Interview with Alex Ford of DEATHBED TAPES

Recently, I have been trying to find more new extreme music on Bandcamp to feature in writing and jam when I’m feeling something niche/absurd/esoteric. As it turns out, finding out about different labels that put out quality releases is a much better idea than crate-digging through the trenches of bedroom black metal releases and meme garbage. This isn’t to diss Bandcamp’s many denizens releasing passion projects to deaf ears – it’s just that I’m a lazy bastard and finding labels that put out quality releases consistently is a lot fucking easier. One such label of definite quality is Deathbed Tapes, an independent tape imprint putting out noise releases of all different kinds – power electronics, harsh noise wall, death industrial, etc. Featuring both big names (genre-wise) and up-and-comers, Alex Ford’s (who is a noise musician himself) label is one of grassroots and passion. I recently was able to send Ford some questions from my brand-spankin’ new business email, asking about the label’s history and plans for the future.

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Sean: First and foremost, who do I have the pleasure of speaking with?

Alex: I’m Alex Ford from Deathbed Tapes. I make Junk Noise as ‘Death Cult Ritual’, Industrial Noise as ‘Something Vile’, Harsh Noise Wall as ‘dead man walking’, Harsh Noise as ‘Expectants’ in my project with Richard Ramirez, and I have a few other collaborative and anonymous projects.

Sean: How did Deathbed Tapes get its start? Was it hard starting up a label in the noise scene, considering how volatile and confrontational it can be?

Alex: I had been listening to noise for about 6 years when I went to my first noise show in 2016 (Amplified Humans Festival) and I started experimenting myself soon after at the suggestion of Luke from Skeleton Dust. I spent about a year playing around with collage and xerox techniques, making flyers for shows and releasing some tracks digitally under the name ‘begravd’ which had a pretty wide range of styles. I had a few recordings that I thought should be on cassettes, and after being ignored and turned down by a bunch of labels I came up with the idea of Deathbed Tapes in July 2018 and released my first tape a couple months later – ‘begravd’ – MKIV which was an edition of 5 copies and each one had custom collage covers. Starting the label wasn’t hard – but I really had no business starting a label when I did. I had a lot to learn and I made a lot of mistakes along the way & didn’t even own a proper tape deck when I started the label. I didn’t know “self releasing” tapes was a thing back then, or I probably would have just done that instead.

Sean: How do you go about finding new acts and releases to partner with? Do they come to you at this point or do you discover people?

Alex: It’s always been a mixture of me reaching out to artists/friends and artists reaching out to me. I’ve got about 600 unheard submissions in my inbox because I just don’t have time to keep up with it anymore. I have about 20 releases lined up and probably 50 more being planned so it’s pretty rare that I accept or even listen to a submission these days unless it’s from a close friend.

Sean: What was it like working with genre staples like Controlled Bleeding and Vomir?

Alex: An absolute pleasure! Vomir was probably the second artist I ever reached out to. It took a few messages to get ahold of him at first, but I think we were both pretty happy with the Vomir – Coma release so we have worked together on various compilations, collaborations, quarantine edition “QUARANTINE A-OK” release, and I helped him with some t-shirts for his American tour back in March. The next release with him is another compilation – “Death Unmasked” coming this [Halloween] on VHS, USB, and cassette with barf bags.

Paul from Controlled Bleeding was also great to work with. It was his suggestion to reissue Distress Signals, and we are planning on doing a few more cassette reissues when this one sells out.

Sean: Have you ever been shocked by anything you’ve been sent/found/put out on the label?

Alex: Oh yeah. I’m not easily shocked, but I’ve had some submissions that would definitely put you on a list if you googled the project name or tape title – I guess that’s where I draw the line.

As far as stuff that’s been released by me, I’ve done 2 special editions tapes that came with human skulls, one that came with partial human skulls, and one that was just smashed up bits of skull inside an empty tape shell. I’ve done tapes with real giant black scorpions, antique last will and testaments, gimp masks, anal lube, human finger bones & teeth in grave dirt, baby jesus with a tampon string around his neck, etc.

Sean: How do you feel about people who have problems with the content you put out (against noise as an art form or against the violent/shocking content/covers)?

Alex: I don’t really care. The print shop that prints all my covers is run by Amish people and they’re pretty cool about it. Even my mom likes a few of the releases – she’s not a fan of the Porn Noise though. I like my noise to be violent and shocking and I like for the art to reflect that but I try not to cross too many lines – wouldn’t wanna get kicked off of bandcamp! 

Sean: Beyond noise, what other art forms do you enjoy/tolerate/etc.?

Alex: Industrial & Power Electronics! HaI also like New/No Wave, Post Punk, Shoegaze, Ambient, Post Rock, Witch House, Folk, & Drone.

I’m also into Viennese Actionism, typography, performance art, & sculpture.

Lately I’ve been obsessed with Shockumentary/Mondo VHS.

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So if you’re in the market for mind-melting noise from people who mail their tapes with human remains and precautionary barf-bags, keep your eye on Deathbed Tapes. It’s painfully clear that Ford is doing great things by providing a home for quality noise textures and reissues of classics. Check out the label and maybe even pick up a tape or shirt if you can: https://deathbedtapes.com.

Some recommended releases:

Necrophonix – MACBETH

Thin Mountain – I

Vomir – Quarantine A-OK

Dødskampen – Untitled

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