Bristol based independent label Invada Records has fast become one of the most diverse record labels working today. With the imminent release of Cliff Martinez’s Solaris OST, Simon Tucker caught up with label manager Redg Weeks to find out a brief history of the label, its future plans, and what makes it so unique.
Hi Redg. Can you give us brief rundown of the inception of Invada and its initial goals?
Invada was a venture that came together between Geoff Barrow of Portishead, BEAK>, DROKK etc, and Paul Horlick – a promoter and venue owner who’s previously run influential independent labels from Bristol. The goals were simply to have an open-minded record company that didn’t follow any specific business model, other than to release ‘outsider’ music and to offer fair deals that would benefit both artist and label. Up until 2009, the label was run solely by Geoff and Paul – I (Redg) joined in early 2009 as Label Manager, and over the past five years have tried to make the label more focussed whilst keeping the underground principles active.
You have many differently styled artists on the label and yet they all seem to share an identity and a thirst for experimentation. What makes you decide a band or artist would be a good fit for Invada?
There’s no specific formula we adhere to. Geoff, Paul or I will hear music through various connections and bring them to the table that way. Generally each release will have some personal connection with one of us – for example I may hear a soundtrack that resonates with me instantly, such as Drive, or Paul will discover a band through hearing them at one of his venues, as with Thought Forms. Or Geoff might get handed some music by someone he’s previously worked, which is what happened with a new artist at Invada, CUTS. So no real method to the madness so to speak!
I always try and listen to Soundcloud links and CDs people send in, but if I’m honest – I rarely hear anything that captures my imagination. I don’t think the A&R process can ever follow one path.
Recently you have become known as a label that champions and distributes exceptional soundtracks. What made you decide to branch out into this form of music release and how surprised were you by the extremely enthusiastic reception these releases have received (the Drive and Solaris releases being a case in point)?
We actually released a soundtrack to a Bafta award winning film in 2009 called ‘September’ by Esther May Campbell that Paul brought in, so it’s not much of a new thing for us. However, I take the point that recently we’ve certainly become more prolific in that world. I grew up championing people like Jerry Goldsmith and Morricone. Geoff is a huge John Carpenter fan and rates ‘Precinct 13’ as one of his biggest musical influences. I also enjoy working with soundtracks as they are an entirely different beast to working with bands: no radio promotion, no ‘singles’… it’s kind of a blank canvas as to the rules and regulations of how you market an album in the soundtrack world.
I thrive on the thrill of sourcing a soundtrack for the label. The parent companies that own a lot of the master rights aren’t necessarily record labels so it’s very different dynamic, and the process can be quite laborious and long-winded – but I personally find it very interesting.
I’m not surprised in the slightest by how well Drive and Solaris have been received. They are both game-changers in their own right. The hype around both these titles isn’t forced and doesn’t require huge market spend from us. People recognise the worth in them just by hearing them, or by association with the cinema. The word-of-mouth hype spread very organically, even for Solaris, which hasn’t been on the big screen for 11 years.
You seem to have an affinity for the work of Cliff Martinez, what draws you to his music?
I saw Solaris when it came out. Like a lot of people, I was blown away by the soundtrack. With film scores you can disconnect and disenfranchise yourself from the regular formula of following a band. However, Solaris had such an impact on me that I tried to hunt down all the music from every film Martinez was involved in – some of which were never even released on a physical format. When Drive came out a couple of years ago the combination of his score and the tracks licensed in for the film (College / Kavinski etc.) actually cemented in my mind Cliff’s ability to be a ‘stand alone’ artist in his own right – I hope one day I get to hear a full Martinez artist album. His contribution to ‘Spring Breakers’ is probably the best thing I’ve heard this year.
Are there any other current artists working in the field of soundtracks that you would like to work with?
There are always people doing interesting things with film. I guess it’s an easier question to answer by film soundtrack, as opposed to a specific composer or artist. Though Trent Reznor would be the Holy Grail for me personally. He’s relatively inexperienced in making soundtracks as I’m sure he would admit – but just off the back of ‘The Social Network’ and ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ I feel he’s carved out a perfect balance between his ‘artist’ career and ability to make music for film. We’ve also worked with Clint Mansell on a remix for the label. At some point I would love to release a full score of his. He’s a total perfectionist and delivers on absolutely everything he does.
The DROKK album has become a bit of a cult classic of late. Can you tell us how that came about and is there going to be any more releases under the DROKK moniker?
For various reasons I can’t talk too much about how the DROKK album came about. But you’re absolutely right: it is very much a cult classic. The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, and I know DROKK would like to have more time to perform at events. They have actually had to turn down opportunities as they are so busy.
Saying that, Geoff and Ben Salisbury are currently working together for a new film. I don’t know if they will be going under the name DROKK for future projects – but they are going to continue working together and I hope Invada get to release the fruits of their hard work.
There’s been a massive resurgence in the popularity of soundtracks lately (past and present). What is it you think draws people into this form of music?
Two reasons – firstly as this industry gets more and more vast in terms of the sheer amount of music now available through the internet, people want to hold on to something that is a piece of art or has substance. An artist album is so disposable nowadays – generally ‘here today, gone tomorrow’. The days of having a top ten album in the charts for three months has disappeared. Normally within a few weeks it’s in the bargain bin or reduced to £5 by the checkout counter. Soundtracks, however, are timeless. People turning to soundtracks are often sick of being spoon-fed what is meant to be the ‘next big thing’. There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure in the soundtrack world in my opinion.
The second reason is simply that a lot of people are yet to hear certain soundtracks and scores, and have missed out because the film company made the decision that they didn’t warrant a release. I know so many people who were desperate to pick up a copy of John Carpenter’s The Fog on Death Waltz recordings because it was the first time they’d looked into the film and realised it’s totally up there with the experimental bands they’d been listening to for the last 20 years.
There’s also been an acknowledgment of soundtracks on the influence of many bands lately (in particular soundtracks like A Clockwork Orange and Forbidden Planet), do you hear these influences on any artists you are currently into?
Not specifically Clockwork Orange or Forbidden Planet – but there are lots of film score influences I hear in music all the time. I’m currently working with ‘The Fauns’ on their album ‘Lights’, and I can definitely hear inspiration from soundtracks like ‘The Fountain’ and ‘Moon’.
Of course, the DROKK record had massive nods to John Carpenter, and from what I’ve heard of the recent Teeth of The Sea album on Rocket there is a definitive Carpenter / Vangelis vibe going on there.
Finally, do you have any personal soundtrack recommendations (past or present) that you feel our visitors should check out?
Okay, a bit of a cross-section for you.
We recently did a deal with Los Angeles company “Milan Records” for a European exclusive LP edition of Valhalla Rising soundtrack by Peter Peter and Peter Kyed. The film was directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (Only God Forgives / Drive). The soundtrack itself represents the dark and heavy nature of the film, and isn’t for the faint hearted. The soundtrack contains the complete score as well as unused cues and sections of the soundscapes Sound Designers Giles Lamb and Douglas MacDougall created for the film.
Clint Mansell did the soundtrack to a BBC film called ‘United’, based on the tragic air disaster in Munich featuring Manchester United players. It’s not one of his most known and talked about soundtracks, but honestly I think it’s up there with his best. Its epicness (is this a word?) cannot be understated. You don’t need to watch the film – just listen to the soundtrack and read the song titles and you’ll get a clear picture of the scale of the tragedy and how it affected everyone associated. Unfortunately it’s only available digitally – and you can stream it on Spotify. I listen to this at least once a week. It would be in my ‘Desert Island Discs’.
Spencer from Death Waltz recordings is the most qualified person I know to talk about soundtrack culture. I feel like a bit of a charlatan sometimes giving these interviews – as his knowledge compared to mine is vast. But I can point to three soundtracks Spencer has signed for his label:
1) ‘Evil Dead remake’ soundtrack by Roque Bano. A phenomenal soundtrack that will be in my end of year top five albums. I’m not a huge fan of the actual film, but the score more than makes up for it. Ridiculously eerie and littered with sirens and haunting sound effects. Perfectly executed horror film music;
2) Room 237 soundtrack by Jonathan Snipes & William Hutson (now of course in the band clipping. who we interviewed here.) A hybrid of John Carpenter, Goblin, Stevlio Cipriani, late 70s prog and early 80s electronic music – A fantastic modern day score that pays homage to the past whilst keeping its own modern day identity, and;
3) Maniac Soundtrack by ‘Rob’. This is absolutely magnificent. It leans towards the John Carpenter / 1980s synthesiser school of soundtracks. I own three different variants of this LP and that’s just on Death Waltz. I believe there’s a US Version on Mondo Records and a French version floating around too. There was a bit of a label scrum to release this and I can totally see why.
To pre-order Cliff Martinez’ Solaris OST on vinyl from Invada visit this page: invd.cc/solaris/. You can also listen to the album via a soundcloud widget there.