If you’ve attempted to order anything from Tridroid Records since around the middle of March, you’ve probably noticed that something wasn’t quite right – more specifically, you probably didn’t get your order, or any sort of explanation as to why. It just seemed like Tridroid’s owner Christine Kelly fell of the face off the Earth…
I don’t think it’s any secret that Christine is a friend of the Vault. Even so, when she got in touch with me a few weeks ago to say that she was getting ready to relaunch the label and that she had a few things she wanted to talk about, I was a bit hesitant at first. If you hadn’t noticed, we prefer to be Switzerland here at IMV – we get told a lot of things about a variety of subjects, but we never publicly comment on any of them. Since you’re currently reading this, it should be obvious that I did decide to do the interview, I did, however, place one condition on doing so: don’t expect softballs. Christine said she didn’t want softballs, so here we are.
If you’re one of the customers, bands, or collaborators who may be feeling ripped off and have been waiting for an explanation, here it is…
Indy Metal Vault: This is a very different sort of interview than what I’m used to, in that I’m pretty sure you have…not necessarily an agenda, but things you definitely want to talk about. So with this first ‘question’ here, I think I’m just going to try to set you up to do that. I recall that back in mid-March, I was talking with you about setting up an interview with Heavy Temple ahead of April’s FireBreather Fest in Indy. Shortly after that, I saw you were moving to NOLA, and then you pretty well fell off the face of the planet until late July/early August. So…what happened? Where have you been? What kept you from posting anything about needing to take a brief hiatus before you disappeared?
Christine Kelly: Hey! Yeah, it’s been some crazy times here at the Tridroid camp – my housing situation in Brooklyn became tenuous, to put it lightly. There were lawyers, judges, and just a lot of stressful times right before I headed out. I’d already figured out moving, but something about how that housing court system worked in Brooklyn was really hard on my mental health. Anyway, we got out of a poor situation and had to move a large amount of stuff and life very quickly. My wife and I were exhausted to the point of not even talking to each other, and everything else seemed so big and so difficult that I really let all communication slip because even the smallest things were huge in my mind. I think that’s a big part of anxiety and depression – that they make even small things seem gigantic. Every day I wanted to email bands and customers, and I’d find myself in the midst of an anxiety attack.
One of the biggest things was that, in my mind, I’d let everyone down – bands, customers, fans, the whole works. If you’ve gone through a major depressive episode you can probably relate, but for those who haven’t, you brain is really telling you how terrible you are and how your life is ruined. That nothing you could ever do could ever be enough to get through ‘this,’ whatever ‘this’ may be. It became this spiral of ‘if I talk to this person, then I’ll have to talk about what’s happening, which is that I’m just a massive failure in every possible way.’ I’m not excusing my behavior, either – I also wasn’t in a place where I could even speak the words for a very long time.
IMV: Then as the obvious follow-up, what made you decide it was time to resurface?
CK: After I’d been here a while (and here is rural Louisiana) I decided to do the one thing I felt I could do, which was call my close friend Tanner Anderson, because I figured if anyone could understand what I was saying, it’d be him. He’s been my closest friend for 12+ years even though we’ve never lived within 1000 miles of each other. I called him up, and he told me that rather than anyone being angry with me, people were honestly worried. One of our mutual friends, Carl Skildum, is in a band I’d been in talks with for a release and if anyone would be angry with me, it’d be Carl. Tanner told me that Carl wasn’t even remotely angry, that he was concerned because I was a friend and he wanted to make sure I was all right. That one phone call was a massive step in my recovery, because it showed me that what my brain had been telling me for several months was just wrong; people weren’t angry with me – they wanted to make sure I was all right because they were my friends.
Then, I saw that Un was playing a show in Baton Rouge – Monte McCleery was also someone I’d felt I let down because I hadn’t been in contact. And same story – he wasn’t angry, he was worried. Seeing Un play in an unconditioned DIY venue in Louisiana during the hottest time of the year gave me goosebumps, the new tracks were so amazing. As the show progressed I felt like I COULD go on, and that maybe things would be all right, especially if I had these amazing musicians in my corner.
From that day forward, I was planning on how to get myself and the label back on our feet, because I felt like maybe if these people understood, maybe I could talk about what happened too and others would feel like they’re not alone. Because one of the biggest things with mental illness is that feeling that nobody could understand, and that everyone hates you. If me talking about what happened is at all helpful to anyone else suffering, then I want to use my platform to be a voice.
IMV: Given the abruptness with which you essentially vanished, I’m guessing that your departure from handling the day-to-day business of Tridroid was similarly abrupt. What kind of state was the label in when you came back to it? Unfilled orders? PayPal disputes? Bands/collaborators who weren’t paid? Full disclosure: I’ve heard of a couple of cases of the latter, but I don’t know about orders. If I had to guess, though…
CK: Oh man – all of it. Nearly all orders that HADN’T been refunded are now sent, and I can only hope that I can rebuild the trust I’d built with customers before. There are a couple of collaborators that I owe payments to, but I’ve reached out and am fully committed to making good on any monetary promises. I’ve got the label Bandcamp back up and running now and my glorious, amazing wife has taken on the task of communicating with customers about unfilled orders. I can’t even tell you what a huge part of my recovery Melissa has been – she’s been checking my email and letting me know how lovely and gracious people have been, and that’s also been a huge part in my recovery. I can’t imagine being able to come out of this without her. She’s able to organize everything from inventory to emails and has been THE most instrumental force in the re-launch.
IMV: Let me preface this question by saying that I’m not attempting to draw any personal parallels here, but one of the things that strikes me about all of the negativity (deserved or not) hurled at Ascensions Monuments Media, the label Blake Judd is now involved with, from almost the very first moment it was announced is that people are very slow to forgive when they feel like they’ve been (or actually have been) ripped off. From our conversations before your unplanned hiatus, you had some pretty big plans for Tridroid in 2018. Have you thought about how you’re going to go about regaining people’s trust so that they’ll feel comfortable ordering from you again? What about convincing new bands/other labels/design and layout people to work with Tridroid?
CK: I can absolutely see the connection drawn there – in fact, I’ve thought of it myself! I imagine all the threads on forums about what a rip-off Tridroid Records is, and I can’t blame anyone for that perception but myself. I wasn’t reliable and I broke customers’ and bands’ trust. With everyone I’ve reached out to band-wise, I’ve been fully understanding if they’d prefer not to work with me – your band is your business, after all, in every possible way!
The remarkable thing has been that everyone I’ve reached out to has not only been understanding, but has expressed interest in working with me in the future. Even my distributor, who I owe shipments to, emailed me to say ‘hey, I saw you had some bumps in the road and I haven’t gotten an invoice from you – I know some money would help you out, so just send an invoice and we’ll pay the balance ASAP.’ No mention of all the hassles I’ve caused them. I honestly can’t believe myself how wonderful people have been, but I imagine because a lot of us can relate to mental health issues like depression and anxiety. In fact, nearly every person I’ve spoken to has said they’ve dealt with a lot of the same issues. My hope is that talking about it with each other makes us realize we’re not alone.
IMV: I’m having a difficult time figuring out how to phrase this question, so I’m just going to go for it: You’ve never been one to shy away from calling people out on social media (and not necessarily undeservedly so) for what you considered problematic/sketch behavior. I’m friendly with a couple of them, in fact, and one of our own writers has run afoul of you as well. The reason I bring this up is that I’m wondering if you’ve considered (or even prepared) for the possibility that you may be on the receiving end of some of those callouts yourself when you re-launch the label?
CK: I love this question, and thank you for bringing it up! I WANT people to take me to task, and I’ve absolutely been at the forefront of call-out culture in metal, for better or worse. And yes, my behavior on social media has been pretty… specific in a certain direction. What I’m hoping with the re-launch is to bring up some of the issues that keep us FROM being as good as we can be, in personal interaction and ones based in social media. We’re all problematic, but it’s important to also hold each other to the flame while also being radically decent to each other. Radically decent meaning that we don’t shy away from telling each other when something is wrong or hurtful, but also holding each other up when someone needs it. It’s sometimes difficult to know when someone needs one or the other (or both!) but holding each other to a high standard of decency and respect is an important thing, and something I won’t be shying away from. Even when I’m the one being called out.
IMV: So what is next for Tridroid? Do you have a slate of releases lined up for the rest of 2018?
CK: One of the biggest things with the re-launch is to take less on and to focus on cassette releases – I want to make sure this label is sustainable so I can continue. That said, here are some upcoming things I’m looking at:
High Cost (former Septic Rot) – debut EP
A band out of Brooklyn blending hardcore, grindcore, and metal in a mode similar to that of Couch Slut. Their EP deals with issues of mental health, something I very much share with the vocalist, Erica. It’s a fast blast of sound and I think people are gonna LOVE every second.
Also working on the following upcoming licenses for cassette releases:
Antiverse – Under the Regolith(Seeing Red Records)
Un – Sentiment(Translation Loss Records)
IMV: Since we’ve chatted before, you know I like to leave the last word to my interview subjects. Anything else you want to add?
CK: Just gonna throw in that sometimes we make big mistakes, and the people around us can help lift us up, especially when we’ve all been through similar shit. Let’s take care of each other, y’all.