If you’ve been paying attention to our reviews lately, you’ll have noticed that we’re big fans of Arizona-based label Fólkvangr Records. A boutique label specializing in cassette reissues of black metal albums, they’ve already put out killer records from Afar, Sojourner, Selvans and Enisum this year, and they’re just getting started. Mark Addington, the man behind the label, was good enough to answer a few questions for us via email about the label. Check it out below, and then get hyped for the Sovereign, Chiral, and Violet Cold records that are dropping soon!
Indy Metal Vault: Fólkvangr is a relatively new label, at least in terms of physically releasing music. When did you first get the idea to start the label, and how long did it take you to get from the initial idea to releasing your first tape? And how did you decide on the name?
Mark Addington: Sometimes I forget how little time the label has actually been up and running. I run another label called Baby Tooth Records with my friend Jake and we help put out local musicians on cassette, so it felt like a natural progression to start a second label to work with artists in the genre that has been so important to me over the past 15 years. My girlfriend has been a huge support and help with everything I do for the label and she was actually the person that gave me the final push to do work that I actually find joy in, and for that I am extremely indebted to her. As for the name, Fólkvangr is a giant field ruled over by the Norse goddess Freyja, and it is said that half of the combatants who died in battle would go to Fólkvangr and the other half would go to Valhalla. It just felt right as soon as I thought of it and I am glad I stuck with it.
IMV: Thus far, you’ve specialized in cassettes, though you’re also doing a vinyl version of Violet Cold’s Anome. Why the cassette format? Do you plan on branching out and doing more with other formats?
MA: I love cassettes, I still remember buying Metallica’s Master of Puppets on cassette as a kid with my allowance money I had saved up. A lot of it is definitely nostalgia for me, but it is also affordable (both to produce and to buy) and collectible and I think that the format has found its way into a lot of hearts and homes. I would love to be able to do more vinyl releases in the future and I am even open to doing some CDs if the situation seems right. I had originally planned on doing cassettes only, but as time goes by and more people are supporting what the label is doing, I would like to be able to have more options for both the artists I work with and the people spending their hard earned money on what I am making.
IMV: Your roster is pretty diverse, ranging from the very melodic Sojourner album to the really harsh Sovereign demo. How do you decide what to release? I have noticed a handful of the albums were originally released by Avantgarde - is that a just a coincidence, or do you have some kind of working arrangement with them?
MA: For me, I really have to like an album to put it out. If I get a submission from a band I will listen to it two or three times through and then leave it alone, and if a day or a week later, I find myself wanting to come back to it and hear it again, then I know I am on the right track. When I first started the label I was actually just approaching people whose music I enjoyed listening to and asking if they would like to work with me, and for some strange reason, it worked. Being able to work with Sojourner, Enisum and Selvans (all fantastic bands on Avantgarde Music from Italy) was a huge honor for me. Roberto, the owner of the label, has been extremely generous in allowing me to work with bands on his label. I have a feeling those won’t be the last Avantgarde titles you see on the label, but who knows what the future holds.
IMV: You’ve primarily done reissues at this point, or at least cassette versions of albums originally released by other labels. Do you ever see the label signing and developing its own artists, or do you prefer working with other labels?
MA: I am not sure if it was so much an intentional thing for me to start the label out with reissues, but it definitely fit into the timeline and goals I was setting for myself and the label. I wanted to be ready to go right out of the gate with great stuff to offer and to show people what I capable of doing, and the best way for me to do that was to start working with artists who had material ready to go and that I thought people would like to listen to on a different medium. Working with other people can be a bit challenging as you are no longer at the mercy of your own personal drive and ambition and it takes a little bit longer and a little more effort to get things done, that being said, I have been extremely fortunate in that all the labels I have been lucky enough to work with have a similar mindset and work ethic as I do. Now that the label is a little more established, I have been getting more and more submissions from unsigned artists, so it is safe to say that in the very near future you will see material from some bands you may not have heard of just yet.
IMV: Folkvangr is a black metal label. What drew you to that particular type of music? Are you a musician yourself?
MA: I have always loved metal music, when I was growing up in the early 90’s I was listening to Metallica, Pantera, Slayer, Type O Negative, bands like that… when I was 15 and finally heard Emperor, I was sold. It is hard to say why something catches your attention, but there was something about the contrast of beautiful melodies with the harshness of the vocals and the guitars and drums that has always been really appealing to me. I was in a few garage bands in my teens playing black and death metal and have had a few recording projects with my younger brother, but these days I leave the actual music to people who are much more capable than I am.
IMV: What’s been the most difficult thing about running a label? Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew when you were just getting started?
MA: Honestly the hardest part about having a label or being in a band, or really doing anything that you are passionate about, is sacrificing your personal time and money. In my day job, it is not uncommon for me to work a 45-60 hour work week and then I add on that about 10-15 hours of label work and that all adds up to a lot of long days and less sleep than is probably healthy. I don’t really think I was lacking in any major knowledge as far as getting the cassettes going and out the door, but I do wish that I could give myself some advice and actually follow it, which is to make myself not take things so personally. I get a pretty upset when I see people online giving bands or labels a hard time about having a release delayed or high shipping costs. It is easy to forget that we are all just regular people with day jobs and the time spent making music or putting it out is time we don’t get to spend going out with friends or family or pursuing other things and that the money used usually comes right out of the same account that rent and grocery money does too.
IMV: What’s on the horizon for Folkvangr? Anything in the works for later in the year that you can talk about?
MA: Hopefully eternal glory is on the horizon, but I’ll settle for putting out more great music for people that I consider to be my friends. Beyond what is already announced on the Bandcamp page, I will be doing some cassettes for the Tucson-based DSBM band Suicide Forest for their appearance at Festum Carnis in July and if we are all lucky, you may see a side project or two of Sojourner in the near future. I would also love to get some shirts made for the label, so that is always something I have in the back of my mind and would love to be able to.