Matt Diamond is a young entrepreneur, inspired by independent record labels such as Rawkus, ABB, and Duck Down. He started his own label Coalmine records back in 2005. In this interview, he talks about his record label from its inception, to the broad range of artists he’s had the opportunity to work with, to the label’s recently released five year compilation album Can You Dig It?. Matt also sheds light on how he’s branched out into other music related ventures to survive in this extremely tumultuous industry.
By William Hernandez
WHO?MAG: Talk to me about your new compilation Can You Dig It?
Matt Diamond: Can You Dig It? is a compilation of previously released singles released through Coalmine Records over the past five plus years. The artists and tracks featured cover a wide brush stroke of today’s underground hip hop scene such as El Da Sensei, Bekay, Brown Bag AllStars, Heltah Skeltah, Custom Made, Skyzoo, Big Noyd, Supernatural & more.
WHO?MAG: Give me a bit of history lesson. How did Coalmine records come about?
Matt Diamond: I first came up as a DJ. I come from the school of collecting records and making mixtapes. My DJ influences are The Beat Junkies, Xecutioners, classic New York DJs like Eclipse, JS-1, and so forth. I just kept honing my skills as a DJ and then it came to a point where I wanted to release my own records independently. I started with our first record in 2005, “The Raw”, featuring Saigon, Inspectah Deck, and Bekay. At the time, I didn’t know any other artists other than Bekay where I could just reach out and get them on a track. I learned the whole process from the ground up and it was a very eye opening experience. As far as producers go, the first producer I ever worked with was Street Orchestra who I first heard at a Beat Society party in NY. I thought he had a real gritty sound that he made possible with the use of an SP-1200 as his primary production equipment. I got a catalog of his beats, picked what I thought was a sure shot and bought it. Through a contact of mine at the time who is now at Roc Nation, I was able to get in contact with Saigon. I booked studio time where Bekay and Saigon recorded their verses back to back. The record was a little light time wise, so after giving some thought as to would be a good fit to complete the track, I was able to get in contact with Inspectah Deck. That record became “The Raw”. Before I had the vinyl pressed up I thought to myself, “This is my first record and I don’t have a B side.” I thought the easiest and most creative thing was to do a remix. Illmind was a producer on the come-up at the time with no major placements under his belt. I reached out to Illmind, he was down and now I was ready to get it out there. I had the record manufactured, distributed it myself and Coalmine Records was born…so to speak. Whatever I made back was invested back into the production and manufacturing costs for another record and then another. I got bit by the bug and just kept it moving. At first, it wasn’t my complete intention to start a label. I had the logo made for the record and figured if I wanted to do another record and build it up I could.
I remember being in Bekay’s apartment talking about working on a complete album and shortly after he became the first artist that I signed. I started working with him heavy and going through the whole recording/beat selection process. That was a very interesting ride and a valuable learning experience. From 2005 to 2006 I was just releasing 12” after 12”, putting out vinyl and then 2007 and 2008 was switching gears to the whole digital game, while simultaneously putting together Bekay’s project…Hunger Pains. That album dropped in 2009 – it took a while, but since then, things have been more fluid and finally feel like I’m operating a record label. We’re a small team, but we do everything that a record label does from artist development, marketing, promotions, design…the whole nine.
WHO?MAG: What else are you working on?
Matt Diamond: Recently, I started a marketing company by the name of Diamond Music Group. After our new site is built, we’ll relaunch under the name Diamond Media 360 (DM360). Through DM360, we provide label services such as online marketing, digital distribution, radio promotions, graphic design, consulting and so forth for artists and clients. It’s an à la carte menu of services that allows the client to pick and choose what they need while maintaining their complete independence. Through this model, one hand washes the other and I’m able to create a symbiosis between the albums we release through Coalmine and the campaigns that we promote through DM360. Currently, we have a design team overhauling the Coalmine Records site and building a DM360 site. We’re also in the process of getting a webzine/blog off the ground that will go by the name TakinMines.com. It will function like a blog and will feature content from both Coalmine and DM360 in addition to other blog worthy hip-hop related content. To add more of a unique angle to the TakinMines, we’re also going to be building an editorial team that will contribute columns designed to provide insight and advice that can really help the independent artist take full control over their music careers.
WHO?MAG: How did you get Evidence and Big Noyd for the compilation?
Matt Diamond: Evidence I worked with a couple of times. The first time was on Bekay’s “I Am” remix that featured Dilated Peoples. This was a remix to Bekay’s lead single from Hunger Pains. Next to Gang Starr, ATCQ, and the Beastie Boys, Dilated Peoples is my all time favorite group. The other record released through Coalmine that features Evidence is “Play By Play” which is from our recently signed artist One Dae. The track is featured on Can You Dig It?, but will also be featured on One Dae’s forthcoming album Daes & Times.
As far as working with Big Noyd goes, I love Queensbridge hip-hop and definitely wanted to put out a real Queens inspired 12”. When I worked with Noyd, that was the fourth 12” released through Coalmine. The A side was “All Out” and it featured Krondon and Phil the Agony of Strong Arm Steady, so it had a dope west coast influence on the track too. Shuko did the beast and Mista Sinista did the cuts. The flip side “How We Do” featured Trez on a Ric Rude produced track, both also from Queens…this was definitely one of the most aggressive tracks I’ve ever been involved with. I also have Noyd featured on another record I did with Kool G Rap and Large Professor. It’s an Ayatollah beat and it’s a real thoro hip-hop track…definitely excited to put that out. That will be on a compilation that I have in the works with a bunch of other artists from Pharaohe Monch, M.O.P., Apathy, Celph Titled and a couple of other surprises – but I don’t really want to speak too much on it, you’ll see!
WHO?MAG: How has the label adapted to the changes in the industry?
Matt Diamond: We’ve adapted by not having the typical model of a record label; that just can’t work anymore. We’re becoming more media based. It’s critical to have content on a regular basis, whether it’s video content, editorial, music, etc. – you need to create a strong presence in one capacity or another. I also keep myself busy with as many industry related endeavors as possible. For example I’m the U.S. rep for the producer M-Phazes who is now a multiple Aria Award winning producer who recently produced both “Gutter Rainbows” for Talib Kweli in addition to four tracks on Pharoahe Monch’s new album W.A.R. So between the Coalmine catalog, our marketing services and everything else, I’m able to stay afloat while doing something I love…the next office I step foot in will be my own.