Fresh, renowned and burgeoning with globally revered artists – where any recording label would want to be. Its testament to the determination and focus required to run a successful brand that encourages artists to partner for support, release and marketing for their music. Based out of London, England and about to celebrate 5 years of existence with two huge nights of post-progressive wonder, founder Johnny Wilks talked to Headwarmer about differentiation, artist management, favourite releases and which artists have somehow passed them by…
Congrats on a splendid artist roster! You’ve assembled some of the foremost names in post-progressive music. What made you take the journey and how did it all start?
Thanks! Having worked with Porcupine Tree since 1999 we wanted to create a home for all the post progressive / art rock acts we were working with. The Porcupine Tree albums ‘Stupid Dream’ & ‘Lightbulb Sun’ were the only releases under a KScope imprint at the time, as Snapper Music (our Mother label) wanted to differentiate from the releases that crossed multiple genres. I’d been following the career of Bruce Soord & his band The Pineapple Thief for some time, as well as Manchester band Engineers. So in 2008 the timing was right when we signed both acts, to launch Kscope as a fully fledged label.
The space you operate in is rather niche. How and why do you think you’ve been so successful in such a short space of time?
We haven’t really strayed too far from the parameters that we set when we launched the label. We haven’t tried to overstretch ourselves in the output and stuck to concentrating our efforts on building the established acts we have on the roster.
Is the label now different in any way, to the one that launched back in 2008?
The success of some of the releases has benefited the newer upcoming artists and the profile is attracting new artists to the label. The catalogue has certainly grown in five years but we still only take on two or three news bands a year. Not because we don’t get some amazing demos but because anything more than that would be overload, as our rostered artists are pretty prolific
What’s your approach to artist and music management that keeps you ahead of the curve?
We involve them in all aspects of campaign and are open to all ideas. In many cases we’re more of a manager than a traditional record label to our bands. In fact, a number of our bands no longer have managers, they leave it to us to handle. We actively want to work with them on where they’re going. So we introduce them to the other bands not just on Kscope, but the other Snapper Music label, in particular Peaceville. This way we can get the newer bands exposure by having them open for the more established bands. It also gives them the chance to collaborate on each others albums or on specific tracks.
Sel Belamir, Frontman from Manchester space-rockers AMPLIFIER, tells us what makes KScope…feel like home
“We decided to team up with Kscope on Echo Street because they seem to be one of the few labels that are growing as opposed to contracting – they’re obviously onto some kind of winning formula. Being still relatlively young it’s quite a cosy family type vibe. It reminds me a little bit of Music For Nations back in the old days – so that’s good – because we really loved that label. They’ve pretty much created a marketplace for bands that would otherwise be outside of the main music industry – and to do that takes plenty of balls and risk – so Amplifier applauds them. We’re also very pleased to be asked to headline one of the Kscope nights considering our relationship has been quite short so far – but I’m pretty sure that that will continue for some time”.
Who was the first artist/group you signed and did you have any preconceptions as to how things would work out?
We signed The Pineapple Thief just before we launched the label with a view to starting a subsidiary imprint just for them. When we made the decision to launch Kscope proper and actively seek out artists for the label I started a wish list! No preconceptions really but a lot has changed in 5 years within the industry and we are still adding to the roster and working with all the original rostered artists.
You’ve had some truly inspirational releases over the past 5 years. Which would be your favourite and which has been the most successful?
OK If I had to choose one to put on now it would be Engineers – Three Fact Fader (just listen to Clean Coloured Wire). Most successful is Steven Wilson’s latest album ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’ charting around the world.
Five years in, would you have done anything differently – both for the label and the artists you’re working with?
No very happy. It’s easy to get annoyed if something doesn’t work the way you plan or expect, but we are learning every day
Where do you plan to be come your 10 year anniversary?
2 nights at the O2…
Can you give us the background to the two night extravaganza in July and what are you looking forward to the most?
Apart from an excuse to celebrate 5 years of the label the bands get on very well together. There is plenty of remixing, mixing & cross touring between the artists. Steven Wilson mixed the Anathema album, North Atlantic Oscillation supported Porcupine Tree, Mothlite played with North Atlantic Oscillation and it goes on. We’re looking forward to Bruce Soord & Jonas Renkse (from Katatonia) and Anathema in a smaller venue will be great. We’re hoping to do another one in Europe with the international artists.
Have there been any artists/groups that have passed by the Kscope door? Any one in particular you wished you could have signed?
Yep – Efterklang, Woodkid, Portishead, Nine Inch Nails & Storm Corrosion
Finally, can you give us any insights into what or who’s next for Kscope?
We’re working on the new Ulver album ‘Messe’ due in September, Swedish band Katatonia have reworked their latest studio album for Kscope (the band are signed to sister label Peaceville) & Anathema have a concert film coming soon. We also have Steven Wilson playing the Royal Albert Hall in October
Exciting Times. Watch this space!
TWO NIGHTS AT THE GARAGE JULY 24TH & 25TH, FEATURING