Thursday, December 01, 2005

mixtape meditation


by Brent Crampton ~ by Callie Tacket ~ Unconventional, uncanny and completely underground – the Mixtape Meditation recording label is all about pushing the boundaries. Whether it be indie-rock, electronic-infused bossa nova or Pete Rock-in’-esque hip-hop, it’s all music you gotta meditate on in order to figure out that despite it’s apparent diversity, this label is based in the undiverse state of Kansas.

Based in the city of Lawrence to be exact. But it’s a fact that despite the Kansas stipulation, Lawrence is known as a sub-cultured art and music community amongst the sprawling plains. And while talent such as Digable Planets, LCD Soundsystem, The Coup and Atmosphere make their way into Lawrence, David Fulton’s label is what’s coming out.

More than just a label started in 2003, Mixtape Meditation is a sub-division of the parent company, Mixtape Media, which also is composed of their recording studio, which goes by Mixtape Soundlab. See a pattern in their marketing?

There’s also a pattern in the intensity of Fulton’s life-interwoven passion for music. Here he talks about his grass roots approach to a record label, obnoxiously bangin’ on the drums and his connection to the awe-inspiring Lawrence.

Highlighted Quote –

“but beats are a gateway drug, so anything that has power and groove will find its way here.”

I like the name Mixtape Meditation, what’s it all about?

Of course the scope of our label is to put out quality music with the purist intentions towards our artists. We only sign those who are whole-heartedly committed to music and I believe it shows in the work. Granted we are a small independent label, which means very limited budgets, but our belief is that if the music is meant to be heard, then it will be. It’s an optimistic view point to have in times where piracy is killing retail sales. But as any one nowadays should tell you, a good buzz can be made with a $3,000 budget, ample touring and utilization of the web. This label is run solely by myself, however all of our artists make up the "staff" if you will. Everyone I’ve signed knows I believe in him or her and in return, they believe in the label. All I have done is set up a framework for us to exist and all of us make it what it is and what it can become. We all have high hopes for future.

Tell me about your slogan, “future music for present people.”

I’ve adopted the slogan "future music for present people" and I believe it’s very applicable to the sounds that shape our label. Whether it is the lyrical content of the new Archetype record or the micro slicing and dicing that electronic whiz kid Mo-Sys accomplishes with his tiny computer is representative of the progressive sense of the Mixtape family. Pushing the envelope in any and every sense is at the heart of the label, whether on a technological end or just by being a great song.

Any other record labels influencing your approach?

As you might tell from our roster, Mixtape embraces no one sound. We have hip-hop, indie rock, idm, soul, funk/samba - the list goes on. My vision for this label was to be like Ropeadope records, where if the record is good, then it’s good. That’s why the Mixtape Meditation moniker is appropriate. To me a good mixtape is one that can take you on a rollercoaster ride through many genres of music while simultaneously educating your soul. You can get lost in a good Mixtape and enjoy so many sounds that culminate in one cohesive journey. Outside of the deeper meaning, I think it just sounds cool.

Whether you're making a peanut butter sandwhich or thinking about your path in life in terms of metaphorical rhetoric - where is music for you in these processes?

Not to be cliché, but for me music is life. It’s literally tattooed on my body and metaphorically in my brain. It’s grown from hobby, to obsession to profession. I simply cannot live without being involved with music to some capacity. A lot of the way I’ve pursued music is because of my amazing parents. Not only did they let a 5-year old have drums, but they encouraged my musical growth from a very young age. That calls for a standing ovation!

A 5-year-old banging on the drums – that must have been grand for them. Tell me more about your family’s influence on you.

God the noise they have heard! But the more I showed my devout love and interest towards music, the more they helped me grow with its many directions. Of equal importance was the creative and entrepreneurial spirit they have. They are both business owners, and since day one, I have been surrounded by their strong sense of creating your own path in life and the business world by following your heart and trusting creative instincts. Art and commerce is hard to mix, but my upbringing proves my inherent optimism about making music my only means of survival. I break it down like this - I wouldn't have life without them, I couldn't live without music and I couldn't be doing what I’m doing now without my parents encouragement. Family is life, music is life, and that is what I hope Mixtape Media can be - one giant musical family. Truth be told, I do not know if I could do anything else except music. I’ve always been told that I am lucky that I’ve known exactly what I wanted to do since I was 5 and because of this bond with music, I must be humbled by its power and not let down that kid instinct inside myself I’ve trusted so far. I feel if I question the drive of music I question my entire existence. If I don't believe in music, I can't believe in myself. If music is taken away, I would be for the first time in my life, completely lost and helpless. I believe that my devout respect for music is why I don't fear the enormous challenge that is making my living in this industry.

What steps led you to where you are now with music?

It had been a dream of mine to start my own label since my freshman year of high school. During these years I was an official musical elitist geek, you know the types, and I typified that stereotype for sure! You have to be at least fifteen in the state of Texas to have a job, and as soon as that birthday came knocking, I was working at the coolest record store in Dallas being schooled by the musicologists clerks I had been bugging for a job since thirteen. As high school progressed I started writing music reviews for my high school paper and zines, interned at independent and major labels and booked as well as played in bands. I tried to make music my drive in school and outside of it and totally lived music 24/7. This is where it all came together for me: I enjoyed being a producer and musician, promoter and agent, label and artist, and finally critic and fan. But ultimately the mystique of small labels and the heart that was there really embodied everything I was looking for - a true commitment to music and vision without being blinded by status quo. It is still more impressive to me to watch labels like Ninja Tune, Good Looking, Thrill Jockey, etc. defy any trend and amass the rapid fan base more than any money machine could ever manufacture.

I couldn't wait to get to Lawrence to start climbing the ladder. When I got here, I spent a year diving into Lawrence and all that it had to offer. My sophomore year I started a mobile DJ company that was pretty successful for two years, then I finally landed an internship with Avalanche Productions above the Bottleneck, and that same location is where my business is now. It is there that I got to experience the inner workings of the music business on an entirely new level. I mean in that one tiny office, I got to witness five awesome booking powers of the Midwest music business work together to build this towns and the Midwest’s notoriety and watch them evolve to where they are now with there own businesses. You had Jeff Fortier, Josh Hunt, Bill Pile, Jackie Becker and Jesse Jackson! Seeing that take place really inspired me to take the plunge further. When they moved down the street and I knew that the recording studio across the hall, mercy records, was going under, I immediately found the landlord and made a call and the rest is history. Getting this location in the heart of downtown, in a space where so many important music ventures happened is a dream come true and I hope to, as Jeff Fortier recently said in an interview, "keep rock and roll alive above the Bottleneck.”

Tell me about the artists - how are they selected and what kind of music are they making?

Well, the running joke is that we sign anything that would make it onto one of our mix tapes. That’s not to far from the truth. I have a very diverse palate of music as well as those around me. There is obviously a commitment to regional electronic music - half of our roster is electronic in nature, but beats are a gateway drug, so anything that has power and groove will find its way here.

We are very proud to have released, in my opinion, the best live DNB record on the planet, that being Siamese’s “Ancients of days.” They are a live DNB band from Seattle who've played with Amon Tobin, LTJ Bukem, etc. and are driven by the hands down best live DNB drummer on this planet, Kevin Sawka. The new Archetype record "Bleed for them" is coming out in a week and we can't be more proud to be working with Nesbeat and I.D and co-releasing this with Datura records, which is owned by Willis and Approach. I.D just did a record that came out on Mush and Nez has made beats for Murs, Mac lethals’ new record coming out on Rhyme Sayers and countless of others so this will probably help the buzz, but overall this masterpiece speaks for itself. Lets see, oh Mo-Sys signed with us right before moving to Paris and his album should be out in 4 months. The last release for us this year will be our first wax pressing which is a Johnny Quest/Stikfiga 12" and it's very promising debut from Stik.

We have 6 more releases coming up next year including the new DJNOTADJ album, the Tanner Walle solo record, Pleasuremaker, as well as my solo project "banging x numbers". We have a few surprises up our sleeves as well so stay tuned. Our entire roster at the moment includes
Archetype, Asterales, Banging x numbers, Blackout Gorgeous, DJNOTADJ, Drouble Bass, Entrpronegro, Johnny Quest, Mo-Sys, Nezbeat, O.D.B.D (original drum n bass duo) Pleasuremaker, Siamese, Stikfiga and Tanner Walle.

Have you released anything? Has a distributor picked it up? Where can I get your music?

Up until now we have only released five records. We had distro with I.D.N but lost it when Kindercore split. With the limited amount of funds available to each release we are sticking to the mostly digital downloads and vinyl model of business while we organize the label and make our ascent more structured. We press 1000 cd’s at least for each release and those forthcoming, but the emphasis will be on our use of Itunes, which is getting hammered out right now, as well as other DDA vendors and the vinyl buying public. Retail is something we hope our buzz moves us into, but unless you have $50,000 to properly put a record through the system, grassroot tactics are the only rational choice.

With all the bands and hip hop going on, it seems like Lawrence is stuffed with creative talent. How do you feel about the city?

I am born and raised in Texas, but the 7 years I’ve lived in Lawrence really feel more like home than Dallas. I love the energy of our town and I’ve never experienced such a tight knit arts community all working with each other for a common goal, putting and keeping this town on the map. There is so much good local music, it's almost unfathomable. I’m glad to try and play a role in the ongoing creative development of our town along side so many great peers who are making this town what it is. I am so thrilled to be able to record our town’s bands in the studio, release our town’s talents on my label and just be an artist myself in this great city. It’s never been a better time to live in the "city of arts!"
Any shout outs?

Lastly, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Ben Jackson for moving up here from Dallas to be the head engineer at Mixtape Soundlab. This kid is a sonic genius and I think he is a new secret asset to this towns band’s. He came to us from one of the biggest and baddest studios in the South. No one leaves that type of job in this industry climate, but this town’s charisma drew him here. It’s very inspiring to see Lawrence have that type of affect on someone.

For more information, visit MixTapeSoundLab.com

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