Integrity is undoubtedly one of the most important qualities in music, where a false chord or note instantly detracts from an entire body of work in the same way that a lie destroys the credibility of a speaker in full; thankfully there are artists and distributors currently working who have a great deal of integrity, creating and releasing music that establishes a bond of trust with its audience. My album of the year is Attenuated’s Night of Sense, for example, both for its sheer honesty and for the intelligence with which it was written and recorded — but what also strikes me about Night of Sense is that it is not a mid-career release by an established act through a veteran label, but rather it is the extremely limited-run debut of a new artist, and one of a very small label’s first releases. I wanted to find out more about that label, Space Slave Editions, which what will no doubt be a special imprint in the next several years, and so recently spoke to label head Carl Koopmans.
How did you first become interested in experimental music? What was it about this form that drew you to it?
I first became interested in experimental music when I was a freshman in high school, I think. I was listening to a lot of metal music at that point in my life and those roots have definitely led me to some of my current experimental favorites. That is also when I began to listen to Animal Collective, which was definitely an experimental band in 2003. I really got enthralled with tapes and other types of experimental music when I moved to Michigan from California (I do not know why this happened). The tight-knit community that exists throughout the world is definitely an attraction point to current experimental music. It is a personal experience — more exists than just the music.
What other labels have inspired you to put out records? Why do you think these labels had an impact on you in the way they have?
One that immediately comes to mind is Lee Noble’s, No Kings label. I remember getting those tapes right when he was starting up and being in awe of the artwork, along with the music. My pal, Jon Sacha (who works with me on artwork and printing) and I drew some deep inspiration from those releases. Stunned Records also weighed heavy on my motivation to start a label. Phil and Myste are some pretty incredible and generous folks, and they ran a near flawless label. There are numerous other labels that have had influence on my decisions in what Space Slave does, as well. I think these labels have had an influence on me in the way that they have because of the craftsmanship and character that surrounds each release.
You’ve already worked with a wide number of highly respected artists — is there any one artist you haven’t worked with yet who you feel you would really enjoy putting out an album by?
Infinite Body is one of my favorite acts, so it would be pretty neat to be able to work with him.
Is there a philosophy to Space Slave Editions, and if so how would you describe it?
I do not know if I would say there is a philosophy to Space Slave. I do want all the tapes to be as home-made as possible — more of an craft than a duplicated product. Experimentation in the art is also key. A lot of labels have a very uniform art direction, from j-card to tape imprinting, and that is really great because many have done a fantastic job finding a layout that continually pleases, e.g. Tranquility Tapes. I never had a concrete idea on what I wanted Space Slave tapes to look like so I decided that they would just be different every time. Jon and I are going to be working on screen printing j-cards soon, that will prove to be a fun venture, and hopefully some nice pieces will be the result.
What is the actual production of an album like for you? What is the process of creating an album, from arranging for an artist to do a release, to creating a tape, to getting it out into the world?
So far I have set up the majority of Space Slave releases via e-mail. I consider myself lucky with the amount of artists that have been willing and excited to work with me on releases. From there, when I get the masters (usually in digital form) it is a matter of putting them to tape. I home-duplicate all of the tapes on a Sony and Marantz deck in real time, which often proves to be a tiring task (145 hours of dubbing time for the coming batch). That aspect of the operation requires me to be home for hours at a time to switch out tapes when they are finished — just happy both decks have relay so tapes do not need to be flipped from side a to b. After the tapes are duplicated and the art is assembled I put them up on the website for sale. Shipping is a drag but it is always nice to receive orders, so I cannot complain too much about that.
What advice would you give to people who are just starting their own labels? Has this been an enjoyable process for you so far? What are the highlights of running your own label? What are the stressors in this process?
To have fun with it and do not skimp on quality. Space Slave has been a blast so far. It has been incredibly rewarding and eye opening. Highlights so far have definitely been the immense amount of label trades I have been involved in — a seriously heavy perk. The only stressor I can think of is not being able to spend as much time as I would like to on this project.
Could you tell us something about yourself — what are your biggest interests outside of music?
My friends and I recently picked up knife throwing as a hobby. There is a dead tree that got cut down in my backyard that we stacked some stumps on top — we use that as a target. I try to throw every day and have actually been getting quite good, so that is definitely one of my big interests outside of music at the moment. I also enjoy cooking, mostly with my friends. My housemate and I have made some pretty interesting and delicious meals over the past year. It has definitely shown a light on how vast the possibilities are in cooking. Cozmo, my dog, is a pretty big dog and also one of my best friends. She is an exceptional swimmer, too. Our summer ritual of going to Lake Michigan and playing fetch is one of my favorites. I also enjoy hanging out with my great group of friends, and the San Francisco Giants.
What releases this year by other labels have really stuck out to you? What are some of your all-time favorite albums?
I recently got Monster Rally’s newest lp, Beyond the Sea, and it is a great piece of work. That dude continues to outdo himself and has definitely put together his most impressive pieces here. Bob Blaize, Jeph Jerman, Travis Johnson’s, Sky Bells on Avant Archive is another album that has received plenty of play time. Permanent Nostalgia tapes have all been top notch, especially the Nag Dolly release on the latest batch. I am very excited for Josh and that label’s direction. Also, Derek Rogers’ debut lp is super impressive. Some of my all-time favorite albums… Mobb Deep “The Infamous”, The Reptilian “Full Health”, Electric Wizard “Dopethrone” (this is my all-time #1).
Where do you see the label going in the next few years? Can you describe some of the releases you’re preparing for the next batch, for example?
Well I just finished my undergraduate degree and am working on getting an overseas teaching job. Would like to end up in Japan by next fall. So that would definitely change Space Slave and the approach taken when releasing tapes. Though, I plan to have every tape released be home-made, so I do not expect an overseas move to be hindering. The next batch will include: Matt Northrup/The Aloha Spirit split, Thoughts On Air, and Matamoros & Derek Rogers/Lee Dockery split. They should be out in a couple weeks.
What is your demo policy? It must be interesting to hear unexpectedly good demos from artists you’re unfamiliar with — have any stuck out?
I am booked pretty heavily through the end of this year as far as releases goes, so I am not considering many demos seriously currently. But I will always listen to physical copies, they are always welcome.