Dead Hound Records
Wed. 10th March 2021
Words: Erin May Kelly
Dead Hound Records with Ollie Turbitt
An intimate conversation with label owner Ollie Turbitt, discussing the DIY tape label scene, Edinburgh's close knit music circuit and the joys of collaborating with artists overseas.
Dead Hound Records is deeply rooted in its pursuit of DIY experimental and alternative music; and a disillusionment with streaming platforms like Spotify drives head honcho Ollie Turbitt to sustain a grassroots operation which is inseparable from the city from which it was bred. It is near impossible to define the sound of Dead Hound Records, which has put out releases stretching across heterogeneous genres, but one certain consistency is the complexity of each release. Intricacy is woven into the blueprint of the underground label, and their list of projects ranges from ambient through to grit.
The foundation to this multifaceted community is the word of mouth ethos, which sees the label’s promotion and distribution embedded within the city from which it hails. “I’ve always found that the city’s music scene, being fairly small, has been extremely supportive, inclusive and self-sustaining”, says Turbitt; “the city’s smaller venues have also been massive sources of help and inspiration because they’ve become real hubs for alternative art”. Dead Hound Records itself grew from Turbitt and his pals running gigs around the city under The Orpheus Collective; “we wanted to provide a local platform for more alternative or underground artists who wouldn’t necessarily ‘fit’ onto more conventional bills in the city”. Despite Dead Hound’s ties to the capital, its influence now stretches far further afield; “While its very much an Edinburgh-based label, we try to strike a balance between local and international acts”, Turbitt says. “Recently we’ve released albums by artists from the USA, the Netherlands, Croatia and elsewhere”, it is clear the label’s ambitions extend beyond its birthplace.
Turbitt spent his younger days recording demos at home; “I’ve always has an obsession with the weirder side of things, and then in 2017 I began to focus more seriously on producing my own electronic and avant-garde stuff.” Dead Hound Records inherently sees the value in embracing self-promo and self-distribution; with the DIY side of things allowing for full control and artistic freedom, something which is inherent in the label. On discovering new artists and projects, Turbitt looks to a network of online communities; “It’s a mixture of spending an unhealthy amount of time online, in Facebook groups and Reddit forums, and being contacted by artists directly”, he explains. “In this way, it’s often a combination of some of my closest friends and people I’ve never met before”. The nature of Dead Hound is in showcasing underground artists and projects which are unique to other labels in Edinburgh. “We’ve released quite a variety of different genres over the past little while, ranging from pure harsh noise to dance punk to indie, and we try not to be overly strict on the ‘sound’”.
From a background of releasing a stream of his own music, Turbitt is awarded a unique position of having been on both sides of music production; “I think spending such a long time releasing my own stuff before branching out was beneficial just in terms of figuring out how to work the website, make up tapes, ship parcels and contact customers”, he explains. “That being said, I’ve learned so much from working with other people, because all sorts of ideas and challenges crop up which allow you to work in different ways”. One of the label’s latest releases, Whole Foods Kids’ Sometimes My Arms Bend Back saw Turbitt playing a direct role in the production of the cross-Atlantic record; “I really enjoyed working with [them] on their last two projects, because I had a much more hands-on role in helping produce and master their material, something I’d definitely be keen to do in the future”.
One of the most defining features of Dead Hound is their pursuit of physical releases, particularly tapes; the first of the label’s releases were a handful of home-dubbed and hand-made tapes of Turbitts’. As he began to see Bandcamp as a platform to promote underground music, he met fellow tape-label head Michał Fundowicz of Czaszka Records; “he inspired me by giving fantastic advice, introducing me to other labels and artists”. Inspiration for Turbitt also hails from Bandcamp projects such as Steep Gloss; “[They’re] a great experimental label from Wigan, [and have] just released the second volume in a wild concept album, where artists only use blank tapes as sources.” The label’s foundation is grounded in physical projects, and Turbitt is determined to continue this legacy. “It’s hard to plan too far into the future at the minute, but to keep on being able to produce physical media would be great! While we’re a tape label at heart, it’d be great to release on vinyl someday.”
The catalyst drawing Dead Hound Records into active being was an email from the British Library in 2019, offering to store the label’s releases in their Sound Archive; “[It was] a chance to offer artists the opportunity to be preserved in digital form”, he explains. Since then, Turbitt has succeeded in establishing a community of underground, experimental projects, with physical releases at the heart of the operation. Speaking to the future, the label, like the majority of us, is wistfully dreaming of days back in the city’s venues. “When gigs come back, it’d be great to do some showcase gigs with the label’s artists here in Edinburgh”, he says, “but as long as we can keep communicating with lovely artists and fans from around the world, I’m happy.”
Peruse Dead Hound Records’ extensive back catalogue on Bandcamp here: https://deadhound.bandcamp.com