Cameron Reed's Slow Release is Shifting the Way Record Labels Work
Arts & Crafts' label manager explains the mantra behind his new label and the return of music persona Babe Rainbow.
Photo by Amy Wood
Cameron Reed wears many hats—both in the figurative and literal sense. (He does literally have an impressive hat collection.) First, there’s his day job as the marketing and label manager for the Toronto-based Arts & Crafts, where he helps operate Canada’s most successful independent record label, overseeing acts like Broken Social Scene, Hayden, Feist, Tobias Jesso Jr. and, most recently, avant-pianist Jean-Michel Blais, who Reed scooped for the roster. Then there is his own experimental/electronic/pop label, Slow Release, which he founded last August and runs in his free time. And of course, to many, Reed is best known as an electronic musician under his own name but also Babe Rainbow. Over the past six years he has released music for labels such as Warp, 1080p, INgrooves and Kinky Beggar, not to mention Slow Release.
This tireless work ethic of Reed’s first started when he was growing up in Vancouver. There he was an integral player in the DIY music scenes, not only performing in bands like Hot Loins and Basketball, but also in organizing festivals such as Music Waste and the Victory Square Block Party. On top of all that, he also toured as the pianist for indie R&B act How To Dress Well, launched a hilarious Twitter account under the name Doritos Ontario and—full disclosure—wrote a column on Canadian politics for Vice. Reed has just released his brand new Babe Rainbow single, “(Can’t) Fly Away,” and filled Noisey in on everything there is to know about Slow Release.
NOISEY: First things first: My name is Cameron and your name is Cameron. I don’t know many other Camerons. So as a fellow Cameron, how many Camerons do you know personally?
Cameron Reed: As a child, a younger Cameron lived on my street. I was designated by the neighbourhood as “Big Cameron” and he was “Little Cameron.” Today, I have two good friends in Vancouver named Cameron. We once placed third in a three-on-three basketball tournament together.
Your boutique label Slow Release has been around for about a year now. What can you tell me about the artists currently on the roster?
The first three signings to Slow Release have been dd elle, who makes minimalist new age electronic pop; LA timpa, who does dark, narco dream-pop; and me, Babe Rainbow, which is experimental electronic.
Are there any labels that have inspired the way you run Slow Release?
Oh plenty, but I’d have to highlight True Panther and Acéphale first and foremost. Their ability to curate and sign groundbreaking acts across different genres while maintaining their label’s sense of identity is very inspiring. I think what GODMODE is doing right now is really incredible, too.
Babe Rainbow blanket - Photo via Instagram
You’ve said the idea behind the name of the label is to release music "slowly and in small doses.” How much of that philosophy is based on some labels releasing quantity over quality?
It’s more about my own capacity to devote time to creating music and nurturing others. I want to make everything I work on a priority and that’s impossible with a heavy release schedule. It’s also maybe a response to our culture’s insatiable appetite for #content.
All of your releases have been digital. Do you see the label putting out physical copies at some point?
There are plans to start releasing physical product when the project is right. Aleem Khan’s new album will be issued on cassette, and we’ll be releasing a dd elle 12” soon. I do like the freedom of digital releases, and I try to have a tactile object be a part of digital releases. The pin we made with Valley Cruise for dd elle, for instance. Or the Babe Rainbow blanket.
If you don't mind me asking, how many throw blankets did you manage to sell? I thought $175 for an original piece of blanket as nice as that was pretty reasonable.
I was able to sell one throw blanket. I’d say it was a success.
What do you look for in an artist or a project when it comes to releasing music on the label?
I think I’m interested in artists with a lot of personality. Every song leaves an indelible impression of its author; something that only they could make. I’m interested in experimentation and naivety when it results in a hypnotic quality. I think this could be any style of music, really.
How does your role at A&C help you with Slow Release?
I’ve learned a great deal about the industry over the years wearing various hats: promoter, festival director, artist, touring musician, marketing manager, publicist, and writer. The industry is always changing so you’re always forced to learn. And there is no one way to release and promote music. I think music that is honest and pushes boundaries will always naturally find an audience.
Tell about some of the upcoming projects Slow Release will be working on…
This year I’m going to start working with two incredible artists from Canada: Aleem Khan, a musician/composer from Calgary making baroque jazz-pop, and JIIN, a Toronto-based singer/producer making hazy, R&B-informed electronic pop.
I really enjoyed your ambient album, Music For 1 Piano, 2 Pianos, & More Pianos. Do you plan to continue making ambient music like this? And can I suggest a sequel called Music For 1 Pan Flute, 2 Pan Flutes, & More Pan Flutes? (I really like the pan flute.)
That’s a great idea. I definitely plan to follow that release with something. Right now I’m working on a weird dancehall mixtape using only samples from new age, ambient, and minimalist tracks.
So you’re a label manager, label owner, musician, former Vice columnist, political activist, concert promoter/organizer, and dog owner. Am I forgetting anything?
I can also play the hell out of NBA2K on Playstation. I’m just trying to stay busy until the darkness takes me.
You have this new Babe Rainbow single out now. What can you tell us about it?
It’s a bright, airy new age IDM track for the springtime. It’s ambient music for the changing seasons.
Finally, will your old Vancouver punk band Hot Loins reunite?
Unlikely, but I highly recommend everyone hunt down a cassette on Discogs because those will be worth a lot one day.
Cam Lindsay is a writer from Toronto. Follow him on Twitter.