Axkan Interview: 6 Years of Omen Recordings

Dirty Epic: LA isn’t necessarily the first major city that comes to mind when you think about Techno, at least on an international scale. That said, the scene here has rapidly grown in recent years and currently offers more shows in any given month than most other cities can claim in a year. 

In this day and age, physical location doesn’t seem as significant for an artist or label to succeed as it once did. As we all know, nowadays most commerce is done online, so my first question is, how, if at all, does being based in LA affect or influence the trajectory of Omen Recordings?

Axkan: I believe Los Angeles had a great influence on me. After being part of an independent label in the early 2000’s (Nopal-Beat Records), which was a great experience, I had the goal of creating another label in the future. Unfortunately, while I lived in Chicago, the local Techno scene wasn’t very important, but things changed when I moved to LA in 2011. 

I started making more connections and gathering more information about the music business. It was also the time when the industry started to look back at vinyl, which was a great motivation for starting OMEN Recordings. It also seemed like it was a great moment for Techno worldwide.

DE: Unlike other genres, Techno manages to do just fine without being in the limelight, at least to a certain extent. Rejecting fame and notoriety is practically baked into its DNA, but do you think it should stay that way? How do you balance keeping things adequately “underground” while trying to grow your brand and appeal to an international audience? Is this something you even consider?

Axkan: Look, I personally come from an Industrial/EBM background, so my music production style (as AXKAN) always had that darkness/noise/harshness as a huge influence. For many years, I had the feeling that my style was a bit too harsh for most Techno labels, while also being “too Techno” for the EBM/Industrial scene. That situation was a big reason for creating OMEN Recordings—to release my own music with total freedom but also to offer a platform to other artists with similar likes. 

Luckily for me, around 7-8 years ago, a harsher style called “Industrial Techno” became bigger. Projects like Ansome, Orphx, Ancient Methods, Ayarcana, and Ontal were flourishing, and that’s when we decided to create OMEN Recordings. 

I have to say, we had our best years then, before the pandemic. I think most music genres have always followed the same cycle… It starts underground as a cool new thing, but then it seems like naturally, the genre evolves into something commercial until it disappears (or goes back to the underground).

Techno has been there for a while though. I think what’s been coming and going are the sub-genres. For whatever reason, the Techno scene has moved to a faster, ravier, melodic, trance-like style, but that’s really not important for us. We are staying with our own sound and image (our own DNA as you call it). We are definitely not following the “trends”. Even though we understand that a record label is a business, our goal will never be to maximize profits by selling music that’s trendy.

DE: What have been the highlights of creating and operating Omen Recordings? Has it helped connect you to any particular artists that you look up to or admire? Taken you anywhere special? What has Omen Records given back to you since its founding in 2016?

Axkan: So many great things: One of the best things that OMEN has given me is the opportunity to connect with many artists worldwide, especially with people from places that I never imagined would have such great Industrial Techno producers. It’s amazing when you just click with people that speak the same language as you, and most importantly become friends with people that you admire as creators, all of them with their own life struggles or happiness but at the time together in the music.

It’s always nice when you release tracks that people enjoy, I love seeing the crowd dancing to the music we pick and release. It’s also nice to see the crowd supporting us when we throw our own shows.

This may sound a little cliché, but I love seeing the emotion of young artists when their music is finally released. I think it’s because it reminds me of myself growing up, looking for a platform to showcase my work. They’re always so grateful, It melts my heart every time.

It’s an even better feeling to see the growth of artists that we released, when nobody knew them, now playing big shows all over the world.

I also have to confess that since OMEN Recordings started, my performing career as AXKAN has definitely improved, I’ve played in way more places than before the label existed. It’s not something you can quantify, but I’m sure they’re related and am really grateful for what my baby has given me.

DE: What is the value of releasing music on vinyl? Who’s it really for.. you, the artists, the fans, or the legacy of the label itself?

Axkan: This is a big topic. Personally, I love vinyl! I grew up collecting it, and I just love the feeling of physical music. If I could, I would press every single one of the OMEN releases in vinyl. Unfortunately, the economy has been bad for a few years, and our last vinyl sales do not justify pressing more vinyl at the moment. I have discussed this with my colleagues, and they seem to agree that vinyl sales are dropping, especially in underground music.

Let’s be honest, 99% of DJ’s buy their music in digital format. Vinyl had some good years, but it takes too long to get the music out (6-8 months), not to mention the continuously increasing pressing and shipping prices making it even harder. Although we are not against it, I would like to do a vinyl release per year starting in 2024.

DE: In your opinion, how important is it that labels welcome in new talent, as opposed to working with bigger, already established artists with more name recognition?

Axkan:  I think it’s important to have a combination in the start. Releasing big artists helps to promote the label, but the most important thing always has to be the music. If I don’t like the music, it won’t be released on OMEN. It doesn’t matter if it was written by the best-selling producer. If the music is good and sounds good, it doesn’t matter if it’s the first release by a 14-year-old kid from the middle of nowhere…

DE: Is this something you consider before putting out a new project, or is the quality of the music itself what determines whether or not a project goes forward? 

Axkan: Like I said above, music is the most important factor.

DE: How did your Various Artists series, “Ritual” come to fruition, and how do you decide what tracks/artists to feature? Are you preferential to any of the five editions you’ve put out so far? What can you tell us about the upcoming 6th edition?

Axkan: A few years ago, I was receiving way too many demos, and I really hated turning artists down because of the long queue, so I decided to create the VA series to support all these great artists. I decided to include only 6 tracks on each, because I never really liked VA’s with 20-30 tracks; I think that way basically makes each track “get lost in the pack”. The response was great, so I continued and basically listened to all the demos received. I picked the ones I liked the most, then I released them in sets of 6 in the order that they were signed. I don’t have any preferences; I think they’re all great, and they’re all still getting support.

Our anniversary release is very special though, it’s our 6th year anniversary, our 6th Ritual VA release and it includes 6 amazing tracks, at some point I considered a different title for it, but since it’s the brand for our VA’s, I decided to keep it as RITUAL06. It is definitely my personal best selection of tracks from the past 3+ years, I’ve hand-picked them and saved them specifically for this release. The tracks are produced by artists that I TRULY RESPECT. In the same way, I picked someone I highly respect for mastering the release. It was mastered by Gio the mind behind the sound of  Artefacts Mastering. I’m so grateful for the pristine work at his beautiful studio in Berlin.

Before I forget, the release will be available in a really cool physical format. It is basically a really cool custom black/transparent USB stick in a very nice packing with full OMEN branding. To be honest, this format is a little bit of an experiment, I haven’t seen this in other labels, but I really hope this can make our biggest release a little special for our supporters.

DE: What is the best way that fans can support Omen Records?

Axkan: It’s very simple, just listen to our music. We have basically all of our catalog available virtually for free in BandCamp, SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon music, etc. If you would like to get our new release in USB stick format, we would really appreciate it. The final product is very nice and usable; DJ’s would love to fill it up and bring it to their sets.

DE: Considering you are about to celebrate 6 years of Omen Records, what do you hope Omen Records will accomplish in the next 6 years?

Axkan: I just hope to keep the label running, man. I love music with all my heart, so I don’t see why I would ever stop.

-Jeronimo Watson


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