Welcome to Spacebomb Records, where we champion curiosity and make the hits of an alternate, more sonically adventurous universe. If Spacebomb believes anything we believe it takes a village to make a record.
I guess it’s always the first day of the rest of your life, but this morning that rings a little bit more true. It’s February 5th, 8am and I am up writing an Introduction to Spacebomb Records for RVANews. I’m doing it now, even though it is due in a little over a week, because Karl Blau flies in from Seattle later today, and the record label that has long been in the works becomes an honest to goodness music making entity. Now seems like as good a time for reflection as any so let me tell you a bit of our story and welcome you to Spacebomb Records, where we champion curiosity and make the hits of an alternate, more sonically adventurous universe.
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Maybe our story starts with Patchwork Collective, maybe it starts somewhere long before. But for now, Patchwork Collective is a good place to start. Patchwork was founded in 2005 by Chris Elford, Scott Burton, and myself as a sort of promotions organization for adventurous music. We tried to encourage creativity, fearlessness, and experimentation within the musical ranks of the community and gave the folks that were doing these things a place to play and an audience to listen. We also brought in artists that we thought would represent our values and shared them with the community around us. Our goal — what we thought was the most important thing for Richmond — was to be importing and exporting music.
We never got to exporting.
In 2006, I ventured to Nyack, New York to meet my favorite Jazz musician in the world: Steven Bernstein. What was supposed to be a 1 hour lesson turned into a 7-hour hang-out and my life was changed forever. Steven had a knack for knowing details, back stories, and more about the PROCESS of making the records than anyone else I had ever met. It became apparent when I turned the corner from his office to his laundry room why: Steven read. Steven had a collection of books I never knew existed, a collection that my university had never mentioned. I began, then, a search for the small details that make records tick, a search for what makes the records that I love come alive, a search that found me digging through all kinds of books about musicians, bands, and most importantly (to this article) record labels.
Three years later, in 2009, I decided to take a trip through the South by myself. I have family there I wanted to visit, but I also had a few places that were sacred musical destinations that I wanted to see for myself. After a few magical days in New Orleans, I drove up to Oxford, Mississippi, the closest town to the Delta where I had tracked down a bed to sleep in. I had been put in touch with a friend of a friend who, as it happens, not only had a couch I could sleep on but was an employee of Fat Possum Records. Fat Possum is a record label that originally released unknown blues artists and now releases the Black Keys and Andrew Bird, among others. Needless to say, they are doing well for themselves. I was intrigued by the unlikeliness of Fat Possum’s story; they are, after all, based in Oxford. Mississippi? I, too, live in a non-industry town and was inspired by their success. On the drive home I called an old high school friend, a lawyer, who possesses both the skill set to practice entertainment law and to spit fire (literally) out of his mouth and told him we should start a record label.
Spacebomb* is the culmination of my experiences at Patchwork Collective, a few years of finding that much of the music I love is birthed from a process that the recording industry has left behind, and from the encouragement of seeing many folks around me succeed in the face of unlikely odds. It can only come to fruition in a city that has as many talented musicians as we do. The musical community here is a special one; it is full of gems and the Spacebomb story will be written by them. It is a story that will be written by not only myself and a few co-conspirators but by our community, because if Spacebomb believes anything we believe it takes a village to make a record.
Centered around a house band, a distinct cast of contributing auxiliary (and local) musicians; division of labor amongst songwriters, musicians, and arrangers; and strong and unified musical and artistic statements, Spacebomb is founded on old models — models I read all about in those books. In the coming weeks I will give a little bit of a history lesson: the history of the recording industry and some of the stories, people, and processes that went into some of the greatest records ever made.
Speaking of making records, we start this evening. Karl Blau, a K Records artist and dear friend, journeyed across the country to inaugurate the Spacebomb process. Both he and I will be making records in the next couple weeks — putting our musical model to the test. I am so excited to see what comes of our time together and cannot wait to show it to you. We will also be sharing with you more about the process and the Spacebomb story every two weeks here on RVANews, and we will be highlighting the musicians that contribute to our records every two weeks at our favorite local restaurant Balliceaux.
I am very proud to announce Spacebomb Records, a product of a special city, in a special time, filled with special people.
The Spacebomb Records Launch Party featuring Karl Blau takes place on Wednesday, February 16, at Balliceaux (203 N. Lombardy St. in Richmond). $6 cover, ages 21+. Visit balliceauxrva.com for more info.
Visit Spacebomb Records online at spacebombrecords.com
*Spacebomb Records, by the way, is named after a Sun-Ra quote, which is fitting because that man, more than most, represents the melding of tradition and a honed craft with experimentation.
photo by Sam Allen