This month we spoke with Ghostly International founder, Sam Valenti
IV in an effort to get a stronger sense of why the label was created
and what they have instore. Aside from maybe Plug Research, their
aren’t a whole lot of labels like Ghostly in the U.S. and they seem
to offer a glimpse of what could be possible from the next generation
of stateside labels. Perhaps the strongest element of Ghostly is
the diversity found in it’s artists. From the experimental work
of Tadd Mullinix, Midwest Product who merge indie-rock and electronics,
Italian disco of the Disco Nouveau compilation, tech-house from
Matthew Dear, or the digitally hammered and reconstructed hip-hop
vibe of Dabyre, Ghostly has it all. The other element that draws
listeners in is the visual imagery associated with the label. You
would think that after the incredible visual work and logos that
Factory records gave us back in the day, that more labels would
of taken a hint or two. Ghostly has done so and with the work of
illustrator Michael Segal and his Look Group as well as other talented
artists like Kristian Russell, they’ve created exceptional imagery
to complement the work of the their roster.
How did Ghostly come about and what inspired you to start it?
Ghostly International was a loose collage of ideas that was brewing
for quite a few years in my mind but came to fruition once I hit
college. I DJ'ed under the name, Spaceghost in High School and was
in love with Hip-Hop music since my early teens. When I started
to escape the genre constrictions of some of my peers, I begin to
listen to a lot of electronic music and I knew that I wanted to
start a label that had an element of magic and romance, or what
I believed were lacking in the a lot of the music coming out. This
desire, coupled with a failed relationship and a chance meeting
with our first artist, Matthew Dear, was reason enough to start
A lot of labels, especially in the electronic
scene, tend to stick with specific genres. Why isn't Ghostly doing
I secretly wish I could stick to one genre, but I realize that
this would be a betrayal of my initial desire to start a label in
the first place, to put forth a broad spectrum of music which has
an emotive and personal quality. There is no superior genre for
me, it is merely a factor of circumstance and environment. The
desire to elevate electronic music is what is integral to Ghostly,
whether in a stylistic assemblage or in raw form. I started a sub-label,
Spectral Sound to devote to dancefloor music, though there is considerable
bleed across the two labels in terms of style.
Can you tell us more about the visual element
of the label? It seems to be pretty important.
The visual element is very important, but doesn’t supercede the
music. It is more about a maintaining a best fit scenario and really
trying to distill the concepts into a recognizable shape, image
or icon. I don’t work with one artist/photographer or designer exclusively.
It is much more enjoyable and challenging to have to find the right
people for the job to make the music tangible and so far, the results
have been rewarding, though sometimes daunting. Once I get my mind
set on something, be it a font or an image, it is hard to shake.
Why did you want to do an electro compilation like "Disco
Disco Nouveau is about a moment in time, hence its position as
the first of the Tangent series. I was becoming increasingly obsessed
with Italian Disco and related music thanks to my peers, and wanted
to capture the majestic nature of these songs in a very conceptual
project. It came together quite naturally because it was meant
to happen and I truly believe I was catching a stretch of history
which was bigger than me and obviously has swept this industry as
What do you think of the much hyped 'Electroclash' scene here
in New York?
As far as Electroclash goes, I am not too interested in the name
as I think it stands for one promoter1s take on the genre. I quite
like Larry Tee and have found him to be affable and charming and
I think his name for the genre has swallowed up a lot of things
outside its influence. What you are looking at in this Electro
boom, is many artists and their individual take on a style of music.
The vision is much more diverse and differentiated if you look at
it closely. There's the aims of guys like DJ Hell or Larry, and
there is the individual artists, like Michigan’s Adult., Ectomorph
and Perspects, who have been making proper electro for years and
are now being name checked alongside a variety of artists who goals
for the music couldn’t be further from theirs. Its all very interesting.
How did you come in contact with the artists on the label?
The artists on the label, a majority of whom are currently in Ann
Arbor, were introduced to me or I met in various situations. Matthew
Dear, I already mentioned was a chance meeting during my welcome
week at college. Tadd Mullinix, I met at a record store and he gave
me a demo of techno, the other side of which, was some of the music
that would become Winking Makes a Face. Midwest Product was a demo
that was passed through a few friends to me and Dykehouse I had
met with Tadd right after Mike was accepted to the first DEMF. Its
an incestuous town. It is always a great rush to meet a new person
who is doing their own thing and I count these meetings as some
of my favorite elements of running the label.
How has the Ghostly International tour been
for you? Anything in particular experience stuck in your mind?
The Idol Tryouts 2002 tour was an immensely eye opening experience
on a number levels. No one knew what to expect with each city and
that was the exciting part. I also enjoyed seeing who killed on
any given night. Some nights, people couldn’t get enough of Dykehouse
and found him hysterical, other nights people booed him and threw
things at him. It was great. Dabyre, who was the headliner of the
tour, had some nights where people just wanted to kick back and
enjoy it. Other nights he had people, namely girls, going crazy. It
was like product testing but it was also a great excuse to take
a road trip.
In your opinion, what do you think of the music being released
out of the U.S. right now?
It’s hard to sum up the merits of and the grievances against an
entire nation's music. I quite like a lot of chart music this year
and believe that we have a failing economy to thank for this. Popular
Hip-Hop production has hit new heights, and I also like a lot of
radio pop too. As far as independent music goes, its great that
there is a resurgence in rock music and an emphasis on new bands,
irrespective of any derivative accusations. I think that the fact
that electronic music and rock music is taking bed with each other
is incredibly important because these two scenes need more cross-pollination
in order to come up with something new. I think the US will see
a new breed of a scene, in the continuation of labeled scenes such
as punks, indie kids, ravers, hip-hop kids, etc. that will be young
people who are raised on headphone and laptop culture but also go
out to see shows. Maybe he/she will take drugs or maybe it1s a clean-living
thing, but they will cherish being part of a new movement which
will crave community but with an industrial sheen and a love of
the abstract. Computer music and all its sub-sanctions and hybrids
will become the music of young America.
Future releases/ plans from Ghostly?
I am very very pleased with our current roster which includes some
new faces. Our next full length, Idol Tryouts: Ghostly International
Vol. I, is a round-up of the Ghostly family and features new tracks
from this incredible bunch. We just released Midwest Product’s
debut Specifics and on deck is a new album from Tadd Mullinix and
Matthew Dear plus debut Ghostly releases from the already legendary
Dykehouse and a duo from Chicago who is taking electro somewhere
dark and unexpected. Its going to be a blast.
GI-14 Various Artists - Disco Nouveau Remnants 12" Coming
GI-13 Various Artists - Idol Tryouts CD Coming Soon
GI-12 Dabrye - Payback 12" Coming Soon
GI-11 Tadd Mullinix - Panes CD Coming Soon
GI-10 Midwest Product - Specifics CD
GI-9 Charles Manier - Bang Bang Lover 12"
GI-8 Tangent 2002: Disco Nouveau 12" C
GI-7 Tangent 2002: Disco Nouveau 12" B
GI-6 Tangent 2002: Disco Nouveau 12" A
GI-5 Tangent 2002: Disco Nouveau CD (2nd Printing - Digipak)
GI-5 Tangent 2002: Disco Nouveau CD (Limited Edition Book) SOLD
GI-3 Dabrye - ONE/THREE CD AND SELECTIONS 12"
GI-2 James Cotton - Mind Your Manners 12"
GI-1 Tadd Mullinix - Winking Makes A Face CD
GHS-001Matthew Dear / Daisha -Hands Up for Detroit 12"
SPC-5 Various Artists -”State of the Union" EP Coming September
SPC-4 Osborne / DMX Krew "Bout Ready to Jak" / "I
Won't Forget" Coming August 2002
SPC-3 Matthew Dear/John Selway "Stealing Moves" 12"
SPC-2 Kenneth Graham " 12" + Bryan Zentz Reconstruction
SPC-1 Matthew Dear "Irreparably Dented" 12" + David