As one of many new soundtrack labels to crop up in recent years, Tiger Lab Vinyl isn't a surprise. However, their focus absolutely is. Rather than reissue horror, sci-fi, or other cult films, the label “emphasises the Golden Age of anime by focusing on the best scores from the era.” Given that many anime scores and soundtracks struggle to find a release outside the East on anything but overpriced compact disc, much less vinyl LP, Tiger Lab has found a niche completely unoccupied. Their first release, Osamu Shoji's score for the 1987 fantasy/horror Wicked City, went up for pre-order earlier this week, and officially releases in mid-July. We spoke with by phone with Tiger Lab's Jon Dobyns, who – along with Clint Carney – founded the label.
STARBURST: Where did Tiger Lab's very specific focus come from?
Jon Dobyns: With all of this resurgence, everyone's been focusing on the classic cult following of '80s horror soundtracks, '70s exploitation soundtracks, and I always wanted to somehow get involved and do something. I've always had a huge love for anime, and specifically, horror anime films of the '80s and '90s.
No-one was really focusing specifically on putting any of those scores out, and I wondered if it was because of licensing, or if because it was all in Japan, and all international licensing – but I just thought that somebody needed to give it a shot, because – not just because the movies are fun and amazing, but those scores, the soundtracks, are so epic that I feel that if I love them this much, there are other people who love them. It's just no-one knows how to find them, because they've never been released in America before. That's how it started, really.
It does seem that for years – if not decades – anime fans have really had to jump through hoops to get anything related to the films that they enjoy.
Right. I felt the same way. I'm obviously speaking from my experience. I don't know what it's like for fans in Europe or Japan, but it's so much harder to get any kind of content – specifically, soundtrack-related – for any kind of anime here. That's kind of why I wanted to focus on getting this started, because I felt like, “If I'm not going to do it, someone's going to do it,” but I really felt like I should see if I could make it happen.
The coolest part of that story about how Tiger Lab started is that I just kind of wanted to see if I could get the rights to Wicked City. I found the contact for Mr. Shoji, the composer, and he e-mailed me back that night. It just kind of set something off in my head, like, “This happened. Maybe I can actually do this.”
Mr. Shoji, when we went back-and-forth, his response was just so overjoyed and happy that someone was actually interested in his work and wanting to release it.
Although it's Tiger Lab Vinyl, will you be attempting any compact disc releases? Especially since Japan is the one place where CDs are still big.
It really is! The thing is that, a lot of the releases that we're doing either haven't had an official release before or it's a promotional LP release that's very rare, or it's actually just only on CD. Right now, we're only focusing on vinyl and LPs. It's just something that we feel really passionate about, and that's the main focus, but a lot of the times, when we go after the licensing, we're only able to get the vinyl , because the CDs are still widely available in Japan.
Why Wicked City?
Wicked City is one of my favorite animes of all time. The score itself is so interesting: it's really fun, and the composer Osamu Shoji is an amazing synthesiser programmer, and he did absolutely everything by himself on the score. It just has a very cool vibe. I've been a huge fan of electronic music my entire life – and still am – and Shoji's score showcases really cool electronics and vibes, drum samples, pianos… I just really wanted to be the one to release it, just because – being a fan of the movie and the score, I just didn't think anyone was going to.
The other thing is that everybody is just doing straight horror soundtracks on vinyl, which is great – I love them, I collect them. Death Waltz, One Way Static – Sebastiaan from One Way Static actually helped me start the label, and mentored me in how to do it, which was a great thing. But, I felt that the people who buy these soundtracks definitely love horror anime. I felt that Wicked City was a perfect example of a true, classic horror anime.
That seems like a good way to combine passion and savvy. Going forward – what kind of details can you offer, regarding the release?
We're going to be doing our own take – original artwork, but staying true to the character of the anime. It won't be as abstract as some of the other reissues that we've seen – more of a fresh take, but using the classic characters.
Kind of like what Scream Factory does with their DVDs, then?
Exactly! The thing with the anime cover art: Clint Carney, who owns Tiger Lab with me, we have long discussions about how we wanted to do the cover art, because it's such a huge, important part of these LP releases.
Originally, we thought about all-original artwork. Clint's doing all the artwork, but we decided that we really wanted to stay true to the anime fans, because it's such an integral part of the aesthetic: the characters, the scenery, and these things. We just wanted to stay true to it.
Also, we were invited to do a Comic-Con exclusive for Wicked City, which we'll be showcasing this summer. It will have a completely different variant colourway.Tiger Lab Vinyls' release of Wicked City on 180-gram vinyl is available for pre-order now in the United States through their store, and in the UK and Europe via One Way Static. Tiger Lab is also offering a subscription, which nets you Wicked City, along with their next three releases and a t-shirt, as well as other ‘exclusive merchandise.