Label Love #39: Medical Records
We just can't seem to get enough of Seattle-based Medical Records that came to us via the great ears of Tim Wilson. In the last few weeks we've had the great honour of premiering a rather fine track released on the label and been treated to a supreme Flavour Of The Label mix affair – both of which you can check out a little further down. This year they celebrate 5 years of release fine aural oddities. To celebrate this and our love for the label, we decided that we'd praise them in the only way we know how. By asking them a bunch of questions to help spread the word about how great they are and letting you venture into their wonderful world;
Who are you and what do you do?
We are a small independently started and run record label who strives to make available rare and out of print records from the 70s-90s that we love as well as release contemporary artists in the similar vein. All done with the utmost care of visual aethestics and superb sound quality.
Why should we be listening to your label and your music?
If you have any interest at all in the world of synth pop, space disco, and rare shoegaze, you probably already are. If you aren't listening and have these common interests, we allow you to own nice new pristine reissues of underground records that commonly sell for 100s of dollars on the collector's market!
Can you tell us a little bit about the label and what the label's original blueprints, and what sparked the idea and kicked it into gear?
We are rabid music fans and have been our entire life. As years rolled on in the 90s, it became frustrating to collect our favourite records from the 70s/80s due to the rising popularity, so we dreamed of starting a boutique reissue label focused on these exquisite rarities. It was only a pipedream for many years until Dr. Troy finally got a real job and was able to make it a reality with his oldest friend and collaborator, Tyler, at his side running the artist/designer side of things.
What are some of the label's formative musical influences?
Troy and Tyler are both madly in love with early Human League, Fad Gadget, John Bender, OMD, and other like minded groups. While Troy is more of a collector, Tyler is also a musician who also performs in Roladex and Cloudland Canyon (both Medical artists).
What is the Medical Records manifesto and how has it changed since its inception?
We originally pledged to reissue lost classics of synthpop, cosmic/space disco and future music but later expanded to include lost '90s gaze records and also release contemporary artists.
Is there a particular framework/concept you work to with the releases on the label?
Not necessarily but Troy seems to be obsessed with bright colors and retina-burning artwork hence our leaning to the grandiose with regard to colored vinyl and artwork.
There seems to be a very strong aesthetic presence on the label; the artwork is often a great accompaniment to the music. Does this come about by sitting the artists down and clearly discussing what you'd like to see, or do they have more freedom?
For the reissues, we tailor the vinyl colors, inserts, etc to try to match the original artwork when possible. For contemporary artists, the artists have as little or as much freedom as they want when formulating the artwork.
How do you source material for the label?
Some of the releases are old favorites of ours. Some are new things we have discovered along the way. There are also collaborations with Crispy Nuggets blog who has brought interesting ideas to the table which have materialized into reissues. The new artists have either cold-called us or we have sought them out.
How much more of a challenge is putting an album out to EPs?
An album is actually a more cost-effective and efficient medium as people don't want to spend a lot of money on buying an EP in a store, and an EP costs just as much to press as an LP.
In the age of the 3 second attention span, do you still listen to albums?
Personally, I certainly do. It is my main source of entertainment.
How do you fund your label? Are label parties important to keeping the whole thing afloat or do you do it purely through sales?
Originally, I saved up and put an X amount of money in to start the label. It took a few years, but ultimately, I paid myself back. The label now runs on it's own steam completely. Label parties are challenging where we are based in Seattle, so sales (domestic and international) are our bread and butter.
How do you think you stand out from the crowd given the current wealth of independent labels operating?
We would like to think we rise above with regards to sound quality and beautifully printed jackets. We also work hard for far and wide distribution which can be a serious hindrance for small labels.
What has been the label’s happiest accident?
I'm happy to say we have had no obvious accidents as of yet.
What's the best thing you've heard this year?
I am completely smitten by the Ro Maron 'Collected' comp of the Belgian producer Rembert De Smet. I can't get enough. Oh, and anything on Avian Records. Best techno IMO.
Which record labels have been the most influential in your own musical journey?
When we started, it was a very small community, so of course we looked up to Vinyl On Demand and Minimal Wave. Dark Entries as well of course who started releasing records about a year ahead of us.
How do you as an individual ‘consume’ music most? Is it at home on speakers, on your headphones on the move or something else?
I commute about 2 hours a day so I listen to a lot of music in my car, but I can easily spend hours on my home system digesting as much music as humanly possible.
What would be the ideal setting to listen to music from the Label?
To each his own I guess.
Describe the label with 5 words.
Colorful, dynamic, futuristic, playful, moving.
If you could release any record from musical history, what would it be? Is there anything that you'd like done differently with the record?
That's a tough one. When I started the label, I had about 5 key releases that I dreamed of releasing. I'm happy to say, I was able to do all 5 (and many more!)
If money was no object to the label what would you do with it or are you happy with the trajectory thus far?
Well, I think it would be fun to do some intense, limited archival box sets of select artists, but it's not critical that we do it. I am very happy with the evolution so far.
Where next for the independent music industry?
Nobody knows. I know I'm having fun, and the vinyl "resurgence" seems to be growing exponentially. So much so that the industry can't keep up with the demand.
What is your greatest regret?
Early on, I should have slowed down a little. I pressed a couple of reissues with too many units and learned the hard way that it doesn't always work out… Space is an issue with vinyl.
Are you a kick drum, a hi-hat or a snare and why?
Kick drum always. Driving the operation and providing the pace.
Anything else you’d like to discuss?
I'm good, thank you.