Mats Gustafsson interviews Ed Hardy
When I think about Eclipse Records out of Bullhead City, Arizona I think of a record label and a mail order which is all about a fan’s perspective, about excellent service and possibly the one outlet that comes closest to my own sonic taste. Eclipse is one of those labels that somehow always get it right. No matter what genre they choose to cover, they always seem to come out in one piece, at least artistically speaking. The simple answer to the complex equation of how it’s done has probably more to do with following that vague feeling in the gut than it does with trying so much to analyze what is or isn’t suitable for the label, or its perceived audience. Or maybe it’s as simple as label boss Ed Hardy states: “I'm not too concerned about how many copies will sell with each release because if I believe the record is excellent then I am sure people will want it. It may take awhile for some records to get noticed but that is not too uncommon.” It’s out of that sort of uncompromising attitude that some of the most fascinating music is bound to come.
I guess that this fan approach of sorts also explains why the mail order and label came to be in the first place. Hardy explains: ”Since music has been so important in my life ever since I was young, I have been buying records and CDs for a very long time. I never was happy with the jobs I held after college and after being out of work (while going back to school to get my teaching certificate) I took a job at Tower Records just to work somewhere I thought I could be happy and was a buyer there for awhile until my wife and I moved to Arizona in 1995. I thought I wanted to own a record shop when I moved out here but I quickly realized that people in Bullhead City don't want the type of shop I wanted to run. That was when I decided upon starting the mail order. The first Eclipse release was a lathe cut polycarbonate LP of Father Moo & The Black Sheep which I had 52 copies made by Peter King. The second release was my first real vinyl release and that was Five Pieces by Ian Middleton.”
There have been an impressive row of releases ever since, covering the grounds of corrosive drones, Kraut-inspired repetition, Japanese noise, free folk and more recently the fertile lands of Finland’s thriving underground scene. The recent interest in the free folk and Finnish scenes has most certainly had an effect on the label in that more people are aware of Eclipse now. Hardy says that “the triple LP that Time-Lag and Eclipse released earlier this year opened up eyes and ears of many who were not really aware of these 'scenes' so to speak. And with all the interest, especially this year, with the Finnish underground has definitely had an impact on Eclipse. I released two LPs by Finnish groups who were not very well known. Anaksimandros has had several releases but the Eclipse LP was their first one in an edition of more than 200 copies and the Päivänsäde LP was their first non-tape release. Both of these LPs were released before the media really started investigating what was happening in Finland. I continue to stock a lot of music from Finland and I think people look to Eclipse to find these releases. And I think the same can be said about the free folk music, too.”
As far as pointing out the most important factors that decide whether a record will end up on Eclipse or not Hardy says that the most important factor unquestionably is the sound. If he enjoys the sounds then he’s going to be interested in releasing it. The fact that Eclipse has long-lasting relationships with several artists for many years and that Hardy is committed to working with them now and in the future has resulted in that he so many times receives recordings that are already slated for release before he actually gets to hear them. I imagine that this is all possible due to the belief and faith that he has in these artists and that’s he’s simply not too worried about receiving something that he wouldn’t want to release.
I asked Hardy to try to describe where Eclipse fits into the larger scheme of things in the music world. Here’s his reply: “I feel I provide an important service to the fans of the type of music I offered in the mail order and label, to the artists creating the music as well as small labels. I am trying to offer as much of this music as possible - and that means tracking down micro CD-R editions, lathe cut records, cassettes, as well as CDs and vinyl from various small labels and individual artists from around the world. Ideally my mail order will be able to carry all these fringe musics so the people/customers (I don't like the word consumers!) can get a hold of these recordings from one source as opposed to buying a CD-R in Norway and a lathe cut 7" from New Zealand where it gets to be difficult with currency exchanging. What I hope to do for the artists is support them by helping get their music heard and hopefully put some money in their pocket by buying directly from them so they can continue doing their art. I also support small labels who have little or no distribution elsewhere. They are responsible for much of the great music we enjoy so I support them by stocking their releases. So, I think my role in the music world is to be a distribution center for people to find these types of music at one place while supporting the artists and labels that are responsible for the amazing music. I feel honored to be a part of it.”
When checking out the line-up for the upcoming Terrastock fest in Providence I realized that there are quite a few Eclipse-related bands/artists in the line-up. I asked Hardy if he’s planning to attend the festival himself, what his impressions of the previous ones are like and how important festivals like Terrastock are for the survival of the label.
“I'd like to attend the Terrastock festival in Providence next year but nothing has been decided yet. I've been to the previous Terrastock festivals - all of them except for the one in the UK. They have all been really great - and I think they continue to get better with each one. The last one in Boston was fantastic and it also was the place where the Fruits / Roots 3LP idea was born. Previous festivals in Seattle, San Francisco, and the debut one in Providence all had their share of highlights and I'm sure the one upcoming in April will be incredible as well. There is a great spirit at these Terrastocks - festival goers are very supportive of all the artists involved and there are great performances by legends (Tom Rapp, Country Joe & The Frond Fish, etc) and young unknowns (Six Organs played T4 in Seattle in 2000 before Chasny was well-known). It’s a great time, really.
Terrastock is hugely important. Before Terrastock in 1997 there were not too many festivals (I can't think of any that come to mind but I'm sure there must have been). Now there are several festivals worldwide that have a spirit somewhat close to Terrastock - I think it was a huge inspiration to others. There have been a few free folk festivals in the Northeast of the US (Brattleboro, VT and Amherst, MA), the No Fun Festival in Brooklyn will have their third annual (so far) in March, and there are the incredible festivals in Scotland for the past few years (usually at least 2 per year). Terrastock is the only festival where I set up a table to sell records. I did this at T4 and T5 and this was hugely important to Eclipse. I was able to meet many customers in person as well as meet new friends. It was essential for me to be at these fests selling records to get myself known and make some money to fund new releases.”
As far as the future goes Hardy believes that the label definitely will be going strong 5 years from now. He expects Eclipse to continue to grow and he hopes to keep on releasing quality records and CDs (vinyl will remain top priority) on a busy schedule. He'd love to be able to release 20 records a year in 5 years time. That makes at least two of us, Ed.
A portion of this text was previously been published in an interview Mats Gustafsson did with Ed Hardy for the fifth issue of the amazing Dream Magazine. Extended and updated December 2005 © terrascope online