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Behind the Scene Features Interviews

An Interview With Christine Kelly of Tridroid Records

I suppose it’s possible that we’ve just gotten really lucky here at the Vault, but the overwhelming majority of the people we’ve come in contact with thus far in our history have been pretty fucking cool. Of course, there are always exceptions, and I’ve heard plenty of horror stories from other people about dealing with difficult personalities, but our experiences reinforce something I’ve always suspected: metal people tend to be hella good people.

One of our current favorite people is Christine Kelly, owner of Brooklyn-based indie label Tridroid Records. And because we like it when rad things happen for people that we like, we’re beyond thrilled with the announcement that Tridroid will be releasing what’s sure to be two of the most sought-after cassette reissues of 2017: legendary Viking black metallers Enslaved’s 1994 debut Vikingligr Veldi (preorder here) and Norse folk outfit Wardruna’s 2016 masterpiece Runaljod – Ragnarok (preorder here). I’ve been fortunate enough to get to see the mockups of the packaging for both tapes, and they are absolutely gorgeous – trust me, tape collectors will want to snag both for how amazing they look just as much as they will for the stellar music.

Christine was cool enough to take a bit of time to answer a few questions about Tridroid and how she managed to score such a coup with these reissues.

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Indy Metal Vault: So between finding yourself in the middle of the whole Nazis in black metal conversation and Shadow Woods Metal Fest, you’ve had quite a busy last few weeks. And I just saw that Season of Mist is going to distro Tridroid titles, which is hella cool. If that’s not enough, now you’re gearing up for a pair of major releases. Are you wishing you had a minute or two to catch your breath, or do you like the hectic pace?

Christine Kelly: I gotta say, I do like running a label way more than having a ‘real’ job, so if a hectic pace is what it takes I’m all for it! It does feel like everything’s happening all at once, but I’ve been involved behind the scenes in underground metal for about 16 years now so I feel pretty prepared for the opportunities coming my way at least. The past couple of weeks, though, I’ve definitely found myself repeating ‘it’s allllll happening‘ a few times, ha.

IMV: I didn’t realize that Tridroid has been around since 2012. I know you’re not exclusively a cassette label, but from what I can tell you were doing cassettes pretty much from the start, right? Were you ahead of the curve in terms of the whole tape renaissance? What prompted you to start the label in the first place?

CK: There’s an interesting backstory to Tridroid, and the first piece is that I didn’t originally start it. Andrew Rehberger started it back in 2012, and was definitely one of the first metal labels to be cassette-based before the big resurgence a few years ago. He released a lot of bands that were local to him in the Minneapolis area and licensed some bigger releases from Century Media and Svart Records. I’d actually been ordering tapes from Tridroid well before taking it over!

Back in 2016, Andrew and Jason Oberuc (his label partner and member of Suffering Hour) decided they wanted to pass Tridroid on to another owner and keep the name alive. I wrote an email that basically said, “I’ll kill it at running this label and here’s why….” so back in June of 2016 I became the new owner of Tridroid. Soon thereafter, Andrew tragically passed away. What I want to do with Tridroid is put out heavy underground sounds and honor his memory.

Mockup of the Enslaved cassette. Taken from the Tridroid webstore.

IMV: Okay, so let’s talk about those major releases. One of them is Enslaved’s first full-length, Vikingligr Veldi. That’s fucking huge. Enslaved is big enough that they could have probably worked with just about any label they wanted to – how did a boutique label from Queens end up reissuing the debut record from arguably the most important Viking black metal band not named Bathory in the history of the genre?

CK: Oh man, if anyone had told me I’d get this opportunity I’d have said they were full of shit. So the way it came about is that I have a VERY well-connected friend who suggested licensing some titles for Enslaved on cassette to Simon (of ByNorse and AISA). I met Simon and Ivar at the Bardspec show here in Brooklyn and brought a copy of the Uprising Deluxe Edition cassette I did – Simon held it in his hand, looked at it, and said, “This is exactly what I want for Enslaved. Would you like to put out Vikingligr Veldi?” And then I nearly fainted.

Soon after, we discussed Wardruna’s Ragnarok (they’re on ByNorse as well) and this time I held myself together because my brain was already in atmosphere with excitement. I couldn’t be more stoked because Wardruna releases are just beautiful and I figured I could make it so fans also recognized how beautiful cassettes could be.

Honestly though, the main answer to your question is that I was in the right place at the right time with the right tape.

IMV: I’m curious about how the packaging and layout for the Enslaved tape came about. I know that IMV’s bromantic life partner Mark from Fólkvangr did the layout for the J-cards, and if I’m not mistaken Marty from Bindrune did the bags the tapes will come in. Is that sort of spirit of cooperation common among smaller labels, given that you’re all sort of competing for the attention (and money) of the same small pool of music consumers?

CK: Well now I’m super jealous because I call Mark my rad bromancer! I had no idea he was steppin’ out on me. Anyway, Mark and I are close buds and are putting out the new Violet Cold together. He’s one of my favorite people and I know he loves Enslaved, so when I got this opportunity I kinda wanted to spread the joy around and involve him. He did an amazing job with the layout – you gotta see it.

Marty is another one of my favorite people – I can honestly say I wouldn’t be where I am without him. He gave me a shot writing for Worm Gear back in 2005 or so and has been a music biz mentor to me ever since. He does all screenprinting for Tridroid and he’s just the absolute best.

What I’m hoping to build is a sense of comradery because honestly, we’re all just a big bunch of music nerds and fighting each other to get our ‘piece’ is just counterproductive. Why not work together and spread knowledge and resources? It’ll only help more excellent music get out into the world and raise visibility for all of us. I love promoting other labels run by excellent people with excellent music – at my core, I’m just a big music fan.

Mockup of the Wardruna cassette. Taken from the Tridroid webstore.

IMV: So the other big release you’re enouncing today is Wardruna’s Runaljod – Ragnarok. You’ve got a definite Viking theme going on here with this batch of releases. I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of your catalog, but you haven’t released many folk records, right? How did you end up working on this one?

CK: Right place, right time, right tape! But yeah, not a lot in the backcatalog in the realm of folk at all. Anything along the lines of Wardruna’s material would be a welcome addition, though!

IMV: Along the same lines as that last question, what do you make of the recent resurgence of interest in and popularity of Viking culture? Between the success of the show Vikings (which has featured Wardruna’s music) and Neil Gaiman’s recent Norse Mythology, Vikings are probably as mainstream as they’ve been in quite some time. On the one hand, it’s arguably created more of an audience for pagan/folk like Wardruna, but do you think that audience is sustainable that the Viking thing is more of a fad?

CK: I feel like metalheads have been obsessed with Vikings for as long as I can remember, so seeing a kinda mainstream surge of it just means we have more to watch and read – I’m into it! If it does end up being a fad in the mainstream, we’ll still have plenty of metalheads writing material anyway.

IMV: Thanks again for your time and willingness to answer a few questions. I’ll leave the last word to you – anything else you want to add?

CK: INDY METAL VAULT RULES!!!!!!

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Wardruna’s Runaljod – Ragnarok will ship on October 12. It can be preordered HERE.

Enslaved’s Vikingligr Veldi will ship on November 9. It can be preordered HERE.

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