This year, the UK’s – and in all probability, probably the world’s – best experimental/post-progressive/whatever-you-want-to-call-it label, KScope, turned five years old. That’s how old Thrash Hits is. They’ve put out a whole heap of awesome records by musicians we collectively love – the likes of Anathema, Amplifier, and Steven Wilson. They’re a bona fide success story and you really ought to be more aware of what they get up to. That’s why we’ve caught up with label bossman, Johnny Wilks, to talk about the highs and lows of running the label in the latest entry in our Label Profile series.
The obvious, boring questions first – for the benefit of our readers, who are you and what made you want to start a label?
We are sister label to Peaceville (Katatonia, My Dying Bride, Autopsy etc). Having worked with Porcupine Tree since 1999 we wanted to create a home for the post progressive / art rock acts we were working with. The Porcupine Tree albums Stupid Dream and Lightbulb Sun were the only releases under a Kscope imprint as at the time as Snapper Music (our Mmother label) wanted to differentiate from the releases that crossed multiple genres.
I’d been following the career of Bruce Soord and his band The Pineapple Thief for some time, as well as Manchester band Engineers, so in 2008 the timing was right, when we signed both act, to launch Kscope as a fully fledged label.
Another boring one – why did you call it “Kscope”?
The then Porcupine Tree manager and I were discussing the kaleidoscope of sound that came from Porcupine Tree and the pigeonholed new progressive bands that were emerging on to the scene – Kscope was born.
How has the label grown over the years?
I would say we’ve pretty much grown organically. The success of some of the releases has benefited the newer upcoming artists and the profile is attracting new artists to the label. The catalogue has certainly grown in five years but we still only take on two or three news bands a year.
Everyone we’ve ever interviewed who’s had a record out on your label loves you. We’re not saying that lightly – Vincent from Anathema said “I really consider that in only the last four years, they’ve now managed to create what’s almost a movement….. I’m very pleased to be on this label now, as they’re one of the best labels in the world. I really believe that.” What is it that you do that inspires such loyalty in your bands?
We like to involve the artists in all aspects of campaign and are always open to all ideas. We get involved in the early stages of each record but we introduce them to the other bands not just on Kscope but the other Snapper Music labels in particular Peaceville. It also gives them the chance to collaborate on each other’s albums or on specific tracks.
What do you consider has been your biggest triumph so far?
I have to say Steven Wilson’s latest album The Raven That Refused To Sing as it charted around the world. He played the Royal Albert Hall this year which will be a great achievement.
And do you think you’ve had anything that hasn’t quite succeeded as you had planned?
There are a few I thought I thought would make a bigger mark but not all the releases cross over territories and genres so we are pretty realistic with our expectations. The recent retail situation with HMV in the UK definitely affected the sales of titles across many labels.
Who has been your biggest band?
Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson have been the biggest to date. It has certainly been an exciting journey with bands like Anathema getting more and more recognition and crossing over.
Has any band slipped through your fingers?
No but a couple I wish we’d picked up – Efterklang, Woodkid, and Storm Corrosion.
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to just before you started the label?
Don’t spend too much too soon and stay calm! Oh and you should have done this earlier…
How do you go about “finding” bands to release on the label?
Many demos still come through the letterbox and we are emailed every day. Bands drop by the office and call us up.
Interestingly, when we launched 5 years ago new music was presented to us along the lines of “if you like Porcupine Tree you may like this” or “this sounds a little like Porcupine Tree.” I think Kscope has carved out an identity in the genre. We discovered the likes of The Pineapple Thief because Kscope had been suggested to Bruce Soord. North Atlantic Oscillation and Amplifier came to us because they liked what we did and how we worked and what we were about
What do you look for in a band for a KSCOPE release?
Sound wise the parameters are pretty wide as the genre has opened up and artists are crossing over. I like working with established artists that want to make the Kscope record that they have inside! More and more of the artists that approach Kscope (and we approach) are interested in making that record and some are open to collaborating with other artists on the label.
What other labels have inspired you, and why? Who do you look up to?
Mute and 4AD. 4AD in particular as it was great label that worked with the artists for the artists – it always gave off a really family vibe and that is exactly how we operate
For more information about pretty much everything Kscope get up to, head on over to their official website. Just don’t spend too long looking at all the lovely, sexy, incredibly-tempting boxsets and special edition album packages they have for sale or you will wake up tomorrow with extreme credit card regret and bankruptcy looming large over you.