The GTA 5 soundtrack release and my favourite in-game music

Earlier this month, Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto 5 became the first video game to rake in sales worth US $1 billion in the first couple of days of its release. This is also the only title in the GTA franchise to have an original soundtrack, which comes bundled with 2 CDs of licensed music. The album became available for purchase on iTunes earlier this week, and, looking at the list of artists featured, is likely to sell very well.

gta 5

Not that I’m not a fan of GTA, but I think Halo soundtracks deserve the same kind of fandom. Especially the Halo 4 one, which, spanning 2 hours 30 minutes, is undoubtedly one of the most hypnotic, trance-inducing pieces of music I’ve ever heard. I want to cry and laugh and kill someone and fall asleep all at the same time listening to that soundtrack. Which, ironically, is what GTA is all about.

But why stop at Halo? There’re at least 4 other games I can think of whose soundtracks I am a huge fan of, probably more than the games themselves. They’re spread out over a period of 20 years and span widely different genres, but they’re united by one common, binding denominator: they’re all phenomenal works of music.

Here they are:

Bareknuckle (also known as ‘Streets of Rage’): Fans remember the title track from this chiptune masterpiece, composed by Japanese film composer Yuzo Koshiro, as resembling ‘Sadness’ by Enigma. It’s truly miraculous how Koshiro created such subtle varieties with sounds, synths and rhythms in 1990 out of nothing but those wonky chiptune machines. The music is downright funky, dangerously groovy, and has some amazing rhythm syncopations interspersed with deep bass lines and suave chill. It’s safe to say that with this album Koshiro lays the foundation for all contemporary dub, progressive house and psytrance. Maybe not, but it does sound a lot like a mix of all of these.

streets of rage

3 Eyes Boy: Adapted from the popular romance manga of the same name (of which, too, I used to be a big fan), this is, when I think about it now, one of the more tripped out games I’ve owned as a kid. It has naked gypsies running around, meditating monkeys throwing bananas like boomerangs, levitating masks floating left and right, and you as a bald, angry boy shooting arrows from your third eye. And the music – buoyant, bouncy 8-bit melodies looped with screechy, wobbly Skrillex-like sound effects – take the trip to another level. A trip I used to enjoy even as a small kid.

3 eyes boy

Heavenly Sword: The British-Indian musician Nitin Sawhney composed the soundtrack to this 2007 Ninja Theory game, published by Sony Entertainment for the PlayStation 3. Sawhney, a prolific film composer, produces a rousing operatic score of stunning rhythmic intensity. The ethereal far-East flavoured flute and guitar pieces lend a new dimension to the fictional world that the game depicts. The 24 tracks flow into each other seamlessly to create a magical 2-hour listening experience.

heavenly sword

Heavy Rain: This game has a gloomy plotline – a man in search of his lost son comes across a police officer, a detective and a prostitute over a string of rainy days and finds out they’re all somehow involved in his son’s mysterious disappearance. And the music couldn’t complement it better. Composed by the late Normand Corbell (who won a BAFTA for it), the songs are dark, melancholic and emotional, played on a very minimal arrangement of the piano, violins and double bass. In the end when the son is found, the music is so intense the father’s triumph is literally palpable.

heavy rain

So, as I wait for my copy of the GTA 5 soundtrack to download – which, by the way, I’m going to love considering it features music by Tangerine Dream, Neon Indian, Yeasayer and Simple Minds among other artistes – I would like for you to list some of your favourite game soundtracks from over the years.

Music Video of the Week : Justin Timberlake’s ‘Tunnel Vision’

Music :

While this song is not the hit single of JT’s the 20/20 experience album, it definitely stands out as a quality track. It was written and produced by Timberlake, Timbaland, James Fauntleroy, and Jerome Harmon. It features audible content from Timbaland who lent his signature beat-making and beat-boxing skills for the creation of this track.

The instrumental strikes as quite sinister right from the start. It builds off an overdriven vocal sample, what sounds like a vacuous trumpet-like melodic line and a high pitched arpeggio. After a few bars they give into into a bass-heavy beat with clear-cut side stick hits and some of Timbaland’s infamous ad-libs and vocal scratch sounds. On the vocal front JT taps into both his lower and higher vocal ranges throughout and shows he is comfortable in either of the two, adding to the dramatic effect of the song.  His arpeggiated backing vocals echo the layered soundscape created by Timbaland. This indubitably allows them to feed off one another as far as creative techniques and arrangement go.

With regards to the lyrical content, JT talks about this ‘Tunnel Vision’ he has for his love interest, describing his infatuation in almost voyeuristic terms. His writing echoes his previous works in some ways; lyrical themes from ‘Cry Me a River’ or ‘My Love’ appear throughout this track.

Video :

The suave grey texture of the video matches the sinister vibe of the track. JT shows off his sweet moves that he is already quite known for and uses the syncopated beats to the advantage of his choreography. The ‘cool’ factor of the video is Timbaland appearance – or more accurately his mouth – beat-boxing along to the song. The more controversial element of the song comes in then. Timberlake decided to venture in the nude-art territory when he decided to have topless women feature in this music video. Not only are these women topless, but he dances fully clothed alongside them via projector montage. The video had to be taken off Youtube a few hours after its release and re-submitted with a content warning page to filter the traffic to the video. Now this may not be unpleasant to the majority of the male population viewing this video, however it feels a bit ‘déja-vu’ to have a playboy-looking type artist dancing alongside topless models.

Robin Thicke and Pharrell used this concept over the summer to release the video for their song ‘Blurred Lines’. It feels like the video to their song acts more as a sales tool than anything else though. The women casted for the part – very attractive albeit – are more there for show it feels. Thicke played off of the summer vibe and used this as a marketing technique; the ladies are walking around, topless, and randomly-timed hashtag words flash up on the screen in the hopes of brainwashing the audience. This is where JT differentiates his approach. The models are not striking random poses like they’re part of the furniture, they’re supplely dancing with a more ‘artsy’ feel to it. Kaleidoscopic patterns are projected overtop of them all the while and lyrics appear on the backdrop in a blended and non-aggressive, non-promotional way. Once again, the male population watching the video might not be complaining. But unfortunately, because of the length of the track the concept loses impact a good minute or two before the video ends.

Tunnel Vision :

Executive Producer: Jeff Nicholas
Produced by Jonathan Craven and Nathan Scherrer
Directed by Jonathan Craven, Simon McLoughlin and Jeff Nicholas for The Uprising Creative
Director Of Photography: Sing Howe Yam
Editor: Jacqueline London


One-Hit Wonders: Where are they now?

Did you ever wonder what one-hit artists are up to today? Most of the times we find them playing in a dirty old nightclub somewhere, struggling to build on their prior success, or just quietly living off their royalties. But sometimes these overnight stars also take unforeseen career paths, years after they’ve burned out as musicians. Within the next weeks, I will introduce you to some of these former chart-toppers of all different times and we will find out how the years have treated them.

Remember Falco?

Falco, whose real name was Johann (Hans) Hölzel, was born in Austria on February 19, 1957, and in his controversial career as a singer and rapper, he had one worldwide hit in the year 1985: “Rock me Amadeus”. After numerous top positions in the European Charts, it rose to the top ten of the U.S. Billboard charts and finally reached #1 in early 1986, which previously wasn’t achieved by any other german-speaking artist. Overall, the song sold about seven million copies worldwide. Today “Rock me Amadeus” is seen as the first commercially successful rap song of a white rapper.


Coming from Austria, he was the great white hope for us to finally get our music going again, since ironically there wasn’t really much happening since Wolfgang A. Mozart passed away over 200 years ago. Unfortunately the day is still yet to come. For Falco the unexpected success had its downsides, since the bar was set too high, he doubted whether he could ever again build on this success. “Rock Me Amadeus” was so popular that literally no one remembers the follow-up “Vienna Calling”, a catchy song which also hit a respectable #18 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1986. In the 1990s, Falco drew attention only by his heavy alcohol and drug abuse. After struggling getting his life back together, Falco died in February 1998 in a car accident near Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic.

Today Falco and “Rock Me Amadeus” pretty much disappeared from the worldwide scene. Every now and then it appears in parodies and comics as in “Weird Al” Yankovic or The Simpsons. In Austria, he is still seen as the greatest pop star of all times and local newspapers still see him as: “Falco – the Viennese, who saw music heaven”. In the end Falco’s eternal one-hit wonder status seems pretty unfair, given his contribution to European popular music and german Hip-Hop. But that is maybe common fate in terms of one-hit wonders.



Rock Label of the Week is focused on highlighting some of the biggest – or most obscure- labels that you may – or may not – have ever heard of. 

  • Name Of Label: Razor & Tie
  • Founded: 1990.
  • Location: New York, New York
  • Label Type: Independent
  • Distributors: Sony Music, RED Distribution
  • Genre of Focus: Various (more focus on indie/hardcore bands)
  • Current Roster: Chiodos, Norma Jean, Brand New, For The Fallen Dreams, The Pretty Reckless, Kevin Devine, P.O.D.
  • Inactive Roster: The Bongos, The Clarks, The Crimson Armada, Just Surrender, Seven Nations.
  • Website:

Entrepreneurs Cliff Chenfeld and Craig Balsam created Razor & Tie Records in 1990. The label was originally slated to reissue albums for various artists, as well as producing late night television ads. The first big project slated for Razor & Tie would be their 70’s Preservation Society, where they produced compilation albums themed towards the 1970’s. This would later develop into their production of Monster Ballads, Monsters of Rock and – in year 2000 – Kidz Bop. Kidz Bop shot Razor & Tie into success, selling over 12 million copies since it’s beginning and almost always charting at the top when released.

The name Razor & Tie came about when Chenfeld and Balsam were discussing the idea of starting their own label. Both men had been attorneys before settling into their new project, and the pact for the duo is that they would, “never want to wear a tie again, and never wanting to shave unless they really wanted to shave.” These words would reflect itself into their name, Razor & Tie, and even today, some argue that since the inception of rock artists into the roster, the name itself almost sounds inherently “metal.” In an interview with John Franck, Razor & Tie’s marketing director, he even states that he has seen Chenfeld dress very nicely, but has never actually seen him wear a tie. You can hear more of the John Franck interview here.


Goodbye, Razor.

Within the past few years, Razor & Tie has been working, in full force, to expand its rock roster (in the Franck interview noted above, he describes how rock never really goes away, but how the independents are the guys giving the bands a chance while the major labels don’t see rock as profitable). This is very apparent when you are reading any articles online about the label, including it’s most recent signing of The Pretty Reckless. In 2010, Razor & Tie entered a joint venture with Artery Recordings, which has created a juggernaut of hardcore music within the label. Artery began sharing artists with Razor & Tie (such as Chelsea Grin and Vanna), which put them on the map as a rock label within the states (Kidz Bop, while still lucrative, is no longer the only claim to fame!) In a different interview, John Franck taps on the venture between Razor & Tie and Artery Recordings:

“Our relationship with the Artery Foundation/Artery Recordings is a great one and one that will continue to grow with time. The genesis of the deal pre-dates me and the credit goes to Dylan Chenfeld and Eric Rushing who saw the potential to create something together. We’ve quietly sold over 180,000 albums together and I feel like our relationship is just hitting its stride. Will we try to create similar partnerships down the road? Time will tell.” [Razor & Tie Profile]


Chelsea Grin on the cover of Discovered Magazine.

Other than it’s vast roster and business ventures, what really sets Razor & Tie apart from the big guys is that virtually everything is done in house. Not only is the company a record label with a major label distributor (Sony and Red), but they are involved in home video, media buyouts, publishing, marketing, promotions, A&R, etc. [Label Profile] The core values of the company are focused on being completely involved with each artist they are working with, and with all the ventures the label has invested in, it makes sense (from overseeing all Kidz Bop promotion and production to the latest Chiodos album). Any successes and failures fall on the hands of the company, but with the control, it’s an easier pill to swallow.


Norma Jean Stamping Vinyl on R&T Instagram.

If there is one thing to take away from this look inside Razor & Tie, it is that they are firm believers in giving every band a chance. From the big acts to the up-and-comings, the focus is on the music, and how the music can reach its potential. With smaller bands, the focus lies on finding artists that can create their opportunities and write good songs. With the big acts, the focus is on whether the material is there, but also where the bands fan base is. These factors are key, and on a band-to-band basis, the focus is on whether or not the band is ready (something we have explored in our artist manager class here at Berklee).

For this edition of Rock Label of the Week, I would love to leave some wise words on artist management and the music industry from marketing director John Franck. Soak in the glory this man speaks, until our next blog:

“The business has drastically changed over the past decade. The retail account base has dramatically diminished; the way music is consumed and monetized is still constantly evolving. Every signing is different, but the fundamental need to have a healthy/transparent relationship with artist/manager remains the same. As a business, we have to stay rooted in reality. There has to be transparency from the on-set of the relationship, and if everyone’s expectations are clearly defined and re-defined throughout the course of the project it helps move things along. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but I’ve always viewed the relationship between label and manager as a balancing act. That will never change.” [Razor & Tie Profile


Looking for more reading material? Check out my blog Heavy Bass and Breakdowns on WordPress!

International Cassette Store Day

The Saturday before last, September 7, was International Cassette Store Day. It’s when record labels in major cities around the world get together with local music stores and display their collection of old, rare tapes. Like vinyl collectors, there’s also a large bunch of people that collect tapes. While some people are wildly enthusiastic about it, others fear that this regressive trend might end us up back in the Stone Age.

Me… I don’t really much care about the difference in album art quality between tape and vinyl, or the plastic-y feel of cassettes versus the tusk-like smoothness of the vinyl. I’m just a regular person with an iPod that has a 60-hour battery life, which enables him to listen to decent-quality music for a large number of hours. That, right there, makes me happy. There should be a day for that too. Well, there is… they call it ‘every day.’

So, these music stores, back in the day they were everywhere. There was a small one on the ground floor of my apartment building. Most of my collection, the maestros of the era – Boyzone and Michael Learns To Rock – has been acquired from there.

This store, Music Mania, did good business through the 90s, until CDs got affordable and CD players replaced cassette decks. With time, everyone we knew had one… except the owner of Music Mania. He turned out to be a cassette geek and refused to throw tapes out and get CDs. Within a couple of years the store went under and the owner shut shop.

On its last day of operation I went there to have a last browse. They were packing up and putting stuff in boxes. I walked over to the rack that held all my favourite music. The owner came and stood next to me, saying, “Take all the tapes you want. Won’t be needing these anymore.”

I have never left a music store with 48 cassettes. Without having paid for the plastic bag even. The tapes all stuffed into it, I scampered out of there for fear that the guy would change his mind. Luckily he didn’t, but a lot of passers-by sure did give me weird looks.

I went back home, grabbed an old Walkman and threw on one tape after another. My now modest collection sat right by my dad’s, on the cabinet above the TV, perfectly in view for any guest that came in, just as my dad liked it.

That evening, totally unexpectedly, the love of my life sauntered into my living room like a fairy at a half past ten.

This girl, my next-door neighbour, had been my love interest for 5 years running. How exactly I fell in love with her I know not, for it happened sometime during the other 5 years of my life. For a 10 year old, I was precocious in matters of love. And I would prove it to her tonight.

It was her birthday and she had had to spend the entire day at her grandparents’. We’ve all been 10, and a 10-year-old needs a house party with cake and school friends to wind down from a hard day. But she hadn’t got one. It was time to swoop in. I asked her to meet me on the terrace in 10 minutes.

I gathered all my tapes and ran upstairs with my Walkman. She came 30 minutes later, saying her mum had forced her to eat dinner. Then I took her to the edge of the parapet, and we sat down, watching the city skyline in silence. I handed her one end of the earphone and put the other in my ear, and pressed the play button.

“We got a little world of our own, I tell you things that no one else knows,

I let you be where no one else goes, what am I doing without you.”

It was her favourite song of the time, ‘World Of Our Own’ by Westlife. The song ended, and for a moment she didn’t know how to react. Then, smiling – and surprising both herself and me – she leaned forward and gave me a hug. Honestly, I was both ecstatic and crushed. I’d hoped it would be a kiss. But what the hell.

I reached into my bag and put all my cassettes in front of her. I told her about my recent acquisition and that she could have half of it as a gift from me… any 24 she liked. Over the next 10 minutes we sifted through the tapes, and she chose just the ones I liked best.

I wished her a happy birthday and we called it a night. I came back home a happy boy… well, man.

It was the 7th of September, known today as International Cassette Store Day.

And if I were ever to miss tapes, this would be the reason why. 

Artist Matchup of the Week: Vance Joy Vs. WALLA

Artist Matchup is a weekly blog post asking the readers a simple question, out of the 2 artists presented who would you rather sign?  Weekly matchups will consist of indie, signed, unsigned, bands, soloists, basically any kind of artist you can think of.  We all have our own opinions, as do I so I will share mine and I encourage you to share yours.

Now let´s get into this weeks match up…

First is James Keogh a.k.a Vance Joy… I guess Vance sounds more artsy. Anyways, a native of Melbourne, Australia Vance garnered some attention from his song Riptide off his debut EP God Loves You When You´re Dancing.  The song became a success in Australia and resulted in enough attention to land himself a 5 album deal with Atlantic Records.   Check out some of his stuff below.

   If Jeff Buckley and Mumford and Sons had a love child I think that Vance Joy would be the result.   Vance matches his skill of writing with folk influenced melody and instrumentation to create a sound that is very in right now in the wake of success by artists like Passenger, Of Monsters and Men, Mumford and Sons, etc.

The next artist is an independent band called WALLA consisting of 2 Berklee alumnus ( won´t let that cloud my judgement…promise).  Their fans describe them as “indie pop, synth-based, retro-influenced, indie rock, or something along those lines”.  Check out some of their music below.

Though an independent band WALLA has some serious pop sensibilities with some rave influenced beats and rhythms (i.e No Time). Their lyrical content combined with they synth heavy production makes for a really enjoyable listening experience. I do think they could develop a sound more of their own but I see a lot of potential in this group.

These artists are very different and offer different strengths.  If I had to sign one I think I would go with WALLA but not by a lot.  Vance Joy fits the genre of music I love the most but that necessarily isn´t what is going to sell.  Even though he has already garnered some attention in his native home of Australia I´m not sure if he can crack the U.S. especially when artists in similar genres are already starting to crack it (i.e. Passenger).   WALLA for me has a lot of potential I think they have knack for creating really catchy music. With all five different members being from  widespread locations around the world (Mexico/El Salvador, Italy, Indonesia, Brazil, Korea), They manage to create a united sound filled with hooks and likeability.  Vance Joy is already has a direction while WALLA I think has more room to grow and experiment with their sound, which I like.  So WALLA is my choice, but that just my opinion!

Now lets hear from some of you… sound off in the comment section! Till next time!

Return of the Bands..?!


In the VMAs 2013, Justin Timberlake united with N’ Sync and performed some of their hit songs. Backstreet boys, New kids on the Block and New Edition, all these 90s boy bands are doing some sort of reuniting as well. One Direction, ranking more than 50 million dollars gross of their movie and with a million fans all over the world, clear proved that boy band success can still happen. We might not have as many bands as in the 90s today, but One Direction and of course The Wanted are very successful boy bands.

Justin Timberlake & N’SYNC –VMAs 2013

That same night of the VMAs 2013, Danity Kane announced they are reuniting and coming back with a new single ‘RAGE’ produced by the Stereotypes. Stereotypes had also collaborated with them with their biggest hit ‘Damaged’ which was released back in 2008. Danity Kane walked the red carpet together at the VMAs and released their official photo in August on their website to hype it up. The group had broken up due to the tension between the members and the label, which was aired during their reality show ‘Making the Band’ on MTV.

Diddy Breaks Up Danity Kane

Dawn Richard Talks Danity Kane Reunion

Unfortunately, they won’t be returning with all 5 girls: Aundrea, Aubrey, Dawn and Shannon are definitely ready to come back and they are on their own – without Diddy.

Billboard interviews Danity Kane

Danity Kane: I think we are just ready to pick up from where we stopped. Now is the time we grown a lot as women and I think we really missed doing music together….. (introducing their new record ‘Rage’) It’s a live sound, I think you’ve never heard dainty Kane Live, with live guitar, live drum, more of a rock vibe, I think that’s gonna be impressive for us and I think people are going to see the whole new side of us” 

Danity Kane Reunited on the MTV VMAs Red Carpet 2013

We had TLC, Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child when I was growing up. Destiny’s Child did their Super Bowl reunion and released ‘Nuclear’ together; Spice Girls did their London Olympic reunion in 2012 ( their performance was the most tweeted moment of the Olympics with over 116,000 tweets on Twitter per minute); and TLC did a collaboration with J. Cole, but none of these girl groups actually came back OFFICIALLY like Danity Kane just did.

Kelly Rowland, the former Destiny’s Child member once said:
“I want to see girl groups come up and you want to see them, they’re supposed to be better than the last generation and I want to see that happen.”

Are the labels going to start debuting boy bands and girl bands? That would be a big change in the music industry since there are more solo artists these days, especially in the States. (UK got One Direction & Little Mix, Asia is just full of boy bands and girl bands) or perhaps Danity Kane’s return just be a one-time thing like “reminiscing the 90s and the 2000s”.. Personally, I am actually looking forward to see Danity Kane’s change and hear their new song. I will definitely find out in 2 days when they do their performance at the iHeartradio festival 2013!

Danity Kane ‘DAMAGED’ 2008

Hard work, discipline, opportunities seized, and success: Rosa Lagarrigue, the Spanish management Goddess

Rosa’s story is one of amazing success. It is the story of a career path that turned her into Spain’s most important artist manager.


Rosa Lagarrigue

“Hard work and discipline, long term perspective, and innovative goals”


Rosa Lagarrigue was born in 1954 in Chile. At the age of 10 she moved with her family to Madrid, Spain. She was enrolled at the exclusive Liceo Franco School where she met and befriended Miguel Bosé. This was the beginning of a special friendship that would last forever.


Rosa and Bosé would move to London in the early seventies. Rosa wanted to become a dancer while he decided to explore film school. Rosa became a fluent French, English and Italian speaker an attribute that would allow her to live and teach in many countries. While she was living in Israel Bosé called her to make a turning point invitation. He was in desperate need of a choreographer for his movie ¨Rosa, would you help me with my dancers?¨


Rosa would collaborate with Bosé not only as a choreographer, but also eventually as his key artistic assistant. Apart from his film career, Bosé was also a songwriter and singer. Without much experience on the music field, but with a lot of drive, Rosa became Bose´s manager. At the end of the 1970s she managed to organize a very successful three-month tour in Chile. This tour opened the international career of Bose in Latin America, France and Italy.


In 1982 she stopped representing Bose to become an A & R in a record company called HISPAVOX.  She would start her own management company in 1984 when a band of three young unknown artists asked her to represent them. The band was MECANO and her company RLM.  Both would conquer the Spanish speaking market from the 1980s on.


It was the beginning of a successful career that lead MECANO to be the largest seller of records in the history of Spain and RLM the most important management company. She repeated this internationalization pattern many times with several artists like Alejandro Sanz in 1991.


People in the industry express both good and bad things about her. For instance, it is well known that she controls her artists excessively and only allows them to collaborate with other artists she manages. In an interview she said the following about the artists that represents:


“An artist must have ambition, charisma and be industrious because it is this which pulls the cart. I have seen many talents dilute because they were not persistent (…) I just help them fulfill their dreams.”


Currently she remains RLM ‘s CEO despite of the fact that PRISA GROUP (a big shark of the entertainment business) acquired a percentage of its shares a few years ago. RLM manages more than 20 international well-known artists including Ana Torroja, Paloma San Basilio and Mala Rodriguez. Because of her trajectory Rosa was recently awarded with the ” Silver Medal of Work” by the Spanish government.


It is very interesting to see how a woman who had no background on the artist management field, developed her vision and talent to achieve big success in a wide variety of musical projects. Thanks to her vision she has been able to build a solid network, challenging a world that was dominated until then by men. The thing that surprises me is that without having prior knowledge she was able to seize the opportunities that were presented in her life and with hard work and discipline she created a company that has been the leader of its field for more than 25 years.



ROCK LABEL OF THE WEEK: Equal Vision Records


Rock Label of the Week is focused on highlighting some of the biggest – or most obscure- labels that you may – or may not – have ever heard of. 

  • Name Of Label: Equal Vision Records
  • Founded: Early 1990’s
  • Location: Albany, NY.
  • Label Type: Independent
  • Distributors: RED Distribution
  • Genre of Focus: Post-Hardcore/Popcore
  • Current Roster: A Lot Like Birds, Eisley, Saves The Day, The Dear Hunter, We Came As Romans, etc.
  • Inactive Roster: Alexisonfire, Chiodos, Circa Survive, Coheed and Cambria, Portugal. The Man, The Fall Of Troy.
  • Website: 

As a scene kid of the millennium, I always found that my heart began at Equal Vision Records, which is why my first blog begins there too. Created in 1992 by Ray Cappo (Vocalist for bands Youth Of Today, Shelter, Better Than A Thousand), Equal Vision’s original purpose was to distribute music for Cappo’s band, Shelter. Shelter was unique in that they identified as a Hare Krishna hardcore band, and because of this, Cappo distributed other Krishna music through Equal Vision [About Equal Vision]. Cappo’s Krishna background also shaped the name and logo of his new record label, as described in an interview by current label owner Steve Reddy;

“Equal Vision was initially created because Shelter wanted to put out their own records. The name came from a verse spoken by Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita. The logo is a picture of Krishna that a Hare Krishna artist had lying around, unused in her portfolio. Ray Cappo, the singer of Shelter and founder of Equal Vision, liked it and asked her if we could use it and she agreed. We used the logo for all of our Krishna-core bands, but when I signed Shift—our first non-Krishna band on the label—we switched to just the “e v r” letters as a logo. We wanted to make a differentiation so kids knew Equal Vision wasn’t just an all-Krishna-core roster. We did it that way for a couple of years, but after the Krishna-core stuff faded away, we decided to go back to [our original] logo for all releases. The Krishna logo still means a lot to me today, and I’ve always preferred how it looked over just the letters.” [Behind The Logo’s Interview]


Equal Vision Logo.

In 1991, Reddy purchased Equal Vision from Ray Cappo, and from that moment on the label opened itself up to become a broader, hardcore label. It also meant relocation – while Equal Vision started up in New York City, it was moved to Albany, NY once Reddy took over. By the end of the 1990’s, the roster for Equal Vision (then known as EVR) had doubled. Within the Equal Vision building, bands were having their music produced and marketed right in house, while the merchandise portion of the website dedicates itself to sales on clothing, accessories, and album sales.

shelves of shirts at MerchNow-thumb-525x348-10106

MerchNow Warehouse.

On top of Equal Vision Records, Reddy and his wife Kate also created MerchNow, a merchandising company with a focus on band apparel to be sold on the online store, as well as on tour (from individual tours with bands on their roster to festivals like the Vans Warped Tour). The company holds the values of the Hare Krishna attitude, providing full health care benefits and a lunch program that hosts locally grown food to their employees. Not only does MerchNow sell band apparel for the roster of Equal Vision, you can find band apparel from bands not included in the “Equal Vision Family”. [Merch Now Interview]

Equal Vision Records has connected itself to numerous business ventures within the past few years. A sub-label, Mantralogy, created by Kate Reddy, was designed to support and promote yogic musicians in the way Equal Vision supports their hardcore roster (some artists on Mantralogy’s roster include The Mayapuris, Prema Hara, and Gauri Vani &As Kindred Spirits). Other ventures include two imprint labels off of Equal Vision: Max Bemis of Say Anything created Rory Records and Casey Crescenzo of The Dear Hunter created Cave & Canary Goods.

We Came As Romans on EVR Instagram

We Came As Romans on EVR Instagram.

Through it all, more than anything, Equal Vision has dedicated itself to living moment to moment. The focus is on the music, and making sure this music reaches the public. The label is very active online (from Instagram posts to numerous Tweets daily) and the focus is less on making money as it is connecting the artists to the fans. While it seems unimaginable, that’s the Krishna way, and from Ray Cappo’s beginnings to the label today, they haven’t lost sight of their core values. Looking at their extensive roster, it shows that these values have found a spot in the hearts of the bands as well. Equal Vision has a business model that has worked, and will continue to flourish if they stick to their guns.


Check out more music on the Equal Vision Records Youtube Channel!

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