Illuminated Paths “Everyone needs a release… not everything is lost through time.”

Illuminated Paths is that shattering skyline of city, mountain, and beach-sunset that only continues to take shape every other moment. And instead of even counting how many releases Illuminated Paths has this year (thus far: The Octopus Project, AFRIKA PSEUDOBRUITISMUS , YlangYlang, Topaz Gang, Jerk Circuit, PolyGlove, Lithium Enchantment, etc.), aside from its discography (including: Saint Pepsi, Lux Elite, Miami Vice, Alien in Wonderland, Treasure Hunt, The Innernettes, DIY PYЯΛMID, Siddiq, 회사AUTO , etc.), Ima just tell y’all the Bandcamp is akin to a Scrooge McDuck dive into a jungle of MP3s.

Just to ruin the first bit of the interview because introductions suck and tell half the feature: Originally, Wes Ables began Illuminated Paths back in the summer of 2012 and shared the label with his releases as Public Spreads The News. Joshua Rogers then gripped ownership in light of keeping up with and producing more albums for the label’s lineage, and this is the head I got with TWICE over the phone to grill on the path. Illuminated Paths, that is, and as he also works under the guise Broken Machine Films, doing video work, mixing, and showcasing, I got down to some nitty gritty while he shed light on all angles.


I’m very curious of your label, Illuminated Paths. And I’ve been in contact with a lot different musicians and projects that have gone through Illuminated Paths. But where did you (as the label owner) being in “professional” music work?

Back in high school, for sure. I had this band called Grey Area that was horrible.

Killer name, though.

Yeah, I know. But it was spun out between a Zeppelin and Manson phase. This was in Orlando, Fla., having had spent the first 10 years of my life in West Virginia. And I’ve really been in Fla. since.

I can definitely detect an accent.

Ahhh, I try to hide it. Especially when I go up north, even though, a lot of times down here, people tell me I’ve a northern accent.

How did you get started in the biz?

Hip-hop is where I got my start, having worked for Fighting Records previously in Orlando. A buddy of mine was working there and gave me a chance to do some video work for Astronautalis, Bloom., etc. And having realized through Grey Area, and generally figuring out at an early age: I can’t play music for shit. So doing video work for bands was the next best thing to get close to the professional field, while promoting stuff I like. Over the years, having done video work for bands, I’ve collected various equipments like 8mm reel-to-reels or old VHS players, and found I could extract some really wonderful audio samples from them. So for about 12 to 14 years, I’ve been building a folder of audio snippets that open up from time to time and put a slow beat to something or ambiance to another. Although, reconfiguration is as creative I get with audio, and I typically put that stuff out as Broken Machine Films Presents… which has been released by Sic Sic and No Problema.

So Broken Machine Files started way before you making music or putting it out as Illuminated Paths?

Broken Machine Films started with a childhood friend of mine Dylan Marchetti, who now owns Amplified Pictures, an international film distribution company. Around 2000-01, we moved up to Brooklyn, N.Y., and I was there a couple of years, on-and-off, until I started Full Sail in Florida. School there was more like a business, 24-hour intense editing sessions, etc. It got pretty rough. Though, in the mean time, I’ve hundreds of videos made, hundreds-and-hundreds of (un)released live acts; I could probably open up my own store of all these bootleg, downtown Orlando music scene videos.

But when we started Broken Machine Films in New York, the first thing we did was the video “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan,” by Dntel (The Postal Service’s Jimmy Tamborello), featuring vocals from Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab For Cutie). And I had always been a fan of Tamborello, so we approached him during a show of his in Brooklyn around 2002, and asked if we could do the video. He agreed, it got a lot of airplay, traveled with it to a lot of short-film stuff in New York.

This opportunity also landed me a job working on major motion pictures like Maid in Manhattan. I distinctly remember setting up a Waldorf Astoria suite for J Lo, and believe it or not, she’s actually quite a nice lady. So, mad respect to her. But I wasn’t made in Manhattan. Living in New York wasn’t really my thing, so I moved back down to Florida.

Did you grip a job after that?

Well, in my mid-to-late 20s, I decided I’d never work a day job again. From the age of 15, that’s all I had ever done — pizza delivery, pharmaceutical delivery. When I moved back, I began working for NASA on-and-off for six years, shooting every Kennedy Flight Center cape launch between 2004 and 2010. Civilians can’t be within 10 miles of the launch. Most press can’t get within five miles. I got in for three. They actually let me go all over that property. Even when there was time-off, I’d go down there to get my head-right. Just take a drive down this long road, close to where they filmed I Dream of Genie; there’s this section where they’d let astronauts stay in NASA-owned 60s bungalows on the beach.

I landed that job through luck because the people who hired me were Irish, and I had fiery red hair — now it’s more brown/grey, which I’d rather look like Doc Brown than anything. More specifically, the people who hired me were the Irish liaison to the Ireland version of NASA called, FAS. They would ship kids over here to learn economics and business and technology from the U.S., which is mostly what I filmed involving NASA, and then FAS would send it back to Ireland as a promotional video for more kids to come over to the U.S. to study. So payment was under the table, and suckled the government tit for a minute.

If it’s not that original, but see potential in work I find, I’ll sort of coach the artist by guiding some of their decisions and encourage them to make it their own, rather than pushing buttons, or just holding a note down for 15 minutes. Anyone can fall asleep at their Casio. Any child… like, you need to show people you’re MORE than just the instrument.

Did you start up Illuminated Paths around the time you left this position?

I did not begin Illuminated Paths. I believe it began with my pal (Public Spreads The News), and Jared (of Dwyane Swayde), both of which have releases on the label. And it started up around 2009/2010, but are both currently living in Nashville, working on some smaller project. Neither were really doing anything with the label. They only had 10 releases. He wasn’t charging for digital downloads. Everything was free. And Wes was the one really managing it, but was sort of abandoning it for his budding shoe empire, with an idea of opening up a plethora of shoe stores.

At this point, I’d say I’m the owner of the label. He called me up one day with a problem, told me the shoe empire was going well, but he had no time to devote to Illuminated Paths. So he figured because I run the production company Broken Machine Films, he thought I could run the label. Since then, I took it over, we didn’t speak for awhile, found a niche in putting out music I found and enjoyed that needed a home, and this is where we are now.

When did you and Ables come into contact with one another?

I approached him a few years earlier than Illuminated Path’s inception to do video work. Really, the way I began Broken Machine Films was to approach bands, and this is exactly how we met. Actually, that’s untrue. We met online first, as I was a fan of his Public Spreads the News stuff, liked the style, and he was good with me doing videos, though he was doing videos with other people too. We had deep talks about aesthetics and pointers on managing music, going on tour, etc.

What marked the first release you put out, solely, without help from Ables?

Well, all our releases are “out of sequence,” but mine technically goes back to IP030. Though, off the top of my head, I’ve no idea which is the correct release and my office right now is where my lady sleeps, so we both gotta get on the clean-up.

Whoa, you did a Stange Mountain tape? I did a review of that cat’s Exo tape from this year.

Marcel Thee is awesome. He’s a very nice guy. I don’t know I hooked up with him. A lot of these artists hook up with me. Even since MySpace days, people send me demos and I’ll listen and give them pointers; I guess they just think because I’ve been in the music business for so long I have some sort of knowledge to impart upon them. At this point, I go through about 10-20 GBs of music listening.

How do you acquire music?

Typically, Bandcamp. I also use trusted sites to download free music, and if I like what it is, I’ll go to their respective “home page” and pay a couple bucks toward something. I feel kinda guilty because I use these free sites, but it a way they’re extremely beneficial for both parties in the long-run. Through these sites, it helps me discover unheard music, and bring it to a different platform of what these musicians are used to, or exactly something they’re looking for in a label.

Are you ever thinking of branching out from the more sample-/electronic-driven stylings of music?

I really haven’t been a fan of being lumped in the vaporwave category for the past few years. I can’t remember if it was Fader or Dummy or Stereogum, but someone dubbed us as the king-label of vaporwave, and since then, it’s been a “main genre” now. Then a lot of people began asking me, ‘What is a vaporwave?’ Now, I didn’t coin the term, but for me, vaporwave is if you were to take any sample from the 50s to 80s new wave, and then contort its speed or original sonic functionality. But generally just the sound of being in a memory cave. Or something that’s been kicked around the beach for ages. A left in the sun kind of sound. And since I’d been going around to thrift stores for cassette tapes, and considering this is sort of the main-stay genre Illuminated Paths began with, especially really messed up and warped-out looking tapes, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to join.

Some of the artists we have use pseudonyms intentionally because they are much more popular elsewhere in the music world and want to keep separate projects private, and more sacred. This isn’t encouraged through Illuminated Paths, but definitely appreciated.

Yeah, we got a haunted Dolly Parton tape…

Is that what YOU call ‘em?

Not ALL of my warped tapes, only the unintentional ones. What’s your dubbing process?

I use a 15-teir cassette recording system on a daisy train on tapes I find at thrift stores or online — typically Maxwell or Sony — that have already been recorded upon. And nothing that’s been mass produced with bands or labels or companies marked on them. This is how I try to sustain that vintage, warbled sound without having to wait 20 years. Then while their dubbing, I’ll print out the artwork and start up website work, eventually listing them for 6 bucks a pop. And I get orders from all over…. like Latvia.

Real quick, do you typically allow musicians to run the aesthetic of their releases?

It usually depends on what they want to do. If they want help, then we’ll help. If they have an idea, then it’s fine. Some of the artists we have use pseudonyms intentionally because they are much more popular elsewhere in the music world and want to keep separate projects private, and more sacred. This isn’t encouraged through Illuminated Paths, but definitely appreciated.

Shit, Latvia? You’ve a pretty international list of musicians, though…

Yeah, Erik (AFRIKA PSEUDOBRUITISMUS) is from Spain. The Innernettes is from Brazil. Strange Mountain is from Indonesia, who speaks English very well, and is a deeply educated dude. Dang, every other release Illuminated Paths puts out is practically international. I listen to so much music and talk to so many musicians that it’s hard to pin-point it all, but that’s pretty irresponsible. I gotta start listing their country/destinations at the bottom of their Bandcamps.

How did you land Octopus Project on the label this year?

Sheer luck and tenacity. A close friend of mine runs Amplify Productions and they were looking to do a promo-only cassette for their film release Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter. The Octopus Project just so happened to have created the score. I have met The Octopus Project a few times in the past. Even had the pleasure of recording them live a couple names. Very nice people.

How do YOU usually approach a musician?

Just kissing their ass. Typing out a long email about their releases. And I only prefer email because it’s easier to organize. I’m still not into Facebook. But the ass-kissing is important. As well is the respect, but they are two different entities.

Outside (the majority) of musicians you release on cassette, do you see a common connection between all the musicians’ work through Illuminated Paths?

If it’s different. Or innovative. If I can see the album they send me (whether sophomoric or veteran) beholds a sound that strikes me particularly original — beyond the bleeps and bloops, or just a single tone — I’ll go with my gut and release it. So, my gut is the common connection. If it’s not that original, but see potential in work I find, I’ll sort of coach the artist by guiding some of their decisions and encourage them to make it their own, rather than pushing buttons, or just holding a note down for 15 minutes. Anyone can fall asleep at their Casio. Any child… like, you need to show people you’re MORE than just the instrument.

I really haven’t been a fan of being lumped in the vaporwave category for the past few years… Someone dubbed us as the king-label of vaporwave, and since then, it’s been a ‘main genre’ now. Then a lot of people began asking me, ‘What is a vaporwave?’

I’m not making any money on this. Any money made through Broken Machine Films or Illuminated Paths goes right back into the label: tape stock, ink, internet fees. I’m sitting here in PJ pants I wore throughout today’s work, and I love what I do. Being able to offer this platform (without taking rights to their music) is a blessing to me. I want them to do better, and be on large labels, so Illuminated Paths tries to create this platform.

How do you see this “different” sound in More Unnoticed Works?.?.?. Volume One? Just as an example of how you SEE music…

Very eclectic hip-hop, recorded in your mom’s basement, with a reel-to-reel. It’s all sampled based. I really enjoy their stuff because it’s like if someone threw a drum kit in a gorilla cage, and just let it go. The recorded it through some Casio and made completely unpredictable. I love that.

Do you feel there are any peers of yours providing the same platform in the music world?

Columbia House.

[Laughs]

Everyone was scheming Columbia House back in the day. We’d have piles of cassettes and order forms just everywhere. It went deep. But really, Ailanthus Recordings. Or labels like that, like Memory 36. Although, I don’t “subscribe” to these labels, as I listen to all sorts of mediums and websites. It’s hard to pinpoint where my inspiration to listen to music stems from, but when I become focused, it doesn’t need to be pinpointed through description, but by-way of music.

Like Ryan Broughman’s Flying into Myself, who has sound pitches varying and flipping; this guy is really strange and eclectic, as most of that album was written on a specific paper stock, and it’s all double printed, but because of this off-the-wall presentation, I wanted to hear more about his story, which is exactly the reason I put it out. And it’s nothing you can bump down the street in your car comfortably, but I like the mindset he’s coming from. That’s the sort of mindset I want people to hear.

Yo, that’s EXACTLY the kinda mind-set you bump in your whip when stuck in N.Y. traffic, though.

I do NOT miss living in New York. But I didn’t have a car.

That’s me in 10 years!

Well…

So how do you locate all these musicians in a sea/ocean/tsunami of Internet?

I mean, obviously none of Illuminated Paths is copyrighted, so that’s fair game [laughs]. But I want that to happen more in the music world: people just being down to release a bunch of music they think is cool. And I’ve noticed in the past few years — as well as you have, I’m sure — there are a LOT of cassette tape labels popping up. But none of them STAND OUT. I see ones that release 10 punk tapes or a dozen retro-house, like…

The reason I put out music is to help people literally (and double-mean) “release.” It’s a release for the musician. It’s a release for others to be inspired by the musician’s “release” and to find a “release” of their own through music. Inspired sounds, almost. It seems like labels are just popping out cassettes because it’s hot/cool now. This is a larger reason I want to go out and buy used cassettes to format the releases on. Unlike Van Gogh’s work, I’m trying to get people recognized while they’re currently alive.

When Wes began the label, it was a straight digital download Bandcamp. I wanted to bring back that warm cassette sound. I want people to feel it. There needs to be a release that’s not drained of emotion. It’s like playing in trees opposed to video games.

Outside of the thrift/internet hunt for mixed/used tapes, where do you see the Illuminated Paths conceptually grasping their “on-cassette” concept? Considering you do digital AND tape sales…

I’d prefer to sell everything on cassette. And the sound doesn’t transfer to digital, as I don’t copy from the tape, and all the digitals are straight from the artist. I don’t do any mixing for our artists, but I do mixing for the release going to tape, so I can find that sound I’m looking to emulate AND use on a reel. Then I run it through a daisy-chain of other blank, used cassettes, eventually dropping it onto a master. So it’s really the process creation people are getting when buying a cassette. This is my life process.

How about your DVD game on Illuminated Paths?

Well, we’ve put out two DVDs. Actually, three DVDs. We just released AFRIKA PSEUDOBRUITISMUS’ PYRAMID MEDITATION “REDO,” which is two long tracks paired with this meditative VHS from India.

I feel kinda guilty because I use these free sites, but it a way they’re extremely beneficial for both parties in the long-run. Through these sites, it helps me discover unheard music, and bring it to a different platform of what these musicians are used to, or exactly something they’re looking for in a label.

Has he been the most eccentric and/or positively unusual person on the label?

Oh, definitely. He’s unfortunately in a very uncommitted and audience-lacked area of Spain that is not supportive of his music. And the dude could benefit from being medicated, but all his music would be completely different if he were on something or if he moved away from secluded-scene Spain. Like Trent Reznor’s Downward Spiral, which there-after marked the end of his drug days. Erik is exactly on this cusp under the AFRIKA PSEUDOBRUITISMUS moniker. But I’m definitely not encouraging people to go out and have a health drug habit. Nor do I know if Erik is involved in that sort of diet, either. Music is his release. Everyone needs a release. Whether it’s a jog or needle in the vein.

How’s work been with DIY PYЯΛMID?

He’s very cool and is quite the creative character and very much in his world of creation. Love his style.

What about your work with Myles of Treasure Hunt?

He’s another very creative and constructive individual. his new label is also quite unique. Doens’t get enough press, however. Looking forward to more things on IP by Mr. Myles.

Is Wes coming out with anything soon?

Actually, just today he sent me his new EP entitled Newport Pleasures.

Such a good title!

That’s another reason I’m bringing him on tour is because he’s coming out with new shit and he’s never really been on tour. So I’m flying him down here. Getting him to sack-up. And have been scheduling shows every night. It’ll be two weeks of grueling-ass touring. I wanna see if he can handle it! We’re going all the way to New York and back. We’ll start the tour in Orlando on June 21, and hit every state on the eastern seaboard, all the way up to the big apple.

Will you be meeting up with Illuminated Paths roster mates and billing them along the way?

That is what I’m hoping to do. For each venue we get, I’m trying to bill label cats or just local people that know of our label. Heliophonic is also coming along with us, who sounds like a basement Radiohead; does a lot of lounge acts every evening at bars as himself, Andy Harrington. Not a lot of people make money like that one our label.

Now this is your first tour as Illuminated Paths?

Yes. We did something last year in Nashville at The Mothlight, streamed in Afrika via satellite and projected it live. We were supposed to air The Innernets and Treasure Hunt too, but ran outta time. Also had Zachary from Lost Trail come out. Saint Pepsi was supposed to perform, but he dipped out of that one. Liz from SPF420 came out and helped with the live-feed. Vektroid was the secret guest and played for about an hour-and-a-half.

Do you see the label continuing down the same Illuminated Paths in terms of genre and sound, or will you continue, but branch off into other types?

Specifically, releases like Slow Motion Sunsets, Vital Signs, and Itasca Road Trip — all these earlier groups from MySpace that we used to call The Whisper Foundation, consisting of a lot of Boards Of Canada stylings of sound. I’m trying to bring that whole foundation back. I really love that misty, old-record sound in their music. We’re about to drop a few albums by O’real Network, she’s been doing this style of music since 2004, and I’m really excited about that in terms of this sound too.

Also, within the next few months, we’re releasing something by Passage (Marathon Of Dope, Anticon). He’s coming out of hiding and we’ll be releasing his new album on floppy disc. Also coming up, we’ve a few VHS tapes scheduled too; generally just releasing on mediums people don’t typically delve into. But sky is always the limit. Whatever I feel is right or different. It’s not about floppy disc or cassette being categorized as trash, but something that’s reusable. Not everything is lost through time.

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