John Elliott does too many things. When he's not playing as OUTER SPACE or as one-third of Ohio experimental outfit Emeralds, he runs the Spectrum Spools imprint for Editions Mego. The label has made a mark with its distinctive look (all the records look like the record above and they are beautiful) and it's indifference to conformity. Some of our recent favorite releases were Franco Falsini's Cold Nose (re-release) and Forma's debut LP. While you are reading what John has to say about running the imprint, you should be downloading and listening to this new OUTER SPACE track, entitled “October 7th, 1989 – Bay Village, Ohio” and featured on the new album AKASHIC RECORD (Events 1986-1990), which was released yesterday by the label. —Eds.
The goal of Spectrum Spools is to release music by artists that are under-the-radar and pushing the boundaries, or ignoring completely, the trends in modern music. I am interested in releasing music by people who put hard work into bending and reshaping musical aesthetics into genre-defiant sounds. Part of the overall mission is to remain “context free”. This ideal manages to hold very different artists coming from very different directions together under one umbrella.
I decided I needed to do this because many labels are off the mark and/or confused aesthetically. However, there are many labels which I do really love: Hanson Records, Rush Hour, Pan Records, Delsin, Kye Records, etc. But taste is subjective and I understand that. I simply want to put a record out there and have it distributed well enough so that anybody who can turn on a computer and use it or walk into any decent record store can have access to it. A good record will sell itself, and that seems to be the bottom line to me.
It seems like many artists today are trying to hard to stay ahead of an imaginary curve or obvious trend current and it's making cliche, double ironic, bad and/or fake art. This may sound extremely pessimistic and I'm sure this has been the case as long as recorded music has been available, but the internet has made things much darker, more cryptic, and much more cut-throat. It has also made things extremely disposable and forgettable.
At the end of the day, the goal of most record labels is to sell a lot of records. That is their business, that is their purpose: make records and sell them. Who wouldn't want a great artist to sell a lot of records? I don't contest this, but many musicians seem to have no problem compromising themselves (musically and otherwise) so as to hit this imaginary large scale audience. Record sales bit the dust when fast internet connections happened (file-sharing). The physical object is not as desired as it once was, in a broad sense, and that is the truth. The age of Arena Rock is over. The first Neu! album was considered a failure when it sold 30,000 copies. If an artist on my label sold 30,000 copies of an album, they probably wouldn't consider it a failure in this day and age.
A collective “delusion of grandeur” between musician and label is present. This is what separates and an artist from an average musician with me, though I don't think having formal musical training or music theory practice makes a better musician than one that does not. This also separates a great label imprint from one that won't stand the test of time. This is not meant to be a blanket statement to say bands that sell a lot of albums are not artists and that they are conniving. I think many bands such as Caribou or a band like Liars have and have maintained a high level of integrity and have challenged themselves while gaining a larger audience and becoming very popular. It also doesn't say that “big” or “major” labels are evil either.
I have tried very hard to release music by people who I know are working harder and thinking outside the normal realms of music of the past and present. The people who I wish to associate with the label are working to be progressive and are experimenting with different varieties of sound to make something extraordinary and new.
I couldn't pick a favorite album out of the ones I've released already because they are all different. Time changes one's perspective of all art. Everything that has been released, I feel, will stand the test of time. This is something that's considered with every submission. I would say that I think the Temporal Marauder Makes You Feel LP is criminally under-rated and also misunderstood.
Everything that's on deck – I am looking forward to challenging my listeners to think outside of the box with albums from Michael Pollard and Meager Sunlight, both very different from one another and both fantastic. I am also looking forward to sophomore albums from FORMA and Container, as well as a new Bee Mask album.
The immediate next step is to release another new bunch of records which all sound different from one another, have an individual identity and progress the current landscape of modern music. The new Gary War Jared's Lot LP seems to be the genesis and rebirthing of his project. He has pushed himself to make something larger than himself, and that is admirable. The Eric Lanham album, The Sincere Interruption, fuses elements of Mille-Plateaux, early and current Mego sounds, and classical electronic music to create something completely fresh, exclusive and absolutely undefinable. Also, Toko Yasuda's Plvs Vltra debut Parthenon, is a left-field pop song based album that is very different that anything I've released on the label yet, and that thrills me quite a bit. These steps are being actualized right now.