In Conversation With: Chloe Frieda (Alien Jams)
For the past 7 years, Chloe Frieda has been sharing bizarre and obscure electronic music through her bi-weekly NTS Radio show and her record label Alien Jams. The two outlets help to shed a light on boundary pushing artists who ignore convention in pursuit of creativity and experimentation. Recent releases include albums, EPs and singles from the likes of Wilted Woman, NOCHEXXX, Beatrice Dillon and Karen Gwyer.
It's these sort of small independent labels who, through an indefatigable sense of passion, provide the initial platform for artists to feel comfortable in their own skin, confident in their own ideas and more visible to those of us with relatively niche taste.
As you'd expect, Alien Jams' are making something of a celebration of their 7th birthday with two parties at Cafe Oto in July and August. Find out more below. Ahead of those events, we caught up with Chloe to find out what it takes to run your own label, how to find obscure artists and how the industry has changed over the years.
What made you want to start Alien Jams?
I started Alien Jams with the radio show in mind initially, in the US I had hosted a show at my uni and really missed it when I moved to the UK. Luckily I was able to get a weekly spot when NTS was just starting up, though I never really planned to start a label or host events, let alone DJ outside of radio broadcasts.
I met other like-minded people through the show, many of whom were running labels and playing out. It was inspiring to meet other people who had similar interests, especially women who were very active in the scene. As the radio show began to evolve, in my weekly search for new music I would often find artists who I felt deserved more attention and I wanted to help create a platform for their music, that was the real inspiration behind starting the label.
In what other ways has the NTS show helped with the label?
I don't think either could exist without the other, not in the same way. Radio DJing also gave me the confidence to start playing in clubs a few years ago, which has helped influence the releases, all of these aspects are intertwined.
How do you choose the artists you want to work with?
I often think of releases I would personally like to own, many times I meet artists through friends, but it can also happen through online communication, though this is more rare. It takes a lot of trust, from both parties, to do a release, so I prefer to know the person from the beginning.
How many people are in the Alien Jams team?
I mainly handle the curation and label side of things but my partner Clifford Sage is an artist and has been taking care of most visual aspects of the label for the last few years. Also Stephen McLauglin and Syra Tariq have been an important part the Alien Jams family with their visual work.
Which were your favourite independent labels growing up? What about them did you admire?
To be honest I wasn't very aware of labels growing up, it was only later that I realised that all my favourite artists would release on certain labels. I would get really obsessed with one artist and go through their whole discography but not necessarily go directly to the label. I was into bands like the Velvet Underground, David Bowie, the Stooges, Kraftwerk, all the classics and more embarrassing ones that I won't be talking about!
What are the the most challenging aspects of running an independent label?
Money, long turn arounds for vinyl and admin.
What are the key relationships you have to maintain?
Relationships with the artists are very important to me, my hope is that everyone feels happy and comfortable throughout the release process. Of course it helps have a good relationship with distributors, mastering engineers, etc, I have been really lucky in this respect.
What are the key things you learned about the industry and label management since starting out?
I've learned to give myself extra time, as things always take longer than expected. Most of what I know has been self taught, and I still learn as I go. Everyone has a different way of doing things, and what works for someone else might not work for you. And lastly, to just keep going, if you can.
Are there more or less opportunities to start and manage a successful label these days compared to when you started?
It's hard to say, I think there are perhaps more opportunities now, and it's really encouraging to see more women starting labels too! Because there is still such a small percentage of female label heads I think it can be intimidating to start. Like in DJing, there can be more of a pressure to prove yourself, I wish it wasn't the case.
As far as the tools you need to start a label, the internet has made it a lot more accessible, and labels can be started on a very DIY level, through bandcamp and self distribution at first.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own label?
There is no right or wrong way. I think the most important thing is to have a strong vision.
Physical releases have seen a resurgence of late, do you see this trend continuing?
I'm not sure, we see it more in the mainstream but vinyl has always been important. There has also been a shift towards digital, DJs bringing their usb sticks to clubs is relatively new but it's hard to imagine it another way now. Although I'm a big fan of vinyl and continue to release and play records, it's a shame when small labels get delays because of enormous runs. Also the environmental factors of vinyl, especially when manufactured on a massive scale are definitely something to consider.
Which other labels are releasing great stuff at the moment?
Which emerging artists should we be looking out for on Alien Jams?
We have a few exciting things coming up, but can't say quite yet!
Tell us a bit about your forthcoming 7th Birthday party celebrations.
We've organised two events at OTO this summer, with SHAKEY- Wilted Woman and Silvia Kastel collaboration, acolytes and alobhe, Rosen, xname and DJ esco on Friday 20 July. The second event is on Friday 24 August with FOQL and Copy Corpo, Brood Ma, NOCHEXXX and rkss with dj sets from Gary the Tall and Rupert Clervaux. We haven't done a birthday celebration before so super excited to host this 2 part Alien Jams extravaganza, should be fun!
Info and tickets for both Alien Jams parties here.