Unearthing buried treasure

Matt Linden’s Forged Artifacts label is home to some of Minneapolis’ top, underrated young artists.

Founder of Forged Artifacts Matt Linden displays  the labels most recent vinyl release, Between Themselves by Gloss, outside of his home on Friday. Linden started the label in 2012

Image by Lisa Persson

Founder of Forged Artifacts Matt Linden displays the label’s most recent vinyl release, Between Themselves by Gloss, outside of his home on Friday. Linden started the label in 2012

by Grant Tillery

At first look, Matt Linden doesn’t scream record hustler. An affable guy in his mid-20s, Linden is a gifted conversationalist and an ardent music fan able to shoot the breeze about music all night long.

However, it’s Linden’s business persona in which he’s able to unleash his inner entrepreneur as the founder and sole proprietor of Minneapolis record label Forged Artifacts. Founded in 2012, Forged Artifacts is home to some fast-rising local bands (including France Camp and Some Pulp) as well as a carefully curated roster of national acts.

Yet Forged Artifacts isn’t the only fruit of Linden’s labor.

“I have a full-time job — a regular desk job — working at a cube, taking phone calls,” Linden said. “The label is all extra; when I get home, late nights, on the weekends — whenever I have free time. So, it’s not a full-time gig yet. That’s the dream, that’s the goal, but it’s still pretty micro in size and scope.”

Linden estimated he spends 30 to 40 hours per week on Forged Artifacts work, more if there’s an impending album release.

Linden graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a journalism degree and worked at the Onion’s A.V. Club during its final months in Minneapolis. He said that background is part of what makes his work easy and what allows him to cut out the middleman without overloading the one-man operation with excessive work.

“I don’t have to answer to anybody, and no one’s answering to me and [needing] my go-ahead on anything,” he said.

Linden’s passion shines through the music business minutiae. The Minnetonka, Minn., native spent much of his youth listening to and discovering music, though an aborted attempt at a band in high school was his only foray into playing. His experience as a music journalist and his knowledge of the local music scene led him to open Forged Artifacts, though that was never the plan.

For months in the beginning, Forged Artifacts was as small as you can get — without a logo, a roster or any clout.  

“Forged Artifacts was simply an idea that I could regurgitate and tell somebody,” Linden said.

When Linden casually mentioned this plan to Jeff Lorentzen, the drummer for the now-defunct Minneapolis band Nice Purse, Lorentzen jumped on the wagon and opted to work with the label for his band’s release.

“They were going to give their album to release to a guy who didn’t have anything,” Linden said. “They took a risk, and I took a risk, too, and they were gracious enough to let me put out their album.”

After that release, Linden continued to pursue local bands that caught his attention but could still benefit from a label’s help.

Further support came from record label conglomerate Frenchkiss Label Group, which recently added Forged Artifacts to its family.

“[Linden] reached out to us, surprisingly,” Frenchkiss Director of Label Development Deana Cosper said. “We get a few inquiries a few times a month, but rarely do any of them have the potential that we’re looking for. The guys at Forged Artifacts had their stuff together; we liked their music and moved forward.”

What makes Forged Artifacts marketable in these days of file-compressed music is their commitment to audio preservation. Besides a couple of self-pressed CD releases, the label distributes its music entirely on vinyl and cassette.

Linden chose to do this because he believes in the intentionality and immersion of listening to music for listening’s sake, instead of turning it on as background noise.

Though the cassette movement is burgeoning nationwide, Linden is one of its few strong purveyors in Minneapolis, which accounts for part of his success.

The other part of Linden’s aim as a label operator is to emphasize the physically tangible parts of music listening, with a focus on the listener’s interaction with the audio medium.

“I like the physical act of flipping sides, the character, the hiss, the hum, the atmosphere, listening to each side all the way through,” he said, “not skipping through — enjoying the music how it’s supposed to be experienced.”