Established just over a year ago as a "New Zealand based record label for drone, noise, experimental music and sound art," End of The Alphabet Records is the brainchild of Wellington-based experimental vocalist and musician Noel Meek.

First introduced to exploratory and experimental forms of sound through attending live performances at the legendary Peter McLeavy Gallery in Wellington, Noel got his start within that musical world by working at local improvised music spaces The Space and Happy. From there he began organising local music festivals and working at international music festivals like Vision (NYC) and Meltdown (London). After that, he became a performer himself. Noel spent several years doing free improv, before joining drone 'n' beats trio The All-Seeing Hand for a period of time. After that, he returned to recording and performing as a solo artist under his own name.

Since its first release in September 2014, NoFi Rainbow Vol.1, End of The Alphabet Records has slipped out a series of compilation albums, solo albums and live recordings on cassette tape/digital download format. They are have also released several 7" lathe cut split release records; each showcasing music from an emerging New Zealand musician and a respected musician from elsewhere in the world. Now fourteen releases strong, End of The Alphabet Records catalogue includes music from Antony Milton (NZ), Bruce Russell (The Dead C, NZ), Yan Jun (China) and Kawabata Makoto (Acid Mother's Temple, Japan) amongst others.

Terms like drone, noise and experimental music are an accessible set of guidelines for locating where End of The Alphabet Records' releases sit within the great expanses of music. However, when you listen across the label's discography, the overarching theme feels like communication, and more than just communication, how experimental and exploratory music forms can be used to express things language doesn't quite allow for.

In celebration of End of The Alphabet Records first birthday, the release of their particularly successful Pekak! Indonesian Noise 1995-2015: 20 Years of Experimental Music from Indonesia compilation album and an exciting new survey of New Zealand's contemporary experimental music scene titled NoFi Rainbow Vol.2, I spent some talking to Noel at a café in Wellington. We discussed the story behind End of The Alphabet Records, their journey so far, and where the label is headed next.

Could you walk us through the meaning and significance behind your record label's name?

The name of the label comes down to two things. One, I was thinking about how we're literally down here on the edge of the earth in New Zealand. Usually, the vision of experimental musicians is that they live in some bush hut on the side of the world, especially when you get to people like Campbell Kneale and Antony Milton and that. There is that literal on the end of the world thing, which lends itself to the end of the alphabet. Beyond that, my whole feeling is that music exists because there are things that can't be said, and it's a way to express something you can't say. So music stands there at the far end of the alphabet.

When your spoken or written vocabulary isn't enough to express something, you can turn to music.

Exactly, but even more so, it can completely replace it. There are a number of theorists and historians who believe that music likely preceded language, that language came out of making music and singing, or something percussive.

End of the Alphabet Records began just over a year ago. Could you give us a window into what made you feel like starting a label was the right thing to do?

There were two main things that kicked it off. I wanted to get more of my own music out, and there is a long tradition of artists who want to do that setting up labels. It was also that I knew a whole bunch of interesting musicians like Fergus Nelson Moore or Ryan Bennett, who didn't have anywhere to release their music locally. I talked to Antony Milton, who runs Pseudoarcana, Campbell Kneale and eventually Bruce Russell about their record labels, and they all told me they were basically closing up shop. Antony has closed up this year, Campbell closed up a couple of years ago. Bruce obviously closed up a long time before that.

I hate to put it like this, but there was a big gap in the market. I talked to Pat Kraus. He was releasing in Chicago but not New Zealand. The Dead C were releasing out of New York, but not New Zealand, so even the larger names had nowhere to go in New Zealand. I thought, well, there is an opening there. I've been kicking around the music scene for years doing festivals and gigs and venues, and I figured this was a good way to continuing being involved without the capital investment that goes into running a venue or a festival. It's actually quite an easy thing to do, run a small label on a small budget and have it ticking over.

Bruce Russell ran Xpressway Records and Corpus Hermeticum. With those labels leading into the era of the Psuedoarcanas, etc., we have a tradition for this sort of label in New Zealand. Is that tradition a source of inspiration for you?

Completely, that's why I went and talked to Antony, Campbell and Bruce. Antony mentored me through the first six or seven months. He helped me with media contacts, where to find tapes, and how to do the printing the cheapest. He showed me how to make the covers for 7" records and all that sort of thing. Bruce and Campbell gave me more advice on the big picture thing. They helped me understand how to approach media outlets like The Wire Magazine and how to think about the design aesthetic of the label and that sort of thing. Both Bruce and Campbell said exactly the same thing. They told me to make sure you have an aesthetic that links everything the whole way through, that way people will visually see what the links are between releases.

If your release discography is linked by a visual aesthetic, so you think there is a sonic aesthetic that connects it all together as well?

Yeah. I think the two come together, but I also think they've both been changing quite rapidly as the label evolves. It's been an expansion of the vision of what End of the Alphabet Records is. When we first started out, I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but I hadn't done it before. My vision was relatively narrow, so I focused much more on the drone side of things. That was the traditional field, and I knew that if I managed to sign up the right artists, that would capture a certain number of regular customers who like New Zealand music and have been looking out for it.

Now that we have a good number of regular customers and contacts in the media, we're trying to expand it out and get the younger people. We started with Bruce Russell, Antony Milton and Campbell Kneale on our first compilation NoFi Rainbow Vol.1. We've just released the second volume in that series, and it's a lot wider. There are a lot of younger people involved who are all emerging now.

There are a few things I find interesting about you running this label. You're old enough to have some experience, but at the same time, you are young enough that you are willing to make a proper go of trying out newer things, like the internet marketing side of things.

I've always found it funny. In the experimental scene, I seem to fall in between. Me and Chris Cudby seem to fall between the generations. We're this weird bridge between age groups. This means we have a slightly different perspective from everyone else. This is a necessity for me as well though. I have grown up with the internet more so than the older guys, but it doesn't shape my aesthetic, in the same way, it does some of the younger musicians. It's a tool for me, as opposed to an inspiration.

It's funny, because if I had my way, we would have been an entirely digital label from the start. I converted all my music to digital years ago. I travel so much, so I find it easier. Of course, none of the musicians wanted to do that, and I discovered none of the audience did either. It's about the balance. There is a real want, and it's a want, not a need, for the analogue tape and the lathe cut records. They are fantastic tools to get the music out.

After all, these mediums are still considered to help legitimise the artists who release on them.

Absolutely! It does legitimise your release more than just a Bandcamp download. On the other hand, I tend to see them as publicity tools more than anything these days. People will generally get the download as well. To be honest, a lot of the people we sell to or send to in the media, they have listened to the digital version long before they receive the tape in the mail. So the tapes end up being like a lovely letter to someone as opposed to just the music.

Your first release NoFi Rainbow Vol.1 surveyed the contemporary experimental music scene in New Zealand. From there you rolled into a mixture of local and international individual releases. This balance really crystallised when you started to release the 7" lathe cuts with a New Zealand musician on one side and an overseas musician on the other side. How important has this balance of local and international content been?

It was vital right from the start. The whole idea after the first compilation was getting international names onboard. I knew those names would up the profile of the label, and with that, the profile of the New Zealand musicians we already had. It's actually been interesting; someone described it as like Pokemon cards the other day. As we've released, I've built on my own contacts from touring, and playing gigs at the start, to feeling comfortable approaching new musicians and saying, Hey, you don't know me, but we have these guys on the label, are you interested in being involved? Then I can go to the next guy, build things up, and get bigger and bigger names every time. As we go on, I often find they have already heard of us, and that is great. Especially with the lathe splits, we want these younger people from New Zealand to be getting out there into the world that these older and more experienced international people are in. The international people have access to whole networks we simply can't get at from here.

They recently closed, but Volcanic Tongues Records were one of the first large online stores and distributors I saw really getting behind your releases. Did their support help you out much at the start?

Yeah! Volcanic Tongue and Eclipse in the States were the first to get behind us. Volcanic Tongues folded after our third or fourth release, so they only got our first couple before they told us to stop sending them copies. They were really good in the first few months because they sent out those emails everyone in the world used to get with amazing write-ups from David Keenan.

To be honest, we have had a real struggle getting distribution through a company. That's why we have fallen back more and more on Bandcamp and our own email contact lists. That is more and more what we do, direct mailing. Distribution companies aren't really selling enough of this sort of stuff to survive anymore. When Volcanic Tongue closed, that was a death knell for a lot of people in that scene. Eclipse takes our stuff because there are a whole bunch of guys in America who like to get that stuff and purchase it together to save on postage, so there are little conduits there, but nothing major. We have been trying to get distribution in Japan and Europe since we first started.

Your two most recent releases have been NoFi Rainbow Vol.2 and Pekak! Indonesian Noise 1995-2015: 20 Years of Experimental Music from Indonesia. I feel like the Indonesian noise compilation has been a big moment for the label?

Yeah, it did turn out to be, which is what I was hoping for. There is a lot of interest in the Indonesian noise scene right now and has been for the last few months. Vice has covered it, and some big online blogs have covered it recently as well, Cyclic Defrost and people like that.

The compilation is a collaboration between myself and Indra Menus from over there. The relationship between a record label from the West and musicians from outside of the West can be potentially very problematic. So it was important to me that as much of it was done over there as possible. It came about originally because I wanted to tour Indonesia and I got talking to people from here who had done it. They put me together with him. It was the usual story, I was on Facebook, and a post came up about how he was putting together a compilation of Indonesian noise music. I saw that and thought, yes! We will do that. We will put it out. So I got in touch. He is doing a much larger release of one hundred something tracks later on down the line. This is more like a sampler. It's eighteen tracks, twenty years, and god knows how many islands, so it's a lot of ground to cover.

That led to me touring there. We got the tapes duplicated over there. I actually went and physically picked them up from the plant. I met a whole lot of the musicians on the compilation while I was touring. It was a nice one to put out, and it turned out to be really popular. John Olson from Wolf Eyes posted it online. Between that and WFMU posting about it after that, we sold out of physical copies within 24 hours. That was it. It was done and gone.

John only picked it up because we had already been talking. Wolf Eyes is doing a 7" split with me next year. So because we were talking on email at the time, he must have seen it on Facebook and thought, great! That's where the international connections really come into play. Over the last six months, in particular, I've really been building them. It's snowballed for us and next year is looking really exciting.

I think that when you're standing on the outside looking in, it's easy to miss how small and tightly knit the experimental music scenes can sometimes be.

It's incredibly close linked. That's part of what I mean about being inspired by how all these musicians live their lives and have inspired me to live mine. There is a real sense of community. It's not in any way a false sense of community - everyone gets on because they have so many shared ideas and ways of doing things - and because it's so small, it is really close.

NoFi Rainbow Vol.2 has also just come out. The first volume you released a year ago was very drone-heavy and featured a lot of recognisable names. This volume has a lot of younger music makers and a lot of rhythmic music.

Noel Meek: That is two things. One, in the year and a bit of running the label, I've expanded my contacts locally and internationally. I've met a lot more people and done a lot of playing and touring around the country, which has helped me meet a lot more people. Spending time living in Auckland has been an influence here too. But, it's also that I've finally opened up a bit more to the beats side of things.

I was pretty resistant for a long time. People I know like Fergus Nelson Moore and Thomas started playing these big dance gigs all of a sudden. I wasn't quite sure how I felt about that, but I've softened to it now and realised that some of that stuff is really exciting. It's much more interesting than what a lot of people are doing right now. Playing with The All-Seeing Hand taught me how fun it is to play for a room of people who are all dancing. People will dance as long as there is a beat. It doesn't have to be a dance or hip-hop beat.

It's been really exciting, and it's starting to change the direction of my own music. Hanging out with these guys and seeing them play at parties has made me think, man, this is a shitload of fun actually! I'd gotten to the stage where I think I was starting to find a lot of experimental music pretty dour and boring quite frankly. You can only go to so many free improv gigs and drone gigs before you start thinking, there is a real fucking format going on here, and it's not always done well! I just love the way these young people are doing it. Because they're so much younger, they don't really have a real life connection with roots of electronic music and dance music, which makes for a really interesting interaction with it at times. I'm sure there are piles of shit out there within that world, but the younger people doing it in Wellington and Christchurch are actually really clever about how they do it. They do it with a lot of brains and new information.

Pekak! Indonesian Noise 1995-2015: 20 Years of Experimental Music from Indonesia and NoFi Rainbow Vol.2 are out now via End of The Alphabet Records.