To close out our series on MT6, I grabbed some joe with label-head Alex Strama (Newagehillbilly, Heroin U.K., tons more) to talk about all things empty six.
Aural States: So let’s start with your background, what came before MT6, how you got into experimental music and what drove you to start MT6?
Alex Strama: Well, before MT6…that started in ’98. I was doing music way before that. I graduated high school in ’95; in high school, I had a few bands I was in. More towards the rock end. Still kinda weird, but definitely more rock-oriented. I recorded a bunch of stuff, but I didn’t know anybody that was gonna put it out. I’m from Harford County, so I lived in the sticks, and at that point I knew very little bout the Baltimore music scene. So I started it mainly to release my own stuff: in ’98 I put out a release from a band I was in called Operation Huss, a 3-piece indie rock band.
I would say what exposed me to experimental music was the Red Room. Definitely. About 2000, through playing with friends like Carlos (Guillen). He was in the band the Penny Regime at that point, which was kind of a straight-ahead punk band. He was really into the Red Room, had played with a couple of the guys like Dan Breen. I’m believing that I probably played a show with Carlos or Dan or another band, and just kind of branched of into seeing some bizarre stuff.
I went to the Red Room Crap Shoot, which still happens the first Tuesday of every month. You just come in with anything, any instrument, that makes a sound. It’s like an open-mic but more collaborative, they pick a couple of people and then you just kinda do your thing. I would say that definitely opened me up to experimental music because I hadn’t heard anything like that before. Awesome, great feeling to be exposed to that stuff. I mean I was listening to some early Sonic Youth before that which was pretty out there…but the Red Room definitely opened me up to the weirder side of Baltimore music.
AS: When did MT6 start evolving into an engine for the more creative and experimental stuff to come out of Baltimore?
Alex S: Probably not until 2004. Between 2000 and 2004, I probably released about 10 things…mostly of stuff I was in. This band called Rot Guts, 2 bass players, a drummer and a keyboardist. We played shows and released something. Some friends were in Chief Pokawa. So at that point, it was just me and close friends. But at that point, in 2004, I was approached by the band Human Host who were looking for someone to put their stuff out. It was all CD-R then, so that was the first official CD release. So the first chapter was me releasing my own, and real close friends’, stuff. Then when I released that, it was kind of a new chapter.