Interview: Mike Cadoo


1. This year, n5MD celebrates its 20th anniversary. How would you describe how your genre priorities have changed over the years?

When n5MD began in 2000, it primarily released experimental electronica, often erroneously called IDM. Around 2005 when we started partnerships with Run_Return and Last Days, I began to see the broader view of what I felt n5MD could release. Those two artists allowed the label to gradually encompass post-rock and its many different forms as part of its output.  Since then, we've published music in many other conjoining genres

2. What kind of music are you interested in issuing nowadays?

n5MD does have a specific sound or feel to all its releases. If a release fits that and might somehow be outside of the particular genres we mainly release, I would have no problem releasing it. While we tend to hover in somewhat specific musical areas, I prefer not to limit where the label might go musically.  I'm just interested in releasing music that is honestly constructed and from the heart.

3. Could you name an artist you would like to collaborate with and add to n5MD's roster?

I actually think n5MD is currently working with who they should be collaborating with. The grass is always greenest when you take care of it.

4. There was a time you released MiniDiscs. Why did you express an interest in such a product?

MiniDiscs were portable and somewhat shareable. I would often trade MD compilations with people. I'd usually make them for myself to listen to on my daily commute into San Francisco. I really found it to be a more personal format, much like the cassette.

5. In 2017, your label began working with Redeye Distribution. What is the advantage of working with them?

Redeye is a traditional distributor. They get our product into shops globally, excluding the UK and EU, which Southern Records Distribution covers just as nicely. They also both handle our distribution into DSPs like Apple Music and Spotify. These two distribution partnerships have been essential to our continued longevity. 

6. There were many labels in the US, releasing experimental electronic music (Merck Records, for example), which eventually disappeared from the business. What helped your label to survive?

This is the question most asked. And I really don't know. The short answer is, maybe I was careful or lucky or both. There are many factors. I have tried to keep our overhead low and do almost all aspects of the day-to-day running of the label and creative services myself that keep costs down. There was a time when n5MD did have staff. However, when the economy got rough, I simply returned to the label to be solely run and operated. I've also tried to automate some of the normal everyday processes like shipping and data management, which are often time-consuming. I've also kept n5MD less rigid by doing my best to have the label flex with the fans' and industry's needs.

7. What is the secret for an independent label to be successful in the United States?

I really don't know what success truly means, generally. That has a different meaning for different people. And success implies you've hit a certain level or plateau. If I can release music I love, help artists get their name out there and pay them something for it at the end of the day, I think that means n5MD has been successful. The "secret," I guess, would be doing something you're passionate about.

8. Would you name the most successful release on n5MD?

They are all successful to me.

9. Once you released the Russian project Vesna, which suddenly vanished from view. Do you have any connection with them?

Ah yes. I still chat with Alex (one half of Vesna) from time to time on Instagram. I believe he is a software developer now. I recently sent him Vesna royalties in the form of a Bandcamp gift card. [Laughs]

10. For an extended period, you were a member of the Gridlock project. Where, in your opinion, was this project more successful: in Europe or in the US?

I would say Europe and then maybe Canada. I feel we caught on in the US after we already had split.

11. Are there any chances that Gridlock will be continuing?

It would be a million to one shot, like your chances of the lottery sending you the prize money by accident.

12. Are you busy with anything else but n5MD?

Early this year, I very quietly released, under my own name, a series of tracks I wrote during the beginning of quarantine. It is called Alone Together and is a compilation of works completed in one week each. Comprised of nine compositions, which captured my feelings those first nine weeks of the pandemic.  It is available on my personal Bandcamp page and most digital platforms.

I also have a Dryft album out hopefully in early 2021 called From Stasis. I completed that album in the fall of 2019 but held it until there was an open spot in the n5MD release schedule. I think people that still follow my output now that are from the gridlock-era might enjoy From Stasis. It's got crunchy beats and lots of synth-based dystopian atmospheres.

13. What kind of releases are you planning to issue this year?

There is a new album from Tangent on the way. In the Winter/Spring of 2021, we will have records from Dryft, Jason Van Wyk, ILUITEQ, Gimmik, PCM, vcam, and Stray Theories if all goes as planned.

14. Could you tell us something about the audio material you prepared for our magazine?

I put together a mix of music from n5MD's catalog, which shows the cross-section of music that we've released over the years. Experimental electronica, ambient, post-rock, and amalgams of all three.

Questions: Ilya Kudrin