Friday, January 09, 2009

The Friday Interview: Alex Strama of MT6 Records



Voguing to Danzig: When did you decide that you wanted to start MT6 Records?


Alex Strama: Around 97' or 98'. I was starting to jam and record music with a bunch of friends. I'd just gotten a 4-track, and was taking full advantage of it. I had amassed hours and hours of material. I edited it down to 90 minutes and made a few copies. Literally: just a few for the people who played on it. I remember having very detailed notes of who played what, where it was recorded, etc. I came up with the idea of putting a label name on it, and came up with MT6. I really had no idea that there would be any more releases. The next release did not come out until a few years later, in 2000.

Voguing to Danzig: What does the "MT6" stand for?

Alex Strama: "Empty Six," like an Empty Six Pack of Beer. Pretty much sums up what's important. Along with making and performing the music, of course.

Voguing to Danzig: Were you a musician before you launched the label, or did you become one after the fact?

Alex Strama: Yea - I needed someone to release my shit!!

Voguing to Danzig: How many bands/projects are you a part of at this point? Does it ever become overwhelming keeping track? Do you ever come up with an especially bitchin' musical concept, only to agonize over where to slot it?

Alex Strama: I'm currently actively playing in Newagehillbilly, Heroin UK, and The Wire Orchestra. I wouldn't say it ever becomes overwhelming with all the bands - that's not something I would find a need to worry about. I'm proud of all them. Other bands I've played in are/were Operation Huss, RotGuts, DogShit, Pillage of the Glass City, Michael Spaxton, Therom, A) Torture Mechanism, Human Host, Low End Theory, CAVEMEN!!, Animal Twat, Balance, etc. As far as putting together schedules, I like to think that I don't favor my bands in the sweet time spots. I'll play whenever.
Voguing to Danzig: What do you do for a day job?

Alex Strama: I have two part-time jobs which make one full-time job. I take out home heating oil tanks: pump the fuel out, cut the tank, haul it out, scrape the sludge out of it. Pretty dirty and definitely Baltimore Blue Collar. If you watch The Wire on HBO, I go into those abandoned houses that are being rehabbed. All kinds of houses all over the city. I really see some fucking crazy living conditions that people deal with.
I also work at a shipping company, in the warehouse. Small family business, everyone is real cool. Packing boxes, driving a van.

Voguing to Danzig: Would you say that the Baltimore music scene - generally, or in terms of extreme underground music - is in a healthier state than it was in the late 1990s? How have things changed?

Alex Strama: Well, I didn't start playing shows in Baltimore City until 1999. At the time, I was playing in a pretty straight-ahead Rock/Punk/Indie band. The shows we were playing were mostly with other rock bands at places in Fells Point, Hightlandtown, and on Bel Air Road. I started getting into the Red Room, and that really opened me up to the experimental side of the city. I remember when Nautical Almanac moved to Baltimore in 2002. I was working at Mars Music, and they actually performed at the store. There was this basic-cable show taping live music footage on the stage there (pillage of the glass city did a taping a few weeks later). I feel like that was a point of change in my thoughts towards music, influencing me to try a lot of new things.

If anything, i would imagine that things are a shitload better than they were 10 years ago. National and international press are praising Baltimore for all of its creative output. It's interesting to see the changes in the city. Obviously, Wham City comes to mind, and is usually the first to be talked about in the press. They've put a lot of time and work into creating something very solid. Also, the rise of performance and arts spaces is a big factor. You can pretty much see any type of genre any night of the week. That's a huge deal if you think about it.
Voguing to Danzig: How's your daughter, Olivia, been? A while back, you released a benefit CD compilation to raise proceeds for her care...

Alex Strama: She is doing well. She had a heart transplant, and its as heavy as it sounds. It is something that will always be present in my life. When things with her are happening everything else is put on hold. The label has always been pretty much just me. So it runs at whatever pace I'm running at.

Voguing to Danzig: What are the best and worst aspects of running a record label?

Alex Strama: The best part is hearing all the new music, meeting and working with the bands, the people that come to shows, and everyone else involved. Getting orders for CDs is always a plus, and booking and playing shows has always been a highlight.

Voguing to Danzig: Of all the discs and cassettes you've released over the years, do you have a special favorite? Also, do you have a preferred media format - in terms of what’s easier to produce for sale and in terms of your own personal listening/interaction with music? Lately - as mp3 piracy's reached a fever pitch - underground acts seem to be favoring vinyl releases more and more often, even more so than in the 1990s.

Alex Strama: All the releases have their own personal stories and purposes. CDrs have been the main preferred media for the most part. They are really easy and quick to make, and are pretty cheap too. People are real familiar with them, and can be put into computers, ipods, etc. We have done CDs and 7" records over the years also. I would love to do more, but it is very expensive. I do agree that vinyl and cassette are becoming much more preferred by myself and others. It's not as easy to copy for your friends, rip it into your computer, and share it with the world. Vinyl records are true pieces of art. Future MT6 releases will be straying away from CDR, and going towards Vinyl, Cassette, and CD.

1 comment:

Jeff Mewbourn said...

Between Newagehillbilly, Heroin UK The Wire Orchestra, and Cavemen, I've had the pleasure of seeing Alex play 34 shows. He is truly a remarkable person and an amazing musician (whether it be on drums, guitar or electronic mayhem). If anybody were to ask me which band do I think most symbolizes Baltimore, it would definitely be one with Alex in the middle.

Check out some live shows I've taped (audio) of Alex in various bands:

Heroin UK: www.archive.org/details/HeroinUK

Newagehillbilly:
www.archive.org/details/Newagehillbilly

The Wire Orchestra:
www.archive.org/details/TheWireOrchestra