Q&A: Slim Twig’s underappreciated ‘A Hound At the Hem’ gets a second chance on DFA Records

Four years after its creation, Slim Twig's "baroque, ambitious, and singular" album 'A Hound At The Hem' gets another chance on DFA Records.

October 20, 2014

Good news for fans of Slim Twig: his 2012 album A Hound At The Hem is set to be re-released later this month. Good news for Max Turnbull, aka Slim Twig himself: DFA Records are the ones doing the re-releasing. This news marks the end of a very tumultuous ride for Turnbull in the effort to get Hound out to a wider audience—the record was originally shelved by his then-record company (Paper Bag Records) for sounding too “out there,” and was only released once, when Turnbull’s own Calico Corp. label and Pleasance Records teamed up. Turnbull tells us about the gruelling process of getting this admittedly warped record out to a larger audience, and what his signing to DFA records means for future Slim Twig releases.

AUX: So DFA records are re-releasing A Hound At The Hem. How cool is that?

Slim Twig: It’s very cool, especially because it sort of came up out of the blue. My wife Meg [Remy] and I had released a 7-inch for Eric Copeland of Black Dice on our label, Calico Corp. just because we’re in love with his music and Black Dice are a really important band for me. Black Dice and Eric have an affiliation with DFA, and they were putting out a new Copeland record, and were looking on Discogs to see all of his previous releases. They saw the one 7-inch we released that they hadn’t heard about, ordered that, looked into our label, and found out about Hound, this record that they’d never heard of. Jonathan [Galkin], who runs DFA fell in love with it and was really surprised that it hadn’t reached a wider audience. For them to reach out was just a cool experience and have it be solely on the basis of thinking that record was really good, so I think it ultimately found a home that’s appropriate.

How difficult was it to release the album originally?

It was a really difficult task. Hound was made to fulfil my contract with Paper Bag Records. I had one more record left on my deal there. I thought I was making my Pet Sounds or something; a really orchestral ambitious work of pop music. [Laughs] It turned out that people just didn’t see it that way. It was just too “out there” for most people, or not “out there” enough for some labels, you know?

So when we put it out on Pleasance and Calico Corp., it was after a long time of trying to get it out for people to hear. I’d had records distributed in a larger way before that, and I really felt like it was my best work up to that time. So in some respect it was a step back to only have it come out in a limited vinyl run. But Pleasance is a label that gets what I’m doing and it’s run by people that understand trying to make challenging unconventional music. So that was totally a positive experience.

Now that this record is coming out via DFA, does that mean you’re signed to the label? How does this arrangement work?

Yeah. They’re going to put out new Slim Twig material additional to this reissue. The idea was to try and bring that record to a larger audience, which was fulfilling that ultimate dream I had for it. This is just serving as an introduction to Slim Twig music, trying to cultivate a little bit of awareness about what I do and we’ll follow that up with new stuff early next year.

Two years later, how do you feel about Hound?

It’s hard for me. I associate a lot of inner turmoil with that record, especially the process of trying to get that record out on a wider scale. At the time I made it I was over the moon about it. I really enjoyed the experiences of having the string arrangements done by Owen [Pallett] and of making the record itself, just going and living on [Toronto] Island with my friend Louis Percival. We lived out there for like a month and a half almost.

Just thinking about it on musical terms, I am really satisfied with it. It was a great learning experience and thinking about it that way as a huge development for me. Making that record was kind of like going to university or something for my own craft. It’s always a struggle in my mind to put the negative aspects of it away, and realize that I think I achieved what I wanted with that record. To make something that was baroque and ambitious and singular. I don’t think it sounds like any one thing.

A Hound At The Hem is out on October 28th via DFA Records.

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