It really is the time of the record label, isn’t it? There are so many great, smaller labels that have stepped out of the ether over the last decade to blow our minds and empty our wallets. Labels like Death Waltz Originals, Tiger Lab Vinyl, Holodeck Records, Burning Witches Records, El Paraiso Records, Data Airlines, Sacred Bones, and so many others have taken the idea of the record label back to almost its origins.
Before labels were run by board members, committees, shareholders, and the need for a “hit”, labels were run with a true aesthetic in mind. They were run on the principal to put out the best possible art you could, and make it sound and look as great as you can. A coming together of the aural and visual, or art design and sound. Let the artist do what the artist does, which is create. Give them the freedom to create what’s fighting to get out and release that vision onto the world. Record labels were curators of sound and vibe, not hitmaker farms signing Youtube stars and processed bands eight producers deep.
Or maybe they’ve always been hitmaker farms, and I’m just imagining the rest of that. Maybe I’m remembering some alternate reality I lived long ago.
Either way, there’s a new wave of forward-thinking record labels curating sound and vibe and wanting to blow our pretty little minds with music that’s not so easily unlocked and accessible. Music can be accessible and still be dense and dark and make you a little uneasy.
Enter UK label Soundtracking The Void.
Soundtracking The Void is run by Thomas Ragsdale and Ashleigh. Thomas and Ashleigh launched Soundtracking The Void late last year with their premiere release, Ragsdale’s own Honley Civic Archives Volume 1. That was followed up by Ffion’s excellent EP Odyssey(Ffion is a collaborative project which consists of Thomas and Ashleigh.) There have been four releases since October of 2018, with the most recent being Nika Moroz’ Come To Your Senses from just last week. The next release is at the end of March and will be Honley Civic Archives Volume 2.
I recently had the pleasure of discussing Soundtracking The Void with Thomas and Ashleigh. Check it out below, and then afterwards head to their Bandcamp page and dig in.
J. Hubner: Thomas, you seem like a musician on a mission. When you’re not dropping new albums under your own name you seem to be composing scores for films or working on remixes. Now you’ve started your own record label, Soundtracking The Void, to fill the time you seemingly don’t have.
What’s the drive for you? What inspires you to keep those creative engines firing?
Thomas Ragsdale: Well, definitely the need to make a few million. Obviously joking here! I just love to write and produce music and that’s the only real thing that keeps the drive constant for me. If you don’t love what do then you won’t want to do it. I also love purely listening to music (although this sounds obvious, I’m sure) and a lot of my inspiration comes from literally hearing someone else making great music that I want to get hooked into. I’ll hear something like Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross and want to make bleak piano etudes and then hear some old school jungle and want to blast everything out at 160bpm (I’ve been writing piano music and jungle this year and have some music coming out in these styles!).
J. Hubner: Speaking of Soundtracking The Void, how did your new record label come about? What was the motivation behind wanting to start your own label?
Thomas Ragsdale: I started to ask Ashleigh more and more about the aesthetics of my own music and where I should be taking it from a visual point of view. Ashleigh has an incredible eye for visual direction and it just felt so right to start a project with eachother that encompassed all of our inspirations both musically and visually. It’s not just a label for sounds : EVERYTHING is carefully thought out and placed with the right visuals. I think it’s really important to have a strong identity.
Ashleigh: I’ve never really been involved in the music ‘industry’ until late last year, so this is my first real dip into this crazy world. I have a massive creative urge and always looking for ways to exercise this!
J. Hubner: So what have been the initial releases so far? And what do you have lined up for the rest of 2019, if you can share?
Ashleigh: We’ve had an album & and an EP from Thomas and EPs from our side project Ffion and newcomer Nika Moroz. It’s been great so far, we’ve had a lot of music to get through! We have quite a lot more to come this year including ‘Honley Civic Archives Volume 2’ from Thomas in late March and a follow up EP from Ffion in April. We’re aiming to do something every month.
J. Hubner: This is for either of you, as far as “big” influence albums in your life, what was one that really set the stage for the direction you’ve headed? Which one really rewired your brain, and what was it about that record that hit you so hard.
Thomas Ragsdale: Ok, this is a VERY hard question to answer. I’d probably go for ‘Second Toughest In The Infants’ by Underworld. It really taught me that you can make music that’s incredibly dance music focused, but also with a HUGE leaning towards being ‘live’ and making music like a live band. It has that real organic depth that sets the best electronic music apart from the not so good stuff. I used to listen to ‘Banstyle/Sappys Curry’ on repeat.
J. Hubner: Ffion is a music project which involves both of you. I thought the EP ‘Odyssey’ was quite brilliant. I’m not an expert in the world of house and techno music, but this one spoke to me. A great mix of movement and atmosphere.
How did this project come about? Will we see a full-length at some point?
Thomas Ragsdale: Thanks, I’m really glad you like it and we had some great feedback from that one! We wanted to make some music together, but didn’t really know what we were going to do or even HOW we would do it. We talked about it for a long time and put playlists together of songs we felt close to. When it came to the writing phase we’d digested a lot of each other’s influences and drew some common ideas – we wanted to make something emotional, but without too much sadness. We also wanted to use very little equipment on a technical level and in the end we used only two drum sounds and 1 synthesiser for the whole EP. We’ve just finished a follow up EP (which is sounding pretty damn epic), and talking about an album.
J. Hubner: So far Soundtracking The Void has concentrated on smaller, digital-only releases. Are there any plans to release any full-length albums on vinyl at some point? I imagine EPs and digital allows for a much quicker turnaround time between releases.
Ashleigh: This is also something we’ve spoken about quite a lot (we talk about things A LOT in this house!). We’re very focused with the direction we see the label travelling in and we decided right from the start that vinyl pressings weren’t right for us. One of the main reasons for starting the label was to centre in on our visual aesthetic, which takes a lot of time and coordination to get right. So we’re not doing digital releases to save time, but we wanted our audience to see the visual elements AND music equally. For our bigger releases we do limited edition packaging however, and have a few bizarre ideas for future albums that involve bones, one off paintings and plenty of hidden easter eggs.
J. Hubner: What’s the process for finding artists you want to work with and release albums of on the label?
Thomas Ragsdale: We’ve been listening to some amazing stuff lately that we’d really like to work with, but it has to fit in with what we do perfectly. This makes things pretty difficult when it comes to choosing future artists! We’re operating like a regular label when it comes to choosing new music though and we take (and have had some brilliant) demos and that kind of thing.
J. Hubner: Can you tell me a little about your latest artist, Nika Moroz? I couldn’t find much information on her. And do you have a bucket list of artists you’d like to work with at some point?
Thomas Ragsdale: Nika is someone we know who sent in a few tracks and we selected one that we really liked. It was our first dip into working with someone new, so we were all a bit nervous, but it’s been great. We’ll be doing it again, I’m sure. We’d love to work with more classical musicians and also anyone making experimental hiphop. *hint at anyone reading this…*
J. Hubner: What’s the rest of 2019 look like for Thomas & Ashleigh with Soundtracking The Void?
Thomas Ragsdale: Very busy, we hope! It’s gone much better than we anticipated and has actually been a HELL of a lot of fun.
Ashleigh: We definitely want to be more involved with a wider group of artists. And MAYBE we’ll think about a vinyl.
Head over to Soundtracking The Void’s Bandcamp page and explore. Truly brilliant art from a truly brilliant label. Think you’ve got what it takes? Email Thomas and Ashleigh about your amazing DIY EP at firstname.lastname@example.org.