Photo features New Kanada release Ambient Parks Vol. 2 artwork
One half of Juno-nominated techno explorers Graze, Adam Marshall is also a fascinating solo artist. As if that weren’t enough, he’s the founder, proprietor and creative director of the immaculate New Kanada imprint.
Though not even a decade old, the label has carved out an impeccable niche, reputable for both its commitment to envelope-pushing electronic music and its distinct, unified design aesthetic. Aside from Graze’s releases, the imprint has introduced some of the most innovative sound sculptors, hopping between avant-garde noise and slightly more traditional (though no less inventive) dance music.
In 2015, the label is still pushing some fascinating new sounds. This week, they delivered Ambient Parks Vol. 2, their second compilation of beat-less ambient music that features artists like Crushfield, Iron Galaxy, Jokers of the Scene, Kevin McPhee, Noah Pred and Sergio Levels. Then, next week, they’ll serve up Mount Real, a three-song 12-inch from Toronto explorer Moonstarr.
We caught up with Adam Marshall to discuss the label’s mandate, along with its impeccable design aesthetic.
When and how did New Kanada form?
The first time I was booked to DJ in Tokyo, Japan, the promoters booked me in a nice little hotel in Shibuya called. Hotel New Kanada. It was just before I started the label… and the name just sort of stuck out as the perfect name for the new label.
The name always reminded me of the Godspeed You! Black Emperor EP Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada….
It was from the hotel in Japan… but, that Godspeed LP was one of my faves and I was a huge fan of those guys and Constellation in general. I still regularly play the vinyl in my sets (the ambient bits and spoken word parts…). Maybe it subconsciously lead me into the New Kanada.
What was the catalyst for forming your own label?
I wanted to showcase music from my friends and colleagues that really represented a new direction in electronic music… not so much genre-wise, but rather the lack of genre. All my peers and friends were into such wide-ranging music, and took inspiration from such wide ranging artists and styles. And they seemed to distill them down into a “sound” that was more linked together by its openness to new things and new influences. Kind of like Canada, but in a music or cultural sense.
Does New Kanada have a specific mandate or mission statement?
No. The lack of a mandate would be it’s mandate. Like shouting into the vacuum.
What are some other labels you look up to? Did you model yourselves after anyone in specific?
This changes from year to year, and style to style, but I was definitely inspired by a lot of the Detroit aesthetic of UR and Axis and M-Plant and such in the beginnings. Currently, some electronic labels I’m into these days include Sex Tags, Trilogy Tapes, Honest Jons, Principe, Novel Sound, PAN and stuff from the Downwards camp (among a ton of others).
The black, white and red aesthetic of your releases is immaculate, and one of the first things that drew me into checking out your label. How did you decide to stick with one aesthetic? Does one person design every release, or do you work with artists and just stay within a certain framework?
I design all the label artwork myself. Sometimes artists contributes visual ideas or directions, or sometimes I just make it all up with what ever feels right. As for sticking with the aesthetic, it kind of became the glue that held the chaos together, musically. Even though the music that comes out on the label can really run the gamut of styles and sounds, the visual aesthetic usually stays untouched. Not always, as there are some exceptions, but usually.
How do you find artists and releases? Do you accept demos, or do you prefer to seek out music on your own?
I usually know the artists, or am friends with them, or get referred to them through friends, but sometimes I get a random email from someone I don’t know that turns out to be awesome. Imugem Orihasam, from Sapporo, Japan, was a good example of this. He sent me his first EP without me knowing him, or ever hearing about him, and it just worked so well for the label that we signed him immediately. I usually let the good stuff come to me, and I don’t try to push to hard to make things happen. If it’s meant to be, it will be.
As both an artist and a label owner, do you feel connected to the Canadian music industry? Do you feel adequately supported in Canada?
To be honest, I don’t feel that connected with the music industry in Canada, no. I’d say I am more connected with the global music community. As for support, it was nice to be nominated for a Juno last year for the Graze LP, but apart from that there is almost no support or recognition from the Canadian music “industry,” but that’s OK because I’m not that interested in it anyways. There is, and always has been, a lot of support from the fans and artists in Canada… and I am always the first to tell people how lucky I was to have grown up in Toronto, with so many musical influences.
How did the Ambient Parks series come together? Can you tell me a little bit about how it works.
The idea was to create a vehicle to release and showcase some of the great ambient, and beat-less, and generally chill tracks some of my friends were making that fit outside what they were known for musically.
The idea for calling it Ambient Parks was initially to commission a track for each National Park in Canada. That idea sort of fell apart as it wasn’t just Canadians featured on the compilation, but the name stuck. For some reason when I think of large expanses of wild lands, I think it should be soundtracked to ambient. Blame it on the outdoor raves of my youth.