Vaporwave netlabel, DMT Tapes has been releasing music in prolific proportions since 2014. A careful balance between releases from pillars of the genre and newcomers, DMT has amassed a discography both impressive, and formidable to preside over. We caught up with label boss, Vito at his Port Richey, Florida compound, to discuss Vaporwave is Alive 2, a digital festival where DMT released a different vaporwave album every day for the entire month of July.
The DMT Tapes compound is housed in an unassuming mid century split level home on a beautiful twenty acre property, approached by a long winding driveway lined with palm trees and hedges trimmed in the shapes of dolphins, tigers, and flamingos. An arched wooden doorway opens into a long hall lit by blue neon lights and lined with Greek busts on pedestals.
At the end of the hall is a large white room filled with floor-to-ceiling posters of DMT cover art. In the center of the room is a massive multi-screen display for an array of computers. In this ring of technology, seated thoughtfully on a hand-shaped throne is Vito, DMT Kingpin. After exchanging pleasantries and handing me a florescent drink in a martini glass, Vito, clad in a white polyester suit and a neon green necktie, adjusts his sunglasses and casually glances at the myriad of monitors behind him.
HM: "An album release every day for an entire month. What an insane idea! What made you decide to do this?"
V:" The truth is? I never was a huge fan of albums where artists contribute one track each. It’s just a giant list of names and one-off tracks that are disconnected. Some releases like this are totally cool… but for myself, and for a DMT album? I just wasn’t feeling too inspired.
in order to let you know about this event, I have to tell you some of the origins of the idea with the first time we did it in January 2016. The idea hit me as an inebriated hunch in early October of 2015, shortly after beginning the launch of our 2nd season, DMT[REC]. What if instead of doing one giant album with our favorite artists releasing one song each… why not inflate the idea up to insane proportions, and give each artist an entire album to work on? Instead of a 31-track album with 31 artists, a 31-artist month with an individual day going to the artist instead of just a mere track.
This is roughly the inspiration for the whole project. All in all, that event was one of the funnest things I’d ever did, and I told myself I would do it again if this label thing continued on for me.
[Vito reaches down to pet a purple and green striped tiger that has entered the room. It saunters to a low chaise lounge in the corner and curls up on it for a nap.]
HM: “There is certainly a wide range of artists who showcased their work in this event, including yourself. Did you find it difficult to be creative with your own projects, when coordinating such a large undertaking?”
Awesome question, thank you. The funny thing about it is, I made a specific discovery during the VIA2 planning period. Namely, that I indeed became supercharged at personal creative pursuits when tasked specifically with the only challenge of difficulty faced all event long. On the last day of the IndieGoGo, I was faced with this: “We only made 84% of our crowdfund, so I’ll have to make some of the releases myself. Probably 8 to be safe, in order to still pay out every artist a $20 like I’d hoped” This is because the final disbursement was around $480 after additional IGG garnishing, totaling out to 23 artists and leaving 8 vacant days. My normally anxious self felt emboldened by the challenge, and right away, all these album ideas I’d written down but never fully committed to (some from recent, some dating all the way back to 2015 and earliest label days) started coming forward. I didn’t feel like the event was ruined at all due to not meeting the exact goal amount, as it had both freed me up to create several long-forlorn experimental releases & forced me to do it all in a timeframe I don’t think I’d ever worked in before. My normal self was, this year, working at a pace of about 3 albums a month until this event. Nearly tripling that output this month didn’t feel stressful at all. Thought that was pretty nifty
HM: I’m sure you receive a good deal of submissions. How did you decide who to include in VIA2?
VIA1 & 2 were both pretty different in this regard! Back during season 2, we actually had a policy that all releases came from approaching the artists rather than having an open line for submissions. It was mostly a combination of recontacting preexisting DMT-FL artists (mostly all met through PM on either Reddit or Soundcloud in 2015) and discovering new acts that sounded like they fit our general motif. Back then, the name recognition for DMT-FL was still not as strong and I had to do a lot more personal introductions as to what we’re all about. Luckily, for VIA2, enough people have heard of the first event and of DMT Tapes FL that I actually received nearly an entire month’s worth of submissions before the crowdfund had even made its first milestone. It’s very rare to have to chase anybody down anymore, I’m happy to say. I also encourage people to let me know straight-up if it’s not for them, so that there isn’t that situation of an artist being too nice to say no or something similar messing with the event’s pacing. Both events, I tried to have two deadlines on both the 31st of the month before the event (Jun 30th this time), and then a secondary deadline a week before any final release. Last year, we ALMOST had an artist let us down, but luckily we got their music in at just the nick of time. I decided this year that anybody who couldn’t meet that would get bumped to August by default, and then if they were suddenly ready in July after all, they’d take a slot of my own and my own release would get the August bump. This way of setting it up helped me safeguard that there won’t be a sudden day of no release. That was my biggest biggest fear when we did VIA1!
[Vito rises, and beckons me to walk with him to a large wooden doorway. As we approach it, it swings open and we pass through it into a beautiful courtyard. The focal point of this circular area, paved with flagstones, is a large fountain, featuring a Greek statue of a one-armed goddess holding an Amiga II computer. ]
HM: Is the title ‘Vaporwave is Alive’ a direct response to the popular ‘Vaporwave is Dead’ meme that has been circling the interwebs for a while now?
I really find the Vaporwave is Dead/Alive/Undead meme to be one of the most interesting meta-attributes of this genre scene. On one hand, you have the fact that it was actually declared dead before anybody had even heard of it! I could be getting my facts wrong (I googled to try and confirm but the results are a little inconclusive), but I think the word vaporwave was first coined in 2011, and it was already declared dead in 2012! Meanwhile, chillwave ended up being the genre that died an unfortunate death into obscurity as the early ‘10s became the mid-, and it was at that time that vaporwave proved itself by resurging for the first time in 2013.
I consider the two major catalysts of “vaporwave’s undeadening” to be the rise of Luxury Elite (both musically and labelwise with her opening of Fortune 500, which lasted all 2013 long and closed Jan 2014 right as Dream Catalogue was opening) AND the opening of Business Casual in that same springtime of 2013. The netlabel medium had officially crash landed into the vaporwave scene, and so the next series of its popularity led up to the first time I personally saw it declared dead in 2015. I actually remember even getting a tad riled up the first time I saw it. “Dead!? But there’s more music and musicians here now than EVER before. How is that possible?”
I definitely sought the circumventive title of Vaporwave is Alive out of reference to the fact that the genre had already resurrected, fallen, and risen once more. Funnily enough, vaporwave has been declared dead in mid-2016, parts of 2017, and of course at least once in current year. Nowadays I see the more memetic sense of it, when there were digital soothsayer types in 2015 who were actually trying to declare the sound to be over & participation dwindling. I’ve noticed over the years a typical (yet understandably recurrent) happening of a major player moving on taste-wise or inspiration-wise and declaring their interest in the genre to be dead. Deep down, I think that’s what’s happening more than anything: the magic might morph into something else to certain listeners, and the ‘dead’ effect may be the individual’s observation that the honeymoon phase they’ve had within a scene is over. Yes I really think the constant rebirth attribute to vwave has actually in some ways safeguarded its staying power. Though more than anything, its ease-of-entry to new producers and monstrously giant catalog of releases across the genre are the two biggest factors that keep Vaporwave alive and kickin
HM: Whats the quintessential vaporwave album for you?
Rose Quartz! released in the first week of 2013 by Luxury Elite, I consider this to be one of the most classic releases both in objective style and in terms of personal influence. I listened to the album for the first time on a drive to Orlando in April 2014, on my way to go see one of my best friends, Danielle (who has become my fiancee to this day.) This album embodies the artistic prowess that comes with sample curation and homogenized production, and how each track doesn't sound like a separate song from a separate artist but like they were all concocted by the same person in the same studio. That's what I love about vaporwave so much: you'd never guess that tons of artists/songs/albums were used in the creation of a single work, if the artist knows what they're doing.
HM: The name of your label ‘DMT Tapes’ confuses me, since I cannot find any of your tapes for sale. Where are the tapes?
The name! I'll give you the full & specific history. So first... we’ve never had a physical release and I don’t have any interest in bringing a business/customer service/sales infrastructure to my life. I really just am not that type unfortunately (I’d be a lot more savvy at virtually everything maybe if I had such aptitude). The ‘tapes’ is intended to be the verb, e.g. “He tapes his vacations in Florida every summertime.” The idea is that DMT Tapes FL is actually a full sentence, ‘Dimethyltryptamine Tapes Florida.’ During the year I formed the label (2014), I’d been particularly interested in the metaphysics of the psychedelic neurotransmitter DMT and one of the more interesting pieces of speculative fiction I wrote (purely for fictitious entertainment; I’ve always wanted to be a novelist or short story writer) postulated that DMT was either ‘the consciousness molecule’ or ‘the nostalgia molecule’. A short story about DMT being the molecule that keeps a person ‘on’, and a series of short stories about a group of Floridians across the state who were all affected one way or another by nostalgia or psychoactive experience in their everyday consciousness. The stories would eventually weave together, and… that’s about it. My attempt to sum up a synopsis for my story came out as ‘DMT Tapes FL’, with the mental image of an anthropomorphic DMT molecule holding a video camera while pointing it at Florida. I never physically had that image made up, but some artsy form of it would be my ideal commission if I ever do get this story up and running one day. I’d really like to, since the synopsis attempt for this hypothetical story ended up being my label name. I chose to name the label after it because of how intensely the idea of nostalgia and psychoactive consciousness is to the vaporwave genre (which I had been interested in for only 1 year at that point when starting the label up). The name just felt right. and still always does :)
The Vaporwave Is Alive 2 Releases: