Vancouver Island's Jamie McCue quietly curates music from a rainforest.
Silent Season a Homegrown Secret
Unbeknownst to many in British Columbia, Silent Season has quietly become an internationally acclaimed electronic music label, with each new release quickly gaining praise and sales in Europe and Japan.
Based in Courtenay, the label was founded in 2007 by DJ and electronic music aficionado Jamie McCue. He was inspired to create a record label whose music reflects, and is inspired by, the supernatural beauty of Vancouver Island’s rainforests.
While the label remains a bit of a secret at home, Silent Season’s music, ranging from ethereal ambient music to deep dub techno, has been turning heads overseas. In September 2012 it was featured as the ‘label of the month’ in Resident Advisor, a prominent online music magazine with more then two million readers a month.
Although the label’s impetus and aesthetic is rooted in Vancouver Island’s rainforest, many of its artists are prominent international musicians such as San Diego’s ASC and Italy’s Edanticonf, each inspired by their own natural landscapes.
As Silent Season gains momentum, McCue’s vision for releasing electronic music that captures the organic beauty of nature continues to resonate with more listeners—each release now quickly sells out. McCue spoke with Megaphone from his home in Courtenay. Here are excerpts from our conversation.
Megaphone: How does Vancouver Island’s rainforest influence Silent Season’s music?
Jamie McCue: Spending time camping, biking and being out in the forest, there is this sense of calm, of peaceful feeling, and sometimes you can sit back and you are able to take in the sounds around you, whether
it is the birds or the trees or the wind—it feels like a soundtrack to nature, and I just really felt connected to that. And then a way to expand on that would be adding rhythms and textures of additional sound to create this ambiance that feels sort of like it’s the extension of the forest.
MP: Why do you think atmospheric music like ambient and dub techno connect so well with nature?
JM:I would say that it has a lot to do with the echoes, just the way it can seem to go on endlessly in a loop. A lot of the music I listen to and the music from the label is really centred around the echo and reverb sounds where they just sort of continue on and on, just sort of like how I see nature, really.
MP: One of the really striking things about your releases is the beautiful images of Vancouver Island’s rainforests that get printed on each album.
JM: I’ve always been a DJ and a collector of music and I’ve always had this vision of sound in my mind. My friend Dan Anthon is a photographer and I feel he captures the supernatural in British Columbia that in essence is the sound that I feel with Silent Season. I think grouping those together, the art direction with the music, really compliment each other and it gives people that feeling that I have when I’m in the forest and taking in those sounds. If you were to pick up one of those CDs and take a look at the cover and then listen to it, it almost puts you in that place.
MP: When you release a new record, you use recycled materials and silkscreened images. Why is it important for you to give that much attention to the product?
JM: I’ve never been a fan of standard classic CDs and I’ve never been a fan of over-using or over-consuming wasteful materials, so I wanted to do whatever I can to limit that as much as possible. So all the paper we use for
the releases are 100 per cent recyclable, or if that’s not possible, it’s usually a mix. And for the first record I went to thrift stores and collected all the jackets and I used those and screen-printed on them. I find ways to reuse materials and at the same time it creates a unique, individualized product, different than everything else.
MP: How do you think your label’s environmental message resonates with listeners?
JM: I’m here in a small community and I truly believe that connecting with nature helps improve our inner soul and who we are as people—it’s easy to forget that when you’re busy with your life and job. But take 20 minutes and just go for a walk, and just take in what’s all around you and I think that’s really important. That’s one of the things that I try to convey with Silent Season, to spend a little bit of time in nature and think about what’s around you and find that peace and solitude that it can provide.
We live in such a beautiful place and we are going through some troubled times with the resource sector and pipelines. If I can portray the natural beauty of the world through music and through the accompanying photography, that’s great, because maybe it makes people a little more aware of the world around them. And maybe it makes them think twice about whether they are going to purchase something that is full of plastics and make a more conscious decision.
MP: Silent Season has grown to an internationally acclaimed label. But it still seems like a bit of a secret here in British Columbia. Why do you think that is?
JM: I don’t submit any of our releases for review, I don’t seek success in any way—it’s really all about the music and the sounds, and I really just let them do the work for the label, and that’s worked out really well. I guess it’s allowed me to maintain more of an underground feel. I’m not doing this for any sort of fame. If it’s for anything, it’s to promote the artists who are releasing the music.
Interestingly enough, probably 90 per cent of our sales are outside of Canada, and only recently in the last year or two have people started to catch on here a little bit more. But I think maybe people are getting to be a little bit more in tune with ambient music. I don’t know if it’s because we are all getting older and calming down a little bit, but it just seems to be that there is more of an interest in it these days.
For more information about the Silent Season label and Jamie McCue, visit www.SilentSeason.com.