April 8th, 2015 by Amelia
This interview is with Mitchell from Dark Raids distro and label. I met him and the rest of Dark Raids at a show in Oakland last year. I was blown away by his band MUTANT ITCH and I am always impressed when I browse their distro table at shows or web store, so I thought I’d interview him for the punx. Here’s Mitchell, straight outta Fresno…
What’s going on in Fresno, California right now? Do you get a lot of touring bands? Is there even a scene there? What the fuck is Fresno? Why should we check it out?
Fresno doesn’t actually have a whole lot going on. Our punk scene is quite small and desolate even though there are a fair amount of shows that happen regularly. Oddly enough, we actually get a lot of random touring bands because of the labels and collectives that bring them. Normally whenever there is a punk tour going on there is either going to be a show in Fresno or Bakersfield (which is about two hours south of Fresno) and that’s pretty cool because shows are a lot more accessible that way as we don’t have to drive to LA or the Bay.
But we also have a shit ton of really lame indie shows that happen about twice a week. We’re friends with the people who book the shows and bring the bands because we operate within the same DIY music scene but none of those shows are too exciting for punks. Dark Raids was booking a fair amount of shows for a while, about 6–7 months ago but recently we’ve been heavily focusing on label releases, screen printing and taking care of things within our own personal lives. At the moment two of my bands mates run a small booking/art collective called Screaming Vomit and they recently put together a “Drunk & Disorderly” Fest which was a two part show then we, Dark Raids added a morning show (started at noon, haha) with BI-MARKS. The fest ended up being three shows in one day and its was full of drunken shenanigans. FUMIGADOS, AUSENCIA, SSYNDROM, CLASS SYSTEM, and, RED TAPE all played and it was a great fucking night. Some of the most fun I’ve had in Fresno in a long time and it was refreshing to see that many punks in my home town.
The scene in Fresno used to be thriving about 7 or 8 years ago. There were always new faces and younger kids that would come out to shows. In recent times the scene has dwindled down to the handful of punks you still see today. The few of us that there are, are all very tight-knit and most of us see each other as family — shit we’ve known each other long enough! Ha! So I guess that is one good things about Fresno, but I wish there were a few more punks hanging around and supporting shows. Fresno is surprisingly a very large city and is located in the middle of California surrounded by farmers and citrus trees. Fresno is a cool place to check out if you have never been, its city layout is pretty rad and to tell the honest true I always thought people from Fresno were a special sub-species of human. Kinda like if we drank contaminated water from Tromaville or something. Haha! So come check it out and say Hi when you do!
Fresno, Troma County, USA. You’re in MUTANT ITCH…tell us about MUTANT ITCH.
Well, MUTANT ITCH started in January of 2014. We basically wanted to make a band that was total Japanese Noise core like GAI or DUST NOISE but then we started playing more of a bouncy, noise drenched Pogo punk style which I think we are all very happy with. We just recorded with Mike Kriebel in Los Angeles and we plan to release a new tape in March and we hope to have a 7″ out by the end of the year… Stay tuned!!
Tell us about Dark Raids. Where’d the name come from? Why start a distro? Is Dark Raids also a label?
I have loved records since I was a young punk, I remember my grandmother helping me buy my first record when I was eleven years old. Since that day I had always had a passion for collecting punk records and as I got older I kept the hobby I acquired when I was younger. So about three years ago I started staying more up to date as you would say on current punk releases and all of my friends were getting into the same bands as I was at the time. So when I would buy a copy of a record I would email and ask to buy multiple copies which I would then, sell to my friends. A month or so passes and I end up coming up with an idea to create a zine that would be released with demos or comps of bands or whatever really, I was mainly just brainstorming at this period in time. So eventually I didn’t really keep consistent with the zine and it some what got forgotten about. But I ended up going with the idea of releasing a tape and that’s when the idea occurred to me that I should start a label/distro. At that point I reached out to a really good friend and band mate, Phil and my girlfriend Kelsey to help me materialize my idea and that is when everything came together. It’s hard to say exactly where the name Dark Raids came from, but I mainly got the influence from the way some Japanese Metal punk songs have very Omnibus titles and sound kind of mythical and creeping. After going over countless SDS songs in my mind, I came up with Dark Raids and it stuck. As a label so far we have done three releases and we are currently working on our next three that are scheduled to come out right around the beginning March…
What releases have you done so far?
So far we have done three cassette releases. The first was unreleased material of Kelsey’s and I’s old band SOYA. We made that tape as a way to get Dark Raids going. We only made seventy copies and we mainly gave it to people who supported the band while it was current and gave copies to friends who run labels and distros in order to help spread the word of our new label we started. After that we released a demo for a local Fresno hardcore band called WALLFLOWER, which was great because they are rad people who play an awesome mixture of NEGATIVE APPROACH meets BIKINI KILL (just close your eyes and try to imagine it). Our most current release was the split we did for RADIATION and Canada’s KAITEN, which was pretty rad because it was a screened printed envelope that included a cassette and buttons so we just refereed to it as a “Punk Pack,” haha. So far that was our favorite release, it was a blast working with all of those dudes through out the release and then having our bands play together as we promoted it in Los Angeles was fucking great! We had a blast!
Who do you use to do cassettes releases?
The first release we did we just purchased blank tapes and dubbed all of them our selves. The second and third release we did we went through a professional duplication company which was a little on the pricey side but the quality was unmatched to anything I could reproduce dubbing tapes in my room.
What type of thought goes into the packaging? How important do you think packaging and aesthetics are for your releases?
I would have to say we put a lot of thought into our releases, we like to try and add something special to every project so that each release is a unique document of the band. When we started getting more serious about our label we had plans to incorporate screen printing in the aesthetics of the packaging. Kelsey was taking a class on it in college and it just sort of worked it self out. Kelsey does all of our screen printing and she does an awesome job making all the releases look unique and with a total DIY ethic. Phil and I try to lend a hand when we can but in retrospect we are still learning the craft. I have always been a fan of extravagant packaging because to me it truly shows you how much time and effort the band/label had put into their release and that is something I can undoubtedly respect. I like to think the packaging is an important part of Dark Raids, but I mainly hope the listener digs the music within it. I think packaging is overall important but personally I’m fine with getting a tape with a regular xerox insert but for our label endeavors we like to add a little something extra.
You have quite a selection in your Distro. How do you find out about new bands? Do you do a lot of trades?
Why, thank you! We mainly find out about new bands from attending shows, and we keep an eye out for what other labels around California are releasing. Plus hearing what some of our friends are listening too/what they would recommend is always cool. Mainly we find out about bands from seeing them live then talking with them after the gig and checking out distro tables. Sometimes I’ll come across a bandcamp and find some cool tunes that way as well. We actually don’t do a whole a lot of trades but have done some in the past and are always open to it.
Is it hard to get international releases?
I wouldn’t necessarily say it is difficult to get international releases due to the help of internet communication which is awesome because it helps to bring the worlds’ punk communities together. But I would say it is quite expensive to buy international releases due to very high shipping charges. But majorly that doesn’t stop me from buying certain releases when they come out.
I know you distro in person at shows. Why do you use a Storenvy for your online distro? Have you tried other sites? Do they take a cut of your profits?
We started using a Storenvy for our online distro about two years ago and it was great and free! Recently when Storenvy issued a slight policy change and they started charging for sales. We had initially decided to use a Storenvy because they were the only store host I knew of that didn’t charge and did not limit you on how many items could be uploaded to your site at once. So the site use to work great but now the charges are a bummer because it charges us more which basically raises the price of everything on the store slightly.
Who mostly orders from your distro?
Hmmm, we mainly get orders from all over California, Arizona and Texas. Though we do get a hand full of orders from Canada and we have this one person from Finland that buys demos quite regularly. Which is pretty rad because I never thought someone in Europe would be interested in browsing our store
How can we stay up to date on your distro?
We have a blogspot that we sometimes update and our Storenevy that always has new products added to it, but the best way to stay current on what were up to is come to a show were we are tabling at.
I thought I was the last person to use blogspot. So, any last words, punk?
Stay punk, support punks, labels, distros and any one else who operates within the DIY scene. Thanks a ton to Amelia for the interview and thanks for putting up with my lagging on getting this to you!