More than six years ago, Caleb Braaten started Sacred Bones Records on the strength of a seven inch by death rock crew The Hunt. Its been all downhill from there; a deluge of new releases with names like Zola Jesus, The Men, Destruction Unit, Crystal Stilts, The Fresh & Onlys, Pharmakon and many more followed. Yet, Braaten's passion for records that initally inspired his journey hasn't faltered, and along the way Sacred Bones has released reissues of titles like the Eraserhead soundtrack, records by UV Pop and more. With the new deathrock compilation Killed By Deathrock, Vol 1 and a discography of anarcho-punk band Vex on deck, we chatted with the label head about his process for reissues.
How did the inspiration to create a compilation come about, seeing as most of your offerings are new full-lengths/EPs? Was there a particular track that you thought "this must be available to the masses" that sparked the idea?
I was inspired by the great DIY compilations like Killed By Death (obviously), Messthetics, etc, but there had never been a compilation that focused on this kind of music. I've been compiling this particular compilation for the last 7 years, but I've been collecting these kinds of records for years and years. These bands are mostly unknown outside of the record collecting community and even there, most people don't know them.
What do you think is your most precious find on the Deathrock compilation and where did it come from?
Your Funeral for sure. I believe I picked up an old stock copy of it at Wax Trax in Denver which is where the original label (Local Anesthetic) was based. That record blew me away. It's a mix of everything I love. It's this female fronted dark punk / garage rock / DIY monster. I couldn't believe how good it was.
Was gaining permission to repress some of the previously release material tough? Is there a particularly interesting story about a band you approached who were skeptical about the reissue, etc?
Yeah, it took a lot of internet sleuthing. I can't think of anything that was particularly exciting. Afterimage was inspired to self release their album after I contacted them. That was really cool.
The Vex is another reissue that is due in the near future, how did you become acquainted with the band's music?
I'm not sure when I first became acquainted with their music. It was probably from trolling blogs like Kill Your Pet Puppy or something. I know that I got the mp3s and fell in love with them. Me and Gabby who does all the mailorder here have listened to this at the office a million times. I couldn't find the record anywhere. I think it came up on ebay once and it just went for way too much money. Sometime the best part of doing the reissues is finally getting a copy of the record for myself!
What is the current status of the members of Vex and what was it like approaching them regarding the reissue?
This story is a little better. I looked for the founding member of this band for years and years. I finally found him on youtube. I had read somewhere, on some blog, that he had been making music under a different name so I came across a video he uploaded and contacted him there. The crazy thing was like 2 days later this kid Zen was staying on my couch. He was in town playing in his band called Natural Assembly. Turns out that his Dad is Scrote, the man that only after years of searching I had managed to track down. It all seemed very serendipitous.
David Lynch is not only releasing new LPs with you, but also reissuing some of his classic soundtrack material as well. How did your relationship with him start?
I jjust got really lucky. I had prepared a package to send him, it was basically a copy of every version of every record that SB had put out, a pretty massive box of records. The thinking was that whether or not it was something he would be interested in, he would have to at least have to be curious enough to open it. That was good enough for me. But as I was preparing to send this box out, I found out that a friend of a friend was working for David and felt comfortable enough to hand it off in person. Apparently he was impressed enough to hear me out. I pitched the idea of reissuing the Eraserhead soundtrack and he was keen. We've since nurtured a good relationship with him and his camp. It's been a real dream come true.
You have released a few soundtracks by Lynch, but what is your favorite film?
That's a fine question. The answer is a bit complicated. Eraserhead is one of the most influential films in my life. It totally blew my mind the first time I saw it, and it continues to do so to this day. But I think that I enjoy Blue Velvet the most. I can watch that one over and over again. Eraserhead is a bit heavier.
Clearly the deathrock compilation was a labor of love and comes from years of crate-digging. Your own reissues aside, what is the best record that you've found in the most unlikely of places?
At Wax Trax they used to wrap their t-shirts around records, so every t-shirt you bought would come with a record. Mostly it would be copies of Whipped Cream and Other Delights and the like, but every once in a while they would throw a gem in there. Maybe they were promos or something, but one time I bought a t-shirt and there was a copy of Spiritualized "Lazer Guided Melodies". This was the early 90's, maybe 93-94 or something. I had never heard of them, I hadn't ever heard of Spacemen 3. I was very young to be fair. It blew me away, and I was lucky enough to see them open for Siouxsie and the Banshees in 95 and I've been a massive fan ever since.
How much has older labels like Blue Note influenced the Sacred Bones design schema? It seems that you are going for the same aesthetic across all releases.
Blue Note is a HUGE influence on the labels aesthetic along with a lot of others like Factory, Crass and Impulse. I love that when you look at a persons record collection you can tell how many Impulse records they have by that bright orange spine.