Interview - MT6 Records

Interview - MT6 Records

There are record labels who orient themselves according to current market trends, with the hope of releasing music that people will buy so that the label bosses will earn a lot of cash. These people are only in it for the money and could as well stop it right now.

Then there are record labels that seem to have an inborn need to test the patience of their clientele. They sign bands that may have no commercial perspective, but that tread on musical grounds where no other artists have been before. These labels release regular CDs, self-burned CD-Rs, tapes, and any other kind of format you happen to think of. These people are in it for the sake of the music.

One such label is MT6 Records from Baltimore, Maryland. If you listen to a dozen different releases from that label, you can be quite sure that you will get twelve totally different impressions. To find out what motivates a label to be so much left of center, I had an interesting email exchange with Alex Strama, label owner and self-professed NewAgeHillBilly.

MT6 Records

When did you start your label?

The name and concept was thought of in '97 or '98. There was an initial release which was a cassette compilation of 4 track recordings, jams, sessions, etc. There was only 1 copy made!!! It was all our friends who we were jammin' with at the time. I still have the original copy. After that the Operation Huss Album came out in '99 and the first Newagehillbilly album "Lo-Fi Dreams". Then in late 2004 the label picked up with the release of the Human Host "Invisible Arteries" CD.

What is the meaning of the name MT6?

MT6 comes from "empty six pack". Sitting around one day we came up with the name. Pretty mindless, but it represents our enthusiasm of drinking!!!

Your first release was Newagehillbilly, which is your own project. Is that the reason why you founded the label?

That was definitly one of the main reasons for starting the label. (note: Operation Huss is catalogue #2, but it was actually put out before Newagehillbilly "Lo-fi dreams"...) Shit, I didn't know anyone who would release it, I didn't even know anyone who was releasing records in general. I grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore, so I didn't really know of any "scenes", which from what I hear were amazing in the late 90s. Releasing the records myself made the most sense. It was a label for all friends/bandmates to release stuff.

You release music on regular CDs as well as on self-burned CD-Rs. How do you decide what to release on what medium?

$$$$$$$. That's what it comes down to plain and simple. CDs are a bit more of an investment, and since the budget is next to nothing its tough to do all the releases like that. CD-Rs are pretty freakin' amazing though. Very cheap and you can do a lot of creative and interesting things with them. If the band is very committed to touring then a CD might make more sense. But some projects are meant to be small limited runs.

Is running a label and being Newagehillbilly enough to make a living?

Hell NO!!! Not even close. That's not a big deal though. It's always for the music and visions of people. I am starting to strive to break even though. Releases start paying for future releases and so on. It's been a little better. In 2005 I definitely didn't break even, but we'll see what happens this year.

MT6 band roster There's a very eclectic range of artists on your label. Do you choose them all by yourself or do they also approach you?

I'd say 95% of the bands are people I know personally in some degree. Some are very close friends, and some are people/bands I have met in musical settings, aka shows. I approach bands and have had some approach me. Pretty even I guess. There's definitely not a set genre or sound for the label. Just good, creative, different, experimental music. I like noisy shit, but quiet's good too. Listen to Hex Screw and then Baskettree and see how that makes your brain feel.

How many copies do you release of your different albums? Are your CD-R releases burned by demand or do you always make a certain amount from the beginning?

It varies a lot. If it is a CD release then its either 500 or 1000. That's pretty much the minimum you have to get. CD-R releases have ranged anywhere from 25 to 300. Usually I try and do 200 copies per CD-R title. I try and make them up all at once as opposed to burning them by demand. Then I know I won't slack and not ever make a bunch of copies.

You're located in Baltimore, Maryland. Is that a fertile ground for indie music?

I like to think so, and I do think so. There is definitely a very experimentally conscious group of people living in the city and on the outskirts of Baltimore. All styles and genres are releasing records and playing shows any night of the week. Noise, metal, folk, electronic, hip hop, rock, improv, etc. Venues are fairly plentiful, not too much of a monopoly. Good house shows, basement shows, warehouses, and art spaces... motivated people makes for good times. The copycat building is full of MICA art students who do a bunch of shit. Still haven't been there though...?

How do you promote your bands (fanzines, e-zines, radio,...)?

I try and do a lot of mailers to radio, e-zines, and paper zines. The majority of the releases get good reviews, and airplay on college and Internet stations. I do ads sometimes, and also trade with some pretty fuckin' cool labels like Crucial Blast and Valiant Death. So it gets exposure from different angles.

You mostly release experimental / avant-garde artists. How do you react when you are approached by a more commercially sounding band?

It's a bit weird I guess. Who am I to tell someone how to sound? But then again, if I'm not feeling it, then I'm not comfortable in releasing it. The label has been lucky in having all these bands that are so distinct and unique in their own ways. There's only been a few occasions where someone has approached me with something I wasn't really feeling. I try to be straight up with people and so I'll let them know. I would want the same in return if I sent my music to a label or personally approached someone with it.

What are your future plans for MT6 Records?

Release lots of great music, meet people, get inspired, release more great music. Upcoming discs by Mother Orchid, Pat Grant and The Blown Fuses, A) Torture Mechanism, Bo Lee Da, Newagehillbilly/Human Host Split 7", The New Flesh 7", etc.

Anything left to say...

Thanks to everyone and anyone who has supported MT6 and all the bands associated with it. Please continue and tell your friends.

Places to visit:

MT6 Records, official website

MT6 Records on Myspace

Newagehillbilly, MT6 Alex' alter ego and musical project

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