I met Alex Ford, Deathbed Tapes head honcho, at Dayton’s Skeleton Dust Records back in early January of this year – I was coming through on a Reverent tour and Luke Tandy who runs the store hooked me up with a gig. Though – according to many – Ohio is for harsh noise, my all-vocal industrial blues project went pretty well among those who attended. Mike Shifflet and Total Deceit – a harsh collab between Wes Gibbons and Rusty Remus – also played. After the show, Ford – who operates the projects Death Cult Ritual and Begravd – came up to me to purchase a Reverent tape, and a couple other things I can’t remember right now. He gave me a Death Cult Ritual tape, and we struck up a near constant online chat soon after.
It was during that January tour on the East Coast that I began recording for Spring Break. Prior to the project’s existence, Jim Haras of Fusty C*** and Deterge and I had been texting a bunch about our views regarding power electronics and industrial music, and one thing led to another – I expressed interest in trying my hand at PE, and Jim said he’d be interested in releasing it, so long as I didn’t fuck things up. A few other friends were incredibly encouraging, and excited on the material – Antonio Olivieri from Angst, Rusty Kelley at Breathing Problem, Sam Stoxen at Phage, and many more.
Alex Ford took things to another level. When he released Sic Semper Tyrannis, I had already submitted final mixes to two tapes at Fusty C***, the 2CS Scared Little White Boys at Phage, and Gatekeeper at Breathing Problem, but Sic Semper Tyrannis came out first. It was freakish. I literally turned in mixes one night at like midnight or 1 AM, Ford flipped out, said he wanted to do it, and next day the tape was released, art included. My jaw still drops thinking about it.
Here’s the thing – Alex Ford is a maniac. He works harder than most, has a curatorial prowess that beats many, and a true vision for his label. He’s released tapes by underground luminaries like Controlled Death, Autoerotichrist, Richard Ramirez, Vomir, and many more. Frankly, all signs point to things continuing to ramp up. You’ve seen the teaser for the 7 Deadly Sins comp? Fuck, dude. Take no prisoners, for real. I asked him to tell me how he does it, and here’s what he said.
Jordan Reyes: So let’s start with an easy one – why did you begin Deathbed Tapes?
Alex Ford: I had some recordings that I felt deserved a cassette release, but no one wanted to release them..
JR: How did you come up with the art design for those recordings?
AF: Before I started the label, I spent about a year experimenting with different collage and xerox techniques as a hobby. Some of the early Deathbed covers are recycled pieces that I just added text to. The design for the Subklinik tape, which feels somewhat iconic now, was a piece I made a year before with plans to use it on one of my personal projects. Now it’s hard to go to a noise show without seeing someone wearing that shirt!
JR: Haha – what about the Deathbed Tapes logo?
AF: In January 2018, which was pre-Deathbed Tapes, I started a visual project using photos of World War I facial reconstruction surgery patients. I cut out maybe 100 different faces and glued them onto paper in a grid. One of the faces I used was Henry Lumley. When I decided to start the label, I flipped through my file of old artwork and Henry’s face was sitting there loose, so I took it as a sign.
JR: Very cool. Tell me a little bit about how you got into noise and industrial music in the first place.
AF: I started going on 4chan’s music board in 2010, which got me into bands like Throbbing Gristle, Coil, SPK, Masonna, Plague Mother, Breathing Problem, Jason Crumer, Aaron Dilloway, Black Leather Jesus, Whitehouse, etc.
JR: And what about making noise? When and how did that start for you?
AF: I had fooled around with making feedback loops with my guitar pedals over the years, but never considered recording anything. When Skeleton Dust opened in Dayton, I built up like $300 in store credit and spent it all on noise tapes. Luke Tandy said I should start a project, so I came up with ‘begravd’, which is a Swedish translation of the word ‘buried. I chose a Swedish word because I wanted the project to be more mysterious but after playing some live shows, it was pretty obvious where I was from.
JR: Haha! Amazing! Can you tell me a little bit about the importance of death in your curation and creative output?
AF: My obsession with death goes back further than I can remember. I remember as a kid drawing the same skulls over and over – I would get excited to find a new picture of a skull to draw. I got my first copy of Photoshop at eleven, and by thirteen I was designing band logos with skulls in them for my friends. There was never any question about it – the theme of the label was going to be death, and the only thing I had to figure out was which “death” word to use as the name. It was almost Deathwatch Tapes or Deathblow Tapes…
AF: I typically reach out to noise artists that deal with heavier themes, and sometimes tell people to “make it deathy.” I also actively look for projects with the word in their title such as Controlled Death, Death Dedication, Death Cult Ritual, Dead Man Walking, Christ is Black Death, Unsignified Death, etc.
JR: Oh interesting – I didn’t realize that was conscientious, but makes total sense now. How about the sonic curation? Are there types of noise that you’re more particularly drawn to?
AF: While there are noise projects based on ducks, anime, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, or feet, this kind of extreme music typically deals with a more extreme subjects, so it’s pretty easy for me to find tons of projects focusing on death, hell, crime, rape, catastrophic events, etc.
JR: Can you talk a little bit about the growth in Deathbed? You’re releasing basically a tape a week now.
AF: It quickly got to the point that I was working on four or five tapes at a time, which gets really stressful, and I decided that working on one at a time, and one per week would work best for me. I have about fourteen releases ready, about thirty more in the works, and I’m constantly planning more. It feels like I’ll never catch up, so I’ve started doing bonus releases on some weeks – this week’s will come out on Thursday – it’s Christ Is Black Death, a Richard Ramirez project that I’m really excited about.
JR: Can you tell me about the idea of using deluxe packaging in your work?
AF: I try to put out releases that I as a consumer would want to buy. Some of the items in the box sets have been gimp masks, leather collars, rope, human remains and grave dirt, antique Last Will and Testaments, hand-painted model skulls, military-issue ski masks, anal lube with plastic baby Jesus with a tampon string around his neck. I’m currently planning some really cool ones that I haven’t announced yet…
JR: What all is in the future for Deathbed Tapes and Alex Ford?
AF: I’m gonna keep doing the once a week schedule as long as I can. I have some huge things planned, but nothing I can really talk about yet… maybe a Deathbed Fest?
JR: Hot dog! You heard it here first! Anything else you’d like to say?