After years of releasing records that pushed the boundaries of metal and noise, the influential and innovative label Hydra Head Records has announced that it will be closing up shop after 17 years of business. Over the years the label released records from Converge, Sunn O))), Harvey Milk, Torche, Neurosis, Boris, Prurient and many more.
In a candid and moving post on the label’s blog, founder and Isis singer Aaron Turner describes the financial troubles that ultimately lead to the label’s untimely demise. You can read a section of Turner’s post below, or click here to read the post in its entirety.
Hydra Head Records has never been a smooth-running operation. We’ve spent the majority of our existence excitedly scrambling from one thing to the next, taking on more than we could ever possibly hope to achieve, and never quite finding solid footing in the midst of our self-induced whirlwind of chaos. Though not every second of doing this label has been enjoyable, it has been a very rewarding and meaningful project for me, and I hope for many of the other lives to which it has been directly connected. The fact that it has lasted close to two decades at this point is astonishing, and much has changed during that time – the lives of those directly involved with running the label, the bands and artists we’ve worked with, and the nature of the music industry itself. Though many of these changes have been positive, or at least illuminating, the impact of our history and current industry circumstances are culminating into a slow and somewhat painful death for the label. It certainly isn’t an entirely unforeseen event, but we didn’t think it would come quite so abruptly, or (perhaps naively) ever.
The decision to pull the plug has not been an easy one, and in some ways is a not a choice at all. The simple fact of the matter is we’ve been running on empty for a while now and cannot afford to keep our doors open for much longer. Years of imbalance between creative ideals and financial realities, personal problems amongst the label operators, an unwillingness to compromise our aesthetic standards, a tendency towards releasing challenging (i.e. unmarketable) artists, and the steady decline of the music industry in general, are amongst the chief reasons for our inability to continue. It is a harsh but undeniable reality, and one which we are attempting to confront with as much integrity and grace as is afforded by the circumstances.
Towards the end of the post Turner says that the label still intends to “follow through on the final round of releases to which we’re committed and pay off our debts to our artists and manufacturers.” The label’s extensive back catalog will remain available and Turner encourages those who would like to help to purchase records or other items through either mail order or the label’s webstore.
This is a sad day if you’re a fan of loud, adventurous and uncompromising music. More so than many labels, Hydra Head had both a well-defined aesthetic and eclectic taste. It will be missed.
Watch a 2005 interview with Turner below, along with a video of Harvey Milk performing two songs from their 2010 Hydra Head release A Small Turn of Human Kindness.