Sunday, September 14, 2014

Interview with Hal Crossno of Work Ethic Records

I got an interview with Hal Crossno from Work Ethic Records, a record label based out of Milwaukee. Hal's a really cool guy who does vocals in Blackhole and plays bass in No ThanksALL of the bands off of Work Ethic are bands that I really enjoy, and Hal puts a lot of time and effort into doing what he does. 

Why did you start a record label?

I've been working with bands and venues since I was around 14, and when I was 17, I started a distro. I had gotten a really nice free webstore, and wanted a central place for people to pick up all the different area music, zines, and merch. After doing that for about a year, my friends in this band called Sardis let me know they were recording a demo. I ask what they were going to do, and they told me they were probably going to put it out on burned cd's and write on them with sharpie and pass them out(as was the custom in 2010). I had gotten fed up with that trend, and proposed that I put the demo out on cassette for them. They thought I was nuts but thought it would be cool to, so I put it out through the distro. So I guess it started out of preference, but all the work in music I've done has been because it's what I legitimately care about. It's the only thing I think is worth investing time and money into.

So, Work Ethic Records used to be Our Block Records, what was the reason for the name switch?

Last year some life happened (I love my girlfriend very much), and ended up moving to Milwaukee. Ourblock was all about the region I was living in (Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas) and only worked with bands from that area. So, it didn't really make sense to have a regional label not living in that region.

Do you run Work Ethic Records by yourself?

Nope! I run it with my good friend and faithful life partner Brandon Smith, who is also the vocalist of NoxThanks, and drummer for Thought Crime.

What are some factors you put into releasing a band's material? What are some criteria a band needs to meet?

Every release has got to have art, lyrics, and a short write up about the subject matter of the record. As for bands, they have to be able to put everything together, and be ready to tour. Our sort of motto at Work Ethic is "We'll work as hard as you do."

If you could release a brand new release for any band in the world that currently exists, who would it be?

Man! To many to count. I would love to put out a flex record. I really dig Obstruct from the UK too, but I have a feeling they're not going to pan out.
Is Outbreak still a band?
I don't know, there are a lot of bands I dig right now, but I don't really want to talk about them...
I'd hate to construe any false hope haha

You play for hardcore band Blackhole, what's your favorite part about being in a band?

Playing home shows. Literally nothing is more cathartic or exhilarating than being in front of friends. Like, out of state shows and tours are great, and there are a few people that care about our band [in] other places, but I feel like our friends care the most. It really means a lot!

Do you think being in a band (Blackhole, No Thanks) helps you make decisions/run Work Ethic?

Definitely! It gives you a lot of perspective about who you're working with. I feel like it would be weird if you started a label and haven't been in a band. I would never ask anyone to do anything I wouldn't be able to do.

I know you've toured around a lot, but is there one particular tour/place that you've been to that you remember and cherish most of all?

Haha, "A Lot". I wish I could tour more. I don't think I really have a favorite. If music is a mistress, then tour is that girl you dated for two weeks, then dumped you but still wanted to be friends, and now you are very distant, but stay pseudo connected online, and may or may not meet again. Like relationships that are so cool, but it's weird having that wonderful experience and then immediately having to leave. Then you have another one, and then leave again. When you tour with another band it's even weirder, because it's like the same thing for a longer stretch of time, but it's still too short. Tour is just an all around surreal experience.

What does DIY mean to you, and what do you think it should mean to other people?
DIY means that I answer to no one. No one can tell me what I can or cannot do in the realm of creation, and there are a few things in my life that I actually have control over. It means that what I make with my hands will always be more valuable to me than anything mass produced, and that no matter what problems I come across in life, I'll be able to overcome them myself. As for other people, eh, that's up to them.

So I've heard a lot of different angles for the entire "Fast Dubbing/Normal Dubbing" debate, and if using fast dubbing reduces sound quality on cassettes. You release A LOT of cassettes (over half of my collection is from Our Block Records), so what is your opinion on the matter?

ALRIGHT TAPE NERDS. High speed dubbing is fine, but you will always cancel out frequencies when you do it. Let me explain: in normal dubbing, the master tape goes onto another tape, at the same speed, at the speed of the music. That means for each tape you make, it takes the length of the  music you are putting on it. 60 min of music = each tape takes an hour. In high speed dubbing, it's the same idea, but both tapes are on fast forward. Both tapes are receiving the same sounds at the same speed, which, in theory, when slowed down to normal speed, should play the sound as if it were dubbed at a lower speed. BUT. it doesn't. See, when you dub at a higher speed, you'll notice the pitch change, and the frequencies of the music go up. You'll be receiving a lot of mid-highs and highs, but not a lot of lows, or most of the mid range. There is a component of most tape decks made for high speed dubbing that is supposed to fix this problem, but I've never heard one that works properly Basically, you end up losing a lot of lows and mid range. Which is why, paired up, there is a lot more static comparatively to normal speed tapes, and they seem more tinny than normally dubbed tapes. I've never put out a release on high speed dubbed tapes. I've probably dubbed over 500 hours worth of tapes in the entirety of doing this.

What inspired you to make a record label?

It's a little embarrassing at this day and age, but in 2006-2011 I was really into Facedown records. Nerding out over that label got me into hardcore. The other labels would be discord and early bridge 9, just because what those guys do. Ian's ethics are great, and the image that Chris wren has with everything is just really cool to me. 

Any releases you're allowed to tell us about that are coming up for Work Ethic?

The new Corkscrew LP PATHWAY TO HELL will be out soon, they're just finishing up recording right now. There may or may not be a release from a new Chicago band down the pipe, and next year a 7" and an LP from two current Work Ethic Bands. That's all the details I can really pass out right now.

What are some things/tips that you'd tell new bands?
Everyone says this but it's true. PRACTICE. At least once a week. If you work on getting better, you will. Don't stop writing, having a back log of riffs and lyrics is really handy, and gives you a better feel for carving out your sound. Play everywhere in a 5 hour radius of your town, even if it's with bands that aren't your style. And most importantly, set realistic goals. Even if they are small! If your band has no direction, it probably wont' go anywhere!