Oliver Cation: Keeping Hardcore Alive
Hardcore bands have it tough, especially young ones. To the outsider, they are terrifying and warrant earplugs. To the devoted they are thrilling but also few and far between. Oliver Cation, owner of Sydney’s Broken Hive Records and instigator of Break The Ice Festival, is like an underground triple j unearthed scout for incredible hardcore music. We chatted to Cation at the Hive lair about his work supporting local acts, the idea of pre-conceived aggression and the importance of overcoming fear.
So Oliver, what is your life story (in about 25 words or less)?
Born in Sydney, taught that hard work pays off, filled my life with sports until I realised music was better, work 2 jobs day in day out until I achieve everything I want.
You’re the founder of Sydney’s independent record label, Broken Hive Records. Why did you start it up in the first place?
I had previously worked for a booking and promotion company in Sydney called Strikehard Bookings. When the founder of SHB was violently struck down by a speeding ice truck, we laid the business to rest and I started up Broken Hive with the aim of bringing bands I personally enjoyed to a wider audience. I had seen the slew of DIY record labels which got me into punk and hardcore like trial and error, building records, washed up, common bond, etc. all disappear or decrease their activity and I wanted to continue the tradition of helping young bands reach as many people as possible, while also maintaining my background in international tour promotion and booking local acts.
What were some of your favourite bands growing up and how did you first get into the hardcore music scene?
My younger days haven't really ended and I still try and listen to most things I used to. From bands like The Living End and System Of A Down on Rage I was able to find Slipknot and eventually From Autumn To Ashes and Alexisonfire. With the help of dozens upon dozens of compilation I was exposed to the deepest depths of hardcore, punk, grind and whatever else from Australia and overseas. The amazing honesty of bands like Remembering Never, Converge, Shotpointblank and Champion combined with their intensity sat perfectly with me and I have always preferred bands who infuse their music with a message.
Do common misconceptions about the hardcore genre ever bother you?
The old joke about over exaggerated testosterone is partially true so not really a misconception. I think some people assume that aggression is always connected with negativity when the reality is much of the aggression is underpinned by resilience for current events and positivity about the future and comradery in the community.
What’s your favourite local hangout?
You can find me anywhere cool bands are playing, the occasion table top trading card game session and importantly the Hive lair where I do my work, sleep and work.
We hear you’re in a band. Want to give it a short plug?
Not really [laughs]. Right now it’s in a rebuild phase, changing up the sound and making sure its 100% before we get out and play anymore shows. We might even come back with a new name, maybe not, not sure yet. In the meantime there are dozens of local bands in each city killing it right now, so let me give a quick plug to bands like Starvation, Vicious Cycle, Caged Grave, Flowermouth, Mowgli, ACHE, Born Free, Mood Swing, Deadlift, Manhunt and so many more.
Broken Hive has been putting on Break The Ice Festival for the past few years – what has the response been like?
Break The Ice started as a way to bring a bunch of my friends’ bands together for a good day of entertainment. Luckily other people agreed and we sold out the fest in a week and had to double the venue size. Last year we doubled the event to a bigger venue still and over 2 days. Selling out the weekend tickets ahead of time, the risk paid off and it was a great success.
Will it continue into next year and into the future?
I've started planning for 2014's event and if I have my way it’s going to be the bigger than this year, I suppose I just have to keep challenging myself.
If you were given 30 seconds of fame on international television, what would you have to say to the world?
I think I would suggest that fear is the greatest controlling force in life and people should question their fear to overcome it.
Anything else on your mind lately?
Broken Hive looks like it’s going to have a big 2014, so a huge thank you to the people who buy tickets to the tours, buy records from the labels or even just stream the music and share it around. And thanks for the interview.
By Lauren Della Marta
Photography by Daniel Knott