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Dragon's Eye: Label Profile

img  Tobias Fischer

About his father's first version of the label
Dragon’s Eye was born out of the true love and lust for records that only a record collector can understand. My father’s focus was on a book of his bread recipes that he had written, designed and would publish himself on a Macintosh Plus computer in my family’s attic. But he was then and still is a record collector, collecting mainly traditional music from the US and around the world. One particular favorite was also a friend of his: George Winston, whose early work was rooted in blues and New Orleans R&B piano. My father decided to incorporate his love of music into his book and asked George to write a piece of music in those styles to accompany it. George agreed and my father set out to launch the label with no real plans past getting to design what was printed on the release, making a logo for the label and giving the release a catalog number. So I think the label’s conception was less about planning for the future and more about indulging this relationship collectors have to these objects that house the music we love.

About family ties

Watching my father’s process of deciding he wanted to make something, positioning himself to do it and then executing it was a huge influence on me as a 9 or 10 year old. Not only did he self-publish a book, which was considerably harder to do without the Internet, but also the book was successful enough that he had to print a second edition. I was and am extremely proud of him for having a vision of something he wanted to create and just going out and doing it. I am a pretty nostalgic person, so when I was faced with the opportunity and drive to undertake a similar venture, it seemed only appropriate to pay homage to him as my role model and continue with the label he had founded. I started the label in much the same way my father did, I had a body of work I wanted to release and one other friend that had agreed to do a release. I hoped to continue the label past there but really didn’t know what would happen. So at its moment of re-conception, there was also no foresight into the future.

My father is extremely happy and supportive of my endeavors with the label. He is also very supportive of my work and I think has liked some of the work I have produced. The direction I have taken the label is not really of any interest to him; he is very clear about electronic music not having the kind of ‘tone’ he likes in music, but he respects the artistry and hard work, nonetheless. My parents were of the 60’s so there was never an expectation of what I should do or be, they just wanted me to be happy. Though in these economic times, being a bread baker might have been a bit more useful.

About the label's connection with the visual arts
I have always loved the visual arts and was actually doing a lot of paintings at the same time I was composing my first release. I was also living in subsidized artist housing when I launched the label and for a few years after. So I was always surrounded by visual arts. It was not a conscious decision at the time. I think because of my surroundings and interests, it was just kind of a natural alignment for me.
Looking back, my father also made the connection with his book/shoundsheet; the cover of his book was a painting by a local artist that my father commissioned. I didn’t make that connection until around the 4th color photo I commissioned for a cover.

About inspirations
When I started the label, one big influence was actually a friend in the DIY scene that was starting a really ambitious zine at the same time. I loved the idea of pairing this kind of work with a hand made aesthetic. So at the start I was really interested in making these art objects that were hand numbered in editions of 100. One of the reasons for starting the label was to build a community of like-minded artists around me. I wanted to do it because I didn’t have that community. I didn’t really know anyone else that was into the kind of work I was into and I certainly didn’t have anyone that could give me guidance as to how to start and run a label. So for the first two years I watched other labels very closely and probably mimicked things here and there that seemed to be working for them.

About relying on the CD Format
The short answer why we're releasing on CDs is money. I started the label while working in a coffee shop and used my tips to fund the releases. That model has not changed much over the years accept that now I am doing freelance design work instead of making coffee. But in my current model of releasing and production, each release will just barely pay for the next if I am lucky. So CDs and MP3s have been an economic way to keep things moving forward. It has always been more important to me to keep releasing and supporting artists then to do the fashionable thing. On a practical level I just like CDs, too. I love how small and accessible they are.

About the first release on the relaunched Dragon's Eye
It was my own work, a score for a dance piece. The design was clear slim jewel cases with vellum mail labels with the text on them. I burned them all with my laptop and I wrote a pretty short and messy press release that is still on the site. I remember this all clearly because I gave the choreographer the first copy and she pointed out a typo in her name on the back sticker. Luckily that was the first one and press copies had not gone out yet, so I rushed home to peel off 100 stickers and reprint and renumber the entire edition.

About deciding which music to release
I look for work and artists that demonstrate a strong conceptual rigor, but are not afraid to make aesthetic decisions as well. I sway pretty strongly to work that is made with a computer, but that is by no means a requirement because I have broken that rule a number of times. I am also mainly interested in artists early or mid way into their careers. There is also a narrative thread present in the label that I am really interested in cultivating. I want each release to complement the last and the next. I really try to have each release interact with the other and maybe give the listener new insight into the last. I try and create this quality in the month-to-month schedule, but also year-to-year. I try and see each year as its own assemblage that has its own unique qualities that somehow address the previous year. So really there are no definable criteria because each new release changes what I am looking for in some small way.

About the importance of real-world relationships with artists
I have always been interested in creating a community and at first I was very interested in a physical community. I wanted to be able to visit studios and be able to get the kind of insight into an artist’s practice that only a real world visit could give. I wanted to be part of the process, sometimes in small ways, sometimes in a large way. Now I am beginning to be more interested in a global community. I don’t want to be limited by proximity, so more and more I am working with international artists. I have come to understand the qualities in the relationship I am looking for. Mainly I want active participants; I want to work with artists that are interested in a continued dialog and continued participation with the label after their release. I am also interested in artists that have a very active role in their own careers.

I had always envisioned being a resource and a stepping-stone for the artists I work with. It fluctuates greatly from release to release. I have been there every step of the way for some releases, from the recording to mastering, conception and commissioning the cover and helping with track order. I have also been given finished, mastered releases that have one cover option and a detailed description to go with them. I really like this mode because it keeps things continually fresh for me and I can never get to set in the way I approach a release.

About the partnership with Infrequency
Jamie and I first met in 2006 on a panel discussion at the Decibel Festival in Seattle and immediately saw a lot of interesting parallels in each other’s work. I was into my second year of the label and he was thinking of resurrecting Infrequency, which had been dormant for a while. So we worked on our separate labels for a few years relying pretty heavily on each other for feedback and support. Then as the economy started to crash at the start of last year it became very hard financially for Jamie to continue the label from Canada, mainly because of soaring shipping costs. So we simply decided to incorporate Infrequency into Dragon’s Eye with me acting purely as a manager and distributor. We still have the collaborative spirit we have always had and I am still curator and art director of Dragon’s Eye and Jamie is the same for Infrequency.

About the consequences of the label's move to LA

Even though it’s been a year and a half, it still feels too soon to tell. I didn’t have the highest expectations for the move because 90% of the labels fans and supporters are not in North America, and most of that remaining 10% is in Canada. So I really thought there would not be much of a change. It’s also hard to gauge when the music industry and the music consumer is changing so quickly. We had a really great year last year, but have been having a harder time this year. The move has defiantly exposed me to a wealth of local artist that I have started to work with or will be working with in the near future.

About Dragon's Eye's role within the community
I think it’s really hard to be an artist anywhere, but especially hard in the US with so little funding and full time jobs, etc. For myself I wanted to create a community around me of like-minded people, but I also wanted it to turn into a resource for the artists. I wanted the experience of being part of Dragon’s Eye to also open up opportunities to perform, to collaborate and to ask for help with whatever they needed. The personalities of the artists have seemed to work in much the same way as the curation of the releases. Each artist has complimented the next and has been what the rest of us were missing. This has really made that idea of community a reality.

About highlights and perspectives
Every day and every release I feel so lucky that these artists are willing to let me be a small part of them sharing their talent with the world. Any and every new success that is awarded to one of the artists on the label is a highlight. I’m not trying to dodge the question; I really do just feel lucky and extremely happy with every new release.
As for the future I am still not planning that far ahead. I will be cutting back on the edition sizes so I can sustain the label because we have been hit pretty hard by the economy and I would really like to continue far into the future. I have committed to at least another year of releases with some wonderful new artists and I have a new label website launching any minute now. Other then that we will just have to see where this next year of releases and artists take the label. On some level I really don’t feel like I am even in control anyway. The label really has a life and direction all its own.

Homepage: Dragon's Eye Recordings

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