Michael Kadnar is a busy guy. As a musician, he spends his time drumming for NY/NJ experimental metal band Black Table, as well as German post-metal/black/neocrust unit Downfall of Gaia. He also runs a forward thinking boutique record label called Silent Pendulum Records, that already has a short string of solid releases under its belt. I spoke with Mike about balancing the duties of being in several bands on two different continents, pushing a label forward, booking a fest, and about the musical landscape as he sees it. The label’s latest release is a reissue of the s/t record from Australian band Hope Drone:
Can you tell us a little about the origin of Silent Pendulum, what was the impetus behind starting the label, how it came into being, where the name comes from?
MK: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. The initial impetus behind Silent Pendulum was to release albums that I loved, on vinyl, because they were either never pressed on vinyl, or because they are no longer available. I always wanted to start a label, but I didn’t find my vision until I saw the band North perform in New York a few years ago. After their set I inquired about purchasing “What You Were”, my favorite record of theirs, on wax. They told me it had never before been pressed, so I decided that I had to help these guys get their record out on that format.
I collect old clocks. I have been obsessed with time since I started playing music. I wanted to choose a name that alluded to time and the music I loved, and after doing some research, speicifally about the Foucault pendulum, I decided on the name Silent Pendulum Records. The passage of time affects each person differently and starting this label has helped me rationalize the relentless power of time. I lost a very close family member a couple years back, and I realized the most constructive way for me to grieve is to immerse myself even further into music and this label.
I view and treat all the bands on my label like family. We are all in this together and we all sacrifice the same things to write new albums, go on tour, and release records. I’m really fortunate to be able to work with so many talented bands, and I’m really proud of all the bands I have worked with that are now signed to larger/major labels.
You play drums in Downfall of Gaia and Black Table, two active bands that tour. What are some of the opportunities and/or difficulties you find yourself presented with in running the label and being on the road/fulfilling responsibilities in your own bands?
MK: The biggest benefit of playing and touring with both bands is that I am able to meet very talented bands and labels from around the world. I’ve met a few labels from Europe while touring with Downfall of Gaia, and now we are business partners and are working on releases together. The same goes for the bands I release. Meeting or performing with bands on tour is one of the best ways of finding new talent. If a band blows me away live, then they usually have or will have a good record available. Come to think of it, I met most of the bands on my label when we shared the stage on tour.
It’s very difficult to keep up with all of the record label responsibilities while I am on a long tour. Just keeping track of all the emails, orders, inquiries, etc. Luckily, I have a good crew back home that helps me with shipping and processing while I’m away. I’m also working on automating a few things, and bringing on some part time guys to share the work load.
Like many boutique labels, you seem to periodically collaborate with other labels, most notably with the really awesome Moment of Collapse label from Germany. How does that arrangement work, and do you prefer doing things that way or do you foresee yourself eventually moving toward mainly solo Silent Pendulum releases?
MK: There are numerous ways of setting up shared releases or distributing a title that another label put out already. The most common arrangement I’ve encountered is splitting the cost and the splitting the product, usually 50:50. But every release is different, and there are various factors that determine who orders the vinyl, who does the PR, etc.
I enjoy working with other labels because it becomes a larger effort to support the band we are releasing. Especially when the labels are from other countries, then we can promote more effectively and each label can capitalize on their strengths. I’ll keep working with other labels as long as it makes sense for the artist and the labels involved. However, I’m also working on being able to do more solo releases in the future.
Most of your releases to date seem to be bands that have generally either a black metal (‘blackened’ even though I hate that term), a post-metal/atmospheric aesthetic, or some combination of both. Is it your plan to stick to releasing specifically that kind of music, or do you have a desire to branch out further as the label grows and matures?
MK: I definitely want to have a specific sound for my label. I’m very selective of who I release and I want to maintain the integrity and aesthetic of Silent Pendulum. That being said, I listen to a lot of different styles and I am open to releasing other bands I truly believe in that don’t necessarily fall into the strict sub-genres you mentioned.
I also have the dream of starting a “jazz branch” of Silent Pendulum and release some of my favorite jazz records on wax. I would love to work with Mark Guiliana (Heernt) and Jim Black (Alas No Axis).
There’s a lot of conversation centering around the role labels play in the current musical landscape. It seems as though larger labels are losing their relevance to some extent, whereas smaller labels that are successful tend to operate more like curators of good music, and have an artist-centric approach to their operations. What are your thoughts on those issues and approaches, and where do you feel your place is in that milieu?
MK: Major labels have definitely been losing their relevance. Some bands will always need and benefit from being on a large label just because of the sheer volume of sales they have. However, for most underground and mid-level bands, I don’t think signing to a major label is necessary. I’ve seen and read a lot of success stories of bands that have self released records and are actually making a decent profit on their music.
I think the biggest problem that bands run into is the financing of new records, after spending most of their money on instruments, rehearsal studios, beer, etc. There is seldom money left over for recording in a good studio, mastering the record, and pressing it on vinyl. This is where I come in. I am able set up deals with bands that benefit both parties, and press some great records, that otherwise might only be available as digital downloads. I definitely try to have an artist-centric approach in all my endeavors.
Your inaugural Silent Fest show/showcase is taking place in late August at St Vitus Bar in NYC. How did that come together, and will it be an annual event?
MK: I used to book all my bands tours, and help any bands I knew get shows/ find promoters in the area. So, I thought, why not book a festival to showcase as many bands on my label as possible? I contacted my good friend and successful NYC promoter Patrick Prestige, of Midian Productions, about my idea, and he helped make it happen.
I definitely want to make it an annual event. I don’t want to give away too much, but I am hoping in the coming years to make the festival more than one day and investigate more unconventional venue options.
What releases do you have in the works, and what can we expect from Silent Pendulum in the rest of 2015/2016?
MK: I have a few things in the works, a re-press, a first pressing, and a debut full length. All of these happen to be New York based bands and should be out by the end of 2015 / early 2016. I don’t like to announce anything until the project is already at the pressing plant, so that’s all I can say for now. But there will be news in the next couple of months.
I’m currently working on a website/webstore, which will streamline everything, especially all my distro selections. I would also like to start carrying merch before the year’s over. Maybe some beer koozies, or short shorts with the Silent Pendulum logo.
What are you currently listening to/stoked on? What bands would you be into working with if you had your pick?
MK: I’m really stoked about the new Hope Drone, and I’m glad I was able to help repress their debut EP. Hopefully those guys will be able to tour the US soon since they are all the way from Australia. I’m obsessed with Thantifaxath and Nine Covens at the moment. And the new Pale Chalice is pretty rad.
I’m open to working with anyone really, as long as the music comes from the right place and I can connect emotionally with it. I would really love to press Mabus (RIP) onto vinyl, or even The Number Twelve Looks Like You (RIP).
Check out the latest releases from Silent Pendulum at silentpendulumrecords.bandcamp.com and listen to Michael Kadnar performing with Black Table at blacktable.bandcamp.com and Downfall of Gaia at downfallofgaia.bandcamp.com/album/aeon-unveils-the-thrones-of-decay
The first annual Silent Fest will take place on Fri 8/28 at Saint Vitus Bar, NYC. For more info check out: https://www.facebook.com/events/725397884238684/