Label Love: Bindrune Recordings

Independent underground extreme metal label Bindrune Recordings gets the thumbs up, and a lot of love, from Bearded.

Posted on Sep 2nd, 2011 in Features and Interviews, Bindrune / By Peter Clark
Label Love: Bindrune Recordings Bindrune Recordings is all about pushing limits, embracing ‘the sometimes beautiful, often destructive side of music’, and it is this passion from co-founder Marty Rytkonen that attracts Bearded to the intense world of his record label. For those who like their music to be both challenging and passionate, with a hefty slice of heaviness, Bindrune are designed for your listening pleasure. Based out of Mayfield, Michigan, USA, Marty talks passionately about his label and the underground extreme metal world.

Hello. Firstly, who are you and what do you do?
Marty: Greetings! Thanks a lot for the interview. I’m Marty Rytkonen, owner of Bindrune Recordings. I release and promote music by bands that I feel are among the most creative and passionate artists I have heard in the underground.

Where does the Bindrune name come from?
A Bindrune is the fusing of multiple runes to reach a more specific end, by combining the individual runes powers more strength and clarity to be achieved to reach the desired intent. Myself and Scott Candey (Gruntsplatter/Crionic Mind) thought the name fit as we started this label together from different states. Two different individuals with different ideas, joining together to create a more focused outlet of musical expression.

How did the label start out?
Myself and Scott Candey started the label in 2000 with the idea that Bindrune would be the metal counterpart to his experimental label, Crionic Mind. We were also responsible for Worm Gear zine and have been friends since high school, so the label, for me anyway, was yet another step further into the behind the scenes mechanics of the music business from an extreme metal point of view. I found it infinitely interesting and as the label started to grow, I was hooked and really enjoyed the whole process. Since then, Scott is no longer a part of Bindrune, so I’m forging ahead as I feel Bindrune’s place and identity in the underground is important to the fans that are looking for music off the beaten path.

How does the average day/week pan out for you?
I work a full time job and also have a family, so Bindrune duties don’t tend to fire-up until the evening and the weekends. But the tedious formula plays out like this: Fill orders, work out trades, answer email, repeat! Oh yeah… don’t forget the countless hours throughout the year spent waiting in line at the post office. The xmas holiday is HELL on Earth at the post office.

How has your job changed since you started?
Things have gotten busier and a lot more serious over the years. Technology, for all it’s conveniences has made it more of a challenge to survive, but I’m very proud of what this label has accomplished and where it’s hopefully going.
Falls of Rauros

Falls Of Rauros

What do you look for in bands/artists to garner your time and effort?
A moving atmosphere is key! Also I try to support a sound that isn’t an obvious reflection of the current popular band on the scene, or rehashing of older and tired sounds. The band has to possess an identity, but there are exceptions to every rule of course. Ultimately, it all depends on if the artist’s music worms its way in and speaks to me…. As cheesy as that sounds.

Was the label designed as a way of getting extreme metal music out to a wider audience? Do you believe that there is a large enough audience out there to make the venture sustainable?
The initial idea was to help smaller bands out and get their material released with the hopes it would eventually garner them more exposure, and a shot with bigger labels. As Bindrune has gone on, I realize how essential it is to continue to work with an artist. “Grow together” essentially. These days I’m more about building longer lasting relationships as a longer stretch of promoting a band, and seeing the results as they begin to take off, is very rewarding. The friendships that have been forged in these unions also means a great deal to me. I believe the audience for this music is definitely out there, but money is tight these days. Again… technology is a powerful tool and a curse.

What is it about the Dark, Black, Doom metal genres that appeal to you? Would your label ever incorporate any other genres that you felt fitted into your labels ideals?
The aura emitting from the dark, black, and doom genres tends to encompass more variety and has a lot more to say, over the often close minded attack and brutal voice of genres like death metal. To me anyway! Don’t get me wrong, I still worship death metal, but I feel there are other labels out there that have this genre pretty well represented. With Bindrune, the styles I tend to gravitate towards are already pretty liberal, but this year I opened up a bit more by signing West Virginia’s Forest of the Soul (featuring members of Nechochwen), which is not metal at all. BUT, they still fit into the mission statement of the label with their atmospheric and beautifully played acoustic rock/folk. I am open to new ideas and look forward to exploring this even further in the future. Should this mean the right death metal band comes along, then so be it!

Do you still find a stigma attached to the heavier genres that the less open-minded people refuse to shake off? Are you trying to break these barriers or work with them in segregating out the elitists?
I think the “heavier than thou” viewpoint tends to be most often embraced by the young, people new to metal, or those who are outsiders and don’t understand it. I used to be pretty close minded when I was a teenager, but time breeds new ideas and one is in for a short field of music to choose from if they adhere to that for the long haul. I have some friends that tend to listen to brutal death metal almost exclusively and have been long time followers of it. They tend to get really discouraged and disappointed with new releases and get burnt out on the classics. I do respect that dedication, but again…. It is limiting. I honestly don’t think too much about all this with the label as I just release music that I like. I guess I do have hope that something I release opens someone’s eyes to a different style of music, but I’m more concerned about releasing something good. I guess consciously trying to break or uphold barriers means that I would have to acknowledge they exist and in my long history of music appreciation, I’d really rather just enjoy music and how it makes me feel. If there is indeed a stigma, I feel oblivious to it since this style of music is second nature. And looking around the media, it seems that heavier music has survived the years and become a permanent fixture. I hope I didn’t miss your point in that rant.

What has being involved with Worm Gear zine taught you about the music industry that you have brought with you into Bindrune recordings?
With Worm Gear, being a music critic gives you a glimpse into the music business, but it’s kind of a backwards view fuelled by privilege and encouraging praise rather than the reality. Labels try to stay on bigger magazines good side to coerce favourable press out of people. Some journalists buy into that, some take it with a grain of salt. Growing up, I was drawn to certain labels that I felt universally released great music. It left an impression on me that still holds true today. When the scene exploded and labels started releasing some good, but a lot of derivative bands to capitalize on others popularity, a lot of that was lost. I keep talking about identity, but with Bindrune, it is very important and all stems from my appreciation of the early years of Noise International, Combat, Metal Blade and a few others. I think all labels should make it their responsibility to release quality over quantity. Keep the fans hungry for more and confident that every release is going to be at least interesting, if not mind blowing. I realize this is hard and there is no accounting for taste, but things have gotten a bit out of hand over the years.


When caring as much about the musical process as you do, how important is the issue of formats/packaging to you? Are you in favour of downloads/limited editions/vinyl?
Packaging is important, but the overly wacky stuff at this point is a bit out of my league financially. I realize the bigger labels are trying this marketing ploy to coax people back into the habit of buying music over downloading it, but the bottom line is… if the music is worth buying, people will hunt it down. Look at that crazy altar/box set thing Season of Mist released housing the new Morbid Angel… See… you CAN polish a turd! The market has shifted greatly towards vinyl and downloads. I’m working at utilizing and releasing more in those mediums as this year progresses and next year reveals itself. Last year I tried a “Pay what you want” download platform that was met with a luke warm response. The few that utilized it thought it was great. Some would pay a penny for full albums and ALL the artwork scanned, but I was often amazed that some folks would pay anything from $5 to full price for the downloads. This was encouraging to witness, but the platform I used closed its doors and I haven’t tried to find something new to replace it. I’m in the process of looking into Itunes, but it’s all a process. Regarding vinyl, this year I will be releasing: Nechochwen – as yet untitled 12” MLP (all exclusive material to vinyl only), Blood of the Black Owl Light the Fires! LP (co-release with Handmade Birds Records) and Falls of Rauros The Light that Dwells in Rotten Wood LP (split release with Flenser Records). All titles on LP will be limited runs!

It could be argued that with “metal” gaining greater exposure in the mass music market, with more bands signing to major labels and headlining commercial festivals, that the underground scene will perhaps struggle to exist. Do you see this as an opportunity to push boundaries further, a case of a band evolving or dying?
I feel the underground will always exist, though it is under the microscope a lot more thanks to technology. Before the Internet, tilling the underground was a lot more difficult and exciting. You really had to hunt to learn about new bands and I think the payoff was a lot more of a rewarding experience when you discovered something new and great. Today, info is a click away. Music is just a click away, and depending on how in your face a band wants to be with their music, a new band can be heard quite effectively without the backing of a major label. If anything, I think the bigger labels are the ones that have to look over their shoulder. You can only keep putting out more money with promotion than you’re bringing in with sales for so long before the pressure cracks begin to weaken the foundation. Pushing the boundaries is a way to create interest I suppose, but it all boils down to releasing GOOD and powerful music.

What drives you to keep going? How do you measure success?
I’m a pretty tenacious person and generally too stupid to quit! Success… more people are now aware of Bindrune thanks to the fine artists that have chosen to ally with me. The fact that they trust me to handle their art, means a lot. Also, the repeat customers/fans of the bands and the label who take the time to say thanks for the music is also a great sign that we’re on the right track. I’m not looking to get rich here, but it is my hope that the label can sustain itself and continue to grow/release music when the need arises.

Can you see a resurgence in independent record stores, or have things changed so much that there’s no going back?
The big record chains are to blame for a lot of this decline, as they have priced themselves out of the equation. I was in FYE the other day and saw Darkthone’s Circle the Wagons for $19.99. Really? Who’s going to buy it for that? The independents cannot compete with the Best Buy’s and Walmart’s of the world who come into town and sell CDs for less than what the mom and pop stores can even buy them from their distributor. The market has changed. It is mainly online and it’s a lot cheaper to shop from home. It’s not as fun or spontaneous though and I miss taking a road trip to dig through records at a great record shop. The chains and the distributors need to re-evaluate. Give up on their greedy business models for any hope of the record shops to survive.

What have been some of the highlights and lowlights of your time at the label?
The highlights are definitely the friendships I have earned with this label. Seeing bands like Wodensthrone move on to Candlelight and bigger opportunities was also special. The bad stuff all revolves around the lack of sales. Last year and the beginning of 2011 was pretty tough and I began to wonder if the label would survive. Sales were really slow. But it seemed to be universal for other label owners I’ve talked to. Everyone is trying to figure out how to just keep their heads above water. I understand it. Times are tough for people out there and buying music is a luxury. It’s one of the first things to cut out of a tight budget, especially when everything you can imagine is available for free download online. Even though I get it, doesn’t mean it feels good to realize that something that I take great pride in depends on the support of others.

Where would you advise someone to begin when wanting to discover the music of Bindrune?
It’s hard to narrow this “gateway to Bindrune” band down to just one since I feel each artist is their own special entity. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but it’s true. I plan on offering a free download compilation in the coming months, but I just need to sit down and compile it/make time for it. For the ritualistic side of the label, Blood of the Black Owl is very serious about their art/message and bringing the listener deep within the mystical folds of their sound. Wodensthrone and Falls of Rauros are incredible at building dense layers with their black metal. Nechochwen, Obsequiae, and Forest of the Soul pile on the powerful and memorable riffs with amazing technical proficiency and atmosphere/acoustic guitar and Celestiial offers moving woodland doom with a dark ambient aura stirring at the core. Take a chance and dive in

"I think all labels should make it their responsibility to release quality over quantity. Keep the fans hungry for more and confident that every release is going to be at least interesting, if not mind blowing."

Any advice for someone wanting to set up their own label?
I feel one REALLY needs to evaluate why they want to do this. Do you think you can bring something new to the table? Do you have a lot of extra cash and time burning a hole in your pocket? Times are changing quickly… I hope the more established underground labels can survive the change. It’ll be the hardest for new and corporate labels I think. Time will tell!

Do you carry an ethos or mantra?
Work hard and treat people fairly.

Thanks a lot for the interview and support!