An Interview with Chris & Indy of Tiger Blood Tapes

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Tiger Blood Tapes are one of the new(ish) kids on the block when it comes to Vaporwave, but over the last few years, they have really come into their own, and grown to be one of the better labels out there for your Vapor-related vinyl and cassette needs. Sure, it’s true that there are a lot of labels out there doing what Chris and Indy (the founders) do, but they’re really doing a fantastic job and are slowly but surely setting themselves apart from the rest. Today, I’ve got both the masterminds behind Tiger Blood Tapes with us today. Both Chris and Indy are really cool and hardworking people, and I was happy to get to know them a bit better. If you’d like to learn more about Tiger Blood Tapes as a label, you can head over to their Bandcamp here. Once you’ve done that, give this interview a read. Enjoy.

Andrew:
Chris & Indy, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Tell us about your back story. How did you get into music? What was your musical gateway so to speak?

Chris:
Thank you for having us! We are flattered. For me, music has always been a big part of my life since toddler years. I remember scratching up my parents’ records trying to DJ for them and being told, “Don’t touch that” (tape deck on the component stereo system). A couple years later, I figured out how to make mix tapes off the record player. I got a Fisher Price record player of my own for a Christmas gift one year in the mid 80s. I was a vinyl and tape addict from that point on!

Indy:
Pleasure to be speaking with you! Oh gosh, it’s been a long twisty winding journey between genres and styles, Pop to Punk, Electronic to Metal, Hip-Hop to general World Music, but the main pull, thinking back, had to be the brilliant scores of video game soundtracks. They were what provided me with the pallet and interest for unique instrumentation – with such freedom in musical arrangement combined with emotional storytelling, video game music truly opened my eyes at a young age. I owe it all to that in a way.

Andrew:
Over the last few years or so, you’ve released a lot of incredible music under the up and coming label, Tiger Blood Tapes, which has a focus on Vaporwave. How did Tiger Blood Tapes get started? What’s the origin of the name?

Chris:
Born in late 2016; contemporary Internet nostalgia was the mandate behind the project, in a nutshell. I always enjoyed the idea of having a name matching a logo, and vice versa, and here was the perfect chance to do it.

Indy:
We like to let the name speak for itself, where the meaning is subjective and inferred in the hearts and minds of our incredible listeners. Birthed out of the genius mind of Chris a few years back after wanting to curate a more refined approach to instrumental music curation.

Andrew:
In my opinion, all of the releases from Tiger Blood Tapes are done right. You’ve got a growing roster of artists. You press well. You package well, and you ship well. Where do you press your records? Where there any experiences you had that influenced your decision to pursue the level of quality you have today?

Chris:
We tried to keep it local and for the most part have used the services of duplication.ca and yokai.ca. Yes, quality was often a concern from seeing how lousy the dubbing and printing on some earlier vaporwave tapes was – wishing it was better. Wanting to up the ante of quality standards. Bring back the feeling there was when you’d buy a tape from a record store back in the 90s or from a merch table at a show. It led to wanting to industrialize the genre a bit further (just in terms of physical album manufacturing). Being able to put a decent piece of merch in a buyer’s hands that would stand the test of time – that someone would be proud to own and show off in their collection.

Indy:
Great question! Quality control started with Chris. We want to do right by these incredible albums and ensure the vinyl pressing does justice to the source material. We’ve experimented with a few options and are actually in the process of trying another option as well. There are quite a few non-surface level variables that go into pressing vinyl that not all may realize, especially during a pandemic with industry disruption etc.

Andrew:
Two of the biggest issues in the Vaporwave community are FOMO and scalpers. These releases are all so limited, and the prices get insane in the aftermarket. What I love about Tiger Blood Tapes, is that you make all the albums people want readily available, and at fair prices to boot. Was there always a conscious effort to try and thwart the scalpers?

Chris:
As any form of art grows in popularity, it’s inevitable to have speculators/scalpers enter the arena. People are free to sell their belongings how they want to – we have no reason to want to thwart them. It’s more an effort to make sure the music is available when new listeners discover it. I found personally it’s a downer when you just heard an album you instantly fall in love with and really would like to buy and it’s long sold out and no one in sight is even listing it.

Indy:
Nailed it! Chris’ mastermind at work again. Part of this ethos comes from Chris’ other instrumental labels, where over time, he came to decide that breathing longevity into these releases is the most important part of it. I do note that the sense of scarcity adds a sort of charm to the physical releases, but at the end of the day, to us, we’d rather put the album in front of more people’s eyes – whether that be making them available at physical record stores and the like, or making sure that newcomers to the community have a chance to get their hands on them. Not everyone was able to discover Vaporwave during the golden age 😉 We really like what VILL4IN is doing for example releasing the classic BLUDHONEY albums to vinyl with several unique iterations and variants for each.

Andrew:
As you probably know, quality control is an issue throughout the vinyl industry. I’ve personally purchased several records through Tiger Blood Tapes, and the quality is always top-notch. Furthermore, you guys always make it right 100% of the time if there is a rare issue. What are your thoughts on quality control in the industry today, and what’s your QC process like?

Indy:
We are flattered you say that! Though we definitely can’t claim there haven’t been some bumps and mistakes along the way, I think part of it comes down to how much you actually care and empathize with the musician that has bestowed their material upon you. Yes, the music is of critical importance, but even more so is the musician. Right now, especially with vinyl (and not just limited to the Vaporwave scene) and its explosion of a resurgence, with so much coming out so quickly (you mentioned FOMO), customers are often quick to overlook the critical information in what went into their vinyl pressing. What source is being printed to vinyl? Who was the mastering engineer? This information is often not sought out in Vaporwave. Our customers know and trust in our products. We understand the importance here and want to eliminate that as a variable altogether. Check out my podcast episode with Too Many Records out on UtopiaDistrict.com for a deep dive into that sort of discussion!

Andrew:
Shifting gears here, is there anything within the industry that you would like to see change for the better? What improvements would you like to see that you feel would be beneficial to us all within the vinyl community, and music community in general?

Chris:
With the pandemic and how it’s changed the world this past year out of the equation, I’d say more brick and mortar record stores. I grew up seeing record stores in malls as well as independent ones scattered throughout cities. They were a gathering spot for music lovers, fans and artists alike. Many stores would even moonlight as a venue for live shows. Regardless of what people say, that sense of community cannot be reached online. (With the exception of Vaporwave as the genre started online and did the opposite where it became physical reality, other genres of music did the inverse and went online more over time). I want to see record stores and live shows come back everywhere around the world. Music would benefit more from it in every aspect.

Indy:
This is a Hail Mary, but vinyl shipping and packaging. I’ll never understand how postal services can call a delivery a success when the shipped item completely changes shape by the time it is delivered. A problem I am powerless to solve that affects so many music fans and customers, even ours at times – though we try our very best to compensate.

Andrew:
Vaporwave is a hard genre to pin down. It’s everchanging, but people always like to put things into boxes. What are your thoughts on that, and on the idea of genres in general?

Chris:
We are open to all sorts of instrumental music on the label whichever way that may twist or turn things. The underlying theme of the label is that the music is instrumental. Beyond that, call it what you want to when it comes to genres. Things always splinter and evolve as more people indulge in an artform.

Indy:
These questions are fire! Personally, I understand the need for people to classify things. For me, it started as an obsession and need for having all of my music organized and labeled properly on my computer. As it goes with downloading music, you can quickly and easily end up with a lot of it, so the organizational need only grows further. As far as microgenre semantics within the Vaporwave community go, that’s a different story – as you say, Vaporwave is everchanging, so I actually prefer to not call it a genre, but instead, a methodology. An approach and thought process when creating whatever art you are making. After all, you don’t see ‘genre’ when you’re looking through /r/VaporwaveAesthetics and /r/VaporwaveArt – you see Vaporwave.

Andrew:
Vaporwave has existed in digital forms for a long time. What do you think of the rising wave of support for vapor-vinyl over the last few years?

Chris:
It’s wonderful to see that happening. Anytime music is pressed to vinyl, it legitimizes and validates it more into general acceptance. As for Vaporwave, to see it on wax is a testament to it being more than just an “internet thing.”

Indy:
It’s fantastic! Putting these classic and incredible records onto wax is a method of solidifying the music into history and time. Vinyl takes quite a while to wear down and degrade, and with the nature of Vaporwave comes albums that close to vanish from the internet. Taken down for one reason or another (legality, change of heart, disagreements), and more and more relying on DRM streaming services, vinyl is one of the best ways to make the music into an everlasting product.

Andrew:
The way I discovered Vaporwave was mostly through Bandcamp and Reddit. What are your thoughts on the importance of both Bandcamp and Reddit for Vaporwave, and Indie music in general?

Chris:
Bandcamp is kind of where DIY independent music lives now on the internet. It’s alive and well on there no doubt. It has partially filled the void for the declining number of brick and mortar record stores the past 2 decades. Shout out to all record stores that remain and allow physical music formats to thrive worldwide. Personally, I am not that familiar with the Reddit platform. Facebook and Twitter are definitely important outlets for Vaporwave though.

Indy:
Bandcamp is discerningly instrumental to both the growth and uniqueness of Vaporwave (and let’s not forget Future Funk), for multiple reasons. Firstly, Bandcamp’s email system is extremely powerful, allowing not just artists, but labels too, to have a direct connection with their audience. Soundcloud for example is excellent for developing your own curation of music based on who you “follow.” However, their email system is not very robust, and requires you read your notifications from their website directly, instead of within your email inbox. When it comes to music labels specifically, the importance of Bandcamp is unprecedented. This is the first time in history where labels can spin up their own merch stores and start selling physical products, all for free. Not only do we owe Bandcamp for the platform they have provided, but we wouldn’t have so many incredible Vaporwave labels if it weren’t for what they’ve done. Many labels and even artists would not exist otherwise. Reddit on the other hand is a much more complicated beast. Yes, it can be beneficial, no doubt about that, but I find it more of a “luck of the draw” situation based on whichever gatekeepers are around to downvote and squash the posts. That, and then it seems the majority of people browsing the subreddit don’t have their thumb on the pulse of the actual Vaporwave community. Taking a more surface level approach. This creates a somewhat tragic and disheartening environment that enables disenfranchising of what could, should, and has been in the past, an equal playing field. So, it really depends on what year you ask me, regarding Reddit’s influence and importance. I expect Reddit is a “better” experience for other subgenres than Vaporwave.

Andrew:
Another interesting development in the Vaporwave community has been the sudden resurgence of cassettes. Did you see that coming?

Chris:
Personally I never really got out of cassettes in the 90s. Into the 2000s, record stores in Canada kept getting less and less tape-friendly and only started to stock CDs. I went for continuing to collect albums that were only on tape. Vaporwave for the most part was a genre where the majority of the early physical releases were like that. The genre has always been predominantly tape-based, if there were even physical formats available at all. As for physical releases of Vaporwave albums, the general expectation is that it will be a tape first before anything else. It goes hand in hand with celebration of 80s and 90s nostalgia much of the music invokes.

Indy:
Although I wouldn’t call the interest in cassettes sudden, especially in Vaporwave, I do think Vaporwave was instrumental in pushing the level of polish that a cassette tape can offer, from LED printing with triple-panel double-sided j-cards, to incredibly unique artistic design; they transcend from being music on a particular medium to being works of art each in their own. Check out Geometric Lullaby or Underwater Computing as an example.

Andrew:
You’ve got some cool releases for sure. The George release really appealed to me as a Seinfeld fan, and the Dragonball Wave albums are outstanding as well. Recently, we’ve also seen you work with bigger artists such as Waterfront Dining, and Cat System Corp. You guys seem to be growing. What has that been like?

Indy:
It’s been nice to get back into the swing of things and start re-increasing the rate at which we can put these albums we love so much out. Certainly always fun working with such talented individuals and being able to offer a product to the fans and our customers we know we put a lot of thought and care into. However, we quite also enjoy developing new relationships with up and coming/aspiring artists if the fit is right. We just released Virtual Vacation by new Future Funk artist Cherry Condos, and are very excited to see what that will lead to. We also release a decent amount of Vaporwave on our sister label Legendary Entertainment, where we offer more wiggle room for experimentation.

Andrew:
This might be an obvious question, but are you into vinyl? Tapes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? If so, what are some albums that mean the most to you? Where do you like to shop for music?

Chris:
As you can see from some of my previous answers- absolutely! I’m into all the formats you mentioned, including digital. I prefer to support physical music formats over digital always. I feel digital should be a byproduct of purchasing a physical format. It is convenient for enjoying music on cell phones and for storage, but is easily lost when devices are changed or hard drives die. Plus, I don’t like how when the screen’s off the listener doesn’t see the packaging and designs that went into producing that record you should be holding. The art stimulates more senses and gets its point across better by having a tangible product available. A special record to me is the copy of Dub Specialist – Roots Dub I inherited from my parents’ vinyl collection. I have a very diverse collection of music on vinyl, tape and CD that there are too many to mention here. I like to shop at these record stores: The Dupe Shop (RIP), Sonic Boom (Toronto), Invisible City Records (Toronto), Play De Record (Toronto), Dead Dog Records (Toronto), Disk Union (Shibuya), IITight (Shibuya), Fresh Air (Sapporo), Rough Trade (Brooklyn). Online: Bandcamp, Fat Beats, HHV.de, VinDig, Bleep, Juno, Amdiscs.

Indy:
Certainly an avid collector and lover of physicals, have been since I was young. Funny story, whenever I would buy a CD as a kid, I’d immediately rip the music to my computer, then sticky-tac the actual CD and art booklet to a massive music art mural on my wall. So a big draw for me has always been the art, and being able to see it and touch it in a tangible sense. I don’t really recommend doing that though – maybe get a nice picture frame for it, but I can’t tell you how many CDs I ruined by trying to present them on my wall. Haha. Currently, I have a feeling I’m trying to recreate my childhood by re-buying the gems over years, and going wax instead of CD. Tapes are great, with over 1,500 Vaporwave tapes alone, it’s certainly a large hobby of mine. Floppy’s are also great, we need more floppy love. Giggity.

Andrew:
It’s been a crazy year. Once COVID-19 dies down, what’s next for Tiger Blood Tapes in the future?

Indy:
Keeping this steam engine a’ runnin’! We have some very exciting releases planned and cannot wait to be able to share them with everyone. We’re also currently working on our next batch of Tiger Blood Hot Sauce! New website in the works, and we just put out our latest batch of merch now as well! Enamel pins, embroidered high-end dad hats and baseball caps <3. We do hope the insanity of COVID-19 slows down soon, so people can start feeling comfortable traveling again and going to shows and festivals. Music thrives best when it’s live and in person with your best Vapor-friends, and there are so many amazing people, fans, and customers to meet.

Andrew:
Last question. You’ve always embraced the DIY approach to music and your label(s). What advice do you have for anyone trying to get their start?

Chris:
Make sure you’re passionate about whatever you’re releasing, to the point where you’ll stand behind it and put energy into making it become reality.

Indy:
Expanding off something the wonderfully brilliant Dot Starkey (Lost Angles) once said, is one approach could be to carve out something unique within the community for yourself, your own channel, with distinguished offerings that poke people’s intrigue. Maybe ask yourself why you want to make a label, and, especially during development, constantly hone in on your root thesis of “why?”

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, USA, Andrew has always loved writing, music, drumming and collecting music on CD, tape and vinyl. After losing his life-long vinyl collection in 2014, Andrew began his vinyl collection from scratch again when he met his future wife Angela in 2015. Andrew’s love of music only further blossomed as his collection spanned all genres possible. After amassing over 3,000 albums in under two years, he knew it was time to finally follow his dream of being a music journalist, and thus, Vinyl Writer was born.

Andrew’s not only the go-to friend for music trivia, but his intricate knowledge of the ins and outs of the music industry allows him to develop engaging questions that really tap into each artist and individual to deliver insightful and enjoyable interviews. He’s proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict, for fellow music addicts.

Andrew lives on Long Island, NY, with his wife Angela and their four cats, Oliver, Patrick, Charlie and Kevin. Andrew’s collection of over 4,700 vinyl albums, plus several hundred tapes and CDs, tells the story of his passion for all that is music. Andrew works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer website by night. Andrew is also the admin of several Facebook groups dedicated to music.

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