Along with vinyl, cassettes are very much back in our collective consciousness as a music format. People have taken to starting up cassette-only record labels using Bandcamp as a means of distributing this media cheaply. Memorials of Distinction is such a label, and is starting to accumulate interest as a result of its commitment to the format. It's criminally under-appreciated; putting out cassettes that authentically capture the lo-fi ethos of early Pixies, to a degree that many bands riding the wave of its revival have yet to capture.

Curious as to its inner workings, the 405 interviewed its owner, distributor and dedicated connoisseur of the obscure, Josh Cohen.

Can you briefly tell me who runs the label (is it just you, or are there others involved)?

I guess it's pretty much me. It's kind of just an ego trip fantasy that spilled too far out of my bedroom. That being said, Dana (of The Spineless Seal and Porridge Radio fame) sometimes helps me out by making t-shirts or sending stuff. My friend Mass helped me put together the tape packaging for the debut compilation tape. Georgie (from Lizzard Bleach) started putting on the Fat Dog Parties in Brighton, which has become an essential part of the MoD world. But yeah, I'm sending the emails and having the ideas and deciding who, what, and how. And I pay for things, so I guess just me.

Where is the label based?

The label HQ follows me around wherever I go, so right now it's in Prague. Most of the acts, and my slightly more permanent residence, are in Brighton though. I guess Brighton's the spiritual home. Actually, no, the spiritual home is boring boring boring suburban North London, where I discovered the label name in the form of a continually empty gravestone shop I used to pass on my way to school. The label spiritually resides in the Memorials of Distinction gravestone shop on East End Road.

Memorials of Distinction is a cassette 'micro' label. How easy has it been to run a small-scale label - has the internet been useful here?

It's both really easy and really hard, depending on the inflation ratio between my ego and my aspirations on any given day. I spend all my time obsessively researching, talking about and sharing music of all shapes and sizes, so doing this stuff is just a continuation of that. It gets harder when I send 50 personalised emails to 50 blogs and get no replies. It gets harder when I have university exams and deadlines. It gets really easy when I hear a new track by one of the artists involved that blows me away. The internet's been really useful; I found lots of information and advice on forums and blogs. The most useful information I came across was: do whatever you want, no one cares.

And it seems like the cassette is starting to become popular again (with Cassette Store Day being a thing). What made you choose to release this format? Do you think there's any reason for why people's attitudes towards cassettes as a format have changed?

I think the cassette is already starting to get uncool again. It's reached the point when arseholes like me have tape labels, so it's not long till the end of the revival. I give it five years max. I'm not sure if that's a joke. I think some people like the formant because it's more portable and cheaper than vinyl, but has a similar anachronistic mystique (at least if you're under 30).

I chose to release on cassette partially because of a period in my life when my iPod broke and I only listened to my parent's cassettes, on my parent's old Walkman. I found an incredible hip-hop mixtape by my Wu-Tang obsessed older cousin, and thought it was the coolest thing ever. Then I found out how to make my own, and the act of creating on an analogue medium (even when you're just recording 2 Fugazi albums onto an old c90) feels really cool when you're used to DAWs or whatever.

Also, I listen to a lot of music, the vast majority of time digitally, but I hardly pay for digital music. I don't think I'm ever going to really pay for digital music. What I do buy is loads of LPs and cassettes and t-shirts. I see the cassettes I've released (as well as the physical music I own) as more than just vehicles for the music inside. They're like physical tokens of how much you love something, they're independent artworks of themselves, they're things to lend to friends, they're things that warrant gathering people together for a listening session, they're collectors' items for music fetishists, and, most importantly, they're something that I would buy.

The target demographic of the label is me, so I'm just trying to create things I personally think are cool and want to buy.

'How to Organise Your Life and Get Rid of Clutter' is a compilation of tracks recorded over a self-help tape. As a result, the cassette sounds like some kind of bizarre soundtrack to surreal narrative running underneath. Was this particularly intentional, and was there any particular inspiration behind this?

It was very intentional. Like I was kind of alluding to in the previous answer, I see the releases as independent works in their own right. Most of the tracks on HTOYL&GROC were already available somewhere on the internet, and most of them were free. I wanted my label's first release to be more than just a collection of really awesome tracks, and I think the recycled self-help cassettes helped contextualise everything within this weird little boring happy nightmare world. With the label name, visual aesthetic and releases I've kind of been going for a kind of ridiculous-but-boring-suburban-morbid-goth kind of vibe, and I think the cassettes helped that along. Also, I really like how the recycled cassettes 1) would have just ended up in a landfill; 2) play with the anachronistic nature of the format; 3) have a weird mysterious history of their own.

I can't remember what inspired me, but I probably stole the idea from someone. As far as remember, I first started looking for joblots of cassettes on eBay because I thought I could record over a selection of random tapes to save money and because punk rock. Then I saw the self-help cassettes and the choice was obvious. Self-help is the weirdest fucking thing in the world, it's like everything lame and important and vacuous and uncomfortable and comforting and scary and cheesy and cynical and religious - all tied up in a big ball of capitalist greed. It's the kind of thing I find it hard to believe isn't just a massive inside joke for everyone involved. It's too weird to be true. I don't believe in self-help: I literally don't believe it can be a real industry that seriously exists. It must be a joke. Also, obviously, me and everyone else in the world is really sad all the time, and I wanted the cassette to help everyone out a little, myself included. So it's a kind of non-ironic ironic appropriation of something I can't believe is anything other than ironic. Urgh shoot me.

Do you usually find bands in a fully produced state and then release their material, or have you been involved with that side of things as well? Can you tell me more about this process of finding material to work with?

The first artist I found was Smiling Disease, whose older brother showed me his music maybe five years ago. It blew my mind and planted the seed that grew into this label. He produces all his own music through a Skype microphone much better than I could with a professional studio.

Artists like Estamos Fritos, Southside Cemetery Choir, Mewlips and Sofia DeVille are people that I've never met, from different places in the world. I found their music on my obsessive internet travels, at different times, through different channels. I literally had no input on what they sound like at all - they're just awesome. I asked if I could involve them, and they blessed me.

The rest are close friends, and form the central community around the label. Lizzard Bleach I recorded at one of their (incredibly rare) practices with one semi-decent microphone and a dictaphone. If you listen carefully you can hear me clapping involuntarily. O. Chapman home-recorded all of the track on his post-mortem album, but I produced his pre-mortem EP Discomfort (MoD didn't actually release that so maybe it's irrelevant, but give it a listen anyway). I fucked around with pre-existing tracks by Porridge Radio and Mad Kid Library Trap because I wanted to unleash their spirit animals. I recorded all the Satanic Ritual Abuse tracks because I am Satanic Ritual Abuse... I guess this is really boring information for everyone who isn't well versed in MoD's output.

The bands in your label have a noise/psych influence, but they all seem to retain their individualism. For example, Southside Cemetery Choir have an interesting backstory, in writing all of their songs in South Minneapolis graveyards. Is there anything more to divulge about them?

I found Southside Cemetery Choir in my mid-teens. I was obsessed with this band called Sleeping in the Aviary, and they had this incredible website that was a weird maze of links and MS Paint art. Stuff like a link that says "XXXHOT TEENSXXX", and then when you clicked there'd be a picture of a dog sat on a chair like a human. It was the best.

One day, while clicking about, I found the Southside Cemetery Choir side project and the dark humour of the concept and lyrics blew me away... quickly written songs that connect a fear of death with accidentally retained movie ticket stubs hit me where it hurts. Sadly, Sleeping in the Aviary and their website don't exist anymore, so I messaged their Facebook page asking if MoD could host the album. And that's how I got to rerelease one of my favourite albums ever.

Someone person sent me a massive thank you email because they'd been trying to get the album for years, but couldn't without the website, and they wanted one of the songs for their funeral. It's really that good an album.

Is there anything that you're planning to release over the course of this year?

Yes! I'm overjoyed to say that we're releasing Smiling Disease's official debut, probably in March. It's called Beach Bodies: 2008-2014, and it's a greatest hits compilation. He's made so much of my favourite music secretly over the years that his debut is a greatest hits. It's coming with artwork and videos by incredibly talented new media artist Sophie Mawson. It's also coming with four full-length albums of bonus tracks! He deserves a committed cult audience, so hopefully this will give the music nerds enough to dig into. And people have to hear these tracks, they're amazing.

Also, I bought a bunch of walkmans with Josh from Lizzard Bleach. I think we'll jazz them up for a MoD release.

And finally, I bought a joblot of cassettes with a cheesy love song compilation on them. I'll do another handmade compilation over the summer with a slightly different thematic twist. Since the last one, most of the artists have developed in really cool ways, or have started collaborating in really cool ways, and the loose network has increased in size, so I can't wait to document what's been going on for a very slightly wider audience.


You can visit Memorials of Distinction over at Bandcamp.