Dan Volohov talks to Kurt Gluck aka Submerged, D.J. and founder of the Ohm Resistance label, about upcoming releases, the very beginning of the label and more.
You founded Ohm Resistance at the end of the '90s. Since then, the label became home for such artists as Scorn and The Blood Of Heroes, K.K. Null and Dr Israel, JK Flesh and Bill Laswell. What had been moving you, while creating Ohm Resistance and what has changed from then?
KG: The label started because I was a drum & Bass D.J., and I wanted to put out records that I wanted to spin. Mick Harris is a musician I look up to, he invited me to make music with him in 1999, and we made a really killer, wild Quoit vs Submerged drum & bass 12", and it needed a home, so that's how the label began.
What changed is that as Ohm Resistance grew, I realized that I could release all types of music, not only drum & bass 12"s, and I began understanding the power of publishing art and music, which to this day I am only just wrapping my head around fully.
How can you characterize the principles you’re following running the label?
KG: Ohm Resistance was created as a 12" vinyl outlet with my friend Mark Filip (Gator Bait Ten, The Blood of Heroes), who was concurrently running the downtempo 12" label Collision Substance. He was part of Ohm Resistance for the first five releases, and was our original financial backing, so it's essential to give him credit for helping launch the label. Drum & Bass wasn't something he was as passionate about as I was, so when Ohm Resistance blew up and became something, it wasn't part of his interests as much as mine, so I went on with it solo from there.
Ohm does operate with a set of guiding lights, and the first one is, for 99% of the music, I have to know the person face to face. It could be characterized as an "old school", but the preference is definitely to have an organic relationship with the artists, many of whom I've met around the world on tour or in my travels. The only other principle is that the music has to be sincere and from an artist expressing themselves as themselves, not trying to be part of any trend or making cookie-cutter music to be in a scene.
Recently, you put out a compilation “PERIHELION 2134” uniting lots of artists you used to work with over the years. What was the idea behind it?
KG: In any magic, the fuel ingredient is a ritualistic action performed cyclically. The Perihelion series of compilations is a special act which uses the calculation of the Perihelion of Halley's Comet to Earth as its repeated, ritualistic action. This year's compilation grew and grew and is one of the things we're most proud of as Ohm Resistance. Getting to work with so many artists, and making videos to accompany the pieces, everyone working during the virus times, and all for a free compilation was a powerful statement and powerful act.
A few years ago, you moved to Berlin which is well-known as one of the biggest venues for electronic music in the world. In what way the environment there affected you personally and things you've been doing within the label itself?
KG: Berlin is an extraordinary place, a city founded as a free artist city and so infused with that original intent of total freedom. I only knew of it from ordering records from Hardwax since the late 90s and admiring the labels centred around that store. I had played at Subland in 2014/5 NYE and I had the opportunity to chase a romance there, so I finally made the leap, moved there and took the label with me in 2018.
I met so many amazing people, and quickly found a home amongst friends. My studio next-door neighbour was Daniele from Dadub, who had worked at the same mastering studio which did some work for Ohm Resistance just a couple years prior. And my studio partners were Flashcore legend Laurent Mialon (La Peste) of Hangars Liquides and Jon Baruc (Death Qualia). My personal streak of luck was significantly amplified in this city. Ohm Resistance celebrated its 20th anniversary at Berlin's OHM Club, and life was such a positive experience in the year I lived there. It inspired me to put all my energy into the record label again.
And I don't mean positive in that just life, love, happiness, pink hearts & flowers bullshit - it was positive in giving me the mirror, and teaching me many hard lessons about myself that I needed to learn. Living in Berlin gave me understanding that where a person directs and focuses their energy, creation, expansion and a way to make a living can occur. Although I have now left the city and reside in Estonia with a new family, the mark Berlin left on me, and the label is indelible.
How much your musical preferences have been changing throughout your career, and what attracts you now?
KG: Growing up in America, I was, of course, attracted to heavy guitar music, punk music, anything anti-status quo. The era of my youthful musical introduction and experience was inspired by the labels at the time, Earache Records, Roadrunner and Relapse. These were the artistic incubators whose bands I respected, and that had sounds I resonated with. As the '90s progressed, many artists I admired became more interested in Electronic music and expanded their projects. Mick Harris and Justin Broadrick, these were the two cornerstone multidisciplinary artists that I followed as a fan and introduced me to many sounds - ambient music, drum & Bass music, and noise music. Relapse had a great catalogue with their experimental arm called Release, which introduced me to the Manifold mail order out of Tennessee. I fell deep down the rabbit hole of great, underground music.
What attracts me now are artists at the height of their powers, new artists just learning their abilities, and staying focused on diversity, because if you look at the Ohm Resistance catalogue, that's always been something I've done my best to represent. There is great power in having many different voices at the table, because an expansion of identity perspectives generates, the evolution of the collective knowledge base and a fuller, more expansive world of exploration. This can be seen clearly on the Perihelion compilation, but it has always been a conscious goal for Ohm.
Following your own words, Slayer and Godflesh with Napalm Death became your primary sources of inspiration early on. At that point, you started playing in punk bands. How can you characterize that stage of your career and what drove you exploring more electronic tendencies?
KG: Well, we thought we were death metal (laughs)! My high school band Mind Furnace was such an influence over my life - it was the most important thing I had, as a bandleader. I wanted to tour the world and be on a label and play on a stage for the rest of my life as a bassist and screamer and songwriter with my friends. But after high school ended, it was tough to keep it together, for many reasons, and Mind Furnace itself became more industrial through lack of players and needing the computer to perform, and then quietly folded.
I met my partner in no-fi noise project Zerfallmensch, -haZMat-, when I was a solder jockey at a telecommunications equipment company. I had to work and go to university at the same time, and he (Mark Bostdorf) showed me a whole other world of industrial/noise/heaviness that wasn’t only oriented on guitars. The real kicker was when I heard Scorn, and the PCM Remix of The End, which was the first jungle track I heard, forever respect to Nik X and Harvey!! I fell in love with the amens, and said “WHAT IS THIS FAST BUT ELECTRONIC?” and again, there I went down the rabbit hole.
There were a couple of times when you used to “change instruments” literary and perform as a bass-player - playing with Scorn and some other artists. How much do your set of goals depends on the situation you’re in, musically?
KG: I've been a bass player since high school, and that's my "main" instrument. A lot of people play Bass because they wanted to play the guitar, but there were too many guitarists, and they had to take up Bass. I learned Bass in school and even played an upright for a few years.
One of the most important things I’ve learned, and this is coming from working with Tony Maimone (Pere Ubu, The Blood of Heroes), is that the most important thing is the track itself, and making whatever song you are playing whether live or in the studio, it has to be the maximum it can be. The highest form of being a collaborative musician is servicing the music you are playing to make it the best piece possible. I had to learn that there is a way to play to elevate the whole, or a way to play that comes out as "ME-ME-ME"...and I had to learn to drive that "me" shit out of the window. Still knowing that, to be honest. I thank Tony for his years of patience with me.
As far as I know, right now, you’re working on the newest The Blood Of Heroes’ album. Could you please tell me a little bit about the record itself?
KG: The Blood of Heroes was always intended as a trilogy, from its inception. Remain was a remix album - so we had one album to go. As the self-titled first album was the PRESENT post-apocalypse as depicted in the film The Blood of Heroes, the second album was the actual apocalyptic PAST that led to the times in the movie - "The Waking Nightmare". This 3rd album is the FUTURE - beyond even post-apocalypse - "Nine Cities Buried Deep Underground".
To get inspired for this record, I made an executive decision to invite Mick Harris to create some beats for us. The lineup for this record is Mick Harris, myself on Bass, Justin Broadrick on Guitars, Enduser on keyboards, Doc on vocals, with some new guests. George Gore Tech has a unique sound design role. I don't want to reveal too much yet. Still, the album is a post-post-apocalyptic map of the future and will have a ton of interesting artwork and cartography to accompany it, these Nine Cities. Rest In Power, Rutger Hauer!
Within The Blood of Heroes, you united lots of different artists you used to collaborate with. But at the same time, while recording in a studio, you have the luxury to do all overdubs and proper mixing. How do you reach harmony playing live and combining live-instruments with bits and pieces of electronic sounds?
KG: The trick with The Blood of Heroes is really in the arrangement. Lynn is playing a significant role in this next record with ensuring we keep this harmony because I think we all felt that The Waking Nightmare was all over the place. For this next record, even with still having a lot of players, we want to strip it down, function efficiently, and be listenable as a far futuristic guide to new grooves, and give listeners the same excitement we all felt when we put on a new Godflesh record and didn’t know exactly what we were going to get but we knew it had power and we were going to love it!
The project itself grew up from Method of Defiance; you co-founded with Bill Laswell and Robert Soares. How did you meet these guys and what was the initial idea behind the project?
KG: When I moved back home to New York in 2002 after going to school in Maryland, Robert had a copy of the first Ohm Resistance 12" and called Bill Laswell to introduce me. I don't exactly remember how Robert got in touch with me, maybe email. Method of Defiance, the less said about it, the better, it was originally Bill and my band, and he took it over and made it his thing, and didn't want to involve the players I wanted to involve. It turns out that I like the thing I do on my own better. Robert was an A&R-guy; he wasn't a musician. All I can say is that I'm grateful to both for helping set the course of my life when I was younger, and I'm happy to be where I am now, doing projects where I can direct the sound.
Since the beginning of your career, the collaborative aspect played an essential role in your work – and, became the point of entry for Ohm Resistance. How do you usually choose collaborators to work with?
KG: Organically, from the people around me in everyday life! That is what is great about Berlin, so many readily available artists going my direction.
How much does the degree of your collaboration vary when you work with someone more or less similar to what you're doing?
KG: Everyone works to make the music the best they can, and represent themselves and their sound while making the piece speak as the piece. It’s very fluid, ultimately.
Once you mentioned that films do play an essential role in your process of music creation. In a sense that you're taking lots of samples and putting them together compositionally. But how important are the visual images for you?
KG: Films are great for inspiration musically - there's a different application of theme, that I love to have cross-pollinated with music. I've never been a visual person much, much more sound focused - as far as visuals go, there are much more skilled people that I work with that focus on the graphic art aspect for Ohm Resistance - Machine™ (Gore Tech), Sagana Squale, who I look forward to doing more comic book work with, and SHVLFCE.
For the readers of XSN, could you please tell me a little bit about the upcoming releases of Ohm Resistance? As far as I know, there is a bunch of Mick Harris’ records – Scorn, Lull, among others…
KG: We're now grouping our releases as seasons conceptually, and each season will have a theme. This 2020 Fall season's theme is, BERLIN: Death Qualia, Dadub, and Artik - pre-orders are up for these now at ohmresistance.net.
Coming after the fall, we've got so much planned already: going back to the roots with a Drum & Bass 12" E.P. from Blockdata, then an ambient 10" from Gore Tech, and a crazy business card CD in hospital socks from new talent Skintape (a Mick Harris favourite). The second Solypsis + Snowbeasts release “Fever Dream” rounds out the holiday season.
Next year starts the DELUGE of great releases and big projects: the new Scorn L.P. featuring the biggest artist ever on Ohm Resistance: KOOL KEITH! We reached out to Keith, and he graciously accepted our collaborative offer; we've just recorded him at Studio G Brooklyn. I feel lucky one time for getting to collaborate on a Kool Keith track, and two times over for getting to play Bass on a Scorn record, which I did as Submerged on this project!
Also coming early next year is our Belgian friend Mathlovsky, doing the most amazing live show with a drummer, who will release his latest album on Ohm Resistance - the first single is “The Heat” from that album. There’s a new Lull from Mick, a new Blood of Heroes later in the year, and a new SIMM featuring Flowdan which is already sounding fantastic, and our favourite Berlin DJ, Vilify, dropping her first vinyl L.P. for us. There's so much to look forward to musically from Ohm Resistance in the days to come! We are all inspired to create and be the change we want in the world through our creations. We, Will, Be With You For The Rest Of Your Life.