SPACELAB9 has been a label for just shy of a year, but Dave Amcher and his partners have been releasing music for nearly two decades, going all the way back to their work with PUNKCORE RECORDS starting in 1989. However, that experience in the musical underground is a world away from their high-profile releases for scores to such shows as The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad. The music for those two programs was how SPACELAB9 came out of the gate; and in the intervening months, the label's name recognition has only grown greater, having only just announced the upcoming vinyl release to The LEGO Movie. We spoke with Amcher about SPACELAB9's growth and upcoming future…
STARBURST: To us, Spacelab9 seemed – like most labels – to just appear. What's the genesis of the label?
Dave Amcher: Yeah. Well, I think one of the biggest misconceptions about Spacelab9 is that we are a new entity, and that we did just pop up out of nowhere. What I don't think that anybody knows yet is that we've been a company – this core group of people – have been a label for nineteen years. Although Spacelab9 started up in December of last year, it's the same core group of people that have been working together for about fifteen years. So, 2015 will be our twentieth year of releasing records. For the last fifteen years, we've operated specific genre labels – punk labels, metal labels, that kind of thing. What we've realised over the past seventeen years is that the artist management and repertory required a lot of long-term investment. Investment of time, of money, and what we've realised over the last few years is that there's just no longevity to anything anymore. Things move so fast that the stuff that people are interested in, it just changes so quickly.
We're like, “Man, we've been beating our heads against the wall for years in the artists’ development part of things. What makes more sense for us in doing what we love to do? Putting out some nice releases, with a relatively quick in-and-out, as opposed to developing an artist, which can take three, five, seven years. What can we get into that we could do something fun, something we're into, but with a turnaround time of like, two-three years?” And so, licensing just made a lot more sense for us.
It's very interesting, because the label came out of the gate with two very high-profile releases, especially considering Breaking Bad was going into its finale stretch right when the soundtrack came out. Why was Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead your first two? I know sometimes, a label's early releases are just what cleared first.
Well, that is the case, but as it turns out, those are also the first two that we went after. Really, the impetus there was simply that they were two different shows that we were huge fans of and that nobody else had done yet, so we just saw a tremendous opportunity there. We asked, and they were available, and we released them.
What we like about Spacelab9 is that, as the label has gone on, it's had these very high-profile releases, like those two, and the upcoming LEGO Movie, but also some more niche or cult releases on the other side such as The Raid 2 or District 9. The latter is almost super-niche!
Very perceptive! It's pretty cult, yes – but also a Peter Jackson production, so I don't know if we can say it's underground – but definitely niche. It's a sci-fi film and the whole thing, but what it comes down to, for us, is that after so many years running genre labels, we found that inevitably, at some point, we would find ourselves painted into a corner. So, whereas if we said, “We're this kind of label,” or “We're that kind of label,” what people eventually expected from us was specific, so if ever we tried to branch out from there and try something different, our core base of fans just weren't having it; weren't interested! So, one of the most important things for us this time around was no limitations. We don't want to be branded. We're not a horror label. There are some great labels out there doing that stuff, and some fantastic things coming out, but it's just not what we wanted to do anymore. After spending so long as a very genre-specific, pigeon-holed label, we wanted something where there are no limitations. We kind of set out from the beginning to say, “Just as soon as people think they've figured us out, we're going to switch things up and do something completely different.” We don't want to be limited. If there is a common thread to be found, I think you really just nailed it on the head: it's pop culture. We're a core group of fans and collectors, and we all have kind of eclectic tastes and interests. We love horror films. We love comic books. We love film in general. We love music. We love pop culture. So, really, that's what we want to reflect. If you look at what we've done so far, we've got Breaking Bad, which is this really intense thriller, kind of intense drama. You've got Walking Dead – comic-turned-TV show. Zombies! And then, you've got My Little Pony, which we did for Hot Topic. So, you know, I think that's about as eclectic as you're going to find, and that's exactly what we set out to do. I think the stuff we have in the pipeline now just continues in that direction.
Spacelab9 has released a lot of picture disc LPs - to rather astounding acclaim - which is strange, given the usual enmity for that format. Is there a particular reason for that?
To my knowledge, there's not a lot of labels releasing so many picture discs. It's always been determined for us by demand, or perceived demand of what the fans would want to see. If they want to see it on picture disc, then that's what we'll do. If we feel that it's incongruous, for whatever reason, then we'll decide not to.
Some of the releases – Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead – have also seen regular vinyl releases after their picture disc debuts. Was that the plan from the start?
Definitely! Different fans want different things, and I personally own over 4000 records. I've been collecting since the mid-to-late '80s. I don't own too many picture discs. My personal thing is that I love the graphics. I love content. But, other guys here are into the picture discs, so it's really that we try and represent all of the different things that we're into and the aspects that we enjoy. I think the main thing to get across is that we do what we like to do and we do what we think the fans will like, and I think we have a good handle on that because we're die-hard fans ourselves.
SPACELAB9 can be found online and via Twitter & Instagram. Their next release is the Clinton Shorter score to Neill Blomkamp film DISTRICT 9, on double vinyl LP, featuring 25 minutes of previously unreleased music, on November 25th.