Saturday 17 August 2019

An Interview With Brad Frye Discussing Desert Records And WOMEN OF DOOM

Today I'm interviewing Brad Frye. Owner of Desert Records and the creative genius behind Psychedelic Stoner Rockers - RED MESA.

I'm interviewing Brad as he's just setup a KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN with Jadd Shickler from Blues Funeral record label to focus on the WOMEN OF DOOM.

Women of Doom is an album of all-new music and original songs from some of the best artists in heavy music today to recognize and celebrate the impact of women on all things heavy.

I wanted to find out more about Brad's work with Desert Records and where the idea of WOMEN OF DOOM came from. There will be a future interview with Brad where we will discuss RED MESA.

For now enjoy this interview with Brad and find out more about the awesome work he's currently doing...

How did Desert Records start?

It started in Albuquerque, NM in 2018. I was watching a raven out in the desert flying around rocks and cactus. It landed on a dead tree limb overlooking the desert landscape. It looked wise and intelligent and strong and beautiful. The raven turned its head and looked straight at me. It stared straight into my soul. It asked me if I was on the right path in my life. I wasn't and the raven knew it to. Without words, the raven said, “You better get on it.” Then it flew off.

I went home and started Desert Records. 

When did you get the insane idea to run a record label?

My band Red Mesa was finishing up recording our album “The Devil and the Desert”. I figured that if we were going to press a vinyl record, why not have it on a label? And if I wanted to have control of the process, I knew it what time to do it myself.

I felt like it was very important for me to learn more about the music business side of things while learning how to get the album into the hands (and ears) into more people.

Was it hard process setting up Desert Records?

It's the first business that I have ever started. Huge learning curve. Still a huge learning curve now, a year later. I took a small business class online. I talked to a lot of people. I dove in and started learning on the fly. I've made a ton of mistakes. The amount of stress has been overwhelming at times. It's an extremely hard process because there are so many different components of running a label. I'm a one man DIY operation. I could use about 10 employees, but I can't afford to pay one person at the moment. I hope that at some point the label will become successful enough for me to have a team to work with. In the meantime, I'll be working a full-time day job, being a husband, working on Desert Records AND writing new music with Red Mesa with every free second I get.

Looking back now would you do anything different?

I wouldn't have started a record label! Ha ha! It's so much work. But totally worth it. I think I would have done so many things different in the first year. I've learned so much, and I look back and think, “Fuck, I could have done things so much better.” Such as life.

Why did you call the label Desert Records?

I wanted to name the label something very simple and easy to remember. Like Island Records, for example. Also, I didn't want the name to be something fancy or flashy, because I want the bands on the label to stand out, not the label itself. Plus, I love the fucking desert. I'm obsessed with the SW United States desert country. And I grew up in Maine on the coastline where I could see Mount Desert Island from my kitchen window as a boy. So, the Desert Records is something that combines my past, present, and future all into one.

Have you had any help from the DIY Record Labels currently within the underground Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal scene? Or have you done this all by yourself? 

Dude, I have been so blessed to have received guidance from some of the best in the underground.

I'm glad you asked, because I want to give big shout outs to Todd at Ripple, Jadd at Blues Funeral, Neils at Cursed Tongue Records, and Jay at Orange Whip Records. I could not have done this without them. They have been so kind, helpful, and supportive. They have provided me with so much advice and business resources.

I remember talking with all these guys individually before starting Desert Records and saying, “Hey man, I'm gonna start a record label. I wanted to let you know and hope that's cool. Not trying to take away any business.” They all responded with encouragement and support. That felt really good going into it.

Which bands do you have signed currently to your label?

The newest band to join Desert Records is Nebula Drag. They are an amazing psychedelic stoner metal band from San Diego. “Blud” will be released on vinyl, CD, and digital on September 27th, 2019.

The artist roster includes When The Deadbolt Breaks (CT). They are an incredible psychedelic Doom band. The Horned God (NM), an ancient Celtic Stoner Metal and Cos-play band. Their debut album is out now. Red Mesa (NM), my band that is desert rock, metal, Americana and psychedelia.

I have a small artist roster for now. This is intentional because I wanted to take the time to learn how to run a label and be able to have time to work with the bands. I'm slowly growing, but only as I feel comfortable with. Bands really like to be able to feel support from their label. I talk, text, and message with the bands all the time. I want to be there for them. If I had 50 bands on the label, I wouldn't be able to do that.

Do you have a set of rules when signing a band to your label or who you want to work with?

Yes. Number one, I need to love their music. If I don't love it, I'm not putting it out. Two, I want to work with good people. People that are loving, intelligent, thoughtful human beings and artists. Desert Records does not tolerate racism, bigotry, fascism, homophobia, or hatred of any kind. Three, I want to work with bands that are very active and are willing to work hard through tours, making fans, promoting their record, and networking. Four, have fun. Music is important, and it's a very challenging journey, but you gotta enjoy the trip.

Do you have any upcoming album releases that folks maybe excited about?

Nebula Drag's second full-length “Blud” will be released on September 27th. This album is a ripper!

This will be 10 tracks from dudes in San Diego. If you have never seen or heard Nebula Drag, go check them out. First class music wizardry. This band is a perfect example of the evolution of heavy rock. They have elements of many things that rock, metal, and punk fans will love: riffs, melodic singing, high energy, psychedelic grooves, huge and heavy sound, and killer songs.

And of course, Women of Doom in the spring of 2020!

The project I’ve seen you working on now is WOMEN OF DOOM. What is that project all about. 

This project is celebrating and honouring women for their contributions and achievements in heavy music. This brings together some of the most talented musicians in the heavy music world today, under one album, to honor highlight women in rock. I knew I wanted to do a project with some of my favorite artists in the heavy underground. It took a long time and a lot of conversations with the artists and women in my life to have the right plan. 

I wanted to make sure that fans and the artists know this is not about the exploitation of women. This isn't about “sexy women of heavy metal”.

The agreements between the artists and the label are 50-50. As simple and fair as a record deal exists. I have the artists submit all the photos of themselves. Content and news are exchanged between the artists. Transparency and trust.

The artists are free to submit the music/song of their choice. I encourage dialogue and feedback about the project. I want this to be done right.

It's an obvious challenge to create and launch a project like Women of Doom when I am not a woman myself. I let the women do the talking, and I will support them in any way possible and help get their music out their for the people to enjoy!

What is the overall aim for the project.

The overall aim is to inspire through music and creativity. I hope that the musicians and the music fans will be inspired by this project. I hope this will give the musicians an opportunity to create and express themselves in a way that they haven't had the outlet for. I hope that music fans will discover their music and start to listen to new music. I hope people will be inspired to pick up a creative project in their life. Maybe this will inspire kids to pick up musical instruments. I feel there are so many negative things going on in the world, that this is something positive that people can focus on.

Are you doing this project yourself or do you have help arranging this entire project.

Once I felt ready and comfortable to make this idea a reality, I talked with Jadd Shickler from Blues Funeral. He owned and operated the legendary record label MeteorCity. He lives here in Albuquerque too. After many discussions, I asked him to collaborate. This project required wisdom and experience that I didn't have to properly launch it. Jadd was the right person to work with.

Desert Records has also joined forces with Jenn D'Eugenio of Women in Vinyl. She is amazing and has really helped to guide the direction of the project. She's introduced me to artists that are now on the album. She has been a supporter of this project from the first day we talked and I'm very happy and grateful that we are working together.

You have some awesome musicians currently involved. And everyone writing new material for the album.

Yes! Holy shit, this line-up is getting stacked: Rebecca Vernon (Subrosa, The Keening, Amy Tung-Barrysmith (Year of the Cobra), Lauren Gaynor (Deathbell), Sarah Pendleton and Kim Cordray (Subrosa, Avarice), Doomstress Alexis (Doomstress), Gwyn Strang (Frayle), Nighthawk (Heavy Temple), and a couple big surprises to be announced over the next few weeks!

Yes, all the artists are providing brand new, never-before-heard material. The songs I have heard so far have blown my mind. You are in for a real treat.

It’s good to see your KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN reaching it’s target in double quick time. Has it surprised you how quickly that happened.

Thank you! People have shown a lot of love and support for this project. I truly didn't know what to expect. I hoped that people would be as excited about it as I am. For us to hit our goal in the first 15 days felt so good. As I'm writing this, we still have nine days to go. I hope the project can continue to be supported so we can do as much as we can for the incredible artists who are providing us all with new music and amazing songs.

Do you think there’s an issue with female musicians not getting enough credit as their male counterparts within the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal scene.

I feel heavy rock and metal has been historically dominated by males. But some of my favourite artists and bands are centered around women. I find a lot of inspiration from these women. I hope this project will give these musicians and their bands new fans.

Will this be a regular project or just a one-off project.

Not sure yet! Women of Doom will come out in Spring 2020.

Words by Steve Howe and Brad Frye

Thanks to Brad for doing this interview. 


Desert Records

Red Mesa

Facebook | Bandcamp