Record Label Feature: Tiger Lab Vinyl
The soundtrack record market is arguably in its golden age. Vinyl’s current renaissance has led to an explosion of new soundtrack releases covering most genres in film, and even classic video games. Founded last year by Jon Dobyns and Clint Carney, Tiger Lab Vinyl aim to focus on the currently untapped manga and anime soundtrack niche. We spoke to Jon about Tiger Lab and other vinyl related subjects.
Besides music, how do you choose the artists you work with?
It all depends on whether the score and title fit the Tiger Lab aesthetic. A few factors always cross our minds when deciding to release an album. Has it ever been released on vinyl or ever given an official wide release? Is this a score people need to hear, and does it scream to be pressed on wax? And most importantly, what does the title mean to me personally? I have a strong connection with each anime in our catalog.
Do you remember the first record you bought with your own money?
One of the very first records I bought with my own money was from a local hardcore group called Tenfold. They were one of the first bands I discovered in my hometown scene when I would stay up late on Saturday nights recording the local university radio shows. From there I would buy 7’’s from all the other bands that were thanked in liner notes, which then introduced me to discovering a DIY scene where every demo and EP was pressed on vinyl.
What’s the biggest challenge for a record label nowadays?
As the vinyl market exploded and tripled in growth, the OST scene boomed right along with it. Soundtrack labels are developing left and right, piggybacking off the success of others and marketing to their core audiences. It’s not a secret in the scene that the market has become over saturated. Now titles are released weekly. Labels that have been in vinyl hibernation for years are now returning to the craft, and major conglomerates are beginning to get their feet wet with wax. So as much as it’s an exciting time, the other side of the coin suggests that there could be a crash ahead. The challenge here is for staying power. Like in all underground scenes that became mainstream, the fans are what helps make the label. That’s why it’s always great to see labels that are run by fans of the genre and medium. Those are the companies that release products for the love of the art, and it really shows. Fan bases will always show loyalty to those labels with that sort of integrity. So be patient and release the best overall package you can.
If you could work with any artist in the world, who would it be?
Yoko Kanno of the jazz/funk/blues group, The Seatbelts. Talk about scores that scream for vinyl releases!
How are record labels still relevant in a digital, DIY world?
The interesting thing about the current DIY world is that anyone can start their own label. With vinyl sales rising consistently without signs of plateauing, labels can come out of nowhere and focus on the preferred physical medium of choice, vinyl! The DIY labels that make smart decisions are the ones who continue to show staying power. They are run by fans who are tapped into the current state of whichever scene they belong to. It’s more interesting to see the majors now dive into the physical medium they once swore off, while the indies never needed to conform because they never stopped pressing vinyl.
What makes your record label unique?
The obvious factor that makes Tiger Lab stand out from our peers is that we have a direct focus on anime scores. Being a huge fan of horror and cult films/soundtracks, it was so exciting watching everyone emerge onto the scene, but I didn’t want to get lost in the sea of scores. Anime was something I became infatuated with when I was in middle school. It was the time of the Manga explosion onto the US. Having an ear for music and with my obvious love for anime, I felt like I wanted to do something a little different. The compositions play such an integral part in the genre, and I think sometimes people either get lost in the story or just overlook the isolated score. I make a point to not release such obvious titles so fans can rediscover the reasons why we love these scores so dearly.
What’s the best part of your work ? What’s the worst?
The best part of the job has been hands down, working directly with the composers and getting the origin stories of the scores. Whether it’s the composers themselves, production companies or record labels, I love to go into depth discussing how the music came to life.
The hardest or worst thing I ever had to do happened pretty early on. Friends and peers would mention how titles can be stolen from under your nose and how that is just the business. I was talking to a composer last year about a specific title Tiger Lab was dying to release. The specific composer was very excited as he gathered his DATs of the score together. We spoke for months going back and forth until I received an email from his publisher saying they decided to go with another company.
I’m happy that we got our first burn over with early on as it sent us a message reminding me that this a business. We got over it, and I’m sure as Tiger Lab grows it won’t be the last.
Tell us about the first artist you signed
I took a real chance on our debut release, Osamu Shoji’s “Wicked City”. Wicked City was on of the US crossover anime titles from the late 80s that targeted adults. Clearly with my love of horror, monsters, underground and exploitation I was drawn right into it. With the title, I wanted to release the first album with that specific dark vibe and 80s tone. That sums up a lot of what I grew up on. The current anime fanbase really has no idea about this title, and when people do speak of it, it’s in such an ill will manner that comes from a jaded snob point of view. It’s almost as the anime was geared more towards the horror hounds. I for one will always love Wicked City. It was the “cool” OVA to be in the know with.
This title is the prime example of a movie overshadowing the isolated score. When we announced the label with our first release, our mailbox was flooded with comments of people either being truly excited, or not understanding why we chose this title. Online I’d read that people thought the score was so forgettable because they don’t even remember it. Well that is the point of TL releasing the score! Shoji is an amazing composer that writes funky beats mixed with dreamy synths. When we started this label, his Wicked City score was always the first LP I wanted to release. Now that it’s been out for a little over 4 months, I think people now see why I was so earnest about putting it out.
I like to think that it set the tone for the label.
Who is your juke box hero?