- only tape is real -

Interview: Richard from Ortega / Tartarus Records

It seems to be ‘interview tuesday’ here at Breathe Plastic. After the interview with Ishmael was posted a little while ago the interview with Richard from Ortega and Tartarus Records came in.

The past couple of months i really started to appreciate their 1634 and A Flame Never Rises On Its Own album/ep, and after seeing them do a cool gig at the Incubate festival a few weeks ago it was time to ask them some questions.

Ortega had a bit of a busy weekend a few weeks back, playing both the Incubate festival in Tilburg and the Cry Me A Badger Festival in Utrecht. How did it go in your experience, and how where the responses?

We had a great weekend. As a “heavy” band it is a must to play in Tilburg. I think all relevant shows in the genre are there, so we were very thankful for the opportunity to perform at the Incubate festival.
The shows themselves went pretty good in my opinion. We got a lot of kind words after both of our shows, so that was really nice! Initially we got booked as support for Conan and Slomatics in the 013, but due to Mogwai we got moved to the Little Devil, where we got to share the stage with great bands like Ides of Gemini, HARK and MGLA. The next day we played at the ACU in Utrecht, which was a strange, but fun show. This time the guys of Conan and us did support for our friends (and label mates) Terzij de Horde and Starve for the release of their recently released split “A Chosen Hollow”. The show itself was cool, but there was only one guy working at the venue. He was the bartender, cook, stagemanager and sold the tickets at the door. Crazy shit. Great night though! All in all it was a crazy weekend we’d love to do over again.

We spoke briefly at Incubate and you mentioned you don’t play the west side of the country too often (for convenience i’m counting Tilburg as the west). Is it different playing for Ortega compared to the North? And if so, in what way?

Playing locally, or even in the north of the Netherlands for that matter, is not that hard if you know the right promoters. Also we don’t play to often in our hometown and/or region to avoid a certain overkill and keep the shows interesting for the crowd and ourselves.
Because The Flame ep is still in the works we decided a while back to do less shows until its actual release. As you know we’ve had some problems with the release dates, so it got postponed a couple of times over the last year. So that meant we didn’t get to play a lot too. In April we did our first show after a six month break and we felt we wanted to do more gigs again -with our without any new release.

I like to think that i’m quite familiar with the Dutch scene but Ortega came a bit out of nowhere for me about 2 years ago with the 1634 album. Could you give a brief history of the band?

We started out as a hardcore band back in 2006. It went nowhere. Our lead guitar player stopped showing up one day and joined a cover band. The drummer quit around the same time due to lack of enthusiasm( I can’t blame him). So I said I wanted to start a band myself. At that moment I was done with (metallic)hardcore and I really wanted to start something doom/sludgy. Also I wanted to play guitar in a band, since I only did vocals at that time. So Alex, Frank and I rehearsed in an attic for a while to write some riffs and shortly after that we asked Sven to join us(Alex was already in a band with him at the time). So that’s how we came together.
The funny story behind 1634 is that it’s actually a chronologic document of our line of songs we’ve written. So Still(the intro of 1634) is actually our first track we ever wrote. We started out with an idea and worked our way through by giving each track a certain meaning right before we started writing them. Even though it’s been 3 years since we’ve recorded this, I’m still proud this worked out so well back then.

Besides Ortega you are also in Suffering Quota and other members are in Zwaar Licht for instance. Is Ortega considered the main band for the people in the band?

I can’t speak for the rest, but for me Ortega is my “main band” as far as that goes. But I wouldn’t say it gets any more attention than Suffering Quota. I just try and make a good balance between them so I have enough time for both bands.

Lyrically 1634 seems to be more focussed on the subject of water while A Flame Never Rises On Its Own is, obviously, more towards fire. Are you going to cover all the elements or is this coincidental?

Hehe. Honestly this is a pure coincidence. The title is from the lyrics of the track When Fire Meets Fire. Lyrically the three tracks are considered chronicles from the world of ‘1634’. Musically the Flame ep is an experiment where Alex, Frank and me individually composed the basics for our own songs. When Fire Meets Fire was written by Alex, The Entity by Frank and Ritual by me.

A Flame Never Rises On Its Own is out for about 7 months now (released in february). How have the responses to it been so far? How are the responses compared to 1634?

Honestly, we’ve only had a few reviews. It’s mainly because the physical release has been on the waiting list since 2011. But the few we’ve had were very positive.

To me A Flame Never Rises On Its Own sounded a bit more ‘straight forward’ than 1634 which had for instance violins and synths/noise. Was this a deliberate choice?

Yes. On the Flame EP we try to reflect the “live atmosphere” we create on stage. I mean certain parts and songs of 1634 are hard to perform the way we recorded them for the album. That, and we didn’t always have a violinist with us. We are a four piece now -I don’t know if we’ll ever add more members to the lineup, but for the time being it’s just us four guys. That’s what we wanted to reflect on this ep.

A Flame Never Rises On Its Own will be out on vinyl soon. Any chance of 1634 getting that same treatment?

No plans yet, but who knows?

What are the plans for Ortega in the near, or not so near future. Are you working on new material at the moment for instance? And if so, what can we expect?

We just finished our newest track, called “The Beast Stirs”. It’s also our longest track to date, clocking at almost 18 minutes long. I’ll be releasing this as a limited ep myself on cassette in a few months. After that this will be pressed on vinyl for a split with Terzij de Horde. So keep an eye out for this!

You recently started your own tape label, Tartarus, what made you decide that. And more importantly, why the focus on tapes? For a lot of people, and maybe bands as well, it’s quite a bit of an obsolete and maybe even forgotten technology.

A few years back I discovered there still are a lot of very active tape collectors all over the world. Especially In the US, Germany and the UK. I think almost all bands I like from there started out with demo tapes and a lot of new bands from those countries still make them. Be it dubbed diy -or professionally duplicated.
For those bands the cassette is not only a medium, but also a small piece of art. Some people say cassettes are making a comeback. I say they’ve never really disappeared. But now they seem to get popular again. I guess it’s because people don’t really buy anything physical anymore unless it’s vinyl. A cassette may be physically “obsolete” but (for me) it’s also a cool item to own. That, and it adds a nice old school feel to it. So in my search I also discovered there are also a lot of labels that specialize in cassettes with unique handmade packaging like Witch Sermon, Nerdcore, Zugzwang Productions, Spiderbaby Records and Opaqus Records. As a real sucker for good packaging I started collecting cassettes (again) from all these labels and bands from all over the world. After a couple of years I said to myself: “I want to do this too”. So I saved up and released my first tape this August.

With Nihill and Bismuth you are releasing two great, but rather different bands, what are you looking for in a band that you want to release?

I have to like it, haha. But seriously; I’m pretty open minded when it comes to certain styles and genres, but I do have to have some kind of feel to it. And I guess they need to have a certain attraction to the “tape culture”. If your band doesn’t understand why it should be released on cassette, then maybe you should stick with cd’s and vinyl. Basically I try to cover the grounds of doom, sludge, noise, metal and ambient.

Do you expect to stay a label that is focussed just on tapes or will there be cd’s or vinyl as well?

Just tapes.

More information about Ortega on their Facebook. Or buy stuff here.
Listen to Ortega at their bandcamp page, or click the play button below

More information about Tartarus Records over here.

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