Welcome to ISC HiFi. Explore new records daily from our growing collection of classics and rarities from around the world. Discover the stories behind the records.

“To hear more, say less.”

Our website uses cookies
Read our privacy policy.

I Agree

Labels We Love: Peak Oil

Written By: 
Phil Cho
Tags: 
Share:
  •  

Peak Oil’s Brian Foote and Brion Brionson chat ’90s raves, indie rock, and faceless techno bollocks.

In the early ‘90s, rave culture exploded across the United States. Generator parties in the Midwest, Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle pulled thousands of dancing youths out to warehouses, barns, fields, and rundown auto plants. Massive sound systems could be heard blasting electronic music on strobe-filled dance floors almost nightly across the country. The music and parties spread via underground magazines, anonymous phone lines, and online message boards.

Self-proclaimed “old nerds” Brian Foote and Brion Brionson, founders of Los Angeles based electronic label Peak Oil, came up in these early American rave scenes. After soaking in the jungle, drum & bass, acid, IDM, techno and house music of the ‘90s raves and working at various labels, publications, and on their own music, both Brians have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of electronic dance music. While their raving days are long behind them, they’ve continued to push the sounds via their label.

Launched in 2012, Peak Oil has steadily released a string of diverse electronic releases from producers in various post-rave cities across the United States and, more recently, the world. The label has been on a hot streak recently with consecutive Philip Sherbourne-approved releases: the mysterious generative dub techno of Topdown Dialectic, followed by a gorgeous collection of ambient, IDM, and breaks by bubblin’ up Russian producer Hoavi.

For the latest edition of our “Labels We Love” series, In Sheep’s Clothing spoke to the two Brian’s about their early days raving, indie rock, faceless techno bollocks, and running a label.

We have a few final copies of Topdown Dialectic Vol 1-3 available now in the shop: https://insheepsclothinghifi.com/store

Hello Brian and Brion! How is everything going?

Brian Foote: Things are fine, just sick of COVID like everyone else.

Where did you guys first meet and how did the label come to be?

Brion Brionson: I first corresponded with Foote when I wrote for XLR8R a long time ago. I did a review of a fusion jazz band on Kranky, which Foote was in. We started emailing after that and then finally met in person when I moved to Los Angeles.

BF: Basically what happened was our partners at the time met and said “My man’s a nerd too… My man has cassettes! ” This was during the glory days of the synth scene cassette boom. We connected and then Brion mentioned that he always had this idea for a label called Peak Oil. You know how vinyl isn’t sustainable… I thought, “That’s brilliant, let’s do it.”

Where does the name Peak Oil come from?

BB: When I was living in New York I was reading about peak oil theory, which posits that society is based on infinite growth from a finite resource, petroleum. So once petroleum production has peaked, society is essentially in collapse, as petroleum is in everything. Even records.

BF: Of course, we’re well past peak oil now. As we approach the 10 year anniversary of the label, you literally can’t get a record made in a timely fashion if your life depended on it.

Leech – Data Horde (2019)

You’ve both been involved in indie rock and dream pop along with rave and dance music for a long time. How do those scenes intersect for each of you?

BB: I think we’re both just old… I think back to when shoegaze and dream pop were happening, labels had a strong visual identity. You knew everything on 4AD, Creation, Too Pure by sight. Not that the label superseded the band, but I found out about Long Fin Killie only because it was on Too Pure and I was into Th’ Faith Healers. I think that idea continued into rave and club culture because it was all world building, fantasy-based, and escapist. Again, you would have these labels like Warp, Rephlex, etc. that were forging these identities. So for me, at least, I was looking to labels to see what was a Mark Broom production.




BF: For me, not to always start with the “ancient” talk, but in 1989 growing up in the Midwest we’d read UK magazines like Select or NME. There was rave and there was indie in the same breath; techno intersected with the baggy/madchester thing. These bands would play shows in the UK and there would be these parties that would go on all night after. As a small town white kid who never had access to the early house scene parties in the region, I was ready and waiting for raves to come to the USA. When they did I would get to the party and think “Where are the bands? Don’t the bands start this off?” Just totally ignorant, mapping it from the pages of a magazine.

The hardcore raves of the early 90’s started happening in Milwaukee and Chicago. There was a promoter called Drop Bass Network that did the first 3-day event. I ended up helping book the chillout tent, and it would be these shoegaze bands and live electronic performances.

BB: I was lucky to grow up in the Bay Area with tons of raves, the Gardening Club and the whole Anarchic Adjustment/Fax Records/Spacetime Continuum scene. I was sneaking out of the house and school to interact with all of that. I think all that just primed me to be a huge obsessive nerd. 

Operation Midnight Climax (2015)

Peak Oil is based in Los Angeles but releases music from artists in post-rave cities across the United States. Are there specific places or scenes where these relationships were formed?

BB: I was in New York at a really exciting time. It was pre-DFA and that whole scene. It was really aggressively nerdy and very uncool back then. There was an IDM tupperware party with these guys Safety in Numbers who’d order CD’s from Switzerland or the Hague. You’d meet in a loft and listen to them. Out of that scene came Will, DFA-affiliated people, Brian Degraw from Gang Gang Dance. All that stuff bubbled up from deep nerdery.

BF: I lived in Portland for a decade when everything that happened there was cross pollinating with itself. That’s where I was in bands with Paul Dickow/Strategy, started my first electronic music label with some friends and began my relationship with Kranky.




BB: Overall, I would say it’s accidentally lazy A&R that got us where we are. Paul and Brian are good friends. The first few releases we leaned heavily on Foote’s connections and then the next few were mine. It’s been all people in the network along with some serendipitous moments.

BF: We don’t do a ton of releases so we’re going to spend our money on people who we know aren’t jackasses. It’s easier to work with friends.

BB: Also, we’re not just sending files off somewhere. We’re stamping all the records, packing them up, mailing them, and listening to them thousands of times. 

Each of the label’s artists seems to have a very unique approach to sampling. One of the label’s releases even comes with a floppy disc of drum break samples. How does sampling play into the label’s identity?

BF: The sampler was my first electronic instrument and I would argue that it’s the last instrument that’s been created. Of course, it plays a huge role in what we do. Every single artist on the label is a maniac for their process. I find that charming as someone who probably spends more time on their process than actually releasing the resultant music.

In the instance of the Topdown Dialectic material, the artist didn’t want to be involved. This was an insanely common thing in the ‘90’s where the press even coined the term “faceless techno bollocks.”

How involved are you guys with the actual production of the music on the label? Do you work closely with the artists to complete the tracks or mostly hands-off?

BF: With the exception of giving feedback if we’re asked or making suggestions about track order, I’m mostly hands-off. A lot of labels these days are like “the hi-hats are too bright” but I don’t think that’s the label’s place. We try to present the artist’s work in the way they want to.

BB: Compared to Foote, I’m a little more hands on A&R wise which I think is one of the strengths of the label, this push-pull between the two Brian’s. Having appreciated Factory, 4AD, Creation and all these labels that have a strong label identity, I’ve been a little more heavy handed in providing feedback on the tracks where Brian is more heavily focused on preserving the artist’s vision.




Topdown Dialectic seems to be having a bit of a moment right now. I understand you can’t say much about the artist, but I’m curious about how those records came about? There’s a bit of mystery behind that project…

BB: It’s kind of weird, the only mystery really is that the conceptual idea behind the music is at the forefront and we don’t disclose who did it. It’s become such a thing, but I guess that’s what happens when you don’t say who it is. It’s funny that that’s the thing people latch onto. I think at one point someone asked me if I did it. 

BF: Yeah, similarly people were like, “It’s you Foote.” And I’m like “Well, it’s not…” In the instance of the Topdown Dialectic material, the artist didn’t want to be involved. This was an insanely common thing in the ‘90’s where the press even coined the term “faceless techno bollocks.” No one put their name on the release and it wasn’t just because of contractual reasons or mystique. It was more like that doesn’t matter or that’s not what’s important.




Were the tracks all originally five minutes long or were they edited down? Some of the tracks feel like they could go on forever.

BF: They were always five minute chunks and that’s to allude to the fact that they were much longer pieces or open-ended generative compositions. 

Jungle, IDM, dub, techno, house — there are elements of so many different strains of dance music in the label’s releases. Was that always the idea?

BF: Brion is an insanely deep well of dance music knowledge. When I first got into it, a lot of that music was a mystery. It was all DJ mixtapes. I’d be listening to this song and Brion would say, “Oh, it’s this release from that sub-label…”

BB: I feel like the artists we work with just care a lot. I think because we’re both older, as we’ve watched scenes expand and contract over the years that we tend to appreciate music that’s more referential and thought out. It’s a bit of personal taste as well. I just don’t love sounds that sound like they’ve just come out of a computer without any intent behind them. That’s probably what makes the Topdown Dialectic records so beguiling. They obviously have a very heavy, conceptual infusion of genres. 




You guys just released an incredible album by Russian producer Hoavi. How did that come about? Do you guys see the label branching out more globally?

BB: Hoavi is a hustler and just sent us demos. He has no shortage of stuff… When he originally sent us the demos, we asked if the release was set or if we could move some things around and he immediately responded with five more tracks. They were some of the best demos we’ve heard or received… 

BF: We listen to demos! I think the circle is just expanding organically. If we hear something that we like, we’ll put it out. It’s the label’s ten year anniversary coming up so there’s a bunch of stuff cooking, but it’s tough to say when anything is coming out with all the supply chain stuff going on. 


Website: http://cargocollective.com/peakoil

Bandcamp: https://peakoil.bandcamp.com/music

Dublab: https://www.dublab.com/djs/peak-oil

Related Articles

Sort By
12th Isle
2020
33rpm
45rpm
4AD
5 Selects
7"
99 Records
A&M
Abbey Lincoln
Aboriginal
Abstract
Ace Tone
Acid
Acid Archives
Acid Folk
Acid House
Acid Punk
Acoustic
Adrian Sherwood
Africa
African
Afro
Afro-Cuban
Afrobeat
Alan Ginsberg
Alan Greenberg
Alan Thicke
Albert Ayler
Alice Coltrane
All Genre
Altec
Amazon Music
Ambient
Amoeba Music
Amplifier
Analog
Anatolian Rock
Andy Warhol
Animation
AOR
Aquarium Drunkard
Archie Shepp
Archival
Art
Art & Design
Art Dudley
Art Film
Art Pop
Art Rock
Artform Radio
Arthur Russell
Article
Ash Ra Temple
Audiogon
Audiophile
avant
Avant-Garde
Avant-pop
Avant-Rock
Avent-Garde
Balearic
Bali
Ballad
Bargain Bin
Baroque Pop
Basquiat
Bauhaus
Bayou Funk
BBC
BBC Radiophonic
Beats
Beats in Space
Bebop
Belgium
Bennie Maupin
Berlin-school
Best of 2020
Beverly Glenn​-​Copeland
Bhutan Stamps
Big Band
Bill Laswell
Black Ark Studios
Black Jazz
Blaxsploitation
Blue Note
Blues
Blues Rock
Bob Marley
Bola Sete
Bollywood
Boogie
books
Boredoms
Bossa
Bossa Nova
Brazil
Brazilian Folk
Breakbeat
Breezy
Brian Eno
Bruce Weber
Bruton Music
Buddhism
Budget Audiophiler
Cabaret
Calypso
CAN
Canterbury
Cape Verde
Caribbean
Cartridges
Casio
Cassette
Cats
CD
Chamber Music
Channel One Studios
Chanson
Charles Lloyd
Charles Mingus
Chee Shimizu
Chet Baker
Chicago
Chillout
Choral
Christmas
City Pop
Classic Album Sundays
Classical
Classics
Clothing
Coctueau Twins
Coffee
Commercial
Community
Compass Point
Compilation
Condesa Electronics
Conny Plank
Contemporary Jazz
Cornelius
Cosmic
Cosmic Disco
Cosmic Folk
Country
Country-Rock
Covers
Cult Classic
Cumbia
Daft Punk
Dance
Dancehall
Dark
Dark Entries
David Bowie
David Byrne
Davida
Deep Dive
Deep Listening
Delia Derbyshire
Demo
Dennis Bovell
Denon
Detroit
Devotional
Diasporic Disco
Dick Verdult
Diggin in the Mags
Disco
Discogs
DIY
DIY / Amateur
DJ
Documentary
Don Buchla
Don Cherry
Donald Byrd
Doom Metal
Downtempo
Dr. John
Dream House
Dream Pop
Dreamy
Drone
Drum Break
Drum Machine
Drum n Bass
Drums
Dual
Dub
Dub Poetry
dublab
Dubwise
Durutti Column
Düsseldorf School
Eames
Earl King
Early Electronic
East African
EBM
ECM
ecoustic
ecoustics
Electric Lady
Electro
Electronic
Electronica
Elegant Pop
Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam
Enossified
Environmental Music
EOY
Eric Dolphy
ESG
Esoteric
ESP Institute
Essential Listen
Essential Listening
Essential Listenning
Ethereal
Ethiopian Jazz
Ethnic
Event
Events
Exotica
Experimental
Factory Records
Fela Kuti
Festival
Field recording
Films
Fingertracks
Fingetracks
Fishing with John
Fleetwood Sound Company
Floating
Floating Points
Folk
Folk-Rock
Fonts
Fourth World
France
Free Improvisation
Free Jazz
Friends of ISC
Frippertronics
Fundraiser
Funk
Fusion
G.S. Schray
Gal Costa
Gamelan
Garage Rock
Garrard
Gems from the Dollar Bin
George Martin
Gifts
Gilberto Gil
Gogo
Gospel
Grado
Graphic Novel
Grateful Dead
Group Sounds
Guide
Guitar
Hard Bop
Harold Budd
Harp
Harry Nilsson
Haruomi Hosono
Heavy Metal
Henry Lewy
Herbie Hancock
hi-fi
hi-NRG
Hidden Gem
Highlife
Hip Hop
Hiroshi Yoshimura
history
Holger Czukay
Holiday
Hollywood
Holy Grail
Home Listening
House
Hypnotic
Iasos
IDM
Illustration
Improvisation
Impulse!
In Conversation
India
Indian
Indian Classical
Indie
Indie Rock
Industrial
Ingmar Bergman
Installation
Instrumental
International
Interview
ISC Classic
ISC Collection
isc guide
ISC Record Store
ISC Selects
Island Records
Isolation
Italo Disco
Italy
Jackie McLean
Jamaica
James Baldwin
Japananese
Japanese
Jazz
jazz kissa
Jazz-funk
Jazz-rock
JBL
John Fahey
John Martyn
Jon Hassell
Joni Mitchell
Judee Sill
Jungle
K. Leimer
Kankyo Ongaku
Keith Haring
Keith Jarrett
Kid-Friendly
Kitty Records
Klaus Schulze
Klipsch
Kompakt
Kosmiche
Kosmische
KPM
Kraftwerk
Krautrock
L.Shankar
La Monte Young
Labels We Love
Lafawndah
Lagniappe Sessions
Laraaji
Larry Levan
Last Resort
Laswell
Latin
Latin Jazz
Laurel Canyon
Laurie Spiegel
Leaving Records
Lebanese
Lee Scratch Perry
Left-field
Leftfield
Lena Horne
Les Baxter
Lester Bowie
Library
Library Music
Liquid Liquid
Listening bar
Live Performance
Live Recording
Los Angeles
Lost & Sound
lost and sound
Louisiana Blues
Lounge
Lounge Lizards
Love Songs
Lovefingers
Lovely Music Ltd.
Lovers Rock
Luaka Bop
Mad Professor
Marantz
Marcel Duchamp
Marcos Valle
mbaqanga
McIntosh
Meditation
Meditative
Melancholic
Mellow
Melody As Truth
Meredith Monk
Metal
Michael Franks
Mid-Century
Miles Davis
Milford Graves
Mills College
Minako Yoshida
Minimal
Minneapolis Sound
Mixes
Mixtape
Mizell Brothers
Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs
Modal
Modern Classical
Modular Synthesis
Moki Cherry
Mono
Mort Garson
Motown
MPB
MTV
Munich
Music Blog
Music from Memory
Music Interior
Music Therapy
Music Video
Mwandishi
Narrative
Neptunes
New Age
New Music
New Wave
New York
News
Nico
Nina Simone
No Wave
Noise
Non-Profit
Northern Soul
Now Sound
NTS
Nubian Pop
Nubian Soul
Numero Group
NYC
OBI
Obscure
Obscure Sound
On Screen
On-U Sound
online radio
Opera
Organic
Organic Music
Ornette Coleman
Ortofon
Oswalds Mill Audio
Outsider Pop
Overtone Singing
Painting
Painting with John
Pandit Pran Nath
Paradise Garage
Pastoral
Patrick Cowley
Paul Horn
Paul McCartney
Pauline Oliveros
PBS
Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Pensive
Percussion
Pharoah Sanders
Phillip Glass
Piano
Pioneer
Plantasia
Plants
playlist
Playlists
Plinth
Podcast
Political
Pop
Pop not Slop
Pop Rock
Popul Vuh
Post Bop
Post Rock
Post-Punk
Post-Rock
Power Pop
Premiere
Prince
Private Press
Producer
Productions
Professor Longhair
Prog Rock
Progressive
Progressive Rock
Prophet-5
Psychedelic
Psychedelic Rock
Psyhedelic
Punk
Qobuz
Quadraphonic
QUARK
Quiet Storm
R&B
Radio
Raga
Rare Groove
rca victor
Receivers
Record Label
Record Stores
Record Stories
Reggae
Reggaeton
Reissue
Reissues
Releases
Remix
Rock
Rocksteady
Roland
Roland Kirk
Roller Skate
Room Recordings
Room Treatment
Roots Reggae
Rotary Mixers
Rough Trade
Rudy Van Gelder
Ryuichi Sakamoto
Ryuichi Sakmoto
Sacred
Sade
Sam Gendel
Samba
Samples
Sci-fi
Séance Centre
Seefeel
Sensual
Shamisen
share
Shibuya-kei
Shoegaze
Singer-Songwriter
Sisters with Transistors
Sly & Robbie
Smooth Jazz
Soft Rock
Solid State
Songwriting
Sonny Sharrock
Soul
Soul-jazz
Sound Collage
Sound Installation
Soundsystems
Soundtrack
South Africa
South African
South America
Space Rock
Speaker
speakers
Spiritual
Spiritual Jazz
Spoken Word
Staff Picks
Steely Dan
Stereolab
Stereophile
Steven Halpern
Stevie Wonder
Stoner Rock
stores we love
Stories
Streaming
Street Soul
Studio One
Sun Ra
Sunn O)))
Surround Sound
Susumu Yokota
Suzanne Cianni
Suzanne Kraft
Swamp Rock
SYNG
Synth
Synth Pop
Synth-pop
Synthesizer
Synthwave
Taarab
Takoma Records
Tangerine Dream
Tape
Tapes
TD-160
Techno
Techno Pop
Television
Terry Callier
Terry Riley
The Beatles
The Broad
The Loft
The Meters
The Mizell Brothers
The Music Center
The World Stage
Thelonious Monk
Third Side Music
Third Stream
This Mortal Coil
Thorens
Tim Sweeney
Too Pure Records
Total Luxury Spa
Traditional
Tribal
Trip-hop
Tropical
Tropicalia
Tuareg
Tube
Turntable
TV
UK
Underrated
Val Wilmer
Vanity Fair
Velvet Underground
Vice
Video
Vince Guaraldi
Vintage
Vintage Gear
vinyl
Virginia Astley
Visible Cloaks
Visual Art
Vocal
Vocoder
Walearic
Wally Badarou
Water
Website
Werner Herzog
West Africa
West African
Windham Hill
World
Yacht Rock
Yamaha
Yasuaki Shimizu
Yellow Magic Orchestra
Yma Sumac
YouTube
Zamrock
Zither
ISCHiFi ((ROOM RECORDING))
0:00 / 0:00
0:00
0:00