Endemik Music is an independent music label and online music store that I currently run and operate.
A long but still brief history of the label:
Endemik Music began in early 2001. Established in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and now residing Montreal, Quebec with its artists spread throughout the world.
The label originated with two friends, Daren Okafo (or Stigg of the Dump) and myself, who both viewed music and the industry in a similar light. We launched our label with a concert in August of 2001 at the amazing and now extinct Marquee Club in Halifax. For the label kick-off show we invited Daren’s brother’s band Sonic Sum (from New York) for their first (and maybe only) performance in Canada. Also performing that night was the legendary Sebutones (Buck65 and Sixtoo) for what maybe was their last performance together. Opening the night were Halifax legends, The Goods (Kunga219 and Gordski) while Stigg held down the decks throughout the evening.
Endemik’s first scheduled release was to be the debut album from Stigg of the Dump, which is also one of the main reasons the label formed. While the album was coming to its conclusion, Stigg was approached by Buck65 (recently signed to Warner Music) about releasing an album he had just finished called Synesthesia. This album was part 5 of the Language Arts series and part 4, titled Square, was set to be Buck’s first release through Warner Music in 2002. Buck was about to leave on tour and asked us to release a limited run of 1000 copies so that he could take some with him and have one last indie release before his move to Warner. Everything was set and the CD was pressed and sent on tour. It was our first release and we were ready to storm the distributors world-wide and kick off our label with a great release. Hold the press, well, hold the emails since the press was already finished. Management called and said we could not sell the album to distributors or stores due to Warner contract issues. We chalked it up to a learning experience. Soon after we worked out a deal that we could only sell the album through one store, Hip Hop Infinity. HHI grabbed 700 copies of the CD and sold them all and actually paid us for them (more on this soon).
We dealt with that thorn.
Stigg of the Dump finished his EP and we decided to release it on 10″ vinyl only. We pressed 2500 copies and only a handful remain. A few months before the release date, a friend (Sam Holt) and I (we shot the photos for the Stigg album artwork) took a trip to Montreal where Sixtoo was living and dropped in so that he could do the layout for the 10″. Around this same time Stigg landed an amazing position at a University outside of Halifax and his first big adventure landed him in Egypt for half of the year. He left Halifax and then left the country for 6 months(ish) while his album was being released. To sum up the HHI relationship, it ended (as did all of his relationships when he bailed on the scene to run for Mayor). Endemik Music had his 2 best selling releases in Buck65 and Stigg of the Dump and to repay us for this he decided to not pay us for the final 50-100 copies of the Stigg 10″ he sold. Thanks.
Stigg soon after moved away from Endemik Music (although in spirit, he remains) but not before we met bleubird and heard the first demo from Skyrider: both of us agreed that these should be our next two releases through Endemik.
bleubird came through Halifax as the opening act on the Grand Buffet/Cex tour and I was helping the Marquee Club promote the event. I believe the description on the flyer for bleubird read something like this: “Bleubird loves underground hip hop so much he is like a girl in a lot of ways”. That was all we knew about him. He came out on stage in a Ronald Reagan mask and started rapping like a madman over a beat that was ridiculous (SignOne’s Sunday Picnic). A few weeks later I called him and asked if he was interested in releasing an album through Endemik. A few months later he was in Halifax finalizing his writings and recording with J.LaPointe at the old Archive studios on the water. After a week of recording, the record was finished. In the fall of 2003, and after a long time since our last release, came bleubird’s debut album Sloppy Doctor. bleubird returned to Halifax and performed at the Halifax Pop Explosion and then we left for a short tour of Eastern and Central Canada. This is when we met our good friends from Granma Music (Yosuke Otani and Daiki Kato) at the Toronto show. Granma did not exist at the time but they introduced themselves as a fans of bleubird and Endemik and Yosuke soon moved to Halifax to spend a year at school on an exchange program from Japan.
In early 2004 I was in the process of leaving my current position at No Distribution (a music distributor where I worked for a couple years), due to the company digging itself deeper and deeper into a pit of shit. More of my friends who ran small labels that were not getting paid what they were owed, and it was beginning to destroy me to be a part of the company. My plan entering the music business exchange program fell through so instead of heading to Australia, I had my sights set on Montreal. Between Spring and Fall of ’04 we heard only empty promises of payment from No.
Throughout this process, the debut album from Skyrider was coming together and was set to be released in September, actually around the exact time I was moving from Halifax to Montreal. The launch was a small one and the idea was to use it as a building block to the next Skyrider release, as he was not a known artist outside of his contributions to bleubird’s Sloppy Doctor or the Orlando scene. This was also the album that was to show another side of Endemik Music, and the directions in which we were hoping to travel.
Cut back to No Distribution who stuck a pick in my ribcage and continued to postpone the 2500-3500 plus they owed me for record sales. The reason the gap was so big, in my estimation, was because I never did receive a proper statement or a proper answer from the owner and at the time, friend…or so, I thought. He filed for bankruptcy, at least that is what he told everyone so no one would sue, but apparently he never did file. Let’s chalk this up to another big loss for the label that stunted the growth.
The next 3 releases, all in 2005, were 7″ vinyl. Another goal was to be a label that took pride in releasing vinyl to help keep the format alive and for the love myself and the artists shared for vinyl.. The first two were releases from me, and were my debut on the record scene. The third came from Skyrider, his first vinyl release that featured Jim Wurster on vocals, and was a song that was on his debut album. This vinyl was acting as a segueway or buidling-block between his debut and his sophmore album.
Between 2004-2005 I had been talking a lot with Yosuke and his newly formed record label called Granma Music. He was back in Japan, and he and his partner Daiki were setting up the foundation for their first few releases. The plan was to license albums for Japan. They kicked off their label with bleubird’s Sloppy Doctor, then release Skyrider’s 47:34 as their third release. I also helped broker the license of jwalker’s Them Get You Them Got You to Granma. Our partnership began at the bleubird show in Toronto and still remains intact today.
bleubird moved to Montreal in 2006 and we lived together with Scoops DuJour on St.Zotique, which led us to the Pilgrim of St.Zotqiue 12″ release from bleubird, the EP that was leading up to his sophomore album.
I started working closer with UK based musician and visual artist Shortfacedbear who created to videos for my album. Both received great recognition through a few select film festivals through Europe and we even one best short film for “Dilshad and Tohti by a Frozen Lake”. Shortfacedbear was becoming an important part of Endemik musically and visually, as he also re-shaped the website.
On St.Zotique I finished my debut album …One Kind of Dead End, which I had been working on for a few years. I took a bit (just a bit) of time from running the label, the artists, and also the management company so I could finalize the album and work on a campaign to get some notice for the album.
Around the time of my album’s release, we were also working hard on bleubird’s RIP U$A. This is around the same time Filkoe came to Montreal to visit us and record a couple songs for bird’s album (and the Nuccini! solo album).
2007 was the year I decided to give all of my time to Endemik and try and push it further by releasing 4 full length albums – or at least give a shot at expanding our reach and fanbase. I was helping Filkoe with his debut album, acting as producer by providing some beats myself, helping to expand the beats he received from other beat makers, and mixing the album in full…Oh, and helping create the visual identity based on creatures he had created in collage style.
The year started with bleubird’s ambitious RIP U$A, and he landed a spot in URB’s next 100, along side or new label-mate Sontiago, who was also working on her sophomore album. Granma was on board to license both of these albums for Japan, and release dates between the two territories was closer than ever before..
After bleubird’s release (the label’s 10th), I released 3 albums in the fall of 07, and to kick off these releases we were invited to Pop Montreal for a label showcase in October. bleubird was not able to attend as he just left Montreal to move to Berlin. Sontiago, Dilly Dilly and DJ GabeFM drove up from Portland Maine, soso flew in from Saskatoon, shortfacedbear flew in from the UK, and Ghettosocks came in from Halifax. Based on my love for local night Rap Maudit, I invited local Montreal MC/Poets Khyro and Seba to host the night. This was a special night for me – it was the first time I had spent time together with more than one of the artists on the label at the same time. 2007 felt as though Endemik was becoming what I had wanted it to become for years – an outlet for friends and like-minded artists to release music and help one another. After POP Montreal we jumped in a van and hit the road for a few shows together. *There is footage but it hasn’t been edited, but hopefully one day I can show it here.
October was Filkoe, November was soso and then Sontiago! Press was coming in and a few sales were going out. Things were looking good, but I was fading fast. After a few months of each release things slowed back down and everyone seemed to be back at their current lives and album presences came to a halt.
Endemik’s relationship with Skyrider had ended and Filkoe wanted to stop rapping. Others became pre-occupied with real life things and had to focus on that aspect of their lives. The industry in general was changing at a much more rapid pace than ever and sorta smashing us small indie labels. We lost our distributor in Europe to bankruptcy (losing another 1000 Euro or so), we lost our USA distributor, as they were closing their online store and getting rid of most of their small indies. We did pick up a Canadian distributor in the meantime.
2008 I began helping Montreal experimental hip hop band Heliodrome with their debut album which was released a year after the previous Endemik release. At this point, my outlook on Endemik had changed tremendously and I was putting more focus on the management side of my life at my other job (Envision Management). Working with Heliodrome was refreshing and relaxing and we all worked together on the album from the recording process all the way to glueing the CD sleeves together, to the album release in 2009 at Theatre St.Catherine.
Our mastering engineer J.LaPointe’s Halifax based band INSTRUMENTS were releasing their second EP on vinyl and we decided to make it a co-release. At this point we did not have any distributors for our releases as our lone remaining distro also had to scale back (and this was also our connection to obtaining grants within Canada). The release was a limited edition of 200 vinyl, (comma) and by releasing a Shellac type studio band such as INSTRUMENTS, it was a great opportunity to show another side of Endemik Music.
Prinzenallee was our release of 2010 and it looked as though Endemik was only going to have one release per year at most from this point on. Prinzenallee is the result of bleubird living in Berlin and collaboration with Jayrope, his roommate at the time. We released it on limited edition colored (white with blue marble) vinyl and also on CD. I created the artwork for the North American version and decided to go all out with gold foil stamping and colored vinyl.
In 2011, INSTRUMENTS and I wrangled up some beat makers to remix the works of INSTRUMENTS and released a digital only remix album titled Assembly Room. This release also showed the return of Stigg of the Dump.
Now as a label, Endemik Music does not have many plans but is still planning on releasing more music in one form or another. The label website also has a store that I have been developing over the past few years and carrying the releases of many friends in digital and physical formats. Through Endemik I am also able to offer friends a path to digital distribution through The Orchard with whom I still retain a partnership with.