Interview / 05 Jul 24
Interview with Mark Shishlev of Label Cantroll
Artcore is pleased to announce the arrival of Label Cantroll.
Label Cantroll has been releasing downtempo, trip-hop, electronic and instrumental hip-hop releases since 2008. The roster includes over 50 bands and artists from all continents of the world. Some of the best known artists include Nordgroove, Asa Taura, Paradeigma, Decision Space, Plushka, Mr Peel, Zaranka, Ogi feel the Beat and Surmachina.
We have a chance to talk to Mark Shishlev, the founder and head of the label, and ask him some personal questions.
What was your motivation to create Label Cantroll?
In 2007 I started doing different underground music in Chelyabinsk, Russia. I was 17 years old at the time. The main directions were three: breakcore/speedcore, ambient and downtempo/abstract hip-hop. On the local city forum I posted my own tracks under the name Paradeigma and the spelling "Cuntroll". I decided to call my label that, first of all, publishing my own music and albums of friendly projects. In our city nobody was doing this kind of music. For context - Chelyabinsk has a population of 1.2 million people, it is an industrial city, with many hundreds of factories and enterprises from almost all sectors. Historically, there were few music bands here - even in popular genres. So I started to correspond on the city forum with different guys to find like-minded people. And there I found them! After that, decided to make some party extreme electronic music with the name "Cuntroll". The first release was issued on April 8, 2008, and further albums started to be issued monthly. This date is now the label's birthday. There were no streaming services - I published albums on two dozen forums and music sites with free mp3 files. I also registered on European music forums to correspond with different authors, a little later I came up with an idea to make a compilation with breakcore/speedcore music. Demos started coming in from unfamiliar guys from these forums. I didn't have big ambitions, but the compilation was put together. In parallel, releases in ambient and abstract hip-hop releases were coming out, members from different countries started joining. These three directions were relevant for me until about 2018-2020. Then, I decided to remove them, leaving only downbeat electronics (I mean: downtempo, trip-hop, chill-hop, beats, abstract hip-hop). At the same time, I renamed the label to "Label Cantroll". So, don't wonder why I will use the label name with A instead of U.
What is the philosophy behind the label?
The basic principles I've been following all these years:
- You can buy music, but you can also download it for free. Zip archive can also be downloaded on our website, all releases are available on torrents. The choice is up to the listener.
- For culture, not for money. Label Cantroll is focused on experimental genres. We want to be timeless, we don't make a trendy sound.
- I answer all the emails. Sometimes even the next day. It's an important principle - your question, a demo tape or a wish doesn't go unanswered.
- Traditions. The label has a traditional series of compilations, we give gifts for the best album of the year. There were some traditions that are in the past - weekly informative and entertaining columns that were published for ten years, but were closed in 2022 to focus on new areas of work.
- We connect people. Many of our residents come together to record collaborative tracks, we help with covers, and until recently, gigs.
- A clear plan of action. We write publicly about what the benefit of publishing on a label is, where the release will be published and what tasks we can help accomplish. An article is written about it with a specific list of actions. I don't think any label does that publicly?
As a label manager, did you strategically plan to partner with well-known international brands, or did it happen by chance?
I work with local and international brands - they can buy or borrow free music to use in their videos or projects. Our music is used in YouTube videos for brands: car brand Alpine (a subsidiary of Renault), smartphone manufacturer Doogee, football club Nice, Discovery channel and CGTN, mining and metallurgical holding UMMC, airline Azimut, GQ Germany magazine, as well as many local companies and dozens of bloggers. I publish these videos in a special album. Our music is open to everyone! It's more image promotion than commercial promotion. My task is to add music to as many resources, videos as possible. Besides, I believe that partnerships (with brands, content producers or streaming platforms) are one of the most effective ways to promote without a budget.
What's the key to make a music label sustainable?
The most important thing is to have clear goals. If your goal is to make money from music, then the main thing is to find potentially or already known artists. Exactly artists - those who will do shows, brighten their lives, lead every day social networks, perform at concerts and go on podcasts. I have a different goal, what I do is not a big commercial success. And that's okay - not everything has to sell well. It's something I chose to do myself. Ask yourself why you do what you do. What's your goal and what do you want to get out of it? Do you really need it? Or are you afraid to do what you really want to do? Everything has to fall into place. You have to learn to reject decisions that don't make you happier and that are not what you really want.
The second is the ability to communicate with people. Thanks to like-minded people, partners, and regular listeners, I have gained a lot of experience. Even the entertaining and informative sections I mentioned earlier - posts and texts were written at different times by people who wanted to do it free of charge and on their own.
Third - constant labor. In general, everything good in our lives - the final of hard and long labor. Do not give up, no matter what happens. Develop your business, improving your processes, step by step. I realized that I can play one game for a long time, do one thing.
Many people dream of starting to do something in life. And almost everyone waits for the right moment to do it. But when it comes, they wait for someone to give permission, advice, wave a flag, bless you, or ask to be part of your team. It rarely happens that way. So simply, do it.
Are you optimistic regarding underground music these days?
A few years ago, during the pandemic, I realized and experienced one thing - whatever we do - it may not be there tomorrow. The world, outside circumstances, or a new law in government - all of these things can take away what we strive for. Tomorrow your career, athletic accomplishments, musical projects, or health could be ruined.
One of the tenets of stoicism is to be ready to lose what you value and love.
We can make a lot of efforts to protect ourselves from all kinds of troubles. But no one will ever give a guarantee that things will only get better. Try to realize the value of what you already have, as it is not a given, everything can be deprived. To become happier, focus not on what you lack, but on what you already have.
Can you tell us a bit of your future plans for Label Cantroll ?
I want music to be played in movies and TV series. There is already one experience of synchronization into a TV series. My plan is to do such deals more often.
A few months ago, a new thread was launched. It's called EXTRA. It's basically a sub-label, but using the current infrastructure, options and name. There are no music restrictions on EXTRA, so I would like to work with young and talented authors who make interesting electronica, but also experiment with folk, hip-hop and other genres. The first release on the EXTRA stream has already been released - an English-language synthwave album, like in the '80s.
Also, I'm always open to new collaborations with music platforms. And I'm glad to be joining Artcore almost at the start.
Are there artists you would love to have on Label Cantroll?
I never called any artists for a release. All the artists sent in their own recordings. Label Cantroll doesn't have an A&R department. The only thing is that sometimes I was invited to participate in compilations, and wrote to some artists. And the most surprising thing is that I almost always didn't get any answers. For example, recently I offered participation in Take a Trip to bands like Halou, SPC ECO and The Dining Rooms.
What are top 5 releases you would recommend as an introduction to the label's extensive catalogue?
At different intervals, we release review compilations that include the most interesting tracks from previously released releases. This series is called "Best Of". These compilations will help you get an overall impression of the kind of music that is coming out on the label.I'm preparing part eight right now.I think I'll be able to upload them to Artcore soon. And if you want to listen to something right now, here are 5 good releases:
How do you balance existing vs new artists?
We have on our label not only artists who have been making music for many years, but also newcomers. I have many times released debut albums from newcomers who don't have any social media pages.
Are music producers able to send you demos?
Yes, I'm available via the contact form or on Instagram
What should aspiring label managers know before starting their own labels?
1) Answer yourself the question - do you really want to own a label or is it better for you to be a producer or manager of one or more artists? These are different jobs. Think about your goals.
2) Determine your niche - what genre of music your label will represent. Or will you have no genre organising? What will your label look like visually?
3) Develop a marketing strategy and a detailed action plan to promote future artists. What can you offer them? It's not just about advertising here, but also about the opportunities that will draw people or companies to you.
4) List all the resources you need. And which ones you already have. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What specialists do you need to achieve your goals and what role will you have?
5) Uploading music to streaming is easy, but what other additional ways of earning money can you organise? Make a table, write down all your thoughts and attach any links to potential partners.