Aaron Turner (Isis/Old Man Gloom/Mamifer/Hydrahead Records founder) interview

Aaron Turner took some time to speak with me.  Interview is below, enjoy.


Besides the fact that you’ve managed to keep Hydra Head’s doors open for 20 years, is there anything else notable you wish to comment on regarding a project/activity that has had your direct involvement in which you’re proud of?

The word “proud” or “pride” can have strange connotations, but I will say that I feel extremely lucky to have been involved with just about all the the musical endeavors I have been in the last 20 years – both as a musician and as a facilitator of other people’s work. Almost all the great experiences of my late teenage years, college years and “adult” life have come through playing music or working with other musicians in some capacity. Most of my close friendships, and even my marriage came from this as well. I feel glad to know that some of the art and music I’ve made or helped others get out into the world has had meaning and provided inspiration to others. That is the highest goal I could’ve possibly hoped to achieve through doing what I do.

Your vinyl packaging is perhaps some of the best I’ve ever seen and it’s obvious that a lot care, thought and creativity go into its presentation.   Are you the sole brains behind the packaging concept alone or do you get input from your staff as well on what they believe would be a cool design/illustration/schematic?

 I started the label as a one person operation and the idea of producing quality packaging was part of the original ideology. I’ve definitely consulted others over the years in terms of how to approach the design and packaging for our releases – both staff and the bands /artists whom I was working for, and there have been many instances where other designers and artists created the sleeves for our releases. That said, it has been my persistent belief that music of substance deserves packaging that reflects that substance and helps to enrich the experience of the album overall.

Being the graphic artist for most of your catalog’s material, has their ever been anyone you would like to collaborate with for a design idea?

 There’s been a whole lot of people I would’ve loved to have worked with on designs and artwork, but for the most part I’ve gotten the most satisfaction out of creating album art by myself from the ground up. That has changed some in recent years in my partnership with Faith Coloccia. Working with her and having the chance to use some of her art and photos as well as having critical discussions about what I’m doing has strengthened the results of my efforts and been really enjoyable as well.

What band is the most challenging (idea wise) on HH to create a design for?

There’s nothing that immediately comes to mind, but without naming names, there have been a few instances where bands have adamant about using art or concepts that I had a really hard time accepting. I’ve always striven for a certain level of quality with our visual aesthetics, and there have been times where what a band wanted seemed to fall short of that goal. Ultimately though, I never want to stand in the way of anyone’s creative vision, and though I may have made suggestions about what to do from time to time I always left the final decision up to the artists. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there are a few records in our discography where in retrospect I wished I had been a little more totalitarian about the design though…

What sparked the idea of opening up Vacation Vinyl?  Will you be playing a more active role in the stores operations along with Pete and crew?

Vacation was born out of a lifelong desire to be an owner of a record store. I’m not sure if this was the motivation for all involved, but being that record stores were the source of many life changing documents for me I always loved the idea of being involved in one. My role in Vacation is minimal however and it’s really the people that are there day to day that make it the awesome place it is. If I still lived in LA I might be a more active participant, but as it is I’m content to watch it evolve from afar.

For all of those out there that aspire to operate their own label (regardless of what they want to put out), what words could you share through your experience with HH and also on the state of the industry today?

 Start small, move slowly, work with friends you can trust and most importantly do it because you love it. Those that are thinking of getting started now had better reconcile themselves with the fact that there is no substantial money to be made from doing this – it has to be done out of a devotion to music and fostering the work of artists whose work you respect. Having some kind of business sense would be helpful too – we’ve suffered greatly from a lack in that area. That doesn’t mean you need to be cutthroat by any means – it just means you need to know how to budget whatever funds you have, something we learned far too late. First and foremost though, heart and a healthy respect for other people’s humanity are the most important tools for running a label. At the end of the day dollars only mean so much – people and what they do is of far greater significance.

One Response to “Aaron Turner (Isis/Old Man Gloom/Mamifer/Hydrahead Records founder) interview”

  1. Hi, thanks for sharing

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