Hey Fuzzers, it’s that time again to introduce you to a new edition of our “Meet the labels” series. For this edition, we interviewed Kunal Choksi from Indian label Transcending Obscurity Records. Enjoy and spread the word!
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Interview with Kunal Choksi from Transcending Obscurity Records
Kunal Choksi (label owner)
1) Hi Kunal, nice to meet you. How are you doing today?
Hey Hector! Many thanks for this great interview and allowing us to be featured on your esteemed site. I’m doing good but there’s obviously a lot of work and stress when you’re running a label as there are lots of bands, formats and also releases to deal with and more. Luckily, I enjoy working with this kind of music so it’s not that bad haha. Thanks for asking!
2) You are the owner and chief of operations of Transcending Obscurity Records. Could you tell us briefly the history of the label?
We first started off as a webzine called Diabolical Conquest in 2005 and then started a label under the same name which later got changed to Transcending Obscurity. Most of the bands from back then continued with us (Drug Honkey. Preludium, The Dead) but of course we signed a ton more bands since then. We also started sub-labels to support the local scene here, both in India and Asia, but we phased them out early last year so we could focus properly on the main label. Our intention remains the same ever since we started i.e. to promote obscure and deserving bands and that probably reflects in our name and activities.
3) What were the reasons that motivated you to start the label?
One of the bands that we really enjoyed and were fans of was called The Dead from Australia wrote to us asking for a good label that could help them release their music. We asked around and obviously helped them with promotion as a webzine (reviews of all their releases, honest ones of course, and even a detailed interview!) but when no one wanted to work with them after all of that, I thought perhaps I could give it a shot myself. Without thinking too much, I just took the leap and as they say, the rest is history. It was rooted in helping out obscure bands and we really wanted to work hard for them to give them a good platform.
4) What was the first release of the label?
It had to be the aforementioned band The Dead’s infamous album ‘Ritual Executions’. It got off to a great start and we were pretty happy with the way things were going, except with the quality that we have worked hard upon since. Nowadays we’re making special box set editions of all the releases and have worked on some high-quality merch too.
5) How many albums have you released so far?
We’ve put out around 60 albums or more on the main label (Transcending Obscurity Records) and close to 50 via the sub-labels. All in all, we’ve put out over a 100 releases man, for better or worse haha! Yes, we’ve got no life and are always overworked and look like starved zombies!
6) Do you have a favorite album among all you have released so far?
I can’t say that to be honest – I like them all in different ways and enjoy them greatly. It’s like choosing between your pets when all of them are fun, deserving of a place in your home and have their own unique traits.
7) You cover lots of musical subgenre, death metal, thrash metal, black metal, doom metal, and more. Do you have a particular preference for any of them?
I listen to death metal and grindcore a lot but I don’t like listening to the same thing over and over again and obviously rely on other styles based on the mood, you know? I love robust thrash, atmospheric black metal, doom/death metal and crushing sludge for instance a good deal too but it’s all about the music being good. Styles are just an excuse. All things said and done, I don’t like to be narrow-minded and that reflects on the roster too. Having been an editor for a couple of decades, I do know my way around different styles and that helps. So far so good mate! Let’s hope it continues this way!
8) How do you approach and decide which bands do you want to work with?
It’s just the music man. And yes, professionalism definitely helps. These days I’m not very keen to work with bands that have poor aesthetics because then that burden is passed on to the label and sometimes they’re stubborn and impractical and insist that their friends do it for them rather than someone with repute and credentials. It’s tiring in my experience. But yeah, most of the time it’s just the music and also a bit of projection, anticipating what their upcoming music will sound like. It gets tricky there as bands sometimes evolve too much or too little for their own good.
9) If you could include a band as part of the label’s roster, which one would it be? Why?
My roster mostly has lesser-known bands to be honest, so definitely I’d love to sign more known ones if possible haha. There would be too many to list here man! But it’s good to be practical and grounded and do things in a measured manner than overreaching and failing. With that said, there’s a certain pleasure to work with obscure bands and see them rise. Many bands that have released albums on the label such as Jupiterian, Gaerea, Drug Honkey, Eremit, Depravity, Crawl, Feral, even Paganizer and Master have seen growth and I’m content with that, while always striving to do better next time around. I’m grateful to them for sticking with me and giving me a chance.
10) What format do you prefer for your productions? CD, Vinyl or Cassette?
CD by far. LPs have to be imported in my case and I’m extremely unhappy about the customs duty that I have to pay on that, not to mention the shipping cost. This applies to cassettes as well. So for me, having weaned on CDs, I’m partial to that one and for good reason too, even though in all honesty it’s pretty exciting working with the packaging of LPs and their myriad colour patterns.
11) What recommendation would you give to that person who is thinking of starting a record label?
Most have unrealistic expectations and think that they’ll become a known label in no time but they don’t realize the years of effort that it takes in cementing one’s name. With the formation of new ones each year, there are also labels that shut down. It requires consistency, working with the right bands and of course proper financial planning – just because a label you like is doing things in a certain way, doesn’t mean you too can do things on the same scale. My advice would be to start small and work with the right bands and take it from there. I wish I had someone to guide me with this but we all learn from our mistakes haha.
12) Finally, could you give us your opinion and balance of the underground scene, specifically the current doom / stoner / psych one?
I think it’s healthier than ever before at least looking from an overall perspective. Earlier it seemed like too much of a niche, targeting the right doom crowd, differentiating clearly between say stoner and sludge, but now it’s better accepted and there are a lot more takers for it even from the newer crowd. It’s more accessible and more and more doom bands are getting bigger, at least ones on my label. This year saw four doom/sludge releases so far namely Eremit, 0N0, Illimitable Dolor and Chalice of Suffering and they’ve all been well-received especially Eremit which set the tone for the rest of them. More of them are lined up of course such as Warcrab, Officium Triste, Esogenesi, Noctu, The Drowning, Jupiterian, Oak, The Slow Death, Poema Arcanus, Aphonic Threnody and perhaps a new album of Eremit too! Phew! That’s a lot of doom for a label that doesn’t solely focus on it haha.
13) Thank you very much Kunal. All the best for you and your projects in the future.
Thank you so much once again for taking interest in our label Hector! Cheers and hope you like some of our releases man! Here are some links just in case –
Some Transcending Obscurity Records releases we recommend
Kunal has been doing a helluva job promoting underground bands from all over the world, so I wanna take the opportunity to tell you about some of my favorite releases from the label:
Illimitable Dolor – Leading Light
For Fans Of: Officium Triste, Doom:Vs, Ahab.
A truly epic album and a really good one if you’re into Doom/Death Metal. These Aussies have been delivering despair with their somber sound for the last 5 years or so. This is their sophomore album and it’s quite an accomplishment for the band, without a doubt one of my favorite releases of 2019.
Eremit – Carrier Of Weight
For Fans Of: Bell Witch, Usnea, Vin De Mia Trix, Conan.
Enormous Funeral/Blackend Doom from Germany. Without a bass player, the trio manages to build one of the heaviest albums I’ve heard in quite a few years. Hypnotic, abrasive and demolishing, this is the real definition of a wall of sound.
Toward Atlantis Lights – Acrid
For Fans Of: My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost and Anathema
An international group that honors the sound of Peaceville’s Unholy Trinity with a well-executed mix of Doom Metal, Funeral Doom and Doom/Death. “Dust of Aeons” is an epic release not only for the length of its tracks (the opener clocks at 30 minutes) but also for its historical based lyrics.
Et Moriemur – Epigrammata
For Fans Of: (early) Anathema, Moonspell, (early) Tiamat
The band plays a Death/Doom in the same vein of record label mates Towards Atlantis Lights, so you can expect lengthy tracks, with some really good keyboards arrangements, orchestration, epic choirs (inspired by Gregorian chants) and vocals sang in ancient Greek and Latin to deliver an incredible atmosphere.
P.H.O.B.O.S.– Phlogiston Catharsis
For Fans Of: Godflesh, Drug Honkey, Autokrator
Abrasive Industrial Metal that has been drowned in a Doom Metal bowl. These French delivered the most somber soundtrack of 2018, created with hatred and dedication in the furnaces of the darkest depths of hell. Hypnotic, disturbing, disgusting, wonderfully horrendous!
Transcending Obscurity Records Giveaway
Win CDs & T-Shirts from the label !
If you like what you heard from Transcending Obscurity Records, here is your chance to get some nice prizes with this giveaway just below !
There will be 3 winners chosen randomly :
1st prize : 2 CDs from the label + TOR t-shirt
2nd prize : 1 CD from the label + TOR t-shirt
3rd prize : 1 CD from the label
Enter the giveaway with a valid email or social account.