Micro Get-to-Know is a regular COUNTERZINE feature where we interview micro-label owners about their goals, hopes, ethics, struggles, and of course, their music. Micro-labels are defined by Counterzine as labels with small operations teams (and often just one individual) that specialize in digital and/or limited run physical releases. Our subject for this edition is Sofie Mikhaylova’s Biblioteka Records.
COUNTERZINE: How are you today?
Sofie Mikhaylova: I’m good! Always.
CZ: Tell us a little about yourself.
SM: My name is Sofie Mikhaylova and I’m a DJ and experimental electronic hardware musician based in Toronto, Ontario. I started and run Biblioteka Records, I have two cats, and my favourite colour is pink.
CZ: In a broad sense, how would you describe Biblioteka Records?
SM: Biblioteka Records is a haven and family of artists creating experimental and left-of-mainstream electronic music. It’s a record label focused on not-so-radio-friendly tunes, but tunes that are still beautiful, meaningful, and interesting. It’s a way for artists around the world to release music they love and believe in with a small, tight label that believes in them.
CZ: What inspired you to start a label?
SM: Biblioteka Records was originally just Biblioteka. I used the name to throw parties and events in Toronto. I was working on more of my own music at the time, and was looking to release an EP. I wanted to self-release it, but somehow tie it into the Biblioteka name. I ended up dropping the events-exclusive vibe I was going for and adding the “Records” bit to operate exclusively as a record label. Essentially, I wanted to self-release a project but still ‘own’ it and have a type of ‘label’ backing.
CZ: What are some of your favorite labels going today?
SM: I’m a huge fan of CODEPENDENT, Orange Milk, Forged Artifacts, my friends at Bare Selection, DESKPOP, Warp Records, Planet Mu, and All Day I Dream.
CZ: You recently just released your label’s first vinyl release, Golden Grey’s “One” 7”. Out of all your releases up to this point, why did you feel this was the one to take the next step on?
SM: Before Golden Grey joined the team, the label was still pretty new. I had brought up the idea of physical releases with a couple of other artists I felt strongly about, but neither of us were ready to take the leap. Golden Grey’s album was complete, beautiful, and reflected what I wanted 2019 to look like for Biblioteka Records. We had started talking in November 2018, signed officially in January 2019, and pushed the vinyl out in April 2019, so it was a lot of work and timing. Originally, I wanted to release track “Three” off the Numbers EP as the single on vinyl, but Golden Grey felt confidently about “One.” Obviously, I agreed; nothing really felt more fitting than our first release together, as well as Biblioteka Records’ first vinyl release, to be called “One.” I’m really happy with our choice.
CZ: How was your first experience with releasing vinyl and do you plan to release vinyl regularly moving forward?
SM: It was expensive! But it was also a lot of fun. I worked with local vinyl pressing plant Liquor Donuts, who were a pleasure to work with and gave me a fair rate. Since I was new to the whole thing, I had a lot of questions, but J and team were really patient with me and answered and addressed all of my concerns. It was also a lot of work. We had to master the songs for vinyl, get the proper artwork done, put all the right information on the artwork in the back (copyrights, barcodes, etc). But holding something I helped make and have a real, physical, tangible THING representing Biblioteka Records in my hands… I can’t explain the feeling. It was surreal. It still is, every time I look at a record.
CZ: What are some of the struggles you face as a label owner in 2019?
SM: I mean, money is a huge one. I really want to do more physical releases and I see the struggle with, like, paying for them. Also selling them. Running an indie label with more experimental music presents its own set of challenges.
I also run Biblioteka Records 100% on my own. I don’t have a budget for PR or anything like that; everything is funded by me. I vet all the artists and do all the emails and read and listen to all the submissions. The PR I can do, I do, but I definitely feel like sometimes I’m not doing as much as I could be for the artists. It’s hard to do everything myself, from social to admin to bookkeeping to A&R and management and scheduling. I do feel a bit burnt out at times and feel the need to take a day away from the screen.
CZ: How is the electronic scene in Toronto?
SM: It’s a lot of fun. I’ve always felt that people were really supportive of each other, especially in the hardware electronic scene. If you’re looking for raves, dope parties, and the techno/house scene, I think Toronto has a good amount of parties and events for that as well.
I’ve been trying for a while to get more involved and be more ‘known’ in the electronic dance music community in Toronto, and I think people have been willing to let me into their circles and teach me things and show me the ropes. In addition, Toronto hosts a lot of panels and educational workshops for emerging musicians and those focused on the business side of the music industry, which is really awesome and I try to take advantage of those as much as I can.
CZ: You run an event series called Grandma’s Secret Spices. Could you tell us a bit about that?
SM: Yeah! Grandma’s Secret Spices is an electronic hardware performance night in which I try to book more women and LGBTQ+ folks who play weird, fun, different, and experimental music. The second one in the series will be June 13th (today), and I’d really like to do them every 2-3 months going forward if they do well. There’s so much dope talent in the city, and it would be really cool to have a night dedicated to highlighting some wonderful hardware music. I also try to make it end late, as it runs on a school night (Thursdays), and I know not everybody wants to be out till like 1 or 2 a.m. on weeknights.
Last time, we had Korea Town Acid and Bachelard perform, and this month I’m looking forward to welcoming autotectonic, Leucrocuta, and 3Hands4Milo (a Biblioteka Records artist!) to the stage. I’ll also be playing a small live show with Eurorack in the beginning of the night.
Ideally, I’d like to be able to highlight hardware music while also having at least one Biblioteka Records artist on the lineup for each event. I realize, though, that this might not always be possible as not all of our artists are based in Toronto, but a girl can dream! Who knows what the night will grow into?
CZ: What are some of Biblioteka Records’ most recent projects?
SM: We recently signed a bunch of new artists that I’m really excited to work with, and we also put out Carter Fox’s first single from his upcoming album. “Cartercraft” is a song I’m really proud to have on the label, and the accompanying video is just as stunning as the track. In addition, you know about Golden Grey’s 7” single, but his EP Numbers was also released in May, and it’s a wonderful listen as well.
CZ: What’s on the horizon for Biblioteka Records?
SM: A new Carter Fox single titled “Cavediver” coming June 24, as well as a visual/audio experiential single release calendar from a new artist on our label, Dame Cook. She’s an electroacoustic Toronto-based artist whose sound is really unique, and I’m very excited to work with her. We’ve also signed soon-to-be Atlanta-based musician and producer Taja Nicholle to the label, and we’re looking at late July/early August for some of her releases as well. Finally, Otherworld, another new artist (I told you there were a lot!) is working on a special commissioned project for us that’s going to be very horror movie soundtrack-inspired. I’m looking to release this as a physical in October 2019.
Of course, there’s always so much going on, but I can’t give away all of my secrets!
CZ: Are there any specific goals or milestones you hope to achieve with Biblioteka Records?
SM: I want to do more events and hire a staff member to help me out, if possible. It’s getting busy and it’s not that easy to do everything myself. I also really want to focus on putting out more physical releases, including cassettes with smaller runs for some future releases. Also, a two-year anniversary party in October would be something that I’d really like to try,
CZ: We asked you to make a mix as something of a label sampler. Could you explain some of your picks and why you chose them?
SM: I started off with “One” by Golden Grey to open up the mix and highlight our new song, and then moved on to two unreleased songs from Dame Cook and Carter Fox, respectively. Going forward, I chose to focus on some more chill songs that are in my favourites playlist that I don’t really get to play out much when I DJ and wanted to share. “Shaker Hymns (Bensen Coffee & Cigarettes Remix)” by Dry the River is a tune I absolutely adore, and that I thought fit well with the rest of the Biblioteka Records tracks in the mix.
The Biblioteka Records Mix:
Featured songs (in order):
- “One” – Golden Grey
- “Bovine Visions” – Dame Cook (UNRELEASED)
- “Nethergate” – Carter Fox (UNRELEASED)
- “Free” – Kidswaste
- “Last Lights” – Diskay
- “Sunday Glide” – Kermesse
- “Give It to Me” – Plucando feat. Emie
- “Shaker Hymns (Bensen Coffee & Cigarettes Remix)” – Dry the River
- “I’m Into You (Monkeyneck Remix)” – Chet Faker
- “All Cried Out (Kulkid Remix)” – Fink