After a brief hiatus, our Label of the Month returns – and we’ve chosen one of our favourites for the reboot! Home to Porridge Radio, Viewfinder and Tree House, amongst many others, Memorials of Distinction is the label equivalent of a personal little secret. Hidden in the depths of the internet but pulling the strings behind some excellent rising acts, we’re pulling back the curtain on the DIY label. Ever wondered how they choose who they work with? How they came across JPEGMAFIA before anyone else? What they’ve got coming up? Read on to hear the answers of founder Josh Cohen.
For those who don’t know, who is Memorials of Distinction?
Memorials of Distinction is a fledgling record label that tries to release meaningful music, almost always made in bedrooms and/or recorded badly (but not always). It’s most consistently me: Josh / Satanic Ritual Abuse. But there are many other key actors. Dana of Porridge Radio often works on releases, Georgie of SUEP / Lizzard Bleach / Porridge Radio / Fat Dog Party is a key collaborator, Will of Tree House, Carolina of Allison’s Gate, and other friends like Kallum and Mass and many more have chipped in at key moments.
Where are you based?
MoD is currently based in a Secret Location in South East London, where I live with a couple of the Porridge Radios, a couple of great visual artists, and The Stall crew. MoD HQ is a secret because we will be holding cultural events there which we don’t want to get in trouble for. Get in touch if you want to come (email email@example.com).
The label originated when I was studying in Brighton, so is very connected to that city. It also then followed me to Prague and Cambridge, so there’s traces of both of those places sticking to the soles of my shoes and contaminating whatever I do now.
When did you realise you wanted to start a label?
When I was about 17, I heard Smiling Disease‘s music through a mutual friend. It was the most amazing thing, discovering this completely unknown, singularly genius creator with only 3 or 4 people who’d ever heard his music. He was nicking guitars and stuff from his school in Essex and recording through a Skype microphone, creating the most obscurely lofi works of beautiful shoegaze, dream pop and gothic trip-hop. I realised that my obsessive listening to and sharing of music might actually be useful to some people, instead of just an thing I do which annoys my friends and family. And so about 4/5 years later, I plucked up the courage, read some Reddit posts on the r/cassetteculture subreddit, and bought a joblot of tapes from eBay.
Where does the name come from?
There’s a gravestone shop round the corner from my parent’s house in north London called Memorials of Distinction. I walked past it every day on the way to school. I’ve never seen it open or anyone inside. It’s a weird suburban goth mystery and I’m a weird suburban goth trying to release things for people like me.
How do you decide who to work with?
They’re often friends, or friends of friends, or people I find on the internet. I met Mad Kid Library Trap at school at 11 years old, and we swapped classic post-punk and noise rock mp3s over MSN chat throughout. I met Porridge Radio at Mad Kid’s party when I was 18. I met Tree House through Mad Kid at university, and Viewfinder through Tree House after university. I found JPEGMAFIA when finding obscure stuff to download on 4chan. I met Allison’s Gate at the first Fat Dog Party after she saw me perform and knew we had similar ideas about things. I saw Denh Izen at a gig with Allison’s Gate and it was eerily similar to the music we’d just been sending each other. I found West America and Sofia Deville randomly on Soundcloud. There’s a Liberian refugee living in central Italy my friends Melissa and Alon met while travelling, called Abega Leone – hopefully we will figure out a release with him soon.
What’s the hardest thing about running MoD?
Finding the time to do a decent job releasing the music, and also constantly feeling like you’re letting down your favourite bands by not getting them the press, gigs and fanbase they deserve.
What are some of your favourite MoD memories?
I think recording the debut Porridge album in a shed, or writing and recording the Mರ₦€¥ album in a day in the Pupil Referral Unit in Brighton. I really enjoy trying to make something with nothing, even if it’s as stupid as that Mರ₦€¥ thing. Also when we pretended O Chapman died and emailed people at 4am, that was a terrible decision that really upset his mum, but also it made us laugh.
If you had to pick a favourite release, what would it be?
The original compilation that set the tone and started it all, How To Organise Your Life & Get Rid of Clutter. It has 16 tracks by 8 artists, a mixture of MoD scene crew and random internet people I had been stanning for a while. I bought a joblot of self help cassettes, and recorded the music onto them with self help connecting everything together. Chopped up all the packaging and made new packaging. The music is banging and the fun object is a fun object.
What does the future look like for MoD?
We are slowly slowly slowly expanding the roster, and continuing to release more music by people we’ve already released music by, and releasing music by people we’ve been meaning to release music by for a while. Upcoming releases include Denh Izen’s darkly urban paranoia indie, a compilation of early Satanic Ritual Abuse stuff that I’ve been meaning to release for years, a solo release from Naima Iliana/Bock (not sure what she’s going by now) who’s currently best known as Goat Girl‘s bassist, and hopefully something by Abega Leone (if you like, or know anyone who likes, to make reggae/dub beats, please get in touch – we need your help!). Hopefully there will be a covers compilation organised by JPWR, hopefully a release by JPWR herself. Hopefully finally a proper thing from the force that is SUEP.
Also, moving into the live arena a bit more. We’re putting on a show at DIY Space with Yama Warashi, Tree House and Naima Bock on the 29th of August. Additionally the top secret MoD HQ will have something happening soon (seriously, email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to come, especially if you love Porridge Radio).
What was working with JPEGMAFIA like?
It was great, I found his music randomly when trying to find .zips and .rars to download online. I reached out to him on Twitter after my first listen coz it was complete gold. Releasing not just one but two cassettes by an artist who is that complexly brilliant on so many different dimensions was a real trip. The fact that he’s now risen to the prominence that he deserves is fantastic. The Peg lord is one of the best things in contemporary music so it’s incredibly surreal to have played a tiny little part in his story. I can’t wait to see him somehow get a number 1 with some kind of industrial jungle track full of autotuned screams or something.
What’s the dream for MoD?
I would like to enable the artists I work with to get the fanbases they deserve and the means to support themselves. It’s a ridiculously big ask, and I think it’ll take a few decades, but we might get there one day coz they make the best music.