Kscope have been releasing the very best of the new wave of progressive music for five years now. The label, which put out its first release with No-Man’s ‘Schoolyard Ghosts’ on 12th May 2008, is a division of Snapper Music and has seen its profile rise with extraordinary speed over the last couple of years in particular. A rise in commercial success for Steven Wilson can largely be credited for the transformation, alongside the signings of Amplifier, Anathema and Ulver amongst others. To celebrate the label’s anniversary we’ve spoken to the label's Johnny Wilks and picked out five of the essential releases in the label’s back catalogue...
When did the formation of a label first come into your thoughts? How difficult was it to originally get things going?
We had always discussed it from the early Porcupine Tree days but Snapper Music was running a slightly different model at the time with a large DVD catalogue and its own rostered frontline artists. Our MD Fred Jude came on board in 2005 and we started to focus more on the new label alongside sister label Peaceville.
Never easy but there was a lot of enthusiasm and the timing was right not just with the new signings but the media in Europe as more bands were embracing the genre.
What do you think is behind the resurgence of “progressive” music in recent years?
I think the interpretation has changed in some circles and bands such as Muse or Radiohead have been giving the genre good press. Bands have been re-establishing the movement’s original desire to experiment with eclectic musical sources and sonic possibilities in order to produce something meaningful in the here and now. I feel that there is less snobbery within musical genres and music fans are open to new music.
One of the best things about the label for me is that it showcases the fact that there are lots of different aspects to the progressive scene. It’s not just a load of bands with one sound. Having said that, is there a point at which you would draw the line as a label? Would you release an experimental techno record, for example?
There are parameters for us today but they may change tomorrow.
We are all about experimental – I would never rule out an experimental techno record!
The quality of physical releases from Kscope is outstanding, and there are always plenty of options available as well. How important is it to you that fans can get exactly the release format they want?
We certainly hold high standards especially when it comes to physical product (CD/ Vinyl)
We support traditional retailers and spend a lot of time and effort in creating physical packages for the fans. The industry has changed without a doubt but there is a market for CD & vinyl and they deserve quality packaging.
Has there been any one release in the label’s history which, for you, equates to a turning point?
Probably ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’. The label had really got going and we were working with Engineers, Gazpacho & Steven Wilson when they delivered the record. I really felt we were establishing ourselves as a label.
The shows to celebrate the five years of Kscope so far take place in London next month. What can you say about them to tempt any readers who may be unsure about their attendance?
You’ll see the brilliant Anathema in a small venue, a one of show with Bruce Soord & Jonas Renkse playing their acclaimed (Guardian best of albums of the year so far) album ‘Wisdom Of Crowds’ and one of the best live bands around Amplifier. Plus Mothlite (listen to Something In The Sky – pop genius) on stage with a lion’s head (yes) and the Zane Lowe championed North Atlantic Oscillation (yes Radio 1 played the post progressive sounds).
As Kscope continues to develop and grow, what are your plans for the future? Where do you think the label will be five years from now?
2nights at the O2… We just want to keep championing the genre and entice more people to discover the sounds.
Finally, I’m sure you have more releases in the pipeline in the immediate future. What should we look out for in the coming months?
Working on the new Ulver album ‘Messe’ due in September, Swedish band Katatonia have reworked their latest studio album for Kscope (the band are signed to sister label Peaceville) & Anathema have a concert film coming soon. We also have Steven Wilson playing the Royal Albert Hall in October.
Five Essential Kscope Releases
No-Man - ‘Schoolyard Ghosts’ (2008)
(((o))): As gracefully haunting as one would expect, but also containing No-Man’s most ambitious musical arrangements to date.
KS: A great partnership with Tim Bowness’ gentle vocals - listen to ‘Wherever There Is Light’
Anathema - ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’ (2010)
(((o))): In which Anathema finally complete their transformation from the world of doom and gloom to something more hopeful and upbeat, but no less poignant.
KS: Danny Cavanagh came in and said ‘listen to this - no talking just listening’. I listened and smiled
The Pineapple Thief - ‘Someone Here is Missing’ (2010)
(((o))): The band’s finest release to date, shaking off the Porcupine Tree comparisons and diving full-length into emotionally charged art rock.
KS: Our art designer gave it to the late great Storm Thorgerson and boldly said ‘ listen to this, you should design the cover for this record’ – he came back the next day (and agreed).
Ulver - ‘Wars of the Roses’ (2011)
(((o))): The Norwegian legends captured at their most accessible, and yet also their most playfully experimental; possibly the most sonically fascinating release in the Kscope catalogue.
KS: Always loved Ulver – expect the unexpected. They were a band on our wish list when we started the label and Nosound’s favourite band.
Steven Wilson - ‘Grace for Drowning’ (2011)
(((o))): The moment when Wilson’s progressive rock influences merge perfectly with his more forward-thinking experimental leanings and even pop leanings. An undeniable classic of the modern “post-progressive” era.
KS: The Porcupine Tree frontman followed Insurgentes with this double album. Postcard, Raider II – brilliant. I actually heard it for the first time when in New York when Porcupine Tree were playing Radio City (I always remember the first listens).