Wax Vessel: The MWR Interview
If you aren't already aware of Wax Vessel, pop on over to their Instagram page and have a peak. You remember all of that? All of those sounds coming back to you? All of those scene points disregarded as soon as Myspace fell, almost feels like a lifetime ago.
For those unaware, Wax Vessel is a non-profit that presses Myspace-era grind and deathcore bands on vinyl for the first time. The catch is, though, is that only bands from the early 2000s get pressed and they couldn't have been pressed before. They also only press two hundred copies of each album, there will never be a repress, and they sell out in minutes.
We reached out to Wax Vessel in hopes that we could get some questions answered. Nikolas Velleca got back to use and delivered a great interview. You can find it below.
After you've finished reading the beautifully candid interview below, head over to their website and cry because you can't get your hands on any of their highly coveted records.
How involved in the scene were you at the height of the MySpace grind scene?
This is the first time anyone has asked! I was a total internet loser at its peak (what I’d consider 2000-2012) so I spent a lot of time online in the blogspot community. I ran Total Deathcore so I was constantly surrounded by all these bands, and this whole scene. I was booking tours, doing a lot of album and page promo, compilations, breakdown videos, everything! I was pretty firmly rooted in the deathcore scene at the time, so that culture was everything!
I really only started in to the techgrind stuff after I heard See You Next Tuesday. That was the catalyst. After that, it was a race to consumer as much of that’s style of content as possible!
When did you know you wanted to start a label for this kind of music? Did any one thing tip you off?
I actually didn’t want to start a label at all! I’m a big vinyl collector, so I just wanted someone else to do it. But as the years ticked by, I realized it might never happen if I don’t do it myself. It wasn’t born out of my personal need, but more out of the vacuum that existed in this scene in 2019. There was a MySpace revival happening, but no one was acknowledging the greats! Like we are in peak vinyl revival and no one was putting out Destroyer Destroyer - it was blowing my mind, haha.
How do you approach bands, has it happened the other way around? Now that Wax Vessel has become popular, has the process of finding bands or getting them to agree become easier?
For the most part it is still me reaching out to bands, yes! For the most part the template/process is pretty much the same. I go to Discogs or pull out my CD and find all the members. Then I try to find all those members on any/all social media platforms. Then it’s just a matter of seeing who responds! At any given time I probably have 50-100 request out trying to book bands.
As far as WV getting bigger, i still haven’t had any bands really reach out to me yet. I have a very deliberate release order so I think I like it that way anyway! But to part two of that question, yes, getting some bands is MUCH easier. Now that they can see that I can actually deliver on a product and that people will buy it, there is less apprehension and more excitement!
What does the process for designing the record variant look like?
The variants are absolutely one of my favorite parts! There’s a lot that goes in to it. I always start off each release by breaking apart the main color palette. Once I have those three main colors, it’s a matter of structuring them in a way that makes sense economically. i have to have a /100 variant thats simple to subsidize the cost of the more ornate, hand-laid variants.
I spend a lot of time on the phone with Heath from Wax Mage/Gotta Groove. We brainstorm variants, what works, etc. It’s very collaborative! But it’s also limited to material properties (not all colors mix/melt well together). So it takes a little experience, some luck, and a little bit of an eye I think!
You made a post a while back providing an email to check in about shipments. It also said that if someone asks within three weeks or so, then they’ll be blacklisted. What kinds of experiences have you had that promoted that?
I honestly don’t want to be a Scrooge - but some people are so fucking entitled. I spend so much time and money making sure that these aren’t preorders, and people can’t wait 3 weeks for a one man label that does this as a hobby to ship everything? it’s just maddening. It’s exactly the reason i shut down my other label. I had people messaging me the same day that orders went live asking for their tracking numbers. Not the kind of business i want to run. So if you can’t deal with my shipping timeline, I don’t need your business. This is a hobby for me, so I only want to interact with people who are easy-going haha.
Why a nonprofit? It’s obviously very successful. Do you think collecting a profit would diminish what you do?
There are a few reason why WV is a non-profit. The primary one being that it makes licensing/rights/getting bands to agree easier. It takes all the “labels are bad” feelings out of the equation. It takes a layer of negotiating out of the process. Plus, a lot of these bands have been dead for 20 years, and the members are parents and have moved on. A lot of people won’t embark on this type of process just to make $500, BUT a lot of them will if it means I can donate $500 to a good cause. It’s just a nice touch!
Another big reason is so that people can’t bust my ass in all honesty. Who can say anything negative about Wax Vessel when I do everything for free and donate the money? It takes almost all “haters” out of the equation too!
Lastly, I just don’t need the money. it’s about the bands. I have a job that pays me great, I don’t need to ask a few hundred dollars out of the pockets of hard working bands. I don’t think me taking a profit would diminish WV, but why muddy the waters, you know?
What are some dream bands you’d like to work with?
Honestly, I’ve gotten most of my dream bands. Really only two have been elusive: From A Second Story Window and Psyopus. Those are my dream bands to put out. But there are so many bands that deserve it, I’ll always be busy! I don’t pine after bands like that, I just focus on the ones that do want to work with me!
Out of the initial list you made, have there been any bands that have held out or you’re still trying to make a deal with?
My initial list was broken up in to two parts: every band that is good that I would LOVE to do, and every band I HAVE to do. That HAVE list was only about 20 bands, and honestly most of them have already come to fruition, or are happening already. Only two holdouts from that initial list, so not a bad ratio!
That being said, there is this one band that I’ve been working with since WV was founded. It’s just months of artwork revisions and hammering out details. They’re slow haha. But! There is no rush, so I’m happy to wait!
Outside of the label, what does your involvement in the scene look like?
Outside of the label, I’m only involved in one way: buying records/CDs/tapes. I’m constantly on the lookout for new acts. I spend a lot of time on Bandcamp and Fcebook buying records. I’m a huge vinyl nerd, so I love staying active in what’s current! But I don’t go to shows or anything anymore, or do any “true” label stuff. Just reissues and just vinyl!
What are your long-term goals for the label? How do you want to see it evolve if at all?
Long term, I just want to secure the label’s existence. I worry that the novelty of what I'm doing will wear off. So I’m constantly trying to change up the layout. The artists for the artwork. The variants, etc. It’s a weird line to walk because I have to keep it limited to be collectible, which means I can’t bring in huge amounts of new fans. I’m stuck in this niche scene with low unit pressings. I personally love it, but I’m not sure what the future holds.
Eventually I’d love Wax Vessel to be the nostalgia repress label, with maybe another imprint focused on breaking new bands on vinyl. But even just doing WV is expensive, at that point I’d need a staff and to make a profit. So for now, I’m just going to bump these releases to 300 and just carry on! Maybe increase it 100 units a year to allow it to grow a bit.
There’s an obvious aesthetic to Wax Vessel. What kinds of steps do you take in order to preserve that feeling in the album art and variant design?
Thank you for picking up on that! I’ve worked really hard to curate an aesthetic for WV. I think it’s important to make everything feel deliberate and intentional. I’m a bit neurotic, so it was always important to me from the beginning to make sure that this label was a reflection of my personal tastes. It’s definitely hard to maintain though - every band has a member who is a graphic designer and wants to do the art themselves haha. So there is a lot of back and forth. Lots of heads being butted. It’s a huge ask to ask a band to give you free reign with their art, so I take it very seriously.
I think the aesthetic is why some no-name label is able to move this kind of volume, and these kind of prices. The community and everything feeds in to this product that is bigger than the individual releases. I think as long as that can be maintained, WV will be around!
Would you ever operate outside of the decade you’re currently releasing from? Is there something from before 2000 or after 2010 you’d like to re-release?
Believe me, if I had infinite time and money, WV would be doing stuff from every genre in that time period. I’d love to do a release block of mid 2010’s Djent. I want to do early Facebook beatdown. I want to press Traitors and Barrier and Substructure. I think WV is great because there is already a lot of variety - I think it could definitely work as a “here is a label of cool stuff” and not necessarily limit it to one genre or time period. I think that’s how it could grow - I’d love to do 4-5 releases a month across different genres. If the market could support it, I’d love to do WV full time and really branch out.