Ryan Martin and Gibby Miller run Dais Records, an experimental record label that specialises in adventurous new artists and releasing rare and resurrected recordings. Launched in 2007 with Throbbing Gristle legend Genesis P-Orridge’s never before heard 1968 record, the label operates out of New York and Los Angeles. Ryan and Gibby joined The Void hosts Christina Rowatt and Michele Madden to discuss music, art, ridiculous cult films and running an independent label in the 21st century.
Dais Records was born when founder Ryan Martin started working for Throbbing Gristle legend Genesis P-Orridge, who he manages to this day. Genesis’ first ever recording became the label’s first release. Over the last eleven years, Dais Records has released a plethora of records with a vast range of artists, including new releases from the likes of like Drab Majesty, Hide, Youth Code and Merzbow to re-issues of archival material from artists as diverse as William S. Burroughs and New Zealand’s Nocturnal Projections.
Christina: How did you get involved with Genesis P-Orridge?
Ryan: I got a gig organising her archive for a sale to the Tate Britain. She had this massive archive that they were going to take in but it had to be catalogued. I thought it would be a short-term project but it ended up being a few years. The archive took up the whole bottom floor of a house. I spent about three or four years cataloguing it all. Then I kind of fell in with Jacqui, Gen’s wife, who passed away … helping out with a lot of art handling stuff and art assistant stuff with her. And then working closely with Gen on random projects. Once the gig was wrapped up it morphed into something else. Right when we finished the cataloguing thing, Jacqui [Jacqueline “Lady Jay” Breyer] had passed away and Gen had asked me if I’d manage her. I said no about three or four times and the fourth time I said we’d work something out. It was meant to be a temporary thing, and now it has lasted twelve years.
Michele: I cant imagine Gen ever taking no for an answer. When I was eleven years old a biker friend of my dad left the “Modern Primitives” book behind … my head was blown the fuck apart, as an eleven year old from a small town. That was how I discovered Genesis. I felt there was hope, reading that book … this is a flare. With the relationship that you’ve obviously shared, how did you guys first become aware of Genesis?
Gibby: When I was a little punk [we were] hanging out in the subway station of Harvard Square in Cambridge. I used to hang out there with all the punks on Saturdays in the afternoons, and in between school. We’d all go into the city and run around, go to shows. There was this older guy that had the Throbbing Gristle logo tattooed on his forearm. And he also had the Bauhaus logo. He was this really cool dude that I became friends with. When you’re that age, someone just three or four years older than you are like Gandalf. They’re wise, they know everything. So he and I became close friends and he’s like “if you’re into Bauhaus and The Cure, you’d love Throbbing Gristle.” The name went through me like a bolt of lightning, and the logo … and I was like fuck, this is awesome. That was my introduction. Threading the needle … that was also around the same time that this kid named Will, he had Psychic TV and he and I got in a TG vs PTV argument, like Prince vs. Michael Jackson [laughs]. Very formative stuff, and I loved it. Then I started seeing all the tape of a tape of a tape VHS live performances and then slowly getting into the PTV stuff over the years as well.
Ryan: It was with this kid Greg Lance, who I used to skateboard with in the late Eighties. He had a video compilation, it was like Target Video, a [cult skate punk VHS] series. He had it for a bunch of punk videos, and there was some skate stuff on it. It had Throbbing Gristle playing at Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco in ’81, which was not the reason any of us were watching the tape or had the tape. But when I saw that I thought it was fucking amazing. I remember always being fascinated by that band. I remember Pushead [Brian Schroeder] would always reference them. He had a column in Thrasher magazine that I used to read. He would give record reviews for records that you could never buy in a million years. That was my first interaction with them. Eventually you kind of fall into that world and I never came back out the other side.
Christina: How did the label come to be born?
Ryan: When Gibby had moved to L.A., we’d stay in touch. I’d send him packages in the mail and talk online. When I started, I [said to him] you’re not going to believe the gig I just got … I’m looking through all the original Throbbing Gristle hand-written lyrics, all the COUM Transmission stuff which was the kind of stuff I was interested in. I mentioned to Gibby that he wouldn’t believe how many unreleased reel to reel tapes there are, stuff from back in the Sixties. I mentioned this to Genesis, and Gen politely said, “Why don’t you do it? You should take a stab at it.” I then relayed that information to Gibby … [he] called me and said we should start a label, and that’s how it started.
Gibby: It was that, but it was also that we were sending stuff and talking back and forth [from New York to L.A.] and there were other records that we had found that [we said that] someone should totally re-release this. This is crazy. Ryan would find something or I’d find something. One of those records was this 7″ by this band Deviation Social, who ended up almost the American counterpart to Throbbing Gristle and part of the early West Coast tape scene, they had a tape label that was super gnarly. We had all these ideas and it just kind of solidified like that. Once Ryan and I spoke, within a week we had the full infrastructure to start do it. We didn’t know how to do it. We didn’t know what we needed. We knew that we needed a jacket and a piece of vinyl … so we started researching how to make these things called records and that’s how it all kicked off.
Ryan: Our first release was this thing that was not intended for anyone to hear, but had been referenced in tons of articles. Whenever they would ask Gen what her first recording was she’d say that it was this album I made in 1967 with all my friends. I remember when we did that it was like holy fuck, we really did pull something off very bizarre and unique and still something really special. I’m still excited when we put out records now, but its different.
Michele: I’m going to forever picture you as the Indiana Jones of industrial music.
Christina [to Gibby]: With your history playing in punk bands [like Boston’s The Trouble], did those two scenes of music connect much or did they feel diametrically opposed?
Gibby: With the onset of the internet, the lines are way more blurred and the music scenes have a lot of overlap now, [but back then] it certainly felt to me like there as if there were very clear lines between the punk and hardcore scene and that kind of music when I was a kid. I went to punk and hardcore shows, and I sung in a punk band. By the time I started singing in punk bands in the mid 90’s, we were covering The Cure and Joy Division at band practice, and we did sneak a Joy Division cover on our first album. At least among my group of friends, it became a little more acceptable [but] I definitely had different tribes. I hung out with punk kids, I also hung out with the mods in college and went to mod nights. I dated a goth girl from the Midwest and we’d go see Crash Worship and Rapoon in 1997 so I was seeing and being inspired by all of these things. And I loved all of it. But I don’t think those worlds are as ingrained and symbiotic as they are now. You look at the music that is happening in metal and hip hop and doom and ambient, the stuff that is going on on YouTube and Soundcloud and Tumblr – the whole internet scene is creating whole new genres of stuff that i couldn’t even imagine. Its fascinating.
Christina: How do you find new Dais Records artists? What is exciting you about music now?
Ryan: The same way we’ve been doing it the entire time. Everyone that we have signed to the label has been in one way or another a friend or a friend of a friend, or some weird personal connection. That’s how Gibby met Drab Majesty and Youth Code. Drew McDowall [Psychic TV, COIL] I met because we both built modular synthesisers and we’d have these meet ups where we’d trade parts and get together. Drew was making a record and i was like, you gotta do it. Same with Wetware, I met [Wetware singer] Roxy through Genesis. I don’t think there’s anyone that I can think of that we didn’t have that sort of connection with.
Gibby: Ryan’s network of friends and mine overlap but we both exist in different habitats. We discover artists through word of mouth. That said, we try and listen to everything that gets sent to us. And we have released stuff that has been sent to us. So we do get turned onto things [that way]. Half of the stuff we put out is new, and half of it is old. We recently re-issued the New Zealand-based band Nocturnal Projections which sounds as fresh today as it did then. You could thread the needle between that and sound of some of the bands that we’ve released. There is connectivity there. It isn’t evident on the first listen but I’m sure after a few hundred listens you can see it as clearly as Ryan and I can see it [laughs].
Host of The Void with Christina podcast Christina Rowatt also creates an interview-based YouTube channel featuring Australian and international rock artists and documentary-style features, with more than 100 episodes to date. Watch: youtube.com/thevoidwithchristina