about that.  Like I said, people don’t just buy CD’s because you made one!  You have to give them a reason – and that reason is ‘created’ through promotion, word of mouth, touring, etc.  And sometimes a release comes along that it doesn’t make sense to put that much money behind it.  So you find alternate ways of making it available to the public.  Short run CDR’s and digital only releases are a great, low cost solution.  There will be more of both of those formats for Lens in the future.  At the end of the day, we want to get the music out there.  But not everything justifies the costs of a physical product.

HH:  The newest album in your repetoire is Dark Rivers by Rapoon.  This perhaps the biggest release for you yet and perhaps one of the darkest on your label.  How did this come about?  Are you looking at this as a major release for your label?

RH:  Yeah – working with Robin Storey is great.  I’ve been a big fan for years so I’m honored to be working with him.  And we hope to do more releases together in the future.  I met Robin through Mark Spybey.  I met Mark while working for Martin at Invisible.  We stayed in touch and when Beehatch came around, Mark felt Lens was the perfect label for it.  Mark is a dear friend and a great guy and we will be working closely for years to come.  We are putting the finishing touches on the new Dead Voices on Air CD “Fast Falls The Eventide” which is a double CD which pairs his first, cassette-only DVOA release “Abrader” as well.  So through Mark a lot of great things have come my way and I’m eternally grateful to him for that.  I got in touch with Matt Schultz through Mark as well and we’ve done the first of The Division CD’s “Mantras” with more to follow.  All of those releases and artists are big for Lens – they’ve changed the landscape of what I do with Lens and they’ve really helped me establish Lens as a serious label to take notice of.  I’m really proud of that.

HH:  What is your distribution system like in Europe?  Where can people look to in Europe to buy your albums?  Do you have any strong trading relationships with any American labels?

RH:  I’ve been working with Cargo UK for a while now and I also work with Arabesque Distribution (UK) which has been great for me.  I also do a lot of trading with labels all over Europe and the US and that helps get my releases out there too.  I have a distribution relationship in the US with Morphius Records and through them my titles are available all over the world.  But I’m constantly reaching out to distributors that I think are a good match for my releases and I’m on the lookout for other outlets that are beneficial for Lens.  I know this area will grow and strengthen the more I work at it.

HH:  What has been the best seller in Lens Records History?  Beehatch in particular seems to have done well.

RH:  Yeah the first Beehatch CD has probably been the most successful so far.  Followed very closely by the second Beehatch CD “Brood” and Rapoon’s “Dark Rivers” (although this is just now coming out).

HH:  What does the future hold for Lens Records?

RH:  A lot!  There are always releases in the pipeline and opportunities that arise.  Its hard to say ‘this will happen’ but most of the things we’ve planned so far have happened eventually.  There will be more from Mark Spybey/Beehatch/DVOA, more from Rapoon, more from Robert Scott Thompson and his label Aucourant Records (whom I worked closely with on the distribution side), more from Matt Schultz/The Division and others.  So keep your eyes open and ears peeled – there will be a lot more great music from Lens in the future!

HH:  Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. This last spot is yours!  Feel free to say anything you feel needs said!

RH:  Thanks to you Sage for this opportunity!  I’m very comfortable being a label guy and being in the background but its nice to be acknowledged too!  Support labels and bands and purchase their music.  Everyone swaps music and shares it with friends – we always have and I do it too!  But at the end of the day if you don’t help support them then they will go away.  End of story.  Thanks!!


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