Music / Features
Dusky Tracks
Interview by James Lynch
Friday 23rd June, 2017

As seen in Issue One
Lucas Skinner is a Melbourne based musician who has played in a handful of bands over the last few years, both in the city and along the surf coast, including King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Atolls and Rough River. We caught up with him to chat about his latest project, a new label called Dusky Tracks.
TJ: Hey Lucas, last month you launched your new record label – tell us about Dusky Tracks.

LS: The idea of my siblings and I starting a label has been in our collective consciousness for a while now. I’m the youngest of four and one of my older sisters, Kate (Rough River) and my brother, Michael (Mallee Songs) are both musicians. We all share a lot of musical taste and influences, and jam and record together infrequently, so it seemed like a logical step. I worked with Kate a lot on her first self-titled album - recording, playing and producing - and I tried to push it a bit publicity-wise, but it was a little half-hearted really and I was a little disheartened by the lack of response. So I decided to make more of an effort the second time round - make a label, put a name to it and try to start something to put all the music we make together under one banner so everyone (hopefully) benefits from it collectively.

The label was originally referred to as a family label, however you’ve already begun reaching outside of that. Was pushing to grow always the plan?

The label tag line was ‘a label of familial folk’ and that was the original idea; that we’d release Rough River and Mallee Songs and we’d keep it in the family. But it’s quickly expanded, I guess due to friends being interested and enthusiastic about it, sending me their amazing music and asking if I’d release it for them. So it has grown in that way, and the tag of it being a ‘familial’ label seems too inward looking. Now it’s just another ‘Melbourne based independent record label’ haha.

You’ve been involved in the local music scene for a good while, as well as studied music at university. Why only start your own label now? And was starting Dusky Tracks a natural step after your degree or more due to experiences over the last few years?

I feel like I should’ve started this label a while ago, I’m not too sure why I didn’t! I guess I feel like now I have the time, resources and contacts to do it well. Doing a “Music Industry” degree at uni is a bit funny really. It’s not an industry where you need a degree to get a job, you just need an experience and to know people. We definitely did some cool stuff and I learnt a lot - I think the most valuable thing I got from the degree was the people I met who I still work and make music with. I think starting a label was a logical step after that but definitely the things I’ve learnt being in the industry have been just as, if not more valuable. So a little from column a, a little from column b I guess.

In a recent interview, John Dwyer from Thee Oh Sees referred to his label (Castle Face Records) as a stepping stone label to help bands move onto bigger platforms, which I thought was a pretty interesting idea. Do you think you’d rather grow the label with the bands on your roster or let them move on when the time comes?

That’s really interesting. I don’t think I’d mind if an artist moved onto something bigger, it’s evident sometimes that smaller labels/agencies just don’t have the resources to take an artist to the next step. I don’t think I’d be phased.

He also mentioned that most of the releases they do are ‘handshake deals’, rather than super professional, which I’d say creates a pretty positive tone within the label. Is that something that’s important for Dusky Tracks?

Yeah definitely, I mean it’s kind of unnecessary to have anything on paper when there’s very little money being generated. Both the label and the artist are in it for the same reason which is for the love of music.

On the other hand, something else I read recently was an interview with the head of a fairly big label (can’t remember who though), who essentially said that bands sending out demos need to be aware that no one will like their music as much as themselves. I guess there’s some truth to that, but I also feel like DIY culture essentially exists in response to those kind of attitudes. Any thoughts on that?

I think that’s rarely true. A lot of people who I know who make amazing music are incredibly modest or even self deprecating about it. Or rarely share their music with people at all because of self-consciousness or perfectionism. It’s a curse and I definitely suffer from it with my music, but I’m getting better at sharing it with people and inviting collaboration - because I suck at making it on my own!

At the moment, Dusky Tracks seems somewhat uniform in terms of its sound. Is this a conscious decision? Do you care about labels having ‘sounds’?

I think it’s too early for Dusky Tracks to have a ‘sound’. The only two acts that I had secured when I started were my siblings projects, which are in a similar vein, although I think they’re very different in ways as well. I’m gonna see where it takes me. I have an incredibly varied taste in music and I think the label will reflect that one day. It’s kind of why I’ve ditched the ‘folk’ signifier already. In early discussions with Mike and Kate about the label we talked about labels we liked and followed, and Drag City was a big one for all of us. Their taste is incredibly eclectic but the music is always good and comes from a similar ethos. I think that’s what matters, not a cohesive sound.

Even before you’d officially launched the label, you’ve pretty much announced three albums you’ll be releasing this year, which seems like you’re working pretty hard and fast. How important do you think that is? And is the rest of 2017 going to be a busy one?

Yeah it is starting to shape up to be a busy one which is good. I just hope I can keep up and do all the releases justice!

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