By Nick Sukiennik
I went to Mad Dragon Studios to interview Travis Arterburn, vocalist and drummer for local punk outfit Ted Nguyent, about his newly formed record label and its first release, “Philadelphia Comp. 2013”
Nick Sukiennik: What is Self Help records?
Travis Arterburn: Basically at this point it’s just a name for something for me to release things under. I was working on a compilation for my senior project of 15 different Philly DIY bands. I wanted to put it on record but I didn’t have enough money. I decided that I’d put it on tape because I could duplicate it myself. Basically, I was going to release it so I figured [I should] put a name on it. I’m trying to use the money I make from that to do some other things, maybe put out some tapes for a couple other bands, and eventually put out a vinyl from Ted Nguyent. So, a small label, I guess.
NS: So where do you get your funding?
TA: So far the only funding I’ve needed was buying the 300 tapes, art and boxes and stuff, which wasn’t super cheap or super expensive. But it was just money I saved up from delivering sandwiches (laughs).
NS: How has the reception been from the community?
TA: I sold… not a ton, maybe 30 or 40 tapes, a bunch of digital downloads. Support from the community has been overwhelmingly positive. Everybody’s posting about it online, more so than purchasing it, which is fine with me because I just wanted to get it out there. Cause I spent a year working on it. Wasn’t really about making money just about getting it out there and promoting cool bands that I like. And it was like my senior project too.
NS: Do you hope eventually make into bigger thing, maybe hire people…?
TA: Definitely keep[ing] that as an option. I don’t really know where it’s going to go. I never really planned on… anything with it, really. It was just something that I thought would be fun to do. If something that I were to put out actually got successful and I made a little money to put out other things, that’s what I would like to do. Maybe eventually hire someone… can’t think that far in advance right now [laughs].
NS: What is the next step, what do you see coming in the near future?
TA: The next step is to hopefully save money from this release so I can put it towards future releases, but we’ll see if my funding allows for that. That’s the basic plan. I wanted to use all the money, basically, to put out the Ted Nguyent vinyl, just ‘cause I’ve wanted to do that for a long time. So, I think we were planning on split releasing it with this other label from Baltimore.
NS: Is the Ted Nguyent album already recorded?
TA: It’s pretty much done. Well, all of the instrumentals are recorded, we’ve recorded vocals on a few of the tracks, we’re planning on trying to finish it this month and then get it mixed. We’ve been working on it very slowly for about nine or ten months, kind of sporadically, because I was recording on the comp and I was like super busy with that because there were like fifteen different bands, so [the Ted Nguyent album] got put on the back burner for a little while.
NS: Typically, how long should it take to record an album?
TA: That can vary so much. It just depends on the scope of the project. If a band comes in and has ten or twelve songs fully done, rehearsed and everything, it would be easy to do it in a week… or even less, but sometimes you have to go through pre-production and everything like that and it could take a month or a year, depending on how much money you have behind it too. You’ll take your time if you can and usually that’ll make it a better product. But sometimes a rushed product can yield cool results too.
I’m supposed to do a full length at the end of the month in three days.
NS: Who’s that for?
At this point someone comes out from the studio and interrupts…
Band Member: Is he gonna be able to hear the guitar playback in the head phones?
TA: Yeah. I’ll fix it in a second. Wait, right now? Does he need it now? Uh, (to me) can you hold on one second?
Travis goes in to fix the problem. Then comes back out.
TA: Sorry about that.
NS: No problem. So, I actually have class at 8:30 so I just have one more question. Oh shit, I forgot my question. Oh yeah. So, ok, umm, how do you compare a small record label to a bigger one? I mean that’s kind of a broad question, but what do you think the benefits are to a label that’s not run by a huge company?
TA: The main benefit would be that if it’s a small label they’re only gonna work on something they really care about, which isn’t necessarily not the case with the bigger label, but I guess a smaller label, since there’s usually not as much money involved, it’s something that they’re doing because they’re passionate about it rather than trying to make money. [The band being recorded] is going to get a lot more attention, and basically they’ll just care about it a lot more.
NS: Well, that’s about it, I guess. It didn’t really go as planned. I don’t think it recorded that second half. [It did.]
TA: You got the jist of it.