This week we had the pleasure of interviewing Boris Otterdam, founder of ENDE Records, an Australian independent label which focuses on abstract, dark, heavy and hardcore electronic music, among other things. Their catalogue of creations is well… huge, and extensive, so we took the opportunity to learn more about Boris’s vision, and experience in both founding and operating this wonderful venture!
I first met Boris personally many years ago, at one of the first Enzyme events in Melbourne, at Lounge. He played numerous times with us since then, as both Noistruct and the more dark-ambient inclined Mandark.
What triggered the creation of this label, having been a recording artist for so long?
ENDE Records was an idea I had for about 2 years before actually starting it. I had seen first-hand how Matt Bleak’s Night Terror Recordings web label had taken off from it’s beginning in Melbourne in 2008, and was blown away by the quality of music released on there, and how easy it was to operate and run. At the same time I had noticed a few web labels rise and fall on the internet and social media, so I spent about 2 years researching the idea and looking for a way to make it stand out and survive like NTR had, and not fall apart so quickly (ironically NTR folded the year ENDE started).
I already had experience running labels. Co-running 8-Bit Recordings for 14 years with The Last Ninja and tried starting my own sub label called DT7 Records on CDR in 2002 in Perth with a friend, which died quickly…within a few months I think.
In 2006 while living with a Melbourne DJ I tried to co-run a label called the Grey Sea with him, but the project failed for reasons outside my control. Through this, I learned what “not to do”, particularly after this experience.
After 2010 with the advent of faster broadband and internet speeds, web labels that were few and far between throughout the 2000s, began to take off. There was already A-Klass Records in New Zealand, D-Trash Records in Canada, Chase Records in France and a few other web labels around in the 2000s that had done well for themselves and launched a number of great producers in underground electronic music. These labels and others were also a huge influence. But after 2010 the whole idea just exploded with dozens of new web labels.
Like it really took off with labels like Legs Akimbo in the UK and Viral Conspiracy in Italy. Seeing a lot of those labels operate with total freedom of release scheduling, and total freedom to release whatever they wanted and therefore put out some really dynamic and challenging stuff. All of the ones I mentioned for the 2000s were primarily web labels but some like D-Trash and A-Klass also released cassette, CD, CDR and vinyl. I guess it was that versatility in mediums that appealed to me as well. Free or paid, you could run a label and have some success with it both ways and run it the way you wanted.
In the end I took advice from some producers and promoters and label guys from different scenes who ran labels themselves, and tried to run it both like a web label or internet label and also much like a traditional indie label, like the kind I grew up with such as Creation Records, Amphetamine Reptile, Touch n Go, Worm Interface etc.
One early piece of advice from a producer in Germany was not to drown people in releases too quickly, so in the beginning it was one release a month. That lasted for the first year and by early 2015 I had so many releases I wanted to get out that I started just releasing them… sometimes a few a week and sometimes a few a month. I had also by about that time been receiving excited emails from people asking when the next ENDE release was coming out. The reality is that the 20th century model is basically dead. People like to be able to get content easily and more often, because there’s no real manufacture in digital labels so they expect to be able to get music quickly.
The label started in July 2014 while I was living in Brisbane, and I was for the most part isolated from scenes I had once been pretty active in. So it was something to keep me busy and allow me to continue to contribute, without putting on shows weekly like I did in Melbourne for the previous 8 years, on and off before I moved to Brisbane. It also meant I could put out my own music whenever I wanted, anytime I wanted. I didn’t realise it at the time but when I joined Bandcamp in 2011 but it would set a standard for musicians and new independent labels to start on their own terms.
I think the interest in starting my own free/PAYL (pay as you like) web label and now fully independent label was mostly about that, and also archiving a lot of the Australian electronic scene I had been involved in organising. One thing I used ENDE Records for which made it stand out from other labels was as an archive. Throughout the 2000s I had run live shows and radio shows, so promotors, producers and DJs all used to give each other CDRs to trade, or shared online through filesharing when Australia’s electronic scene was still small. A lot of music was given to me to play on my radio shows.
In Sydney I started off with taking over the System Corrupt Radio Show on 2SER from Dave Harris (Toecutter) in late 2003, which finished and then became my show Illegal Frequencies Radio Show. After I passed that show on to The Shredder (who went on to start Sub Bass in Melbourne a few years later) and Stoyk from Sydney Crew “Travelcore” when I moved to Melbourne. I continued the show on RRRFM there as part of the graveyard shift from 2004 until 2013.
So after it’s first few releases I started uploading various CDR compilations and releases from different artists and different electronic genres around Australia, so that their music wouldn’t be lost or forgotten. A lot of the people I played with in the 2000s eventually left the scene for different reasons. I noticed that without official releases they’d only be remembered for a few shows here and there, as names on faded flyers and their contributions mostly…. forgotten.
So I spent time tracking down many of them, and some I already had on social media and the giant wallets full of CDRs from the 2000s, to take into radio shows and use to DJ at shows – these very slowly became ENDE re-releases and new releases. Some artists impressed by the idea came forward and submitted their own material. Within the first two years of ENDE Records I had successfully uploaded and archived about 80% of what I had, and about 60% of the Australian Breakcore Scene from the 2000s.
You have a massive catalogue of work, how do you manage it all and keep the energy levels up?
Because I’m insane hahaha! By the time ENDE was 2 years old it was getting releases very quickly, as well as new submissions on top of the new artists it was releasing. At the end of 2016 due to possible homelessness I only just avoided, I called time on it for a few months while I lived off-grid in rural NSW without internet. Also, because I’d been uploading and releasing 24 hours a day, I was getting burned out.
Because of my experience in music-writing and journalism, and my love for the old indie labels. I never wanted ENDE Records to be a label that just uploaded releases and that was it. So every release submitted has to be listened to for a week at least, so I can get a feel for it. Like you would buying a new album from a store back in the day. I told artists to release on ENDE Records even though it was for the most part free, it had to be something worth paying for. Releases needed to be high quality and artwork had to be something of a theme for the release, not just a random picture. They also had to submit a short bio and links to their works elsewhere so people could find more if they wanted to and make contact by email . It was not so much a collection of uploads but a real LABEL. Artists were encouraged to release with us, and keep doing so, but they were acknowledged as artists that had contributed elsewhere or on their own.
With this ethos, I gave artists the freedom to release the same ENDE Records material elsewhere, or on their own labels. I asked if each ENDE release could be exclusive but never made it a rule. Artists liked the write ups, fans of the label liked the write ups and the attention to each artist. I do still to this day go through releases and check that links to emails and websites are updated.
Because most web labels and independent labels based on the internet don’t have contracts or regulations. Most of them share and trade artists and occasionally co-release with each other on each other’s labels. It’s still very freeform and gonzo in a way.
As for the different types of music on there. I saw no reason that I couldn’t release whatever I wanted to. Electronic music is pretty much my biggest love and breakcore and IDM is probably the biggest of those. But I saw an opportunity to make ENDE into a more formidable label. There’s a lack of labels particularly in breakcore and IDM in Australia. Particularly ones that aren’t what I call “vanity labels” which only release their closest friends in a scene or people they think they can profit from easily. Pretty much every label like a particular one out of The Blue Mountains, where only the one artist would take up most of the release output, and occasionally throw a bone to their friends. One guy who ran one of those Blue Mountain labels shoehorned himself on to every release he gave to others – even to established artists like Enduser. I definitely knew these were signs that an actual label that was open to submissions, or at least tried to represent a large section of the scene, was desperately needed.
It was all a huge learning curve for me. By 2017 I felt like the label was getting too big and the Bandcamp site too cluttered. For this and some personal reasons, I eventually shut it down in 2019, which would end up being for two years of inactivity.
ENDE was something I loved doing and had a lot of passion for. Since I wasn’t really playing live anymore all that much after 2013, and even less after I quit the breakcore scene in 2017. I spent more time and devoted more energy to it to grow into something even bigger and more diverse. In 2018 it was officially registered as a business, and in 2020 I went totally professional and invested a lot of money with new projects such as sub labels, and my own artist projects for my music. It’s now what I do full time (or as much time as I can).
What kinds of artists and forms of music do you specialise in, and how would you describe your audience?
I think that ENDE followers are pretty diehard. There are a lot who wait with baited breath for new releases and they message and ask for release dates and news etc. We’ve had a lot of great feedback over the years. We’re definitely now recognised in Australia as a major contributor to independent underground electronic music, and as a major contributor to the worldwide breakcore scene. At times I have definitely played it too close to the chest, and made the label a part of me and dragged it into my personal life. But I’m learning to keep everything separate and become a more professionally run label.
The artists on ENDE tend to predominantly be people I’ve met and known before, during the last 23 years I have been in the Australian Breakcore Scene, but also discoveries either myself or others have made through social media, word of mouth, SoundCloud, Bandcamp and artist websites. ENDE mostly focuses on dark, heavy and experimental electronic music but has occasionally veered into hip hop, metal and punk rock.
In 2020, during the first round of worldwide pandemic lockdowns I started an audio-only podcast festival which began as one day event, but grew to three. That became one of the biggest projects we’ve done at ENDE, as I got to mix some of my favourite electronic artists and pioneers with ENDE artists and producers from the underground electronic scenes worldwide, and many from our friend’s labels like Legs Akimbo, Mpfree, Gutter Cvnt, Sunhole Records, Coma Recordz, Hands Productions, Sonicterror Recordings, Viral Conspiracy, Doomcore etc.
Over the course of 4 months, we got to perform online alongside artists and pioneers of noise, industrial and breakcore, like Duane Buford from Ministry/Revolting Cocks (he was already a fan of ENDE and had floated the idea of releasing a solo album with us), CARTHAGE and his doom industrial metal band Khost with Andy Swan formerly of Iroha and JK Broadrick’s Final, FFF, Enduser, Bombardier, The Haters, Deutsch Nepal, Tone Generator (Dom Guerin formerly of SPK), Istari Lasterfahrer and Bloody Fist Records Xylocaine to name a few.
With the addition of these artists playing for us, it resulted in future collaborations with them, such as Khost contributing to the Noistruct remix series “The Transgressor: Expanded” and CARTHAGE releasing with us later in 2021 or early 2022. We have also seen a massive increase in traffic and followers and promotional opportunities for all of the artists.
I think it has also expanded the different types of followers we have now, with the focus on other styles of electronic music growing at ENDE. Now that we’ve collaborated with some bigger artists and had great feedback and experiences with them, we’ve definitely become more of a label to watch.
We’ve always had a strong focus on breakcore, IDM, noise, industrial and drum n bass, but we’ve now kind of consolidated everything into sub-labels as well, so for some of the styles to get a focus it’s a bit easier.
Firstly, we started a paid sub-label Protocore Records which is only for the original dark and heavy 90s/2000s style breakcore sound, which was inspired by the signature labels of the 2000s like Zod, Low Res, Addict Records and Zhark International. There’s also “Beats To The Front” coming soon for 4/4 experimental music styles only, and soon will be launching “Music as Contraband” for non-electronic releases such as punk rock and metal.
ENDE over the years has released breakcore, hardcore, idm, doomcore, gabber, dark ambient, dark drum n bass, jungle, drone, power electronics, minimal house, abstract hip hop, analogue modular music, punk rock, metal, noise rock, math rock and darkwave electronic music. Styles like in that vein I guess. I just wanted to be able to give the opportunity for a lot of styles I loved to get a wider audience than the average browser would on SoundCloud or Bandcamp. Now with a small crew of producers, promoters and DJs around the world assisting us – that’s getting a lot easier.