Sheffield based Audiobulb Records have been putting out quality, crafted ‘exploratory’ electronic music, from the likes of Leafcutter John, Calika and Autistici, with care and passion for nearly 5 years now.
On the release on their ‘Favourite Places’ compilation, featuring some beautiful packaging, we caught up with label boss David Newman to quiz him about his unique roster and his devotion to discovering and promoting new electronic talent.
Where did the name come from?
It’s a good name in my opinion, people seem to remember it. I have always had a sense that I can in someway “see sounds” there is an element of synesthetes the phenomena where there is a crossover between the senses. Audiobulb as a name works for me as it conveys sound as light – hopefully leading to an illumination within the listener’s mind.
What was the plan when you first decided to start?
Our output is all about detail and intricacy.
The plan has always been to work with great artists, particularly looking to develop young talent and provide a creative home through which their output can be showcased. Audiobulb has also had a big emphasis on including its listeners and fanbase and inviting them into projects. We run open access collaborative projects such as Endless Endless & Root of Sine (where artists are invited to create a track from the starting point of a one second 440 Hz sinewave).
How integral has the label been to the scene?
Audiobulb is closely involved with working and promoting exploratory electronic music via internet networking, magazine articles and live events such as the STFU-Music collective. STFU-Music demonstrates what can be achieved when artists get together to just play their music without the complications of fees and payment. Each STFU event is like a festival of new music with a new artist playing live every hour across two or three days. I’m in the process of organising one for Sheffield – so watch this space http://stfu.regicide.org/.
How does your output differ to your peers?
Our output is all about detail and intricacy. Our works tend to borrow from the ambient and microsound scenes in terms of space and texture but we also bring beats, acoustic instruments and sounds from custom built modules or bent synths. The focus is on exploratory music – so we are not looking to replicate another sound – more to play with the boundaries of genres and stimulate the listener. We are also very good at putting out interesting projects or conceptual works – giving artists a chance to explore a common theme and really push the idea.
What excites you most about your niche scene?
Quite frankly the artists for their talent and the purity of their creative vision. I work with people who are brimming with new ideas and who are prepared to work relentlessly to achieve their artistic vision. The sheer level of technical knowledge necessary to compose, record and produce a piece containing experimental elements from different instruments is breathtaking. At the same time these are people who can step out of the studio having spent 8 hours manipulating tiny segments or digital data and relax with a beer and chat about everyday things.
Who are your most successful artists?
Audiobulb has just released 1 | Favourite Places, a CD that captures field recording, compositions, images, text and geo-locations of each artist’s favourite location. This is the first CD in a series and it has given us a chance to work with established artists such as Biosphere, Leafcutter John and Taylor Deupree. Within our own roster Ultre is our most successful artist. He has a unique sound forged from his weird electronics, driving beats, piano, violin and a strange handmade instrument – which looks like a giant metal bow. Ultre’s first album “All The Darkness Has Gone To Detail” sold out within 3 weeks! Calika has also achieved a lot. He has two albums released with Audiobulb, a release with Benbecula and his work with Mark Clifford (Seefeel – Warp Records). Calika is building a strong following hooked on his complex electroacoustic sound.
What’s unique about your label?
Audiobulb is designed to function as a home for sound and visual artists as well as creators of bespoke software and audio hardware. We do release music via traditional channels but we also release multi-media installations, computer software for virtual studio environments (e.g., the SOPHIA VSTi) and hardware units such as the FZ-Bulb (a custom built distortion pedal).
What type of people comprise your audience?
Our audience is very diverse with strong followings across Europe, USA & Japan. I get the sense that they are a very discerning audience. The sort of people who enjoy music from labels like 12k, The Leaf Label, Fat Cat Records and Room 40.
What’s the ethos behind the label?
Simply put the ethos behind the label is to support talented artists to explore their own creative direction.
How would you describe the music which you release?
Works supported by Audiobulb often explore the interface between the electronic and natural world. We embrace the complexity of unique electronics, intricate acoustics and detailed microsounds.
What is the most challenging element facing your label?
Challenges are positive and provide a direction of travel. For Audiobulb the challenge is to continue to increase the listener’s awareness of our work. We strongly believe we have a sound that many people will enjoy. We value every new listener. In practical terms there is an ongoing desire to expand – to sell more CDs and downloads with the view to supporting more artists and releases.
Do you work long term or short term with your artists?
It depends on the project in question. My relationship with the label’s roster is to work long term with the artists to encourage their work and support continual development. Each artist is different, some more prolific than others, some more confident than others. Specific projects such as Favourite Places gives me the opportunity to work on a shorter terms basis with established and upcoming artists. This enables me to meet different people and learn from their creative direction and their view of the music scene.
The label has to be trustworthy
What is the most satisfying thing anyone has ever said to you about the label?
We get lots of compliments on a daily basis. If you look at our myspace page http://www.myspace.com/audiobulb you will find 500 positive comments! People comment on the look and design aspects of the label, the extraordinary artwork of Curet A. and the detailed intricate sounds that we release. There are also some fanatical fans – people who wear the t-shirt, talk about us on the forums and spread the word. People like Paul C. I’d like to say hello and thanks to Paul for being such a great supporter.
How important is your location to the sound of the label?
We are based in Sheffield. I grew up listening to ambient and techno music. When I was 20 years old Warp Records were flying and the Orb were based here. These people are great examples of how to be creative and promote your sound. Beyond that Audiobulb could be anywhere in the world. We have a global roster of artists and I’d love to work with artists from Japan and Asia to give us a balanced sound incorporating those fantastic cultures and locations.
How do you go about finding artists?
I listen all the time. Artists on sites such as Myspace and Virb approach me and I try to check out every invite. We also get loads of demos, 10-20 per day. I also have a wide network of friends and collaborators who point me in the direction of exceptional talent. Calika and Ultre approached me via emails and demos and I instantly knew their sound was right for Audiobulb. There are also artists whose work I have followed and admired for years. Audiobulb was created because I wanted to release the music of He Can Jog and Henry Leo Duclos.
If you could release any ones records – alive or dead who would it be and why?
I’ll go for alive and narcisstic! I have recently had an album of my own work, “Volume Objects” by Autistici released on the US label 12k. I guess it has been a process of external validation as I had previously avoided releasing on my own label in case it would be viewed as a mere vanity release.
What is the most important element to a successful label?
The label has to be trustworthy and capable of consistently delivering beautiful engaging sounds, with inspiring design and able to effectively promote its work.
What have you coming up?
2008 is great year for Audiobulb. We are promoting 1 | Favourite Places with its beautiful blend of field recordings and original compositions. This will be followed by He Can Jog’s masterpiece “Middlemarch” a tale of beautiful microtextures, compelling melodies and the first song vocals found on an Audiobulb release. Later in the year we will be releasing Ultre’s second album and working up the next series of Favourite Places. People can keep in touch with our activities by signing up for the newsletter @ http://www.audiobulb.com.
If could pick only three songs from your back catalogue for the rest of eternity which would they be?
Singalong Tammy by Marion for its heart aching melody and detailed percussive elements.
Two Quarters Make Half A Smile by Calika for its gentle acoustic build and crescendo of mad jazz energy and beats.
Song For A Republic by Cedar AV, a track that builds on a bed of static to surge into an explosion of melodic stabs, processed vocals and click beats.
Who are the bright hopes for the next few years?
He Can Jog, Build, Ultre, Calika and Autistici.
Why should people go out and support your label?
People should support what they believe in. When someone talks about Audiobulb, mentions us in a message board post or buys our music they are helping us to exist and grow. Without labels like Audiobulb music will be confined to an overwhelming mass within myspace and an underwhelming mass controlled by the mainstream media interests.
Where would you like to be in 10 years time?
I would like to be sitting here with a larger catalogue of releases, having met more artists and put on more live events. I would like to be healthy and happy with a comfortable bank balance that I can direct to support more artists and new creations.
Started: August 2003
Top artists: He Can Jog, Build, Ultre, Calika and Autistici
Up and coming releases: 1 | Favourite Places (Various), Middlemarch (He Can Jog), TBA (Ultre)
Who to watch out for: He Can Jog
Web address: http://www.audiobulb.com