Under The Stairs

Written by Maggie Serota on . Posted in Posts.

The wheels of Dais Records were set in motion a few years ago in, of all places, Genesis P-Orridge’s basement. While volunteering his time as the Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV founder’s archivist, Greenpoint resident Ryan Martin had access to a veritable goldmine of unheard recordings. One day Martin found an original mastertape of P-Orridge’s Early Worm recording and expressed disappointment over the record never seeing the light of day.

“I mentioned to Genesis that I couldn’t believe that someone didn’t put this out.” Martin recalls. So P-Orridge suggested that Martin should put the record out himself.

Later, Martin called a friend in L.A., Gibby Miller, with the proposition to start a label. By the end of the day, the pair had a website. With no real financial backing except for some money saved from their day jobs and a few eBay sales, the pair had launched Dais. This was a little over two years ago.

“We didn’t really know what we were doing,” says Miller with a laugh. From then on it was a crash course in all aspects of record production, from packaging to mastering to distribution all the while juggling day jobs, musical projects and, in Martin’s case, continuing to act as P-Orridge’s manager.

When I ask if he was daunted by starting a label in the midst of an economic downturn, Martin just shrugs.

“Before I started I had heard every horror story about running a label, that records wouldn’t sell and I’d be sitting on tons of copies,” Martin explains. This hasn’t been a problem since, at the time of this interview, eight of the 12 Dais releases have sold out of their print runs. According to Martin, The Tony Conrad/Genesis P-Orridge collaboration Taking Issue sold out within 24 hours.

Martin also isn’t intimidated by decreased albums sales due to downloading.

“I was just reading that vinyl sales are actually up.” Martin offers.

Dais followed the Early Worm release with the Whip & The Body Hear on Exile 7” featuring vocalist Michael Berdan and drummer Jeremy Villalobos of Brooklyn’s abrasive noise outfit Drunkdriver. The record is the result of Villalobos and Berdan playing together after a handful of Drunkdriver practices. This also sold out of its press run. Not bad for a band that has never even played a show and, technically, doesn’t really exist.

The label will also add some more name recognition to the roster in the near future by putting out a full-length by porn star Sasha Grey’s experimental noise outfit aTelecine. Miller describes aTelecine’s sound as “dark, noisy and haunting.”

In addition to salvaging otherwise lost recordings, Dais has also become an arbiter of current taste by releasing one of the first Cold Cave records.

“Gibby’s friend Wes was just recording in his bedroom under the name Cold Cave. Since I was putting out records by my friends, Gibby wanted to put out a record by one of his friends,” Martin explains.

The fact that Cold Cave has since been signed to Matador shows that the fledgling label has the ability to put out music with broad appeal in addition to putting out experimental records.

Considering how in demand his releases are, one has to wonder if the founders of Dais will be able to leave their day jobs and focus on the label full-time.

“No. I would have to make print runs of thousands,” Martin says and shudders. “I would have to have showcases and hype things and have ads out there. Having to hype things would repulse me. People are asking me why I don’t reprint records to make money. When I put out a record, it’s done and time to move on to the next one.”

Martin is loath to think of himself as a businessman, instead seeing himself as just a record geek putting out records he would like to own. Helpfully, the label pays for itself.

“We can do a few records at a time and not have to worry about what’s in the bank,” Martin reports,” We haven’t made a dime off the label, but we haven’t lost a dime either.”

Still, Martin seems more pre-occupied with his upcoming release schedule. “I’m pretty much booked for the next two years with 22 releases,” he says a bit wearily. But if I don’t have a project, I’ll go crazy.”