This past Saturday, May 22, was World Goth Day. If you missed it, fear not boils and ghouls, because you can still get your moppy freak on with the Unearth’d, out now via Broken Sound Tapes. Borken Sound started out as a cassette-only label, doing the dirty work of upturning graves and exhuming tombs to find freshly dead beats to keep all you vamps voguing through the night.
All this schtick aside, Unearth’d is a seriously good comp with some of the best bands keeping that early ’80s Siouxsie and the Banshees and Bauhaus style of post-punk alive and vital sounding in 2021. We caught up with Broken Sound Tapes label head Michael Wood to learn how the comp came together, the history of his label, and hear some tales of real-life paranormal encounters.
You can buy and stream the entirety of the Unearth’d comp via Bandcamp below, and then keep scrolling to read our interview with Michael Wood.
Interview conducted via email on April 27, 2021. The transcript has been edited slightly for the sake of clarity.
What is the story behind Broken Sound Tapes? How did it get started?
My band, M is We, was looking to make cassettes. I tend to go more for the DIY route and look for things like this, so instead of getting them run off, I looked into duplication equipment and blank tapes. Then I got the idea to do some small tape runs for friends and liked the idea of starting a tape label. With this formula, I could release a tape with as little as 5 made without losing money, while at the same time helping musicians put themselves out there at a fraction of the usual manufactured minimum order cost. So I started very small like that, and once it kicked off, I started focusing on releases that I found to be exciting, like local bands I love, compilations, and reissues of some 80s and 90s stuff. And now I’m also putting out vinyl and CDs as well as cassettes.
What was your biggest challenge in getting the label on its feet?
Sound quality! Let’s face it, cassettes are about having something cool to hold, and for a while, I was just banking on the fact that they came with download codes, and the cassette was the artifact, not the means of listening. After much troubleshooting, I’ve got the tapes sounding better. And again, the label is no longer just a cassette label.
What part of running a label is the most rewarding?
It’s extremely rewarding to get a band’s music out to the world that otherwise would have difficulty doing it. When someone orders something, it’s almost like sending a friend a mixtape! I try to make the package special, and it makes me happy to see people get excited by the product and the nostalgic experience.
What is the inspiration behind the Unearth’d Comp?
I’d decided to make compilations a focus of Broken Sound because, in my experience of growing up with music, I loved compilations that were defining of a genre, like Nuggets, No New York, Let Them Eat Jellybeans, and my favorite series lately would be Killed By Deathrock on Sacred Bones Records, which is archived deathrock mostly from the 80s. I had the idea of doing something similar but for current bands, and the fact that World Goth Day is coming up in May made me think that it would be a perfect time to release it.
Do you have any plans or events for the role out of this comp?
We will have a virtual release party on the weekend of WGD on Twitch with many of the participating bands.
How did you go about digging up artists to appear on it?
This comp ended up being a lot of bands from the south, because I’m from the south. I first asked bands that I know and love personally, which were mostly bands from NC and GA. Then I went on to more of a dream list of bands I am a fan of but don’t know personally. From there I got bands from the UK, Italy, and more. I also tried to get a good variety of dark music, from darkwave to post-punk, to deathrock and more.
Who are some of the band’s on the comp and did you first learn about them?
There’s some great bands on this comp: Vision Video, Horror Vacui, Feeding Fingers, Secret Shame, and more. Some of these artists made it on post-punk.com‘s best of 2020 list, and all of these artists are very active right now.
Were there any groups you wish you could have included?
My dream would have been to get Cold Cave to contribute a track. Who knows, maybe vol. 2? I did try to keep it to mostly unsigned and underground acts though, and I was very happy to see that almost everyone I asked was excited to contribute.
Post-punk, goth, and death rock are generally associated with urban settings, how do these genres play in more rural settings?
I think these music scenes are especially important for someone growing up in a rural setting and not feeling like they belong. In an urban setting, there may be more outlets for something like this, but discovering goth at a young age in a place where you don’t feel like you belong can be almost life-saving. I remember how a new world seemed to open up when I discovered bands like The Cure, Bauhaus, and Siouxsie and The Banshees, and I would be honored to introduce that world to someone new.
How is the goth scene different in less urbanized areas? Is it more difficult to find a community in these settings?
I think it’s a smaller scene in a lot of the rural towns, but there’s also a valued community ethic there. When you’re a small, outsider community, you tend to stick together and support each other as much as possible.
What unites darkwave, goth, death rock, and post-punk, regardless of the places they come from?
Like punk, I think all the subgenres can be united in the feeling that dark music makes you feel, and possibly an interest in the darker side of life.
What do you think will be different when live performances are permitted again? What aspects do you think will be the same both good and bad?
I hope there is a focus on safety, so we don’t just fall back into this again. I could also see virtual performances being a permanent staple, and are great since you can see a band that’s on the other side of the world without traveling.
What horror movies have you been binging during quarantine? Do you have any recommendations for our readers”
I love a little camp in my horror, and recently re-watched Ghostbusters and The Lost Boys, both classics. I also recently enjoyed Us. I’m trying to work up the nerve to watch Midsommar right now..it looks so creepy!
Have you ever seen a ghost? Where are the best places to go ghost hunting by you?
I swear I used to live with one! One night a CD tower in my room didn’t just fall over, it FLEW across my room. Out of nowhere! And on another occasion, I was trying to sleep on the couch and kept hearing steps go up and down the stairs next to me. Finally, I said, “Hey! Cut it out!” and they did! Respectful ghosts I guess.
Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
This is the first full-length vinyl release on Broken Sound (also available on CD and cassette). I hope people love this comp as much as I do, and with any luck, this will be a yearly series. HAPPY WORLD GOTH DAY!
Special thanks to my pal Moizza for helping me come up with questions for Michael. She is much more knowledgeable and well versed in the worlds of goth and post-punk than I can ever hope to be.