Not many fans of dark country and other horror-tinged roots music genres know that a record label dedicated to just that lays hiding in peaceful Leo, Indiana. Devil’s Ruin Records just released three CDs in their “Best of Dark Roots Music” collection. We exchanged emails with DRR founder Eddie Obituary about the past and future of the label.
How did your label initially start?
Devil's Ruin was the culmination of being incredibly frustrated for years over the lack of music being released that I was interested in. There were hundreds of great artists creating music, but there were few labels behind them releasing and pushing their music. Foregoing any sense of a business plan I formed the company and immediately began releasing music I was interested in as a fan.
How did your label become internationally reputable?
From the beginning the label has been very internationally based. Our first two releases are from artists in Germany and Brazil, respectively. The main reason for the continuing association with foreign artists and popularity with international fans is rooted in the rest of world's intrigue into the old west. The U.S. as a whole is desensitized to the sound of a banjo and writes it off as a Deliverance joke. The rest of the world is quicker to take a chance on a sound that may be new to them. Once they take that chance, they understand what we are doing and we've make a new fan.
How are you being the change that you want to see in the music industry?
The only rule that I have when I decide whether to release an album is if I like the music. We don't have a research department figuring out current trends on what fourteen year old girls will purchase or what our market group is. What big label executive would fund an album of a crazy German kazoo wielding banjo player singing gospel songs?
When looking for bands to put out on your label, what exactly are you looking for?
There is a scene in Dead Poet's Society in which the students are asked to graph what makes a good piece of literature and the task is absurd. There isn't a way to quantify anything in regards to what we release. No exciting sales expectations equations or anything, I am the A&R department.
Did making Amazon's top 100 Americana albums provide a sense of accomplishment?
The moment of our album hitting the top 100 was really redeeming. It showed that we are indeed onto something. It also helped to know that the thousands and thousands of albums I'm sitting on are now finding homes.
Where do you see the label in five years?
We have some really big releases on the way, actually. I hope with these artist positioning themselves with Devil's Ruin we can continue to gain momentum that allows us to release albums that otherwise would go unheard.
What do you think is the best method of getting the word out about independent labels/music in general?
With the internet allowing everyone to be segmented into such specific communities the biggest thing that has worked for us is that we have created our own brand. Fans have an idea of what a Devil's Ruin release is going to be. I would push a label to do the same. Major labels throw darts randomly and hope something hits huge. Though success is on a different scale, we, however, have fans we know will dig our bands and purchase every album we release.
What do you detest about current music trends?
I'm a little taken back by the piracy of our music. I don't want to use the word detest, because I want fans to hear and enjoy the artists music. The current mentality is that all labels are evil, but I don't think people realize how much small labels have at stake with each release.
You have released over 30 albums now under Devil's Ruin Records, which is your favorite and why?
My favorite album is one that we will release in the summer entitled Animal Index by JB Nelson. The album is a fantastically bizarre combination of Swans noise, old blues, and Nine Inch Nails epic album quality spread over two CDs. The album was recorded by JB with the studio time he booked for his brother "Sleepy Eyes" Nelson, but when Sleepy experienced an episode and locked himself in a hotel room for a week, [JB] was inspired to create something. The result is Animal Index. You can hear the lament and frustration within the album and it really phenomenal. We have released a free album to download tracks called Animal Extracts on our website.
What do you have planned for the near future?
We have released four albums of dark roots music on five discs featuring 84 bands and are really happy about the response we are getting for that. Also, we have a project called Kithfolk in which we are releasing one CD a month, limited to 100 each from different artists. Fans can subscribe on our website.