Australian vaporwave producer and all around good human b l u e s c r e e n has been making vaporwave since mid 2016. His musical output is prolific, having released music on pretty much every vaporwave label that has ever existed including Seikomart, Bogus Collective, Power Lunch Corp, Hairs aBlazin’, Gulf Audio Company, Immersion Complete, Junk Maker Sounds, Night Light Tapes, Virtua 94 Records and JeJu Digital to name a few. In addition to this, along with fellow Australian and longtime collaborator ΔCID.rar, he co-founded his own vaporwave label Suset Grid (https://sunsetgrid.bandcamp.com) in July 2016, followed by two subsidiary labels: OKVLT TMPLS (https://okvlttmpls.bandcamp.com) later in 2016, which specialises on dark experimental sounds, and Gum Shoe (https://gumshoe.bandcamp.com) in 2017, which specialises in lo-fi beats.
In March 2018 b l u e s c r e e n began another ongoing project with a unique community focus: the Jcard series. A collection of compilations with a highly distinct aesthetic which are curated to explore a range of distinct themes demonstrating the diversity of artistic vision and creative expression within the community. This project is truly community minded, with each compilation showcasing emerging artists alongside established producers with each album released on a different label.
With the next Jcard compilation, Siren set to drop on Girly Girl Musik before the end of January I sat down with b l u e s c r e e n to discuss the history of the j card project, the latest release and his aspirations for 2019.
What inspired you to begin with this compilation series?
I guess I realized that after few years of seeing Sunset Grid going so well, we knew over 100 different producers that we had worked with, not to mention numerous labels and video editors and artists. I thought it was time to somewhat shift my attention from making stuff on my own and contribute to the scene through the compilation approach. Its inclusive and it helps us all meet and be aware of each other. That just felt like a really important thing to push for.
To be completely honest, I saw everything had ‘wave’ at the end of a sub genre, so half jokingly, I wanted to do a Shroomwave comp just cos I love mushrooms, but more to the point, because the thought of a group of people interpreting psychedelic vaporware was exciting to me.
Yeah!! One thing I love about these compilations is that it the different themes you propose demonstrate how versatile vaporwave is as a genre. People really do put their own spin on the themes and, conceptually, every compilation is fascinating as a result.
Yes, it’s a very flexible genre with so many roots in all forms of music, and that’s perfect, to me.
Where do you get your inspiration for all the different themes?
I think a lot of the ideas come from what vaporwave has already established, and just branching off from that. Takeawave as a capitalist nod to shitty paid jobs by the most richest of fast food chains.
Or in the case of the Spacelounge compilation which my mum came up with, citing the muzak scene but going back beyond the 80s and making it more like vaporwave that could have existed in the 50s.
Available as a digital release at https://hollowaytapes.bandcamp.com/album/spacelounge for paid subscribers of Holloway Tapes.
Of all the the different themes you have run as a part of this project which yielded the most unexpected results?
Hmm, well I really didn’t know what to expect when I pitched HOSPITALGOGIC. I mean, I had a general idea but I couldn’t have really predicted how it turned out. It was so interesting, this cold, strange yet familiar assortment of sounds and music. I think that’s one of the reasons why I do these! Everyone has their own interpretation of an idea or theme. You can ask a room of people to picture a car in their mind and that car will be different for each person. It’s wild how the mind works that way.
So like all good things, it started as a joke with the first one and then you realised the potential of compilations, both to explore the creative potential of vaporwave and as an inclusive approach to releasing music?
More or less. I had already organised a few compilation albums with ΔCID.rar that were theme heavy and joke-ish before Shroomwave, but this one was the first one I designed to be Jcard friendly if it ever got turned into a cassette. After the response was so quick and enthusiastic, I knew I was going to do more of that style.
As far as the Jcard compilations being an inclusive approach Look, in the end if I can help play some small part in helping connect the older players with the newer ones, then I’m happy if takes place in the form of the comp series 🙂 I get to stay involved in ways that feel fun for me, and meet new people along the way.
And was the idea of collaborating with all the different labels as well as artists an important aspect of this goal to connect people together?
It didn’t make sense to me for the series to be all on one label. It didn’t feel inclusive enough. There are just so many old and new labels out there which I keep an eye on, and it seemed like the best time to reach out to some of these labels and expand that network. I think it’s a mutually beneficial thing, and while that’s not why I do it, it certainly helps move things forward.
You said that you have been keeping an eye on different labels but how do you choose which labels to work with?
I think, in part, they will usually be one that I’ve either worked with before and know their attitude to be positive. Or, on the other hand quite frankly, they’re labels that are smaller and still enthusiastic! Haha. That’s by no means a diss to long running or older labels, but there’s a sense of humility you get with fresh heads. They just want to contribute, which in itself is the basis for the compilation series.
I’m interested in the Jcard aesthetic. What is the thinking behind this style?
I just wanted to change things up in terms of what I had done, how I would do it, and what role I’d play. Design wise they are a lot more fun, personally speaking. You get an idea in your head of it being in a case in your hand and that serves to motivate me to make it happen, at least to the point of artistic completion.
The emphasis on physical release with this project is interesting, especially considering the your own label Sunset Grid releases exclusively digital music. As a person with a foot in both camps how do you feel the rapid growth of vaporwave physicals had impacted the scene?
I think it’s great to see some many people out there sharing such extensive and impressive collections for all to see. When the physical is done right, it’s just magic. I always find it so unbelievable to open up a package and see a tape of my stuff or a compilation I’ve curated sitting in my hand. But you have a lot of controversy regarding supposedly official wax releases of famous albums, only to find out that tonnes of people were scammed, or on a more personal note, start wondering if you’ll even get your artist copy when all of a sudden a label goes dark and you’re sitting there wondering why you haven’t been contacted about it, months later.
The only real issue with labels putting out physical releases is people biting off more than they can chew, I think. I wouldn’t dream of doing physicals unless I knew I could honor each and every single one of them. DIY is very personal and pretty grass-rooted which is really cool, but it also means you have less to fall back on if things go south.
And with this current emphasis on tape/floppy/vinyl releases what do you see as the role of digital releases and digital only labels such as yours?
I think our role is and will always be an important staple of the scene. Some live for the physical aspects, in all areas, be that a running gimmick, classic release, and so on. But there’s also the ones that just want a big hard drive full of unknown, new and interesting music. I can see great value in both.Physical only is too exclusive, and digital only isn’t enough for die-hard collectors, but both intrinsically exist with each other.
DMT and Bogus Collective come to mind when I get a little worried that Sunset Grid aren’t giving enough to the listeners. They are cornerstones that have helped us stay true to the digital only format. We’re not going anywhere .
And speaking of vapor trends, in addition to the increase in physicals 2018 seemed like the year of the compilation. This has been very important for producers and labels, especially if people are new to the scene but how do you feel like this trend has been received by listeners (or non-contributing artists)?
I think it is highly appreciated by producers, labels and enthusiasts but yes, as just general listeners, I think it’s still being slept on.
A lot goes into it and I’m not so sure listeners care or are aware of that. Maybe the mixture of producers isn’t consistent enough for some, or maybe it comes down to my wanting to work with newer producers and people aren’t giving them a chance to be heard? I really can’t say for sure, but that won’t stop me from doing them.
Now considering you’ve got a new compilation set to come out any day now. We should probably talk a little bit about Siren. What was your motivation for this latest Siren compilation? Why did you decide to curate a compilation that focuses women and the aesthetic of the female voice?
SIREN actually started in 2015 as a project under my Minus Tyler alias. It probably would have all been produced by me, featuring a different singer on each track. That part at least has carried over to the compilation idea, which exists as it is, now.
As far as the focus on women is concerned, I am a straight white male and I think it’s my responsibility to help break down a lot of old fashioned attitudes towards women. Women need to be heard, respected and given the fullest opportunities. I wanted Siren to be my own way of saying, “This one’s for you, a safe place to express yourself and be acknowledged.”
If you’re not helping, then you’re letting inequality happen and from a privileged place, it’s the bare minimum of what I should do.
Ah, interesting. so this project has had a whole other life before becoming part of the Jcard series. What was the original concept for Sirens going to be? How come you changed direction and transformed it into a compilation?
It probably would have been a lot darker sounding. At the time of it’s conception, I was really into horror scores Akira Yamaoka and down-tempo stuff, so I wanted to go down that path, following from previous music that was similar in sound and atmosphere.
After the initial layout of my plan, it just kind of stagnated. I couldn’t get enough singers interested and I also was dealing with personal strife which slowed down the whole process, and I eventually just put it to rest. My motivation and passion for it completely halted. But then fast forward a couple of years when the Jcard series started, I looked at my wall and saw the original plan for SIREN, and thought that this could be the way this tale finally gets told.
And so b l u e s c r e e n isn’t your only musical outlet. What sort of music do you produce under Minus Tyler? And most importantly is this alias ancient history, or should we be keeping an eye out for future plans?
Minus Tyler (https://minusspades.bandcamp.com) is my rap name, originally, but I also used it for when I made trip/hip hop, beats, dark ambient, anything that existed before I got into vaporwave.
The alias is certainly not dead, just taking an extended vacation. I like where I’m at right now and where I’m naturally headed. Having said that, I do plan on combining the wavey/lofi music I’ve come to love recently with my love for rapping so with some luck and patience, there’ll be some new material out this year, hopefully.
So you are a man of many different talents! Connected to you involvement in different musical communities and getting back to to politics behind the Siren comp I was wondering if you might take a moment to reflect on the issue of inclusivity within the vaporwave community at large. In your opinion, how does it compare the other scenes?
Of all the scenes I’ve been a part of, and it’s a quite a few, I can happily say that the Vapor community is the most open, friendly, inclusive and welcoming, in general. I can’t see myself not being a part of it in some way or another.
Of course, no matter where you go, you’ll get a few bad apples that will try and rule the scene through trolling/bias/gatekeeping and just being generally shitty. In my experience you can call them out but you might as well be arguing with a brick wall. Cognitive dissonance is a crazy powerful thing and these sorts of people will always try to beat you over the head with their experience and drag you down to their level. So I just do what I know I can by being the best person I can be to others. If there is a change to take place, then we need to do it through our actions. That can be applied to everything, not just music.
I’d say 99% of the time, everyone is given a go. By and large, I think a lot of that comes down to the community being open and progressive. We have people suffering from all kinds of mental health issues and diseases, we have a wonderful LGBTQIA representation, people who are fed up or disenfranchised with the state of the world, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s kids, and just about anyone else!
It’s like the scene is this huge schoolyard and the vapor clique is massive and all welcoming. It’s very punk, when i think about it.
Great! Thank you. It’s such a beautiful way to look at the community. And now, to end on a lighter note what is your vision for the Jcard series in 2019?
Alive and kicking! I’ve got themes lined up till July, basically, so I’ll keep on pushing them as long as people want to be involved with it.
Siren will be out very soon on Girly Girl Musik (https://girlygirlmusik.bandcamp.com). And if anyone is interested in getting involved in upcoming Jcard compilation projects you should definitely be following b l u e s c r e e n on either Twitter (https://twitter.com/TylerEllis18) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/bluescreensunset/)
IMAGE CREDIT: Feature/header image couresy of cyber city punk (https://www.instagram.com/cybercitypunk/)