Michael Rathbun (a.k.a. Distal), although still young, has amassed quite the back catalog including releases on labels such as Tectonic, Grizzly, and Fortified Audio. Rathburn created his highly conceptual Anarchostar label towards the end of 2014, which has since released his full-length album Retrograde Space Opera, along with Silkie's latest album, Fractuals. Both releases turned out to be a massive success and the thorough, complementary, and futuristic aesthetic and sound of these two albums have set a precedent for the intricate imprint. Each release reveals new information about the fictional planet known as The Anarchostar with a highly stylized comic and music videos. You can watch the music video for the Silkie track "Love Affair," created by Simon Landrein, in the player below.
Most recently, Anarchostar dropped its latest release from DJ Vague (a.k.a Helix), whose 12" Restoring Nature tells the tale of a technocratic government and the drones they use to rule over the planet's population. You can read the comic by visiting the Anachostar website here and watch the mechanical and intense music video for the EP cut "Freakout" below.
XLR8R had a quick chat with Distal to learn more about his motivation behind the label, its fascinating aesthetic, and what's next to land on the Anachorstar.
When did you first know you wanted to start your own music label? What was the motivation behind that decision?
The motivation for the Anarchostar is both creative and utilitarian. Creatively, just like in the second wave of dub-step between 2007 and 2009, there’s still a nice cross-over between multiple genres that can work in the same environment together. I’ve always admired labels like Hyperdub that are able to be eclectic, but still hone in on a particular sound somehow. Even in these first three releases of Anarchostar, you'll be able to take a step back from each release individually and say “they all sound a little different, but this all works together really well.” Also, I just love storytelling, comics, and illustrative artwork. I really wanted to create something I could have fun producing along the way.
Utilitarian purposes for the label arise from the overall saturation of the digital marketplace right now. Some of these distribution factories (I like to call them that) are all about quantity over quality, and it's just creating confusion. One and two year old labels already having over 50-100 releases is just gross to me. What does the shelf/dancefloor life of a release look like when there’s one coming out 10 days after it? Also, these guys indirectly hurt other artists and people in the industry by undercutting everyone’s worth. They want to be able to do it all and not spend a penny. Where’s the love? I wanted Anarchostar to be a harsh reaction to that idea. I take my time with each release so I can provide the highest quality products to the fans. Things will undoubtedly speed up here in the next year as we get in a rhythm, but I really don’t envision more than four to five releases a year, ever.
Can you tell us a little more about the idea behind the comic and the label's overall futuristic, space-age aesthetic? How much of a role did you play in crafting it, and what brought about the idea to base your label around a fictional place?
There’s a larger story and world at play within the Anarchostar. Each release will reveal more about the world, whether it be an actual part of the story, a piece of technology, a news story etc. This allows me to world build and be a nerd along the way. It’s going to get quite creative here very soon. I’m also quite anti-authoritarian in my beliefs so, for me, this was also a way to be able to express some of these ideas creatively and not literally. You can also follow the story for each release on the website with the small webcomic we put out. Hoping to get some of those printed up in the future in a collected volume of some sort.
I thought of the idea on the way to the comic shop with one of my good friends a couple of years back. I was thinking, you know we run to the shop every Wednesday to pick up our books to read the next chapter of something amazing—and we do the same for music. Why not mix these two things? Can’t a record label have the same appeal as a comic book? As far as the aesthetic, I’ve just always been drawn to science fiction. Anything is possible with science fiction, and it just gives you so much creative license. I think that's why I’ve always loved it. The Anarchostar's biggest influence visually has been Moebius, and the storytelling of Alejandro Jodorwosky. To those reading this I urge you to run and get a copy of "The Incal." It changed my life.
What's up next on Anarchostar?
At the moment, we’re working on a virtual reality project using Google Cardboard, which will be for our next release. Hoping to have that up and running by years end.