Wednesday, 2 December 2015

THE ALMOST PREDICTABLES 2015 NO.2 - LABEL OF THE YEAR

The second Almost Predictable in this miniature awards season I'm hosting is for Label Of The Year. It's been a great year for several favourite labels of mine - Hot Gem have continued to build their impressive portfolio with releases from Machines In Heaven, YuTaNi and Okraa and Toronto's wonderful Hand Drawn Dracula have released nothing but solid gold with outsanding records from the likes of Rolemodel, Fresh Snow and Beliefs really hitting the spot. Glasgow's Olive Grove also released one of the records of the year with Woodenbox's Foreign Organ. As ever, Mute Records has obviously been amazing too of course.

There can only be one winner though, and that winner is Glasgow's Night School Records. This year, the label has had a 100% record when it comes to releasing music with superb albums from Paper Dollhouse Sally Dige, Molly Nilsson, Rose McDowall, Liberez and Paco Sala. Not content with merely putting out these albums and running the label, label boss Michael Kasparis has been insanely busy himself touring in support of his alter ego Aspostille's quite brilliant  2015 album Powerless.


One aspect of Night School Records that I can't fail to acknowledge is the love that goes into each release. For a vinyl collector, the label is a joy with marvellous limited edition coloured vinyl releases for the Sally Dige Rose McDowall and Molly Nilsson records a real highlight of the year. Getting an album is always a special thing, but when you get one that has been put together with such care, it adds a new level to the experience. I caught up with Michael for a chat and to make a virtual presentation of his virtual award


APA: Congratulations on your Almost Predictable and a great 2015. How has the year been for you?

MK: Hey, thank you so much! It's been intense. At the end of every year in the last four, I've felt like the year has passed so quickly that I've not even had time to take stock. This year is no different, probably even more so. The year began with me mixing my first solo record and it's going to be ending with my playing it out in Europe.

APA: How have you found the response to the various releases on the label? There's been a lot of coverage for the likes of your Apostille release which must have been pleasing.

MK: It's all relative and, to be honest, I only pay attention to the reception as much as I need to. I used to take it personally that I could work on something that means the world to me - and to the artist involved - but then it's out there and only a select few hear it and appreciate it. That's the nature of the beast, I get that. It's great that something will come out on Night School and get a lot of reviews and people's reaction, whether it's Rose's album or Molly's, or something like Liberez will come out and get a lot of critical acclaim. 



Sometimes it doesn't translate into breaking even on a release, but that's the risk you take. The Apostille album: I'm not going to pretend it's anything other than a vanity release. I had a couple of offers from other people to do it, and I think I'd like to go down the route of getting someone else to release Apostille in the future, but I felt like I wanted to do Powerless exactly how I wanted it done. The people that picked up on the record seemed to really like it. I've had a lot of nice feedback which is great. It's kind of my nature never to be satisfied though so I've always got my eye on the next thing, improving, evolving...

APA: Your vinyl releases are all special. The likes of the Sally Dige, Rose McDowall and Molly Nilsson releases were all wonderful for example. Is it important to the label to make these releases something special?

MK: Thanks! I can never look at a releases as if from a conveyor belt. Each release is the result of stress, planning, enthusiasm, love and plenty of hair-pulling, from me as much as the artists involved. So, when the finished product is in my hands, it has to reflect all of that. I'll never understand how anyone in my position can have a "that'll do" approach to their label. You get a lot of major labels or even big indie labels who produce records and you look at how they've done it, and how much they're charging, and you just think this is someone at the other end of a spreadsheet. Even though the main focus is on vinyl, I should also point out that we take equal care with the CD's, cassettes, T-shirts, whatever! I suppose each release is special by default!




APA: Tricky question perhaps, but what's your favourite Night School release been this year?

MK: I couldn't possibly pick one. That's probably lame but so be it (APA - not at all!). Every release we do usually sits in my headphones for at least three months in the lead up to release, it becomes part of my life. I was super excited to get Sally's record out this year after several years of trying, the Liberez record was incredible for me, Molly's album Zenith is probably the highpoint of her career thus far, the Rose McDowall record is one of my favourite albums of all time so the fact I re-released it blows my mind. It goes on. The Paper Dollhouse album is just so involving and emotional, and of course my record is about as personal a "project" as you can get. The Paco Sala album is wonderful too

APA: What's been your highlight of the year?

MK: Again, there are too many. Here's a few: playing Berghain to 850 people through that sound system; Molly Nilsson playing 1995 at the Monorail festival I helped organise in October; Liberez live at Cafe Oto; playing with Sally Dige as on-stage mascot/mixer at Creepy Teepee festival in the Czech Republic; my set at Creepy Teepee too; playing guitar on Since Yesterday with Rose McDowall in St Pancras Parish Church with my friends in the backing band in May. There was also Beserktown Festival in Orange County in the summer, though that's not label related. It's been a good year.



APA: What are the label's plans for 2016?

MK: Mmmm. Next year is the label's 5th anniversary, which is crazy when I think about it. I've basically got more plans than means at any one time, so I can't say anything categorical at this time. However, one big thing is that I'm going to be launching a sister label to concentrate on reissues. I'll use the same methodology and attention to detail but have a label that is exclusively reissues. We're continuing Rose McDowall's reissue project with at least two more releases. I've got the debut album from at least two new artists that I'm really excited about that you might know from other guises. There's at least TWO new Happy Meals releases; they've just started sending me demos which is super exciting (APA: that's more than super exciting if that's possible). There will be more from Molly Nilsson of course. My dream is to perform in the Molly Nilsson all-stars, as in with a live band, so I think I might try and pressure her to do that. Basically, there'll be more of the same as this year, but probably even more until I have a happy, mental breakdown.

APA: Finally, given how this blog began life, there's an obligatory Depeche Mode question. What's your favourite DM track?

MK: I'm definitely a fan, but unabashedly a populist one. I have a few albums, but it always comes back to the singles for me, Probably something like Everything Counts or See You. Vince Clarke is a genius obviously. I'm trying very hard to make the next Apostille album sound like Erasure, but it turns out that's quite difficult.

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Thanks very much to Michael for taking the time to answer my questions. As you'll see, 2016 looks like it may even top 20156 for Night School Records and that would be quite something. Personally, I can't wait for the new Happy Meals material and the Apostille album is going to be unmissable. 

Night School Records http://nightschoolrecords.com/
Night School Records Twitter https://twitter.com/NightSchoolRecs
Night School Records Soundcloud https://soundcloud.com/nightschool

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