For [under_]#3, we're setting our sights across the pond to speak to Jonathan Lees, the founder of UK label Hibernate Recordings. Hibernate is based out of Hebden Bridge, a small town in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales. Since 2009, Hibernate has released some of the best ambient music going, courtesy of artists like Ian Hawgood, Wil Bolton, Konntinent, and Felicia Atkinson. Jonathan spoke to Epitonic about how he approaches artists to record for him, what his dream Hibernate release would be, and his plans for 2012.
As always, there's a little selection of goodies from the featured label available to download at the bottom of the page.
How did Hibernate get started?
Hibernate started up in July 2009. I'd always wanted to run a record label but never had the know-how or confidence to start one. A couple of things [helped] kick it off: first, my two stepsons were in a band that got "signed" by a label who basically ripped them off and did nothing for them. I figured if I had a go I least I would put some effort in. In the end, I didn't actually ever release anything for [my sons' band]; instead I chose to put out music by artists whose music I loved. Our first release was for Ian Hawgood; I'd been following him via the net label scene for a while. Our second release was for Chihei Hatakeyama. I couldn't believe he said yes [since] his previous albums had been released on prestigious labels like Kranky and Room40.
What was it like approaching artists when you were first starting out?
It was tough in the beginning. MySpace was the platform [to contact] most artists, as was SoundCloud in its early days. I was never nervous about asking and always a little cheeky in my approach, [adopting] the mindset that if you don't ask, you don't get. But most of the time I never got a reply -- or just the occasional no or maybe. [Now] some of those maybes are writing back to me, asking if they can release on Hibernate. It definitely was a Catch-22 situation in those early days – the label needed established artists in order to establish itself, but a lot of artists [were hesitant] to release their material on an unknown [label]. Thankfully there were some that did, and we got there in the end.
What's a working week like at Hibernate HQ?
I work a normal 9-5 job so pretty much everything Hibernate is done on weekends and during evenings. But that said, since I work on a computer I do spend some time during the day promoting releases and replying to emails. Most weekends and evenings are spent packaging and preparing stuff to be posted, listening to demos and occasionally I get to do some design or photography for a project, which is cool.
It must be a pretty busy to balance a 9-5 with running a label. Does everyone at work call you "cool record label guy?"
Ha! No, I keep it a secret from work. I'm a pretty humble person [and] I'd probably get in to trouble if I was caught working on Hibernate whilst on the job.
If you could sign any artist or band to Hibernate, who would it be and why?
It would have to be Labradford, just because I'm a massive fan of their drifting sound and their later stuff fits [perfectly with] Hibernate’s ethos to [support artists who combine] electronically processed and organic sounds. But I know that's never gonna happen. Most importantly, running the label has been about making new friends and having fun working with artists I know in person like Ian Hazeldine (Antonymes), Wil Bolton and Katie English (Isnaj Dui). That's what makes it all worthwhile.
What advice would you give anyone who's thinking of starting a record label?
Go with your heart, be clear about your goals and have a real passion for the music. Don't go putting out drone music if you like Northern Soul! And be organized and prepared to work hard.
What does Hibernate have planned for 2012?
We've got a load of new music coming out. Albums from Isnaj Dui, Caught in the Wake Forever, Autistici, Chihei Hatakayama, Ian Hawgood and Antonymes. Also we're starting a new collaboration series between artists on our roster. These are going to be limited edition letter pressed 3" CDs.
Finally, please can you tell us a little bit about each of the mp3s you've chosen for us?
Ermmm, I'm not great at describing music. These are tracks from our current releases: "Barbed" by Wil Bolton is from his current LP Under A Name That Hides Her. "Wait" is from Jonatan Nästesjö, who used to record under the name Woodchucker; this track appears on one of our postcard series releases. Isnaj Dui's "Quarter Wave" is off her album Abstracts on Solitude, and finally, "Last Of The Heroin" is from Caught In The Wake Forever's upcoming album.
Your playlist is lookin' mighty bare, hoss.
Click the '+' and add some tracks.
Click the '+' and add some tracks.
John Cage 4'33"