Published Nov 01, 2005Date of Birth: 1996
Releases to Date: 20
Biggest Sellers: Broken Social Scene Feel Good Lost, K.C. Accidental Anthems for the Could've Been Pills
Upcoming Releases: K.C. Accidental (two-disc reissue); Beef Terminal Anger Do Not Enter; Naw
Long before Toronto's Broken Social Scene erupted worldwide, leaders Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning were quietly emitting spacey post-rock emotions as K.C. Accidental with a little label called Noise Factory lending its hand in loving support. On the eve of its tenth anniversary, Noise Factory is still that able little label, giving budding talents who swim in the warmer, more humanistic waters of electronic and post-rock the gentle support they need, including Beef Terminal, Naw, Tinkertoy, Hexes and Ohs and Nybbl.
"I just wanted to work in the music industry somehow and I figured I'd start my own label and do my own thing," says founder Joe English. "Some labels are really thought out and they have a really specific idea or philosophy. I didn't. I just kind of said, I want to put out music that I like.'" English realised that some baby birds in Toronto's still fledgling mid-90s underground needed a nest and began supporting young local groups. The label's first release was by a pop-punk band called Nancy, Despot. Through this group, English met Kevin Drew. These early years saw but a small handful of Noise Factory releases, including one by Kennel District, a band that counted Mike Matheson (aka Beef Terminal) as a member. "It was kind of a strange time so we didn't really do much. That's why you can't find this stuff on the website we kind of put it behind us and said, That wasn't really what the label was intended to be,' so we moved past it. Although I am planning on putting the Nancy, Despot album up on iTunes."
After a long period of deflated hope, partly spurred by the untimely death of Nancy, Despot singer/guitarist Brian Gunstone, Noise Factory re-emerged in 2000 feeling reinvigorated, thanks to Drew, K.C. Accidental and the label's Beautiful Noise compilation, which helped English find and define the label's soul. While setting up distribution deals around the world, the rejuvenated label grew slowly beyond Toronto's city limits to include artists from Rochester (Nybbl), Montreal (Hexes & Ohs, Naw) and Grand Rapids, Michigan (Sparrow Orange). Noise Factory's style, design and identity also became clearer. The label's geometric logo was inspired by industrial forefathers Throbbing Gristle's controversial Industrial Records insignia, which depicted an Auschwitz smokestack. "Growing up I was a big industrial electronic music freak," he says. Later influences included Thrill Jockey, Constellation, Kranky and Morr Music, who all specialise in their own fields of similarly intentioned electronic and post-rock heart.
More a labour of love than a profit-turning machine, Noise Factory has always been run from English's home office. Since he holds down another job, his wife Zenia chips in with marketing and media relations and his brother Sean helps out with accounting and bookkeeping. Neil Wiernik (aka Naw) also lends a hand with A&R duties. Album artwork is also commonly collaborative English gives the artists free rein, but "if the band or the artist don't look after it themselves, then I will do it." English handled the photography and artwork for K.C. Accidental's Captured Anthems for an Empty Bathtub, and also did layout and design for their Anthems for the Could've Been Pills.
The Audience Challenge
The biggest challenge to do with running a label isn't the business side, but "trying to get the music out to people and bring it to a wider audience. Getting it out there is one thing, but getting it to an audience is a whole other thing." Distribution is the most effective route for garnering much-needed exposure for budding young indie labels, but of course it has its own loopholes a distributor only wants to put out your music if it's going to make them money, so English stresses the importance of being willing to make sacrifices, as well as having a substantial amount of back-up cash to foot all those unexpected bills. Like any labour of love, you've got to be willing to invest your heart (and hard-earned money) if you expect a little love in return.